Saturday, August 19, 2017


… some thoughts and incidents from the great
California to Vancouver Island Loop of 2017…

In my career as a public school student, I was always walking distance from school.  Rosedale Elementary was just across the creek. The junior high was across town, but town wasn’t all that big.  And Chico High was through two almond orchards – one of ‘em ours – across Highway 32 and a few blocks down West Sacramento Avenue – maybe twenty-five minutes from home.

Located just through the orchards on this side of Highway 32, next to Aldredge’s Flying A, was a hamburger stand called The Jolly Kone.  I remember it being erected when I was seven or eight.

As a high schooler, while I was not involved in sports, I did engage in after school activities, not the least of which was a Dixieland style Pep Band I organized and conducted with a tuba wrapped over my shoulder.  We’d scheduled practices twice a week so rather than leaving campus at 3:15, it was likely 4:30 before I departed. 

Fifteen minutes into the walk home, I’d near the Jolly Kone and begin to salivate over the wafting fragrance of frying beef patties and potatoes bubbling in some sort of boiling oil.  For about a buck thirty-five, I could enjoy a burger stacked with lettuce, pickles, tomato, some secret sauce – probably just Thousand Island – on a sesame seed bun before Ray Kroc popularized the notion.  And the fries?  Golden and crispy outside with steaming, almost creamy white insides accented with just a touch of salt.  The Coca Cola came in a Styrofoam cup half-filled with shaved ice.  Sitting at an interior table covered with oilcloth, I’d ponder algebra, the red head Rebecca Langworthy and whatever we’d just practiced in Dixieland.  Upon completion, I’d carry the styro cup through the orchards with me, depositing it in the garbage cans beside the tractor shed before entering the house.

Dinner would be almost ready, but I would only pick at it.

“You’re a growing boy,” Mom would say.  “You have to eat your dinner,” and she’d push a plate of chipped beef on toast – or whatever had been prepared – closer to the edge of the table where I sat.

“Perhaps he’s just going through a phase,” Dad opined.

“He’s got to eat!”

I didn’t.

In order to till our five acres of almonds, Dad had purchased a 1948 Ford Ferguson tractor behind which he’d pull a disk or a spring tooth furrow.  Rather than to keep cans of gasoline in the tractor shed, he’d drive the old Ford through the orchards to Aldredge’s Flying A, so he could fill ‘er up.

One afternoon after Pep Band practice, as I’m savoring my clandestine burger and fries, I hear a familiar voice order a strawberry milkshake from the outside window.


Before I could determine that there was no escape, he appeared at the door to the dining area, sucking mightily on a straw filled with a thick, pink, viscous fluid.

“Son,” he said.

“Dad,” I responded.

Moments later he mounted the tractor and, holding the milkshake in one hand while steering with the other, disappeared into the orchards.

The remainder of the walk home took forever, but forever wasn’t long enough.  Dinner’s aroma was filling the kitchen – something with liver – and was about to be served.

“Now you have to eat your dinner,” Mom pleaded.

For a long moment, Dad looked at me from his end of the table.  Then he said, “Perhaps he’s just going through a phase, Honey-Bee, just a phase.  He’ll be fine.”

Recently, on the road, lunch time in Central Point, Oregon: On the east side of the old highway 99 is a burger joint called “The Yellow Basket.”  It looked familiar.  Something circa mid-sixties, perhaps?

Perhaps it was the oil-clothed tables, but more than likely, it was the fare: perfect fries accompanying a burger stacked with lettuce, pickle chips, tomato, and that sauce…

I recalled Dad’s bold statement to Mom some fifty years ago and realized that I wasn’t quite through that “phase” of which he spoke.  At least not yet.

© 2017
Church of the Open Road Press.


  1. How cool that you found something to trigger the nostalgia. Thank you for the story from your childhood too, it made me smile.

    1. The older I get, the more frequently these "triggers" seem to pop up...

  2. Nice that he kept your little secret. Every Wednesday night my mom went to choir practice and my dad was the babysitter, I use that term very loosely. Food would disappear out of our kitchen and Wednesday nights and where they went is a mystery to this day!