Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Working at the Root Beer Barrel- Frank Lovejoy

Frank Lovejoy At The Oval- About Barrel Age

The Barrel was my first real full time job, leaving Marg Brown and Evelyn Brockway, the lawn service in those days. I worked inside w/Mike who managed the business for his Mother,Mary McVoy. My job? Was everything, I even did some car hopping a couple of nights when the cars were literally 3 and 4 deep 360 degrees around the barrel, yes, they were called "car hops" yes, the trays hung on the car window, I can remember the girls taking two trays full of our famous "Foot Long" hot dogs and two trays of "frosted mugs" root beer to many of the cars, we were know for the frosted mugs and real foot long hot dogs.Actually most of the hot dogs were over 12". How do I know? We weren't always busy during the day so Mike and I decided to measure several. All exceeded the 12" Not today.

The mugs were kept in two very large and very deep freezers. There was
just enough room in the barrel for Mike and I to work, so anything that had to be done was done by the two of us. There were two windows, a serving window on Mikes side and the tray drop off window on my side where the girls would bring the trays of emptied mugs. Starting on the most important side, Mike took in and prepped the orders for the HD's (hot dogs not Harley Davidson) told me the number of root beers for the order, I would draw the beer and put them on the HD tray or separate trays depending on the order then the order was taken to the car by none other than..... the "car hop"

Let me describe to the best of my old memory the interior of the barrel. Because of the size, there was just enough room for two people to work and move around and perform the assigned duties. There were two very large, very deep freezers that were used to keep the mugs (really) ice cold (Frosted) a large root beer dispenser, two hot box to warm HD buns and two contains keeping the HD's (hot) Next to that were the containers for the condiments. Stacks of trays strategically place for easy access to the serving window. Storage, this building was very well thought out. I might add that the two freezers were located in the middle of the barrel. Next to the drop off window (inside) were two deep sinks for washing and sanitizing the mugs. As the freezers emptied the wet mugs went into the empty one. Tadaa! frosted mugs. Overhead, and within easy reach were all the supplies, napkins, extra mugs, jars of condiments, etc. The root beer dispenser was located to the front of the barrel between the two windows.

How did this all function? Mike McVoy was the manager/cook, I was the prep person, chopping onions was the worst part, the mug washer, the freezer stocker, the bun go getter, the root beer drawer the keeping Mike supplied with everything he needed and when necessary help the girls outside by picking up trays from cars that were ready to leave guy.


Four "Barrel Girls"  I worked with in 1954: L-R  Jerry Montique, Judy Schultz (deceased)  Linda Hutchins Kirchoff, and Judy Christy Davison.  All graduated from the 8th grade, Douglas, Mi.  (Yep! the old school house).

Usually everything ran like clock work! We had great girls as car hops, Linda, two Judies, a Jerry I don't remember them all and we all worked well together.

I believe it was the 2nd season for the Barrel and hot sandwiches were added to the menu. The sandwiches were purchased pre made in individual air tight (paper) package. These were served hot. To achieve this there was a steamer unit that had six steamer needles pointing vertically. The sandwich, in the bag was pressed onto the steamer needles piercing the bag and going into the meat part of the sandwich, the steamer was activated and in two seconds you had a hot sandwich.. The HD's were still the most popular. Of course this added to our overall work load and storage situation, all overcome in a short period of time.

I believe it was the 2nd year that Dave Tomlinson, married to Bonnie McVoy, Mikes sister, put in a nine hole miniature golf course. Miniature being the operative word here. Guess who was appointed grounds keeper?

The demise of the Barrel came when the business was sold. To whom? I have no idea. It operated for several years after that. A storage building added to the back took away the character and the cottage built behind and in back didn't add to the overall ambiance. The miniature golf course was short lived and soon the barrel became in disrepair. How sad, many times while living in Saugatuck I would drive by the barrel on the way home and think of the old days, visualize the cars around the barrel, the girls busily going from car to car and the furor going on inside to keep everyone outside happy. Better days in a time long gone in my life.

I hope this narrative helps Jim, I miss Saugatuck, I miss the Historical Society, I miss the people, I miss all there is about Saugatuck where I grew up from the 5th grade.


Frank Lovejoy


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