Posts tagged ‘A&W’

How I Spent Time with My Two Sisters –

With my wife Sue planning to be off to Indiana to visit her two sisters and their mother, I thought I should do the same with my sisters.

So –


My sisters Jean and Cher drove up from the Cities this past Thursday, arriving around 6:30 pm. (We won’t get into the getting lost’ episode at all.) I grilled up five brats, even soaked and cooked them in beer, using the burner on the grill. I also grilled 3 hamburgers, so I was ready to feed them when they arrived. Provided ketchup, mustard, pickles, onions, potato chips, and potato salad and we were ready for a feast.

After the meal, I presented Cher with a birthday present – (She had just turned XXX years old . . .)
A handful of weeks ago, Sue and I were in Indiana, where we browsed our way through a good many flea markets and antique stores. Sue happened upon the perfect gift for Cher.

Cher is the proud owner of a set of china that feature what is called the DESERT ROSE pattern. So, when Sue saw a DESERT ROSE teapot in one of those flea market stores, there was simply no question that we’d get it. For four bucks, how could we not?

Cher opened the gift – and oh, she was so happy! The DESERT ROSE china was our Grandma Ruud’s dishes, so this just added to the legacy and good fun.

Meal done, gift presented, and all three of us could hear the pontoon calling, offering us an evening boat ride. Down to the dock we went, complete with plastic cups and a bottle of cheap champagne that Jean had picked up at the liquor store. Out into North Long Lake we went, cruising into the western part of the lake (along highway 371) and back again, getting back to the dock right near sunset. Up to the cabin for a little chat, and then back into Brainerd for bedtime and some sleep. And yes, we emptied the champagne.


Get out of bed, get dressed, get coffeed up, and head out for some garage sales. The first is one down on Graydon Avenue – no purchases. But today, luckily, is the garage sale day for the North Brainerd Neighborhood Association – all kinds of stuff in many driveways in that area of town. The three of us wade our way through tables of doodads and gizmos of all sorts – through clothes hung on poles suspended between two step ladders – finger through boxes of books, of DVDs, of VCRs (remember them?), and we each make a purchase or two. Jean got a doll. Cher picked up a few little things, and I procured a nice Ryobi hedge trimmer. Nice shopping, ladies. Can anyone say “LUNCHTIME?”

And with us three Johnson kids, there is no better than A&W! Here we come, Nisswa! We park near the pioneer village and head right to the A&W – after a short stop in CRANKY HANK’s shop, where the clerk recognizes me as having been in plays. (Gee, that’s fun to hear …. ) and finally, 3 root beers and three burgers, along with fries. Can there be a better summer lunchtime with sisters? Won’t be the last; I feel that in my bones.

three nelsons and a&w

And more stores … down one side of the town and then the other. We started on the north side of town, headed south, got to Stonehouse Coffee and returned on the other side. I bought nothing, but my sisters found a few items each. It was a nice day for shopping … not too terribly hot, and being a Thursday, not so very busy as I’ve seen Nisswa get. Some ice cream at the Chocolate Ox, and I talked up some of my writing buddies that have books in the book store (Simar and Salli – I pushed your books well . . . .). Then back to the lake place (which was closer than coming home all the way into Brainerd) and start getting our minds set for the Nisswa Stammen concert.

What’s that, you may ask. The Nisswa Stammen is a Scandinavian Festival of quite a large magnitude. It has been running for nearly 20 years now, always on the first weekend of June. Friday nights feature a ‘sampler’ concert, in which a good many visiting musicians assemble, giving the audience a taste of what’s to come. I’ve seen the concert before, but my sisters had no idea what was to come – and this year, we saw some fine music. Ther e was Maya Kjaer Jacobsen, a Danish lady who sang some very nice songs . . . there was LUSTSPEL, a group of students from Lund, Sweden . . . and there was our favorite, Sara Pajunen and Teija Niku, who call themselves AALLOTAR. They gave us some superbly performed, highly sensitive music – one on violin, one of accordion, and both of them adding some fine vocals.


Let’s not forget, too, the others that performed. The warmup band gave us some nice music – and more groups performed … one precious moment glowed highly for the audience when two local girls (ten years old, I think) sang/rapped a song along with playing their violins with their instructor Arne Anderson accompanying them on accordion.

With the close of the concert, it was time for a late supper, so we retreated to PONCHO AND LEFTY’S, where we regaled our server, ate our food, and enjoyed an adult beverage… home, to bed, and wrapped a good day in happy sleep.


Not so much to report – we went to COUNTRY KITCHEN to breakfast, and then the two left for home.

It was a fine time – and a fine idea for the three of us to get together – just us, just the three Johnson kids.

us three



A Trip to the Root Beer Stand (Written for HOMETOWN FOCUS of Virginia, MN)

“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.