When I was growing up, we had a summer place in Pennsylvania on the Youghiogheny River. There wasn’t a big town for miles. Our cabin was back in the hills about three miles.
The only restaurant of sorts in the area was a bar and grill called “Duck’s.” It had one of those bowling machines you could play for a quarter. Once in a while, we’d go up there for my folks to have a beer, some food, and I’d get to play the bowling machine.
Decades later, I took my husband to see the area. It was still a lovely, and largely unpopulated, area — though there are crowds in the summer for boating and swimming. I tried to find Duck’s, which had been just a little ways from a long-gone Sinclair gas station and it was simply not there.
I was devastated. It had not occurred to me that there would be a time in my life when some iconic place from my childhood would cease to exist.
Fast forward to my fifties. Matt and I began a mid-winter tradition with two other couples. We find a long weekend during the winter and meet at a state park in West Virginia (It’s sort of a mid-point for all of us). We rent a cabin and spend a fun-filled weekend eating, drinking, playing, hiking, and yakking up a storm. By the weekend’s end, we feel like we can get through to spring!
One of the things we’ve done for the past six years is to eat lunch at a little diner called “Carolyn’s.” The first year, we managed to insult Carolyn when one of our group asked her if her soups were homemade. She answered a rather terse “yes, all my soups are homemade,” then ignored us for the rest of our dining experience. This was no easy feat, as Carolyn’s sports two booths and four tables in total.
Carolyn’s will likely never make the top 10 of anyone’s list of dining establishments, but let me tell you, we’ve shared a lot of good times (and good food) there. The first year, we weren’t too adventurous for our culinary selections. We tried the grilled cheese which turned out to be buttery, delicious, and heavy on the cheese.
The following year, we returned and a few of us tried fried mushrooms and cheeseburgers. Some stuck with the grilled cheese. The new items were just as tasty. Each year we returned and rediscovered that Carolyn is a mighty fine cook.
Last year, we got there just as Carolyn was closing up — early as it happened, because she had broken her arm and it had been a slow day. We felt like our weekend was incomplete and I realized that my adult iconic places are just as important to me as my childhood ones.
You can imagine my joy this year when I discovered Carolyn’s open, with Carolyn herself in good health. She’s even starting to remember us — so now I guess we’re “regulars.”
I can only hope and pray that Carolyn stays in business a long, long time. There are some changes that just aren’t right. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at a local elementary school and Hospice and keeps busy taking care of house, husband, son, and pets. She lives just outside of Troy, Ohio.