Tuesday, September 13, 2016
The summer of 1974 I turned six years old, and at that point remained, blissfully, an only child. But within my mother grew my soon-to-be baby brother. This would be my last summer of blissful delight.
My mother worked second shift at the local hospital as a medical transcriptionist. Our mornings started slow, but our special time of day together was lunchtime. Most often those lunches were spent at home, sharing bowls of Campbell's Chicken and Stars soup, or grilled cheese sandwiches made with Kraft American cheese on square slices of Wonder white bread, and grape Cool-aid to drink in plastic Tupperware cups.
Once a week we would get groceries and have lunch out. In 1974 there were mostly local diners and greasy spoons in our town. We had one fast food chain restaurant, Burger King, located downtown next to the movie theatre. I loved to sit on the orange, vinyl topped, chrome swivel stool at the window counter eating my Whopper Junior, and crispy, heavily salted french fries, watching the people come and go from the theatre.
But my favorite place to eat lunch was the Dog n Suds drive in. The concept of a drive in restaurant fascinated me. You couldn't go inside - Car Hops Only, you ate in your car. The menu was on a stand next to your car, you pressed a button and spoke into a silver metal speaker to place your order.
I would sit in excited anticipation in the passenger bucket seat of my mom's metallic blue, 1973 Ford Mustang, while we decided what to have for lunch. Shortly after placing our order, the car hop would come out bearing a red rubberized tray laden with Charco Cheeseburgers and "World Famous" Coney dogs, heavily salted french fries, and frosty mugs filled with Dog N Suds root beer, and hook the tray onto my mom's partially rolled down car window. I would carefully unfold two large paper napkins and spread them over my lap, praying no ketchup or mustard from my cheeseburger would spill onto my perfectly matched Garanimals outfit.
Our town no longer has a Dog n Suds drive in, and hasn't in many, many years. A few of them still exist. On a recent adventure day I happened to be near one, and thought it would be fun, for old times sake, to drive in and have lunch. Unfortunately my adventure day was on a Tuesday.
At first I was extremely disappointed, but as I stood in the empty parking lot, I realized what I wanted wasn't the food, but the opportunity to photograph a piece of my history and to tell the story.
I never liked root beer anyway, except with ice cream in it.