See the idea was that a young guy, maybe a guy who was a wiz at fixing up cars and who had retro-fitted, dual carb-fitted, low-slung wheels-fitted, amp-fitted some broken down wreak and made it a “boss” car, like a ‘57 Chevy or Dodge or some nerdy young guy who had two left hands and had borrowed his father’s blah-blah family car for the night would bring his date to the drive-in restaurant and did not give a damn about the cuisine or the ambience against sitting in that car all private and all to munch on burgers and fries. And be seen in that “boss” car or in the case of the father-borrowed car just to be seen with his date. Be seen by the million and one young guys, maybe guys who were also wizzes at fixing up cars and who had also retro-fitted, dual carb-fitted, low-slung wheels-fitted, amp-fitted some broken down wreak and made it a “boss” car, like a ‘57 Chevy or ‘59 Dodge or some nerdy young guys who had two left hands and had borrowed their father’s blah-blah family car for the night would bring their dates to the drive-in restaurant and did not give a damn about the cuisine or the ambience against sitting in those cars all private and all to munch on burgers and fries. Also to be seen and to be placed in the high school pecking order accordingly. Or if not in high school (but also not over twenty-five remember) to be paid homage for surviving that chore, and for knowing the ropes, knowing the signposts in the drive-in restaurant night.
Once my old friend Jack Lowell had put golden age automobile and golden age dining out together one night, really early one morning, when he was feeling a little melancholy for the old days, and when he had had too much whiskey, all that needed to be added was to say that Eddie, Eddie Connell, would have been out, out once again some night, some weekend night more than likely with his everlovin’ Ginny, Virginia Stone, in the Clintondale 1950s be-bop night, having a little something to eat at the Adventure Car Hop, that burgers and fries eternal youth night out dining combo (did I mention a Coke or Pepsi, if I did not then those were the standard drinks to wash those hard-hearted burgers and those fat-saturated fries down) after a hard night of dancing to the local rockers down in Hullsville and afterward a bout down at Adamsville Beach located a couple of towns over and so filled with Clintondale and other young couples seeking some privacy from watchful town eyes, in the “submarine race” watching night.
Jack had good reason to want to talk about his best friend back then Eddie, about his “boss” ’57 two-toned, white and green, Chevy, and especially about his girl, his Ginny, since in the love wars Ginny had thrown him over for Eddie, had chosen Eddie’s souped-up car over Jack’s walking feet when the deal went down. Yeah, Eddie and Jack had still remained friends, had still been simpatico despite the girl mess-up. See just before the Ginny swap Jack had taken Ellen Riley, formerly the head cheer-leader at Clintondale High back in 1955, the year they all, Jack, Eddie, Ginny, and Ellen if you are keeping count, had graduated away from Eddie. So all was fair in love and war. Although Jack had thought it was just slightly unfair that Ellen had subsequently thrown him over, Jack the struggling college student with no dough and no car just like he had been in high school, for a guy from Hullsville because she did not want to wait to get married until after he graduated and she empathically was tired unto death of walking (or worse, riding that clunky old Eastern Transit bus which was always late and did not run after midnight just in case they had something going down at the beach or after the Hullsville dance got out) when her father handed down car had gone to the graveyard and they had no car between them.
But maybe Jack had better fill a candid world in on a couple of things to back up why he wanted to talk about Eddie and Ginny that night. Was feeling just a little pang after all those years for having let Ginny go so easily. Jack and Eddie had known each other since the old days at Clintondale North Elementary and had been through thick and thin together (that “thin” usually revolved around girls, starting with Rosalind in the fifth grade who had eventually thrown them both over for a kid, Ricky Kelly, Jesus, wimpy Ricky Kelly, in the sixth grade). In high school they had drifted apart for a while when Eddie decided that since he was no student that he would take up automotive mechanics and Jack with two left hands pursued the college course. Drifted apart until come sixteen Eddie, who proved to be a an ace mechanic, a natural, had fixed up some old Hudson that he found in the junkyard and made it a “boss” (Jack adamantly refused to define that term “boss” for that candid world since some things are, or should be, self-evident). That vehicle had been a “fox” lure (girls, okay) all through high school for both young men, except those times when Eddie wanted to take his girl of the week to Adamsville Beach and wanted to use the back seat alone with said honey. And then go to the Adventure Car Hop for a little something to eat before taking her home.
That all worked well enough in high school since neither young man had any serious relationships. Then after high school the workaday world hit Eddie and he took a job at Duggan Brothers Garage and Jack went off to the local college, Gloversville State, on a scholarship while continuing to live at home. One night when Jack was a sophomore at Gloversville he and Eddie, Eddie with the ’57 “boss” Chevy then, went to a rock and roll dance down in Hullsville arranged for those still under twenty-one and who could not legally drink (of course there was more booze than you could shake a stick at out in the parking lot which faced Hullsville Beach but that is a another story) and that is where Jack met Ginny, a former classmate whom he had not known in school because, well, because as she told him that night she did not then have anything to do with “corner boys,” so had met her, had talked to her, had danced with her and afterward they and Eddie and a girl he picked up at the dance, not Ellen, had gone to the Adventure Car Hop for the first time together to grab a bite to eat before going home. Strangely Ginny, although she grew up in Clintondale, had never been there before considering it nothing but a male “hang-out” scene (which at some level Jack admitted to her was true).
And so started the love affair between Jack and Ginny, although according to Jack the thing had many rocky moments from the start on the question of Jack, poor boy Jack, not having his own car, having to either double-date with Eddie, whom she did not like then, or worse, walk when Eddie had his back seat wanting habits on. And her carping at Jack for not wanting to quit college to get married and start a family right away (Ginny had not gone on to school after high school and went to work in Boston for John Hancock Insurance where she was moving up in the organization). And that went on for a while. Meanwhile Eddie had taken up with Ellen, whom he had not known in high school either, nor had Jack, because as she told Eddie “she was into football players with a future, not grease monkeys.” She saw the error of her ways when she had brought her car in for repairs and Eddie worked on the car, and on her. She was going to Adamsville Junior College right down the road but she saw something in Eddie, for a while. Then, although they all had double-dated together she “hit” on Sam one night, wound up going to bed with him a few weeks later down in Cape Cod, where she shared a cottage with six other college classmates for the summer, when Eddie had to go out of town for a couple of weeks to a GM training school and that was that.
Of course once the news got around, and in small city Clintondale that did not take long, especially with those summer roommates of hers, of Jack and Ellen to reach Ginny, and Eddie all bets were off. Ginny brushed Jack off with a solo telephone call to him in which she terminated their affair after about three sentences with a “I don’t want to discuss it further, I want to end this conversation,” yeah, the big brush-off. Ellen told Eddie that they were done and while he feigned being hurt about it the truth was that he had not been all that happy with her of late, thought she was drifting away from him when she decided against his protests to go in on that summer cottage. And so they parted, although Eddie was a little sore at Jack for a while, as usual when they mixed it up with their women. One day Eddie saw Ginny waiting for the bus, that damn Eastern Transport bus, one afternoon and took her on the “rebound” (although don’t expect him to use that word about or around Ginny, just don’t). Ginny, for her part, decided that Eddie wasn’t so bad after all, and he did have that “boss” car and when they talked about it one night after they had hit the silk sheets was not adverse to the idea of marriage. And so their thing went in the Clintondale night for a while. Let’s hone in on what Eddie and Ginny were up to that long ago night Jack talked about when he got the blues about the old days, okay.
“Two hamburgers, all the trimmings, two fries, two Cokes, Sissy,” rasped half-whispering Eddie Connell to Adventure Car Hop number one primo car hop Sissy Jordan. Eddie and Sissy had known each other forever. Sissy had been Eddie’s girlfriend back in junior high days, back in eight-grade at Clintondale South Junior High when he learned a thing or two about girls, about girl charms and girl bewilderments. And Sissy had been his instructor, although like all such early bracings with the opposite sex there was as much misinformation and confusion as intimacy since nobody, no parent, no teacher, and no preacher was cluing any kids in, except some lame talk about the birds and the bees, kids’ stuff. Things, as happens all the time in teen love, had not worked out between them. Had not worked out as well because by ninth grade blossoming Sissy was to be found sitting in the front seat of senior football halfback Jimmy Jenkin’s two-toned souped-up Hudson and Sissy had no time for mere boys then. Such is life.
For those who know not of Adventure Car Hop places or car hops here is a quick primer. These drive-in restaurants in the 1950s were of a piece, all glitter in the night (they lost a lot of allure seen passing by in the day and could have been any diner USA at those hours), all neon lights aglow that could be seen from a mile away as you headed out Route 3 from Clintondale Center, a small shopping area eventually replaced as the place to shop by the Gloversville Mall. The neon lights spelling out Adventure Car Hop super-imposed on an outline of a comely car hop also in neon meant, well, meant adventure, mystery, oh hell, sex. So any given Friday or Saturday night and in summer almost any night you would see the place packed with all kinds of youth cars in each striped slot. In summer the walkers, and almost every kid, girl or boy, had done the walk there before coming of car age could sit and eat their meals on the wooden picnic tables the management provided. In winter they could go inside and sit at the vinyl-cushioned booths and order their meals while listening to the latest hits on the jukebox. Or if single, and that was rare, there were swiveling red vinyl-topped stools to sit at. Sit at and view Mel, Lenny, or Benny (the owner) pulling short order cook duty behind a metallic counter and view as well, get an eyeful if you thought about it, of the really comely car hops doing their frenetic best to keep up with the orders (and since space was at a premium avoid bumping into each other with big orders of drinks on their trays). Really thought if you went from Bangor to LaJolla you would see the same basic set-up so you would never have to worry about a place to go at night at least anywhere in America where ill-disposed parents would not be found in those precincts.
The Adventure Car Hop, the only such place in town and therefore a magnet for everybody from about twelve to twenty-something was (now long gone and the site of a small office park) nothing but an old time drive-in restaurant where the car hop personally took your order from you while you were sitting in your “boss” car. Hopefully boss car, although the lot the night Jack thought about how Eddie and Ginny graced the place had been filled with dads’ borrowed cars, strictly not boss, not boss at all. Sitting with your “boss” girl (you had better have called her that or the next week she would be somebody else’s “boss” honey). And the place became a rite of passage for Jack’s youngest brother Sam several years later even though the family had moved to Adamsville by then. That luscious car hop would return to you after, well, it depended on how busy it was, and just then around midnight this was Adventure Car Hop busy time, with your order on a tray which attached to your door. By the way families, parents alone without children, or anybody else over twenty-something either gave the place a wide berth or only went there during the day when no self-respecting young person, with or without a car or a date, would be seen dead there, certainly not to eat the food. Jesus no.
Now Sissy, a little older then than most Clintondale car hops at twenty-two, had turned into nothing but a career waitress, a foxy one still, but a waitress which was all a car hop really was. Except most car hops at Adventure Car Hop were "slumming” through senior-hood at Clintondale High or were freshman at some local college and were just trying to make some extra money for this and that while being beautiful. Because, and there was no scientific proof for this, but none was needed, at Adventure Car Hop in the year 1959 every car hop had been a fox (that beautiful just mentioned), a double fox on some nights, in their red short shorts, tight white blouses, and funny-shaped red and white box hats. And Sissy topped the list. Here though is where Sissy made a wrong turn, made her a career waitress (and made Eddie feel sorry for her, or at least sorry for losing her instruction back in ninth grade to some damn old football player). She had let Jimmy Jenkins have his way with her too many times, too many unprotected times (again in the ignorance 1950s, in Clintondale at least, the fine points of contraception, or even cautious use of rubbers was a book sealed with seven seals mostly), and when she was a senior at Clintondale High back in 1955 (and Jimmy was up at State U playing football and also having off-hand quite ignorant sex with a few adoring college girlfriends on the side). So that year she had had to drop out of school to have a baby (Jack said they called it “gone to Aunt Ella’s” and once a girl was not seen for a while someone would use that term and that was all that was needed to be said, except the occasional sighing about a good girl gone wrong or scorn from the prissy girls who allegedly were saving “it” for marriage). But see Jimmy, caddish Jimmy, left Sissy in the lurch, would not marry her or provide for the child (what the hell he was a student, he had no dough even if he had been willing to do the honorable thing, which he was not) and so she never went back to finish up after that visit to Aunt Ella. She had latched onto the job at Adventure Car Hop to support her child since Benny could have cared less about her maternal status as long as she showed those long legs, those firm breasts, those ruby-red lips and those dazzling blue eyes to great effect in those shorts and tight blouse that kept the boys coming in, even the boys with dates. Yeah, so he could care less for as long as she could keep eyes turned her way. But the story, an old story in town since there were a couple of “role models,” Jenny and Delores working at Jimmy Jack’s Diner over on East Main who followed this career path after having children out of wedlock. And thus all the signs told that career waitress was to be Sissy’s fate, maybe not at that place but probably she would wind up at Jimmy Jack’s or some truck stop diner on the outside of town with a trying too hard too tight steam-sweated uniform, stubby pencil in her hair, a wad of gum in her mouth, still fending off, mostly fending off except when she got the urge or felt lonely for a man, lonesome trucker advances.
But back to the 1959 be-bop night, the be-bop Friday or Saturday night when those car hops, those foxes, were magnets for every guy with a car, a boss one or a father’s car it did not matter but without girls filling the seats, especially the front seat, hoping against hope for a moment with one of those car hops. And for car guys with girls in those front seats looking to show off their girls, claiming they were foxier, while sneaking furtive glances toward the bustling car hops, even than the car hops, if that was possible, and it usually wasn’t. Although under no conditions let them know that if you wanted a date next week and not the freeze-out not home treatment. More importantly, to show off their “boss cars.” And playing, playing loudly for all within one hundred yards to hear, their souped-up car radio complexes, turned nightly in rock heaven’s WJDA, the radio station choice of everyone under the age of thirty.
As Jack honed in on that remembrance night on Eddie's super-duplex speaker combo The Dell-Vikings were singing their hit, Black Slacks, and some walkers were crooning along to the tune. Yes, if you can believe this, some guys and girls, some lame guys and girls, not junior high kids who couldn’t drive anyway but over sixteen high school students actually walked to the Adventure Car Hop to grab something to eat after the Clintondale Majestic Theater let out. They, of course, ate at the thoughtfully provided picnic tables although their orders were still taken by Sissy’s leggy brigade. Nicely served by those tip-hungry car hops just like real customers with a glimmer of nighttime social standing, although they were still nothing but lamos in the real night social order.
But, getting back to Eddie and Ginny, see Sissy would have known something that you and I would not have known, could not have known, just by the way Eddie placed his order as The Falcon’s doo wop serenade, Your So Fine, blared away from his radio in the fading night. Sissy knew because, being a fox she had had plenty of experience knowing the drive-in restaurant protocol after the battles had subsided down at Adamsville or Hullsville Beach “submarine watching” night, including with Eddie in the days, the junior high days when she and Eddie were nothing but lamo car-less walkers. And what she knew was that Eddie and Ginny, who had been nothing but a “stick” when Eddie and she were an item, a stick being a girl, a twelve or thirteen year old junior high school girl with no “shape,” unlike Sissy who did have a shape, although no question, no question even to Sissy Ginny had a shape now, not as good as hers but a shape good enough to keep Eddie snagged, had been "doing it” down at Hullsville Beach. Doing “it” after spending the early part of the evening at the Surf, the local rock dance hall for those over twenty-one (and where liquor was served). The tip-off: Eddie’s request for all the trimmings on his hamburgers. All the trimmings in this case being mustard, ketchup, pickles, lettuce, and here is the clincher, onions. Yes, Eddie and Ginny are done with love’s chores for the evening and can now revert to primal culinary needs without rancor, or concern.
Sissy had to laugh at how ritualized, although she would never have used such a word herself, may have not been up on her sociological jargon, to describe what was going on in the youthful night life in Clintondale (including the really just slightly older set like the clients of the Surf rock club, Eddie and Ginny, who had learned the ropes at Adventure Car Hop way back when). If a couple came early, say eight o’clock, they never ordered onions, no way, the night still held too much promise. The walkers, well, the walkers you couldn’t tell, especially the young walkers like she and Eddie in the old days, but usually they didn’t have enough sense to say “no onions.” And then there were the Eddies and Ginnys floating in around two, or three, in the morning, “done” (and the reader knows what “done” is now), starving, maybe a little drunk and ready to devour Benny’s (who was doing short order duty that night since Mel had called in sick, “rum” sick Benny called it) cardboard hamburgers, deep-fried, fat-saturated French fries, and diluted soda (known locally as tonic, go figure) as long as those burgers had onions, many onions on them. And as we turn off this scene to the strains of Johnny Ace crooning Pledging My Love on Eddie’s car radio competing just now with a car further over with The Elegants’ Little Star Sissy had just place the tray on Eddie’s side of the car and had brought his order and placed it on the tray, with all the trimmings.