November 2012

Senior Slant:
The 4'11" Carhop

by Hilda Maston

Remember the root beer stand, the little glasses that looked like beer mugs, the trays that hooked onto the window on the driver’s side of the car, and the waitresses who sometimes wore less than modest uniforms?

My best friend, Eunice, and I worked at her father’s root beer stand in Sun Prairie Corners as car hops for 15 cents an hour and tips. The money came in handy for tickets to the high school football games, school clothes, stockings and transportation to school in bad weather. And, of course, the occasional candy bar.
My mother sewed modest uniforms for Eunice and me.

Crowds of teenagers filled the parking lot of these outdoor establishments as well as big semis.

I remember it well; I was a car hop at the age of 13 (underage and only 4’11” tall). When a car drove in, I had to hop off the bench and run out to see what they wanted.

We served root beer, and hamburgers that were 5¢ or 10¢, depending on the size. We also served ice cream in cones, single and double scoops of vanilla, chocolate or strawberry.

In early spring we were still in school, but we worked nights, starting at 7:00 pm. On weekends we sometimes worked until two in the morning. Our grades reflected all this peddling of root beer but we enjoyed every minute of it.

Of course, we were always tired: a day at school, a mile-long walk to and from school, a quick dinner, and then off to the root beer stand to work. I get tired just thinking about it.

I like to think that fatigue was the reason I made two mistakes that were often remembered with smiles and chuckles.

One was the night that I ordered five damn hamburgers at the top of my lungs instead of five dime hamburgers. Everyone turned to look at me, a 13-year-old girl who was cussing at full volume. (In my youth saying “damn” was considered swearing.) After that, some of my regular customers would order dime hamburgers hoping that I would slip up again.

One evening, quite late, a car pulled in with three nice ladies in it. Quietly they told me that they needed a restroom before they could order. And they needed it badly as they had been on the road all afternoon without stopping.

Unfortunately, our restroom was out of order. The ladies were shocked and desperate. What were they to do?

I thought quickly, because they really were in dire straits. I quietly pointed to a dark corner in the parking lot that had a lot of bushes. I suggested that in a pinch they might do. They accepted with alacrity and rushed out of their car and into the seclusion of the bushes.

However, just as they were settling in, a car turned into the parking lot. Slowly its headlights swept across the bushes, illuminating them.

Word got around that some unusual moons had been sighted rising on the same night that these three ladies were in trouble. Nothing was ever mentioned to me about this, but I had my suspicions. I never saw those ladies again, thank goodness. And they will never know the name of the 13-year old who tried to accommodate them the night the restroom was out of order.

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