I wish I could be more helpful! Frankly, my first visit to southwestern Michigan was in 1960, and I have no recollection at all of the Root Beer Barrel as a working establishment. One of the blogs says it was in operation until the mid-1970s, so this amazes me. My only excuse is that the Sandstrom cottage is at Pier Cove, and our usual route to Douglas didn't pass the barrel. Plus we had young children. Our visits in those days were never more than for a week or ten days, and activities centered on the beach. A trip to Saugatuck meant shopping for groceries or washing clothes.
Now that my husband and I are retired -- sort of -- we have explored Saugatuck and Douglas more extensively. So I had seen the Root Beer Barrel many times in recent years. When I created Warner Pier and began to write about my imaginary resort town, I thought of it. I remembered a similar Root Beer Barrel from my childhood, and I regarded it as a universal landmark of small town America.
Now the odd thing is that I can't track down where I saw this landmark as a
child. It's a real mystery!
Trying to remember, I e-mailed Mary Jo, my childhood best friend, and she says she remembers drinking lots of root beer at the A&W Root Beer stand in Ardmore, Oklahoma, where we went to elementary school, but she can't remember that it had a structure in the shape of a barrel.
My family moved a lot. Did I see one in Oklahoma City? In Tulsa? In Wichita Falls, Texas? In Great Bend, Kansas? In Norman, Oklahoma, where I went to college? In some other town I merely drove through? I'm stumped.
All I know is that when I first saw the Saugatuck-Douglas Root Beer Barrel, even though it wasn't in operation, I immediately knew what it was. And when I needed a readily identifiable landmark for Lee and Joe to use in The Chocolate Cat Caper, it popped to mind. I do regret having a windstorm blow it into a pile of boards in The Chocolate Frog Frame-Up. Although that disaster fit my plot (Joe is accused of wantonly destroying a historic landmark) I miss the fictional barrel, and I wish it were still part of the setting of the Chocoholic books.
Thanks so much for contacting me. And I'm awed by someone who went through Frog Frame-Up and marked every reference to the Root Beer Barrel! What dedication!
All the best,
Eve K. Sandstrom/JoAnna Carl