Sunday, October 19, 2008

Burgers with daddy

Sometimes on Sundays I am transported to a place that was called Gene and Darlene's.

(OK, that sounded kind of Shirley MacLaine. I am not talking about out of body experiences here. It's a memory, ok?)

Gene and Darlene's was a bar down on Shoal Creek south of Joplin. The building still stands (photo proof here, taken August 2008.) No telling how many other names the place has had since it was Gene and Darlene's, but that's the name it has in my mind.

On Sundays sometimes, when I was a kid, daddy would come up with the notion that burgers from Gene and Darlene's would really hit the spot. Being always in favor of food in general, and carry-out food being really exotic to me, the idea was always a winner in my opinion. I would be eager to climb into the car with daddy and ride along. It was a short trip down to Redings Mill, around the infamous curve that topped a bluff over the creek, where all kinds of carloads of people had suffered hideous deaths in spectacular car crashes - at least, those were the stories we heard and repeated. Don't know if anyone had ever really crashed down the hillside like in a movie, but it made the trip a lot more exciting. Over the old bridge, then, and there was Gene and Darlene's.

Stucco on the outside, I guess, and inside just like thousands of other old bars of that time - the Hamm's sign with the polar bear, Slim Jims and pickled eggs and cheap cigars for sale. But Gene and Darlene's had more to it than most places like that. That second floor - what went on up there? And that cupola on top - absolutely fascinating and unknown. Downstairs there was a wide, low-ceilinged room with a dance floor that must have hosted a hundred thousand fox-trotting, two-stepping, and just plain shuffling and swaying feet over a half century or so. Back in an earlier time, Redings Mill had been some kind of resort, perhaps something swanky. That room with it's worn but always polished wooden floor was a few degrees cooler, even on the hot days. I would wander in there on those quiet Sunday hamburger runs, and wonder what kind of things went on in such a place. It was only much later that I could picture the couples on that floor, moving to the western swing, romancing on the slow songs.

Daddy had an ulterior motive, as I also figured out a lot later. His regular haunts for draft beer were closed on Sundays, but because Gene and Darlene's served food he could get a cold one or two while the burgers were on the grill. That's why Sundays were the only day of the week when Gene and Darlene's was a dining option.

The burgers came wrapped in paper, stuffed in a brown bag. They were simple and plain and dosed with a lot of black pepper. We would make our way back home as that peppery aroma filled the car. He got the beer he needed, I got burgers. A win-win.

Sometimes on Sundays I wish there could be another chance to make that ride with daddy.

3 comments:

Deborah Hailey said...

Barry, I enjoyed the Gene and Darlene's post.

I grew up in Joplin (Parkwood HS class of '70) and spent a few nights drinking there -- although we usually went to Galena. One night, we were drunk enough to smuggle a bunch of pool balls and cuesticks into the bathroom, toss them out the window, and put them in our car when we left that night -- God knows what we did with them.

I'm writing about Redings Mill for my music blog, www 2or3lines.blogspot.com. Please check it out -- the Redings Mills post will go up later this month.

Gary said...

Barry, I enjoyed the Gene and Darlene's post.

I grew up in Joplin (Parkwood HS class of '70) and spent a few nights drinking there -- although we usually went to Galena. One night, we were drunk enough to smuggle a bunch of pool balls and cuesticks into the bathroom, toss them out the window, and put them in our car when we left that night -- God knows what we did with them.

I'm writing about Redings Mill for my music blog, www 2or3lines.blogspot.com. Please check it out -- the Redings Mills post will go up later this month.

El Picoso said...

Memorial Class of 1985

I also enjoyed the hamburgers there, my dad would take me and I suspect it was for the same reasons as yours. Usually, it was after a day of swimming at the reddings mill pool.

There are two other things that I remember about that place, one was the shuffleboard table. The other was the bowling pinball machine.

Great place that was.