Big Boy's Big Boy
My first waitress job was at Ted's Big Boy Restaurant, which - in the summer of 1968 - had just opened for business.
I was in the first cadre of waitresses hired, and we were trained by "girls" - as they and we were then known - who were brought in from the original Bob's Big Boy in California as part of the deal to set up a franchise.
The girls from Bob's were really something.
At a time when most girls wore their hair long and straight, a la Mary of Peter, Paul, and Mary, the Bob's waitresses had big hair.
Wanda had a giganticized version of the dark black Lucy Baines Johnson (LBJ's younger daughter) flip. Porta was about 6 feet 2 inches tall - at least she was with the stovepipe cone of honey blonde hair perched on top of her head.
Both Wanda and Porta gobs of make up, and us Big Boy's waitresses had to don - at minimum - lipstick, which I had never worn.
My color of choice was the trendy corpse-white, or a sugary cotton candy pink. These colors were an ultra-nice complement to the yellow (what was I thinking?) eye shadow I also wore. What with my self-created orange-ish hair streak - done on the cheap with peroxide rather than Lady Clairol - I must have been quite a sight. (The things you can get away with when you're 18.)
Being a Big Boy waitress came with lot of rules.
You had to wear your name tab well above your left breast. If it got anywhere near bust-level, Porta told us, some wise guy was sure to ask, "What's the name of the other one?"
We also had to address the cooks as "Sir," which seemed especially dopey as the cooks weren't much older than the waitresses. One cook - the younger brother of the store manager - was, in fact, only 16. Yet we had to call Timmy S, along with his brothers John S. and Danny S. - a crew of very cute Irish boys from Providence - "Sir". Just as we had to call Bob L., Mel A., and Don I-can't-recall-his-last-name "Sir."
Most of the cooks were pretty good humored about it, but Bob L. was kind of a bully, defensive, I think, because most of us were college girls who were there for the summer, while being a Big Boy cook was, more or less, his career.
Mel A. was an interesting guy. I think he went to Clark, and I wonder whatever happened to the book he claimed to be writing, 86 That Dream.
There were lots of cooks to "Sir" over my two summers and one Christmas break at Big Boys. Ex-cons, Viet Nam vets.
Ordering involved addressing one of the "Sirs" and announcing that you were ordering a Big Boy, a Brawnie Lad, a tuna wheat.
Portions of the food - mostly deserts - that the waitresses doled out on our own followed paramilitary precision. I felt bad for those who ordered the hot fudge sundaes, with their monitored teensie-weensie cup of fudge sauce, barely more than a thimble full! At Friendly's, they put more fudge on the sundae - especially if you knew someone who worked there.
Even when there was no one in the restaurant in the break between breakfast and lunch, or lunch and dinner, there was a hard and fast rule that you couldn't sit down. You had to be rinsing out towels in soapy, bleachy water. Or scrubbing down tables. Or straightening menus.
One time my friend Kathleen took a tiny break, sitting down for a second or two at a table she'd been scrubbing. And there was John S., outside policing the grounds, tapping on the window and wagging his finger at her.
I actually loved waitressing at Big Boy's.
Every night, I would come home and count my tips in the living room - change, mostly - and record the amount in a little red spiral notebook. I worked very hard, but don't imagine I made very much - the food was inexpensive and there was no alcohol served.
After counting my tips, I took a shower, trying to get the burger grease smell out of my hair and off my skin, and then threw my uniform in the washing machine.
Although I worked at least 5 days a week, I had one uniform: white blouse, orange apron, and brown skirt. And the entire kit needed washing every night, save for the clip on brown bow tie.
You had to give back your uniform when you quit, so my second summer at Big Boy's, the uniform I had was used to begin with.
My Big Boy stint came to mind the other day when I read an article on a fellow in Kentucky who'd been offered a job at the local Big Boy's - only to have the offer rescinded when they couldn't find a uniform to fit him.
Well, 2X was not big enough for Charles Compton, who weighs in at 349. Since that was the largest size they had, he was promptly unhired. What with the bad publicity and all, Big Boy called big boy back, apologized, and offered him the job again.
But Compton was no longer interested.
From Big Boy's point of view, this is probably just as well.
In this day and age, with all the attention paid to the correlation between fast food and obesity, probably the last thing you want - especially in a restaurant named Big Boy's to begin with - is someone that large reminding people that they just might want to skip that hot fudge sundae. Even with the skimpy portion of fudge sauce, that's still a lot of empty calories.