Trail of a Heart 4 – The Flying Saucer Years
During five years of my pre-teen and early teen years, Mother and Daddy owned a small café called the Flying Saucer. It was mostly a little kitchen with a long curved counter inside and a big covered parking area for car service. My parents specialized in hamburgers and hot dogs, French fries, that kind of stuff. Daddy, however, made a wonderful steak, which could only be served to the inside diners.
There was a full basement where food was stored and prepared. I remember helping use the press to cut the French fries with Daddy in that cool basement. The potato press was not electric so it took a lot of strength. We used very long potatoes for our French fries. We had people who would come in and just order the fries, they were that good. Daddy did take issue with some of these customers, however, as sometimes they would use just about a whole bottle of ketchup with their fries. This was usually teenage boys. Dad had no qualms about limiting them on the ketchup. The customer was not always right in our establishment!
There were two dishes Daddy made that were mysterious. He had his own recipes for making his hamburger mix and his chili for the hot dogs. I felt like I was part of some great conspiracy to be included as he was mixing up his hamburger mix. I still don’t remember all he put in it, but I know there were bread crumbs and special spices. Everyone raved about his hamburgers.
Even though Daddy specialized in cooking a steak just right, and had many steak customers, my all-time favorite was his chili dogs. I watched him make his chili starting with an orange block of oily substance that was his starter. By the time he was done, there was no rival anywhere of the quality. He would pour a generous dollop over a hot dog and add onions for the best chilidog ever.
The Flying Saucer was pretty much a family business. My parents hired one or two other persons to help, but Daddy did the cooking and Mother mostly did the serving. I remember they had a dishwasher and they had several women through the years that would take over as waitress so Mother could be with us at home.
As my two older sisters became old enough, they were allowed to carhop at the café. No roller skates or cute costumes, however. I don’t remember their getting a salary – just tips. Boy, but what all they could buy with those tips! They began to develop wonderful wardrobes from that job. I envied them, and waited impatiently to be allowed to work there, too. In the meantime, I would often “sneak” some of their clothes to wear. As it would happen, my parents chose not to renew their lease on the café just before I was old enough to work there.
Those years were fun, but also not so fun. We loved to have one of our parents deliver us lunch to our schools. You can imagine the reaction of the other kids when we got chili dogs, fries, milkshakes and sodas. This was in the 50’s. We felt rich.
The hard part was how demanding the café was on our parents and how much we had to fend for ourselves. It always fell to the oldest girl, Carol, to watch us and make sure we stayed out of trouble. Carol had an impossible task.
Watch for the next installment.