Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Willow Vale on Story Circle Book Reviews

Sharon Wildwind has reviewed Willow Vale for Story Circle Book Reviews:

"Willow Vale is a slow (in a good sense) unfolding of two very damaged people rediscovering respect for each other and for self--and finally love. This book is not only a fine read in itself, but it also could be a springboard to read with older teen-agers as an introduction to discussing what real love and real maturity mean. A lovely, hopeful story. "

Read the entire review at Story Circle Book Reviews.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Wyoming Waitress

Typical 1950s diner layout
Courtesy Sweetwater County Historical Museum
The traveling Smithsonian Museum on Main Street exhibit Key Ingredients: America by Food stops at the Sweetwater County Historical Museum October 20 to December 1, 2012.  The exhibit examines America’s relationship with food – how we and our culture are shaped by the food we grow, sell, and consume. 
Point of Rocks, Wyoming, c. 1950.
Courtesy Sweetwater County Historical Museum
Next year is the centennial anniversary of the Lincoln Highway.  The original transcontinental road was built in 1913 and was 3400 miles long, from New York to San Francisco. Today, most of the road in Wyoming is unpaved and a rough ride for anyone trying to drive it, although sections do exist as the business loops of a few towns along modern I-80, and a stretch from Laramie to Walcott Junction was incorporated as part of a subsequent route, US 30.  But back in the day, a paved road was a welcome novelty and meant many more miles could be traveled in one day than previously.  As long as there have been people traveling, there have been businesses catering to the traveler.  Longer journeys by car presented a need for places to stop for gas, and a diner alongside the gas station was a natural addition.  And a pretty young lady was a boon to any business, but most welcome as she approached the booth in the diner with a smile and pad and pencil to take orders and serve a meal at the end of a day’s long ride in the car. 
Edith Angeli, waitress at Point of Rocks, Wyoming, c. 1950
The Lincoln Highway and the iconic Route 66 gave rise to such phenomena as the motor hotel – motel – and quick stop dining that preceded today’s fast food.  Classic diner layout of the 1950s included a counter with swiveling stools in front of a kitchen with a window for orders in and orders out, and booths lining the outer walls.  Streamlined, clean and shiny were the order of the day.  Chrome was a staple of the ‘50s diner, from trim on the Formica-topped tables to the chair legs to the paper napkin dispensers.  Just drop a coin in the wallbox: each booth had a chrome jukebox control with rotating selection menu so patrons didn’t have to leave their seats to queue up a favorite song. The floor was tile or linoleum for easy mopping at the end of a shift.

The Sugar Bowl in Green River, Wyoming, c. 1950
Courtesy Sweetwater County Historical Museum
Sandwiches, salads, sundaes and pastries were popular menu items, quick to prepare and quick to serve.  A vintage Howard Johnson’s menu listed on eBay offered the lowest priced luncheon sandwich -- a ham and cheese club -- for 40 cents, through a mid-priced chicken salad for 65 cents, all the way up to a 75-cent lobster and bacon club on three slices of bread.  Dinner specials generally ran about 50 cents for grilled “frankforts” and potato salad with apple pie to 95 cents for kidney lamb chops with French fries.

Most diners today are gone, although there are a few still operating along interstate highways and the main streets of small towns.  Truck stops and fast food chains have taken over where the old-fashioned café left off, but one thing never goes out of style and is still appreciated no matter the business: a warm, welcoming smile.
Edith Angeli, Louis Kerlovich and unidentified woman
Probably taken in front of the Point of Rocks, Wyoming, cafe, c. 1950