“I can’t tell you how many hot dogs I’ve eaten in my life.”

The day is dark, chilly and damp. Rain is expected. I’m guessing just as Gracie and I leave for the dump the skies will open and the rain will fall in sheets. I noticed the red spawn has been at the potted flowers again and there is soil all over the deck railing. This morning the spawn ran from the feeder as soon as I picked up the hose. It is wary now from too many showers. I’m thinking a slingshot.

When I was a kid, I seemed to be busy all of the time. I’d have school until 2 then rush home to play for the rest of the afternoon. My mother would call us inside close to supper time. I’d do my homework, have supper, watch some TV then get ready for bed. The day was spent in a flash. The whole week passed by almost before I’d noticed. Each Saturday and Sunday had a bit of a routine but those two days never seemed long enough.

During the summers when I was in high school, I sometimes whined and complained about having nothing to do. That drove my mother crazy. We didn’t have summer jobs back then so there was little to do all day long. What had delighted the kid me didn’t seem interesting any more. I didn’t ride my bike or walk to the pool or go to the playground. I just sighed a lot.

The summer after high school was when I got my first job: forty hours a week at Woolworth’s. It was the easiest job, and I jumped around doing all sorts of stuff to keep from getting bored. The only place I didn’t work was the food counter. I loved Woolworth’s food counter. It was straight and long with red vinyl stools moved in a circle for east seating. The women were all old, at least to me, and wore uniforms. Most had huge handkerchiefs as decorations atop their pockets. They kept pencils behind their ears. The wall had all the menu items listed including the flavors of ice cream. The dessert dishes had fluted tops. They were used for sundaes like my favorite of all, hot fudge. Real dishes were used for the sandwiches. They were whitish with a red ring around the inside rim. The hot dogs were wonderful cooked on the grill. The French fries were crisp and hot. Sometimes I’d have a grilled cheese sandwich, perfectly brown and gooey.

My mother and sister used to go to their Woolworth’s for a patty melt. The counter there was huge but divided almost into little islands each with its older lady taking orders. I went with them a few times, but it was sometimes a hot dog for me and other times a club sandwich. Colored toothpicks were in each section of the club sandwich to hold it together. The toothpicks were wooden. The sandwich was always delicious. I miss Woolworth counters.

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48 Comments on ““I can’t tell you how many hot dogs I’ve eaten in my life.””

  1. Hedley Says:

    Rock and Roll with Christer.

    If you like to have a flutter, pop down the local bookie and get a couple of quid down on Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest. At very short odds of 7/4, team Sweden is favored to win on Saturday night. The UK is 50/1 and Birgit will be hitting the beer if Germany at 150/1 makes a run

    Anyway representing Christer and Sweden here is Mans Zelmerlow……let it rock Mans

    • katry Says:

      My Dear Hedley,
      Christer always talks about surprises from the Swedish.

      I do like Mans’ voice but I am not enamored by his choice of a song. The lyrics are a bit odd.

      Poor Birgit-such odds!

      • olof1 Says:

        Yes it seems we’ll be at the top again but one never knows when it comes to the Eurovison song contest 🙂 I have to admit I don’t like this song at all but it was way better than anything else competing this year. The rest was so bad that the way was paved for this song. Germany has an interesting story of what happoend in their competition this year 🙂 I better let her tell it. Australia is competing this year, they are sort of honorable Europeans this year 🙂 I like their song better than ours.

      • Birgit Says:

        Christer mentioned that when the winner of our national ESC final (a real singer and a quite nice ballad) was announced he simply said that he doesn’t feel like participating in the European contest and resigned. Crazy and courageous. About two years ago we didn’t get our funny Bavarian hip-hop polka band either, the so-called experts didn’t like it. Well, who cares, it’s the ESC with it’s own rules.

      • katry Says:

        You win but it seems you win by default as the other acts are so bad.

    • Birgit Says:

      Not bad for ESC!
      Forget Germany. Any chance for Finland, my favorite so far?

      • Hedley Says:

        Birgit – Finland has been set at 5th favorite at a handsome price of 16/1 – you might want to flash a couple of Euros on that one

      • katry Says:

        I am amazed at a funny Bavarian hip-hop polka band. I haven’t ever heard the like.

        I guess the real singer didn’t want to part of the rest.

      • Birgit Says:

        Kat, the Bavarians with their song “Naked”, – too good to share them with the rest of Europe 😉

      • katry Says:

        They are so fun with their bare feet and their leather looking shorts. Thanks for the video!!

    • im6 Says:

      Not really fond of the song either, but Mans is interesting in that he was on Sweden’s Pop Idol and only came in fifth. Don’t know if the winner has had a subsequent career, but Mans seems to have done quite well for himself. He does a version of Darlene Love’s “(Christmas) Baby Please Come Home)” which I quite like. But that’s not really my question.

      I’ve always heard of EuroVision, but it certainly never caught on here in the US. I gather it really is a *huge* deal, however. Have any winning songs ever become big hits I may have heard of? Or any artists who were unknowns who later became famous? Didn’t some group of Russian grandmothers win last year?

      It seems Euro has remained strictly Euro.

      • Birgit Says:

        im6, 49 years of ESC is a huge deal. It started as a serious song (not singer) contest with some hits, now it’s a big anachronistic over-the-top show with mainly bad music. It’s just fun, you can laugh, guess, choose your favorites and rant, but it’s like a European holiday and probably more unifying than the EU. No Russian granny last year, just a girl with a beard.

      • katry Says:

        I know of it only because of Christer who always mentions it every year and gives me an idea of Sweden’s entry. I never heard of Mans before this posting. I don’t know if I want anyone singing Darlene Love’s song!

    • im6 Says:

      Thanks for the info, Birgit. I’d forgotten about the girl with the beard. As the song in “Gypsy” says: You gotta get a gimmick. I guess I’m going to have to do some investigation on my own to find out if there are any songs/artists I’d know of who got their start there.

      I love your description: “It’s just fun, you can laugh, guess, choose your favorites and rant…” In the United States, we call that “elections.” (sadly)

      • Birgit Says:

        im6, Hedley mentioned ESC hits Puppet on a String and Waterloo yesterday, the golden days of the Grand Prix Eurovision de la Chanson as it was called back then. Also young Cliff Richard with Congratulations and Celine Dion.

      • Hedley Says:

        And Celine Dion won for….Switzerland….

      • katry Says:

        im6, MDH and Birgit,

        I’m chuckling at the descriptions of previous entires including the girl with the beard. I had no idea where Celine got her start.

        im6-you are sadly so right!

  2. olof1 Says:

    They rarele have restaurants in big stores now days here in Sweden, I miss them because it always felt speciual when eating at Grand as our big fancy store was called. The clientele were usually older ladies who after eating dinner there then walked to one of the fancier cafes to have a coffe and some pastry (or coffee bread as we say). Neither Grand nor the fancy cafes are around any more, I think they died with their customers 🙂

    I also remember the only diner that was like the ones You have, it was where we had our summer cottage and I loved going there! I think that was the place where I first ate french fries and hamburgers 🙂 The building is still there but I doubt the diner is, the village was slowly dying when they closed the factory. It later on was revived by yuppies and is now a quite expensive place to buy a home in.

    Have a great day!

    • katry Says:

      Here either on restaurants in stores-Barnes and Noble, a bookstore, has a coffee, sandwiches and pastry spot in all their stores. You get to sit down, start your book or work on your computer and enjoy some pastry.

      Shopping now isn’t the fun it used to be. One store had a bakery and their blueberry muffins were legendary. Now it’s go in, shop and just leave.

      All around the ocean vacation spots are little shacks that sell hot dogs, hamburgers, French fries, seafood and ice cream. It is officially summer for some people when the one on Route 6A near the state campsites opens. It always has a crowd.

      Enjoy your evening!

  3. Caryn Says:

    Hi Kat,
    We didn’t have Woolworths. We had Grants and Newberry’s. No lunch counters in there as I recall. There was a diner next door and Brighams down the block. Brighams had a counter. Theirs was oddly shaped in that it was wavy instead of straight. There were peninsulas and coves of counter space. There were also separate tables.
    My favorite place as high school student was Colonial Spa of late and lamented memory. It had a short counter next to a candy and cigarette counter which was backed up by the comic book and magazine section. Everything that was necessary. 🙂 It was the after school stop on the way home. We’d sit at the counter and have a vanilla coke and a brownie.

    The weather was the same up here. Drippy, dank and dark. I wasted a couple of hours transferring photo files that didn’t need to be transferred because I’d already transferred them but put the file in the wrong place. When I found this out, I stopped, erased all the newly transferred ones and went out for ice cream. 🙂

    Enjoy the day.

    • katry Says:

      Hi Caryn,
      We also had a Grant’s but I’ve never seen a Newberry’s. We also had a Brighams but they sold ice cream, not food. I used to love the sundaes.

      I loved vanilla cokes and a brownie, but I got mine at the O’Grady diner just below the square. It was our after drill stop. because I went to school in Arlington Brighams there was our stop. There was a corner store right at the bus stop where we’d buy chips and candy.

      It has been raining just about the entire day. I went to the dump but found out it still is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays until the 25th.
      At least Gracie got a ride.

  4. im6 Says:

    Found a mildly interesting video on YouTube about Woolworth’s and their lunch counters. Did you know that in the 1940’s, Woolworth’s was the largest restaurant chain in the world? And we mustn’t forget the gigantic role the store played in the civil rights movement in the U.S. Many other bits of trivia in the video, which isn’t exactly the most professional documentary you’ll ever see. But it’s nice to remember those days gone by.

    • katry Says:

      I remember well the sit-in at the Woolworth’s counter, but I hadn’t seen the films of the protesters being covered in ketchup and other liquids. That was awful to watch.

      My sister and I were talking on the phone about how you could get just about anything at Woolworth’s including socks and underwear. I remember buying cloth and yarns. There is no store left like Woolworth’s. I do miss it.

      Thanks for finding the video.

      I didn’t know about it having been the largest restaurant chain.

  5. Bob Says:

    Not only do I remember the lunch counters at Woolworth but also the ones found in many drug stores. The same dishes that you ate in Woolworth I also ate at our local Pharmacy. The waitresses wore the same outfits. It must have been a uniform for female lunch counter waitresses everywhere. The character Flo on the TV show, “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” epitomized the southern lunch counter waitress. I remember the segregated South in the 1950s with separate public accommodations. The kids who rode through the south in the 1960s on busses to desegregate the south suffered violence and even death. A sad part of our history that is still with us today but now it’s not overt. My kid’s generation is much more color blind than ours was.

    Are there any variety stores still in business? When I was a kid in NY my mother called them the five and ten stores. When we moved to Texas they were called dime stores.

    • katry Says:

      I remember the counters in drug stores but around here they were mostly soda fountains. I remember Middlesex Drug up town where I’d lean on the marble counter and drink my vanilla coke made with syrup and seltzer.

      I remember Alice and Flo especially. She was always chewing gum and was loud and had the best wise cracks.

      Woolworth’s was the original Fine and Dime store. No, I don’t think there are many left. That’s too bad. I loved that store.

      • Bob Says:

        When we first moved to Texas in the 1950s there were very few Asians and only a couple of Chinese restaurants. Coming from NYC my parents missed having Chinese food and at least once a week we ate Chinese food Texas style. I remember as a kid the Chinese restaurants hired American waitresses. Imagine a woman like Flo chewing gum and asking if you wanted bread with that Egg Foo Young. 🙂

        Today, Dallas has a thriving Asian community with a wonderful selection of terrific Asian food.

      • katry Says:

        I would think it strange not to see a Chinese waiter or waitress. The restaurant in my town used a van to transport their staff from Boston to my town then back again.

        Even my town has several ethnic restaurants.

  6. Hedley Says:

    No seriously, this was missed. The Divine Ms N being absolutely wonderful and ..

    • katry Says:

      I actually didn’t miss it. I checked and I played it less than a year ago so I didn’t play it again. I am a Nanci fan and have several of her albums. Now, Nanci I have seen a few times in concert.

      Listening to this reminds me of why I like Nanci!

      • Hedley Says:

        I miss Nanci – her Facebook and website have become inactive, there is no sign of tour dates. She was so super fab.

      • katry Says:

        Perhaps she is very ill. The last I heard of Nanci was she cancelled a tour with The Chieftains because she had cancer, and that was a long while back.

  7. lilydark Says:

    Hi Kat,
    I probably was bored during my childhood. When I was a teen if I was bored, I probably got into trouble. I love the Griffith Woolworth song.
    Now I am bored and alone and going crazier. No trouble to get into. I can’t stand it.
    Lori and the Crew

    • katry Says:

      I have been lucky as I can find something like a good book to grab my attention. I don’t often get bored.

      I have liked Nanci Griffith for a long time.

  8. t gibons Says:

    Quackenbushes. 2 stories of all manner of stuff. Our local 5 and dime. It opened in 1903 as a farm implement supply warehouse. By 1940 one could buy ANYTHING there. I would spend hours there on Saturdays. Looking at stuff. My friends and I would end the day at Seymores Restaurant. Another Eugene institution. Sipping Coke and eating chocolate covered donuts. We had Newberrys and Woolworths too. Woolworth’s fries and hot dogs were the best! I think your waitresses must have traveled from state to state. I swear they worked at my Woolworths too!

    • katry Says:

      I always Christmas shopped at Woolworth’s. I had my dollar in hand and 5 family members to shop for. I never went home empty handed and sometimes I even had some change.

      I remember the comics at the front of the store on the rack. We’d read a couple if we were waiting for our mom to finish shopping.

      No place with chocolate covered donuts for me but we did have Hank’s Bakery and a cookie or a cupcake was usually within my budget. What I remember most is the huge ball of string they’d pull from to wrap the boxes.

  9. Hedley Says:

    For my friend (and yours) im6, here is the BIG winner from 1969 – Bugger Bette (sorry Bognor) , lets enjoy victory for Lulu

    • im6 Says:

      Well now… that’s truly horrifying. Gotta give Lulu props, though, for giving it her best, but it was all for naught. There’s no way she could redeem that song. She may have been boom bang a banging on the outside, but I’ll bet she was going “You Make Me Wanna Shout!” on the inside.

    • katry Says:

      I know she is probably fashionable but that pink monstrosity is in no way flattering.

      Her histrionics during the song are distracting though I guess I should be happy I can watch her and not give the song my full attention.

      • Hedley Says:

        Kat, why are you and im6 being so negative – Lulu was giving Boom Bang a Bang a real go and was the WINNER. I am sure the “pink monstrosity” did not take away from votes…

      • katry Says:

        I’m thinking that music has changed so much that we find songs like Boom Bang a Bang a bit silly. In 1969, our tastes were far less sophisticated and we adored our singers and were seldom mocking.

        I wonder what the other acts were like.

      • katry Says:

        I very much like this song.

      • Hedley Says:

        the instrumental version of “You’re Wondering Now” was also the theme tune for the BBC series “Death in Paradise” – worth a look if you can find it especially the first two seasons with Ben Miller

        Always enjoy Ska and have been playing The Specials over the last couple of weeks

  10. katry Says:

    I am in the hunt. I did find this early vocal, a Ska version by Andy and Joey


  11. Jay Bird Says:

    Of course Nanci’s “Love at the Five and Dime” is the all-time #1 Woolworth song. Absolute classic music Americana!

    I’ll check out Nanci’s health status. She is a breast cancer survivor; hope she hasn’t had a recurrence. Nanci also got some rare disease that causes her fingers to freeze and curl up. Horrible! She was a damn good guitar picker, in addition to her immense skill as a singer/song-writer. A beautiful lady, inside and out.

    Saw Nanci live several times. On her “Winter Marquee” tour some years ago, one of my daughters saw her in Dublin, the other in New York City, and I in Albany. A folkie family!

    Speaking of Woolworth’s lunch counter, I ended up cooking at the snack bar at a Montgomery Wards (remember them?) one Christmas season when I was in college. Such fun!! The women there were exactly as you described them. I chased a couple off with my antics! I mastered hot dogs and grilled cheese!

    Gotta run. Final Letterman is on. I never really liked him though… rather rude and nasty… in addition to being a serial sexual harasser. Jay Leno was funnier, and a much nicer man.

    • katry Says:

      I saw Nanci in Boston. She was wearing new red boots she had received as a birthday present and kept stepping with them, and I also saw her in Hyannis. I bought a single seat and had the closest view.

      I knew about the cancer but not the crippling fingers. How horrible that must be for her.

      I was never a Leno fan, and I find Letterman swarmy, but I have become a Fallon fan; however, I did DVR Letterman so I can watch it later.

      I do remember Montgomery Wards. I am most impressed you mastered grilled cheese, a simple sandwich but it can go so wrong!

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