At some time in my preteen years, one of my sisters—the pretty one, the one named Lorene—married a man named Elmer, a tall slow-walking slow-talking quick-thinking fellow that would come to figure prominently in my life. The newly-weds lived for awhile in the city within walking distance from our house on Nineteenth Street South, then later went to live with his parent’s in south Mississippi. Elmer’s father was minister to a small church just a short walk from his home. I spent a summer vacation with them as a small boy, and another summer vacation with Elmer and Lorene after they bought a small farm, built a house on it and began farming. Those two vacations include thoughts and events that will be the subjects of numerous postings, each of which should be of vital interest to any viewer—honest—stay tuned!
This posting is all about me and Elmer and a hamburger steak—except for the lack of rhyming, that could be developed into a parody of Lobo’s song from the 1970s, Me and you and a dog named Boo. Maybe I should work on that—it could well be something for Ray Stevens to consider, similar to his songs about The streak—don’t look, Ethel—and Ahab, the Arab and others. I may work on the lyrics for a future posting—stay tuned!
Eating out was a rarity for me when I was a kid—we didn’t eat out because we couldn’t afford the cost—in fact, there were a few times that we didn’t eat in either, and many times that we ate sparingly—besides, the walk to a cafe would have been prohibitive. Although everything in Columbus, Mississippi in those days was within walking distance, we would have been hungry again by the time we returned home. There was no MacDonald’s, no Burger King, no Jack-in-the-Box, no Sonic and no Dairy Queen. In my town there were only two drive-in restaurants, only remotely related to those we have today. The two establishments had no drive-through services. People simply drove up and parked near the building and a carhop would come out, take the order and return with food and drinks.
Trust me when I say that my town had only two eat-outside-in-your-car restaurants—I should know, because I worked as a carhop at both of them for varying periods. Believe it or not, in those days Mississippi state law prohibited girls from working as carhops. I suppose our legislators felt that young girls would be subjected to harassment, up to and including suffering—shudder, shudder—a fate worse than death. You know, like loonies and flashers exposing themselves and showing pornographic photos through the window and committing various lewd acts and raping and beating carhops and similar untoward actions following arousal caused by a young girl in a low-cut blouse and French-cut shorts, leaning through an open car door window tempting men, usually dirty old men—-I think I’ll stop there—I’m becoming a bit excited just thinking about it.
In retrospect, I have decided that our legislators thought that young boys would never fall prey to such predators—either that or they considered it and discarded it—perhaps none of them had young sons, or perhaps they had sons but none needed or wanted to work. I am a living witness to the fact that young boys were and are far too often targeted by predators, even in the long ago of my preteen and teen years—I hasten to add that in my case they never were successful—they never hit the target. And yes, that’s a subject for a future posting if I ever manage to get around to it—stay tuned!
I have digressed from my subject, and I apologize—back to Elmer and my very first hamburger steak:
Elmer had business in town and invited me to go with him. Around noontime he suggested that we have lunch at a local eatery. I remember the place clearly—it was located near the top of the river bluff on which Columbus is built, within sight of the bridge spanning the Tombigbee river. The restaurant was Garoffa’s Blue Front Cafe. The proprietor’s son, Johnny, was a senior in our high school, a first string football player that suffered a serious injury that left him crippled in one leg. He walked with a decided limp, but his deformity neither lessened the number of girls that seemed to always be around him nor his ability to make the most of their attentions—Johnny was, as was Wyatt Earp, a legend in his own time.
Kids in my day, at least in the circles in which I moved, were never asked what they wanted in a cafe. The adults pored over the menu and eventually selected the items that provided the most food at the lowest cost—in effect, they ordered from the price list rather than from the list of entrees. We kids were simply asked what we wanted on our burger. I didn’t care what they put on my burger, just so it had plenty of mayo slathered on, looking like ocean waves or rows of sand dunes.
Elmer was different—before that day I liked him—after that day I loved him. We entered the cafe and he said, Hey, Mikey, let’s belly up to the counter. We did, and he took a menu and handed me one, and following a brief glance at the menu he said Hey, that hamburger steak looks good–think you might want to try one?
My heart swelled, my pulse accelerated accordingly and when I finally found my voice I replied as nonchalantly as I could, and said something on the order of Yeah, why not, might as well. I had been spinning around on my stool soaking in my surroundings, and I purt near fell off when Elmer gave me the choice of a hamburger steak instead of asking me what I wanted on my burger.
The woman behind the counter smilingly placed a full-grown hamburger steak before me, served on a full-grown platter, covered with gravy and mushrooms and onions with a full-grown pile of french fries on the side. I tried mightily to transfer the entire load on that platter from outside me to inside me—I made a Herculean effort but try as I might I couldn’t handle that mountain of fries. I reluctantly left a few fries on the plate, but I walked out with every ounce of that huge hamburger steak—and none of it was in a doggy-bag.
That hamburger steak moment and that day qualify as one of the happiest days of my life. I was treated as an equal by Elmer, and in later years I received that same treatment throughout two summer vacations I spent with him and my sister.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!