I realized I finally had something to write under the “interesting facts” category on my family tree. Next to my grandmothers name I wrote, "Owned the Tastee Freez". The Tastee Freez was, for years, the only fast food restaurant in town. Actually, if you did the math, that one building made up a full twenty percent of all restaurants in a ten mile radius. This was as good as being a celebrity. Maybe better because there was ice cream involved. I wasn’t the only person to find that interesting because, over thirty years after she sold the place that fact that she had owned it was mentioned in her obituary after the list of her surviving relatives.
When I was younger my mother would sometimes work shifts at the Tastee Freez and, when things were slow and there was no babysitter available, my brother, sister and I would spend her entire shift there at the restaurant. We would start out sitting quietly at a table with coloring books or reading but eventually the massive amounts of sugar and caffeine from the sodas we drank nonstop would take it's toll and we would end up running around like the insanely hyper devil children we were.
If you’ve ever visited white trash parts of the country or are raised white trash yourself you have probably seen the kids we were then. Three loud and dirty kids. The two youngest shirtless regardless of gender and the oldest beating on them with glee and hope that one day he would finally have the strength to draw blood. The adult involved would be hiding or at least trying to hide. Eventually one of the kids, we took turns, would go crying to her about the behavior of his or her siblings, cried because of phantom hunger pains or cried because that was the only sensible alternative to boredom.
To help keep the noise down some we were fed small amounts of food every few minutes. A handful of french fries would be tossed on the table in our general direction like we were chickens out in a yard. To continue the illusion that we were being fed like we were birds the three of us would put our hands behind our backs and peck at the table to get our “worms”. Fried dill pickle slices were eaten like they were mini sandwiches and hamburgers that had been cut into thirds were measured against each other to make sure no one of us got more than the other. It was only fair.
The only thing that wasn’t tossed at us like we were livestock was our drinks. It was great fun for us to go behind the counter to make our own drinks and even more fun to play mixologist. Like a connoisseur trained in the soft drink arts I would ask my sister “Is your Coke not Spritey enough?” or “maybe your Root Beer would taste more like Dr Pepper if you just added a little bit of orange crush”. Of course the ultimate expression of the fountain culinary experience was a drink called the Suicide. This was a drink and a game. The recipe was easy. You put a little of each soda in your cup all the way down the line then repeat until your cup was full. If you didn’t throw-up, you won.