|Pat Shipp, ME, & Flora|
|Phyllis was a wild-child|
In 1060 my life style changed totally from living with my mother in Texarkana, Arkansas to moving with her to Chicago, then leaving there and returning to Texarkana to live with my grandparents, my daddy and my brother, Paul, two years younger than me. I hung around there until summer then went with family to Southern California—a trip I wrote about in my collection of essays and poems about growing up titled “Among My Souvenirs”, available on Amazon Kindle. I stayed with uncle, aunt and cousins in California when the rest of the family returned to Arkansas. After some three months in “the Golden” state, I caught a Greyhound Bus to Kankakee, Illinois. My mother, step-father and two younger brothers had moved. That was a big step. I lived in Illinois for the next five years. My first job in Kankakee was as a carhop at the Steak ‘n Shake:
|Ronnie, Jim (carhops at|
Steak 'n Shake,
and two of my
brothers, Rickey, Paul
|Me.... and it was soooo cold|
Day time curb manager David Steen hired me when I applied for a car hopping job. He was so good-looking and acted much older than his 19 years. I told him I had experience—well, I did work half-a-day carhoping at a drive in while I was in California. And I had worked a few days at a little drive-in place on College Hill before my mother moved to Chicago. So, actually, I was truthful.I missed friends from back home in Texarkana but found new ones in Kankakee. The Steak ‘n Shake was the place teenagers loved to hangout and when they were not parked on the lot, they were driving around the “square”, which contained three blocks on each side. And not being from the area, this was opportunity to get to know people my age. I met new friends almost daily but only took photos of a few. Ginger and Jim were siblings. Ginger my age, 18, and Jim 14. Other carhops on the day shift were Flora, a part Sioux Indian, Alice, Maryland, Danny Chinski. Alice—God bless her soul, clipped tips. We all knew it but I don’t think anybody called her on it. Ginger and Jim came from Mississippi and both came to work at the Steak ‘n Shake shortly after me. Jim looked older than he was and I can honestly say he had a strong crush on me. He asked me out over and over and I just shook him off by telling him he was “too young.” Still, he hung around my house much of the time. He would sit and talk to me while I washed my hair, while I cut my hair—just about any time I would allow him over.
|Danny Wagner "Elvis" in his cab|
Son-of-the-owner of the cab service in the town, Danny Wagner parked in a parallel-parking space next to the carhop service space. Danny looked like Elvis. In fact, we carhops called him Elvis. When he’d see me walking home, he often gave me a free lift. I did walk home much of the time.
Ginger asked the jukebox man to put Mary Robbins new 45-record titled “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me” on the jukebox inside the restaurant. He did. Then I heard about an old school friend of mine, Jacky Ward (who later became an accomplished country singer), cutting his first record in 1960 or 61. I rode the train from Kankakee to Texarkana to visit with family and friends and purchased Jacky’s record titled “Little Boy Had A Lonely Heart.” I had the juke-box man put it on the jukebox inside the Stake ‘n Shake and when he took it off sometime later and side one and two had played more times that the counter could register and needless to say the record was totally worn-out.
I had my share of dates then, too. When with a couple different guys, Steve and Frankie, (not at the same time certainly) from Hungry; they were friends and also rivals. They both had nice cars and worked at the Ford Motor Plant in Chicago Heights, which means they had plenty of money to spend as well. I went out with several other “boys” too, but was really never got serious. I did accept a marriage proposal, though, from a guy name Dick. I told him not to buy me an engagement ring, just to get wedding rings for us. He did and I kept them in a drawer for a while. When I though he was getting a little in a hurry with this “wedding” thing, I have him back his rings. Not long after that he and my friend Ginger got married. That was about the last I saw of either, but I heard the marriage did not work out—sad to say.
Back then the drinking age in Illinois for girls was 18, boys had to be 21. One night a group of us went to a club called the Top Hat to dance. Even though David was 19, at 18 I was the only one of age. I was also the only one that got carded. I had to bee-line it home to get identification while the others were ushered inside.
|Me in my "too-tight" slacks|
|Me, walking home to my Mother's house on Beach Street|
Let me tell you this… Northern Illinois can be pretty cold in the winter time and for a girl that came from the south it can be dang cold. I wore three pairs of long wool slacks and three sweaters under my Stake ‘n Shake coat. When the owner of the drive-in, Mr. Mizell, went on vacation the manager of the Steak ‘n Shake in the adjacent town, Bradley, by the name of Wally came over run things.
Now know that I had on three pairs of wool slacks on that cold day. Wally called me inside the building and told me that my pants were too tight and I needed to get bigger one. I stewed! I felt my eyes becoming daggers. I stared him and said, “It is now of your business how tight my pants are!”
“Count your money,” he said.
“I’m already counting!” I retorted.
My curb manager told me I would have my job back as soon as Mr. Mizell returned. The next day I got a much better paying job at the Bear Brand, a factory that made sock and finished off nylons. I worked on the fifth floor boarding nylons. The best part about getting fired from Stake ‘n Shake was getting to date the handsome curb manager. David was fun and no-doubt the best swing dancer ever. He I remained friends until his death in January 2012.