There were two luncheonettes in Richland when I was growing up (three if you count Irvin Wolfskill’s Sugar Bowl but that was more of a soda fountain/news stand where we’d go on Sundays for sundaes). There was Skippy’s just next to the railroad tracks at the corner of Race and Main Streets, and there was the Snack Bar across the street from the Neptune Theatre on Main.
Skippy’s was owned and operated by George and Pauline Zimmerman, while the Snack Bar belonged to Howard “Skippy” Klopp. You may be wondering why Skippy Klopp’s competitor was named Skippy’s, and the explanation is pretty simple: Skippy Klopp originally built Skippy’s and sometime in the 1940’s he sold it to the Zimmermans who kept the name.
I suspect that Skippy Klopp decided that he could more easily cash in on the crowd exiting the Neptune Theatre if he was situated directly across from it; his house was directly across the street as well, so that made it doubly convenient for him.
While the Snack Bar was a bit more modern than Skippy’s, it was also slightly smaller, and its interior was just a narrow rectangle extending straight back from the street with a counter on one side and booths on the other. It made table service rather difficult for the waiters, many of whom were members of Skippy’s family, such as his son Lynn, who was the father of my classmate Randy.
The Snack Bar’s grill was an odd affair as it wasn’t an open air grill like most places had; instead it would slide inside where the gas flames heated it from the top, and the attendant had to periodically pull the grill out to check on the meat’s progress. The grill was located near the rear just behind the counter, and I’d often sit there just so I could watch whoever was working the grill, which often was Skippy’s wife Hattie.
I remember watching Hattie slide the grill out and inspect the burgers, which all looked perfectly done to me (of course, I liked my burgers rare), and then she’d slide the grill back in after checking that none of them were done yet or needed to be flipped. I have no idea what criteria she used, but when the burgers were nearly done she’d stick the bun on the grill to lightly toast that as well.
While we still attended school in Richland, before the Elco school was built, we got an hour and 15 minutes for lunch from 11:45 AM to 1:00 PM, and we were expected to go home, at least when we were in elementary school. But the rules changed when I hit 7th grade, and now some of the time I would go to lunch at one of Richland’s luncheonettes.
It was certainly cheap enough. A burger (25¢), fries (20¢), milk shake (25¢) plus tax and tip came in well under a buck; and even adding a nickel for cheese on that burger, which I almost always did, I still might have a dime in change from that dollar. And I’d always order the burger with everything. That meant ketchup, mustard, and onions, which the waiter applied at no extra charge.
I remember going to the Snack Bar a few times with classmate Darryl Royer. He was the first kid who I ever saw with the haircut called a flattop with fenders. It looked good on him. I asked the barber Howard Stoltz to give me one of those new-fangled haircuts; on me it looked awful, my hair was just too thin to support it.
Anyway, like me Darryl would order pretty much the same thing every time, including a burger, and I’ll never forget the way he would eat it.
He put the fingers of both hands underneath the bottom of the burger bun while pressing his thumbs on the top, then as he raised it to his mouth he flipped it so it was upside down when he took a bite out of it. He placed it back down on the plate in the exact reverse motion so it was sitting right side up with the bite side away from him.
I had never seen anyone eat a burger like that before.
On the one hand there was something very smooth in the way he maneuvered the burger from the plate to his mouth.
And yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was just wrong!