By Mary Ellen Shaw
Now that summer is here it brings back memories of summer meals and ice cream treats enjoyed outdoors back in the 60s and 70s.
The A&W Restaurant on upper North Main Street was one of the “in places” to go. It held a special appeal to teenagers who had a car. When you drove in you parked in a row, facing either north or south. After making your selection from the menu, you pushed a button to place your order and spoke into a microphone. Your food arrived on a tray that the server hooked onto your car window. A&W root beer was the most popular drink. Apparently the mugs were kept in the freezer because they were always frosty. As you know it doesn’t take much to make a teenager giddy. I had one friend who always asked for all white meat in her chicken order. The car full of teenagers got rather hysterical as she ordered “breasts”! Since it was summer time you could chat with your friends in the car next to yours as you ate. When you had finished eating, you pressed the button for a tray pickup.
I was curious to learn the origin of the A&W restaurants. It all began in 1919 when Roy W. Allen opened a walk-up root beer stand in California. He partnered with one of his employees, Frank Wright, and founded the first A & W Restaurant in Sacramento in 1923. When they put the initials of their last names together a business name was born. By 1970 the A&W franchises had peaked and there were more of them than there were McDonald’s. Although I don’t recall this statistic, my research revealed a mascot named “Rooty the Great Root Bear”! His shirt appropriately had “A&W” across the front.
It’s very unusual that after seventy years I can still enjoy a summer treat from the same place that I went to in my youth. That pleasure comes in the form of an ice cream cone from the take-out window of Seward’s Restaurant. A common occurrence in my neighborhood on a hot evening was for one of our parents to pack their car full of kids and head up there for a refreshing cone. I guess we were creatures of habit even at a young age, since most of
us got the same kind of ice cream on each visit. For me it was chocolate chip. If you craved more than a cone, you could satisfy your ice cream craving with a “Pig’s Dinner.” It was served in a trough piled with a banana, four scoops of ice cream, four toppings, whipped cream, cherry and nuts. I had friends who easily devoured one back in our teenage days but a “Tulip Sundae” seems to satisfy our adult tastes.
A fun place for a quick summer meal was Roxie’s Wagon in Main Street Park. It was a silver colored bus-like vehicle that was driven into the West Street side of the park. The aroma of French fries with vinegar still lingers when I remember this fun place. Lots of burgers, hot dogs and fries were served over the years. There was always a long line.
While you were in Main Street Park you couldn’t help but be drawn to the aroma of freshly popped popcorn. It was a great snack during the band concerts. The place serving this treat was Charlie Hackett’s popcorn stand. He operated out of a small wooden building that the Rutland Lions Club built for him. He was blind and you could usually find students from Mount St. Joseph Academy helping him out. I was always amazed that he knew so many people simply by their voices.
Back in the 70s my husband and I used to fish a lot in Lake Bomoseen. When we finished it became a tradition to stop at the snack bar on the outskirts of Castleton on the old Route 4. I remember we created quite the scene when we decided to sit on the same side of what looked like a really sturdy picnic table. Bad idea! The table tipped over and we ended up part way under it, “wearing” our milkshakes, fries and hot dogs with the works! People sitting in cars didn’t know whether to laugh or run to our aid. We managed to untangle ourselves quickly and were treated to a second supper – on the house! We looked like a real mess but were hungry enough to swallow our pride and eat looking like “Messy Marvin!”
Many locals remember going to 90 State Street in Rutland for a soft ice cream treat served up by owner Dom Ferraro. In the 70s Butterfield’s Dairy Bar was at this location. It’s always nice if residents from a neighborhood can walk to a place, get something good to eat and socialize. Winters are so long that summer is a time for catching up with one another.
Another popular spot was 74 Grove Street, on the corner of Grove and Williams streets. There were a few different businesses serving up casual food and ice cream there over the years. During the 60s it was known as the Dairy Queen. By the 70s it was Peter’s Snack Bar and later Minard’s Snack Bar. By the 80s it was Pop’s Place.
Summer is short so get out and enjoy ice cream and casual food. We will be “hugging the hearth” again soon.