Monday, February 7, 2011

The Ernest Race Family Owns The Barrel -1961 and 1962

From Pamela Race Schweitzer- 

Robert-8 yrs. old, Ernest-10 yrs. old, and Pamela (me)-5 yrs. old, with Kenneth- 5 months.

My Dad, Ernest Race, owned the Barrel when I was 5-6 years old.  This would have been about 1961 and 1962. I was very young and don't know who owned it before or after he did. My Aunt, who lives in Holland, must have been about 15 or 16 at that time, and then that summer, 1962, she lived with us and worked at the barrel. Her name is Sharon Plooster, and she was both a car hop and worked in the kitchen.  She remembers getting the frosted glasses out of the freezer for the root beer.

I remember there was a miniature golf course right next door to us, when we lived there it wasn't open any more but it had a miniature lighthouse there that you could actually go inside. That lighthouse stood there for years and years. Then they started building up all the boat storage buildings. I used to play in the field behind there, there was nothing there when we lived there.

It was a time in my life when I didn't have any cares in the world. I'd go into the kitchen and my mom and dad would lift me up on the freezer and hand me a frozen foot long hot dog and I'd munch along on that. And the smells, the business, things would go in phases when there would be a lot of cars there and then they'd all take off. They just go in waves you know. It was definitely a hot spot in the summer. My parents had tables set up outside too, with the umbrellas and the chairs around, out on the lawn too so people could sit outside of the car if they wanted to.

I remember my mother planting flowers between the sidewalk and barrel, and they bloomed all summer. I also remember a string of clear lights draped from the barrel to a pole, separating areas for cars from tables with umbrellas. There were also speakers outside, and “WLS in Chicago” playing the top hits all day which made it a popular place for people traveling to or from the Oval Beach.  

As much as I wanted to always help, I usually ended up on a stool inside with a root beer float or a foot long hotdog. I recall sweeping, or putting umbrellas down at the close of the day. The barrel wasn’t air-conditioned. I can picture my mom exhausted from working in the heat, with only a couple fans going all day. My Aunt Sharon  recalls having to keep the freezer stocked with the glass mugs so they would be frosty for the floats. 

I remembered the Barrel was broken into and robbed one night. Police were there, and I recall discussion of some vandalizing, but it appeared they were looking for money because the cash box was taken.

I think my parents did add on the kitchen area at the back of the barrel. I can ask my aunt Sharon about that, but I think they did so.

From there we moved to Holland.

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