Inspiration for this recollection: Our book club is reading Time Keeper by Mitch Albom for this month’s selection. As I’m reading I’m thinking back to when I was a 14 year old waitress at The Back Lash in Cicero, Indiana. The older couple sat a table at the far end of the room. They had a beautiful view of Morse Reservoir but their focus was on each other. I approached with a greeting and asked the usual question, “What would you like?” Their response was stated in a matter of fact way, “More time.” I don’t remember how I responded but I have reflected on that moment time and time again.
Place: The Backlash, Cicero, Indiana
back~lash noun a snarl in the that part of a fishing line wound on the reel
My first real job. 14. Waitress. Fifty cents an hour plus tips. My family had only been in the area for a short while and I just had begun my freshman year at Hamilton Heights High School. Having spending money suddenly became a need for a girl beginning high school. One of my first friends that I had met on the school bus, Shirley, worked at the Backlash. She thought I could get a job there also. And I did.
The Backlash was an unique place. It sat on the west side of Cicero with a view of Morse Reservoir. In fact there was a dock where boaters could anchor their boats and walk up to the restaurant for a bite to eat. You would also find the local town people enjoying the menu. You wouldn’t find the high school crowd there though…Char-Burg was the hang-out for kids. One exception was if someone was hopeful of stirring up a romantic interest with an employee or if the romance was already brewing…then they would drop in for a bite to eat. There were two walk up windows. Almost daily a man walking his hound down to the reservoir would stop at the window and order an ice cream cone…for his dog. The place was furnished with lacquered picnic-like tables.
Kate and her husband, Jut were the proprietors of the place. Kate would be in the kitchen every morning around four baking homemade bread that she served with her spaghetti, shrimp or steak dinners. A wide variety of homemade pies were baked also and kept in a small pie safe outside an ordering window. Homemade vanilla ice cream also was churned and stored in the freezers. One of my favorite items were FFO – french fried onions. Deep fried onion rings created with a homemade batter of egg, flour, oil, and salt. Large onions were sliced into rings and separated. The rings were coated with flour by shaking them in a lunch-sized paper bag. Then each ring was dipped in batter and dropped one by one in the deep fryer. The rings were fished out of the fryer when the golden brown onion ring floated to the top. YUM! Especially when you dipped the crispy hot onion rings in Heinz ketchup.
I didn’t think about it then but looking back I think it was very strange that the eatery was also a bait shop that shared space with the dining room. A bait shop with a full service bait counter. Fishermen would walk up to the counter and place their order of worms, minnows, crickets and who knows what other kind of bait a fisherman might need. Creepy crawling things that often had a unappetizing smell were stored in that bait room. The bait room was behind the counter and it had a screen door.
Jut. Nickname for Justus. In charge of the bait counter. Jut wasn’t tall but he was a large man with an intimidating appearance and manner…he was a man of few words…on the gruff side. Jut would sit in the bait room in a lawn chair smoking cigars only getting up to wait on bait customers. He had a panoramic view of the dining room and you always knew he was watching. You knew you better be doing your job. A customer would walk up to the bait counter and it seemed like it was a few minutes before you would hear the screen door bang as Jut always moved at his own pace. Jut was often visited by friends that would sit with him during the hours of selling bait. I think they had pleasant time back there smoking cigars, telling stories and watching us girls work. They all enjoyed teasing us. Some of his buddies would come in after they had been coon hunting during the night. Many a night I would find a hairy coon’s tail tied to my car’s attenna. That tail would stay there a couple days or until I found someone to take it off…I wasn’t touching that thing. Every once in a while Jut would come out to the dining room floor and reach for our hand and slip us a twenty dollar bill. I think he thought Kate should be paying us more than she did. This surprise bonus only happened if we were on our own in the restaurant while Kate was doing errands or taking her afternoon naps. And you never knew when so it was never expected. Kate took daily naps as she was up at four every morning and the restaurant didn’t close until nine.
More recollections will be coming about The Backlash in future posts