“Yay!  Dad’s stopping at the root beer stand!”

 

You sat in the back seat of the car and yelled these words as dad piloted the car into the gravel lot at the A&W at the southwest corner of Hoover Road and Highway 169, just west of the golf course in Virginia.

 

The car pulled up and stopped near the tiny orange, black and white building. It looked like a window-lined porch with one room attached to the back.  Two girls, the carhops, stood in front, and you could see a boy inside that front porch.  It was hard to see further into the building; the kitchen was back there somewhere.

 

Peering out the windshield, you could see large white boards containing the menu in black lettering, one board on either side of the building front.  Your folks hurried you to make up your mind because the carhop was coming.  The menu was small here; your choices were hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hotdogs, or sloppy joes.  This was before the famous A&W burger family; no papa burger here, not yet. No French fries, either, just chips — this place was years ahead of those Saturday Night Live skits.

 

For drinks, there was no better; A&W root beer right from an icy chilled heavy glass mug, nice head of foam topping it off.  It came in three sizes; baby, regular and large.  If you were feeling particularly extravagant, it would be a root beer float, complete with a straw in a paper wrapper and a long plastic orange spoon.  The good news was that it was the same great tasting root beer.  The menu offered other choices like orange drink, milk and coffee, but why would you order that when root beer was right there?

 

Dad rolled down the window as the carhop neared the car.

 

“May I take your order?” She would ask, with a great big smile on her lips and in her voice.

 

Your dad checked with each person in the car.  Mom would have a hamburger, and so would you.  Your brother and your dad would have cheeseburgers.  The carhop asked what was wanted on each burger; mustard, ketchup, pickles and onions – Burger King was years away but today you could have it your way….oh, and large rootbeers all around. And yes, two bags of chips.

 

The carhop smiled and offered her thanks as she wrote down the order, headed back to the window in the porch, handed the order to the boy in the front, who relayed it to the girl in the kitchen.  In just a few minutes, the carhop returned with a tray, well arranged and balanced by the boy in the porch. She magically suspended the tray from the car window and then asked for the few dollars to pay for the meal.

 

Dad handed out the food.  The burgers were wrapped in a wax paper sheet.  The car would fill with that fantastic aroma of a summer burger as the papers were opened.  The mugs of root beer were given to each diner, yours and brother’s on the floor in the back seat, mom’s on the open glove compartment, and Dad kept his on the tray out the driver’s window.  Upon completion of the meal, the mugs and wrappers were returned to the tray, Dad would leave a tip, tap the car horn, calling the carhop over to remove and tray, and away you would go, well fed with a happy lifelong summer memory.

 

For three summers I was one of those ‘front’ boys.  I served many drinks, cleaned many trays, and spent many hours at that little A&W on the west side of Virginia.  It was a good time to work and a good place to meet people.  Other front boys that did my job were Mark Lavalier, Eddie Tushar, and a few others I don’t recall.

 

And the carhops?  These young ladies were the best at the craft of serving food and meeting the public.  They could take orders and deliver trays as quickly as you’d like. 

They could help a customer decide on an order.  They could deflect a rude comment from some of those who came in with no intention of being good customers.  They seldom got complaints.  I recall names like Toni Lavalier, Mary Lange, Sheri Nelson, Diane Lundquist, Mavis Alto and Monica Stoltz.  There were more, but their names escape me, much to my dismay.

 

In the kitchen was the hot work.  Preparing the patties, boiling the hotdogs, cutting the onions and slicing the buns were just a small part of the cook’s work.  I remember Martha Sarich, Teresa Sulentich, and Ida Phillips as the good folks back in the kitchen.  Mrs. Chad herself mixed up the sloppy joe mix, which was a secret recipe that we never learned.

 

In time, Mr. and Mrs. Chad sold the Virginia A&W to Mike and Floyd Blaeser and their wives Sue and Dorothy.  The Blaesers eventually razed the little stand and constructed the more modern pagoda-style A&W; but that was after my time.   I don’t know how long they stayed in business that way, but the lot is now shed of any building and is now used for parking semis and construction equipment.

 

I miss that little old A&W stand.  I bet you do, too.

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