Posts Tagged ‘Indiana Barbeque’

Mom behind the counter at the Indiana Barbeque

This is a photo of a restaurant called the Indiana Barbeque. Mom, Phyllis Adair DeWitt-VanVleck, was a waitress at this restaurant.

Originally, she worked at the restaurant across the street, but tired of the way they cut meat off of meals that were half eaten and served it to another diner, and just unsanitary practices like that. The owner of Indiana Barbeque had offered her a job several times and she finally took him up on his offer.

One night, this gentleman came into the Indiana Barbeque on a search for mashed potatoes.

Harold G. VanVleck

Harold G. VanVleck was not in the military yet, but he fell in love with that waitress. Not just the mashed potatoes that they happened to have that night because the owner wanted some for his dinner. The owner shared them with Harold and Harold lined up all the pennies in his pocket and when Phyllis picked up that plate, she found her tip in pennies, in a ring.

Now, that may not sound like much of a tip, but this was somewhere around 1939.  Pennies were worth a whole lot more.

Phyllis is 90 now and lives alone, for the first time in her life. Harold passed away in 1998, at the age of 79.

And, they fell in love over a circle of pennies.

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As marriages do, my parent’s marriage was up and down. First they had their years when dad was ruler and monarch. Then, they had their years where they were happy square dancing around northern Indiana. Things kind-of-went sour when mom decided she did have a brain and wanted to use it, and dad did not like losing his kingdom. Their retirement years, in Arkansas, were spent with dad either in his recliner and mom off playing cards or them taking friends and relatives out on the pontoon boat.

I always enjoyed the story of how they met; long before internet dating.
Just out of high school, my mother took a job as a waitress. The first restaurant she worked at was in Hammond, Indiana. It was the kind of restaurant where she would clear the table and take the plates back to the kitchen and they would cut where the customer bit off the pork chop, reheat it and serve it to the next diner. Talk about re-gifting! If the meat was too small to serve again, they would just cut it up and use it the next day in a stew. I think we may all say a “thank you” to our own state’s Health Department for not allowing that to go on anymore.

Mom’s work ethic made an impression on the owners of the restaurant across the street. Who, by the way, did NOT reserve meat. They coaxed her away by promising more money and that she would not have to clean the bathroom. So, she went to work for the Indiana Barbeque in Hammond, Indiana.

Mom was happy working at the Indiana Barbeque. One evening a man walked in and mom looked up and said, “That’s the man I will marry.” She said that she just knew. He sat down, at the counter and asked for ‘mashed potatoes.’ He told her he had tried every restaurant in town and no one served them. It just so happened, that her boss had made them for his own dinner that night and had extra left, so dad got his mashed potatoes.

When dad left, mom found a circle of penny’s under his plate, for her tip. The extra effort it took to do that let her know he liked her too. They never served mashed potatoes again but she spent fifty-five years making mashed potatoes for that man.

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