As much as I might have wanted to, I didn’t lose it at A&W

One evening last week Wendy said, out of the blue, “Since it’s Friday tomorrow lets go to the A&W for dinner. I feel like a mug of root beer.”

I know the pace of our hectic and dynamic life dazzles you, but I can offer no apology. That’s just who we are.

So, as exhausted as I was by the social milieu, I agreed her suggestion was a fine one for a plan for an evening in which neither of us wanted to cook anything.

But, A&W set me to thinking about times gone by (when you’re getting old you tend to do that – stop me when I become one of those tedious old bastards reminiscing about the good old days. It wasn’t that damn good) and it especially set me to thinking about carhops. I don’t think a lot about carhops these days. Do they still have them?

Regardless, A&W, one of the earliest fast-food outlets boasted some mighty tender carhops in its day. I know that may sound a bit sexist, but that was the way we were when nobody was scrutinizing every nuance of our words. Anyway, they were pretty darn cute for the most part. And they figured prominently in fevered adolescent male musings. Adolescent male musings are often fevered, BTW. I can’t attest to the status of adolescent female musings.

In the day we chose our A&Ws in terms of the quality of the carhops. Not just skills in serving us, but also in their appearance (obviously), their vivacity, and their ability to banter with a carload of young louts who were randy for their ongoing presence.

There was nothing bad in what we did. We merely offered examples (those of us who weren’t too awkward and inept) what we deemed to be charming and flirtatious behavior. The encounters virtually led nowhere, but they were fun. There was one particular girl we all were enchanted by and we competed to try to attract her attention. She, however, and most democratically, treated us all the same. Not with contempt – after all, her role was to make us want to keep coming back for the root beer she was selling. So, she bantered and laughed off our pathetic attempts to hit on her. Her name was Katy, let’s say.

A few years later, after I’d left HS and become a sophisticated and urbane college man (you know, preppy duds and an affectation of smoking a pipe) – but mainly which meant I actually had a real girlfriend rather than a magazine centerfold or some chatty carhop. Anyway, I was at a New Year’s party and as guests were arriving into the room strode Katy. She still looked delectable, and slightly older was working well for her. And then in came her husband. He was one of the guys in one of the other cars who’d been vying for her attention. Bastard. He obviously succeeded in attracting it.

Anyway, It has been a long time since I’ve been to a drive-in with carhops. Most now have drive-thrus. Not the same. No dorky little trays or sitting there with your headlights on until you were noticed.

As a pop-culture adjunct to this. In the summer I finished high school I went to spend a couple of weeks with my friend in San Jose CA. There they had a drive in, right on the strip – you know, with all the cool cars and hot rods just like American Graffiti. It was massive. It was California of my dreams. And, just like AG, the carhops were on roller skates.

I’d reached drive-in Nirvana; drive-in Shangri-La, if you will.




9 responses to “As much as I might have wanted to, I didn’t lose it at A&W

  1. STOP NOW. Srsly, I was always a much bigger fan of the Coke float and those slidey trays at White Spot. Call me a Vancouverite, but that’s a huge part of my childhood. (The other ‘restaurant’ I ate at as a child: Troll’s in Horseshoe Bay (I grew up in the neighbourhood). In fact the founder, Joe Troll, served me my first solid food, Troll’s chips. It was 1961 I believe!)

    • Oh, White Spot in the Nat Bailey days was the best. I thought of them but it put me off topic. WS used to have wonderful fried chicken along with the burgers that were (then) great. Today, not so much.
      And Troll’s, have eaten there many times over the years. My girlfriend and I would drive out to HB on a Sunday and have lunch at Troll’s. Great reminiscence. Thanks, Andrea.

  2. White Spot had car hops too. Though they had very long trays that stretched from one window to the other. Not sure who had the better burger and fries. not so much fun now that they have been relegated to inside the drive through.

    • White Spot with the big long trays. It was a special treat when the folks would take us there. WS had the best burgers in the old days, but they’ve diminished in quality. Do you remember the old Aristocratic drive-ins in Vancouver?

  3. I can’t attest to the status of adolescent female musings.

    Fevered also, Ian. And wondering why there were no hot male carhops.

    Unfortunately, the whole carhop thing was over by my time – or maybe they just didn’t have them in Quebec.

    • I have no idea why there weren’t male carhops. Sort of Chippendales kinds of guys? There’s a unique marketing idea to tap into the female and gay male trade. Let’s do it. We could make millions.

  4. This made me remember the time we pulled up to a drive-in and the headlights were out on Mom’s car and we couldn’t figure out what to do. I think she sent my brother to the building. And it seems like one time a window was broken (wouldn’t roll down) and we had to get the service at the passenger window. (Yes we had some junker cars.) I can’t remember if the girls wore skates or not.

    • You were hooped without the headlights, I guess. But, you could get passenger window service I’m sure. I think skates were kind of a rarity for most places. I know we didn’t have any around Vancouver.

  5. My first job was car-hop at a Stewart’s Root Beer Stand.
    It was kismet…they built the darned thing right across the street from my house. I didn’t have to wear skates (small favors). I made fantastic tips and was car-hop/counter service there for 4 years.
    Lots of flirtin’ goin’ on. Wish I’d payed better attention 🙂

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