The most fun I ever had working was probably in the summer of 1951 when I made about $20 a week and two or three girls were always wanting to kiss me. It doesn’t get much better than that.
I was finishing up the eighth grade in Frankfort, Indiana, when my mother was asked if she would like to run a drive-in restaurant that summer. “Yes,” was her answer, a fortunate response because my dad, a salesman, lost his job shortly afterward, and her income from the drive-in, The Cupboard, paid most of the bills for a family of seven.
My older brother Jim and I worked at the drive-in while our grandmother took care of our three siblings. We made 50 cents an hour, making milk shakes and malteds and washing dishes. The carhops – all of them girls two or three years older than I and all of them pretty – made 35 cents an hour but got tips.
Mom did the cooking – mostly hamburgers and huge breaded tenderloin sandwiches. If you are unfamiliar with breaded tenderloins, try one the next time you’re in the Midwest and want some real health food. It’s a Wiener schnitzel on a bun and delicious.
Before we get to the kissing part of our story, a small diversion. On slow days at The Cupboard, Mom would send me home, only a few blocks away, with instructions to straighten up the house, vacuum or make a cake for us to eat, or maybe all three. It will certainly shock you to read I didn’t exactly do as I was told. I turned on the TV and took a seat - earning 50 cents an hour for staring at the screen right in my own home - before rushing to get my assignments done and heading back to work.
My house cleaning was way below average, but my cake making was something special. Mom bought box cake mixes, usually boring white or yellow, so I frequently spiced things up by throwing in a little food coloring, sometimes two or even three food colorings, before pouring the batter into a rectangular cake pan. The result was a thing of beauty. Marie McCoy and her family ate many blue cakes that summer along with several blue and green cakes and a few blue, green and red ones. I’m guessing some sort of icing came in the box. I can’t remember – thank heavens – screwing around with that. If a multi-colored cake sounds disgusting to you and inedible, you didn’t grow up in a big family in the days when what you ate was what Mom put on the table. The concept of negotiating on what she could fix just for you was unheard of.
Okay, let’s get back to kissing at The Cupboard. In spare moments I joked with the carhops, one of whom, Joan Sloan, is still the prettiest person I have ever seen wearing glasses. My repartee as a soon to be high school freshman was undoubtedly spectacular, and I made it clear repeatedly that I thought kissing was dumb, really dumb. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, but it worked.
Around 11 at night things were usually pretty quiet, and Jim and I would start cleaning up, a job that included taking the garbage out to the trash cans in a dark corner of the parking lot. One glorious night when I approached the trash cans I was “ambushed” by three carhops and kissed by all three. I protested and made a big deal out of wiping my mouth. Phony that I am, I couldn’t wait to take out the garbage again.
My memory tells me this continued for the rest of the summer, two or three times a week. They cornered me in the parking lot near the trash cans, kissed me, and I claimed to hate it. It was always two or three carhops, never one-on-one. I’m grateful for that. The parking lot wasn’t that dark and to show you how much I knew back then, I once found an inflated white balloon in the parking lot, picked it up and ran to show it to my mother. She had a wonderful sense of humor but saw nothing funny about condoms.