Summer of ’62

short stories

Doug Alt

 

Mrs. Jay’s Restaurant, Asbury Park –
Doug as Assistant Manager

This restaurant occupied the building that is now the site of the current “Stone Pony” rock-and-roll “mecca”.

One of my duties was to do all the food ordering and supplies monitoring.

One of my specified job benefits was that I was the only person on the staff, other than the Owners and the Manager, who was allowed to eat anything I wanted in the restaurant. One item I made sure was on every incoming food order was lots of strawberries… for MY daily breakfast cereal!

Another treat that I actually abused somewhat was that I had taken a liking to prime rib end-cuts. Several afternoons a week, I would have one of the kitchen staff slice, paper thin, just the most well-done end off a prime rib in order to make a sandwich for me on their excellent jewish rye bread, complete with lettuce and mayonaise.  Yum!

The “abusing” part comes from the fact that the restaurant only cooked up one or two prime ribs a day, only on a few days each week, and the end cuts were popular enough with the patrons that the restaurant charged them double the normal prime rib price for an “end-cut” order. Even with the doubled price, patrons would actually call in a day or two in advance to make a reservation for an end-cut prime rib meal.

So, my casual sandwiches were worth a lot of money, and, if I had snatched one end-cut out of the only two or four that were available that day, it meant that, more than once, an end-cut aficionado found that their desired specialty was “sold out” when they tried to order.

Expediting – Friday and Saturday dinner times

This was an Airport Tower Controller style of task. The waitresses would bring the orders into the kitchen and give them to me. There were about a dozen cooks scattered among the different food preparation stations: salads, fresh seafood, broiler ovens, stoves, deep-fry kettles, etc.

It was my job to call orders for the individual components of each meal to the appropriate cook and assemble the finished products at the pick-up point for each waitress.

I would then flip a numbered switch on my console that would light up the waitress’s number on a light panel inside the dining room so she could see that her order was ready for pick-up

We had 28 lights on the “Order Is Ready” sign over the door leading from the dining room into the kitchen, and on many weekend nights, we had a waitress for each light.

I had a big console in front of me on which the order slips would be attached so I could see all of them and monitor the progress of each dining table order

One of the critical functions was to coordinate the timing of ordering baked, broiled and fried meals so that the various meals going to one particular dining table party arrived at the waitress pick-up point at the same time, fresh and hot. The baked dishes took MUCH longer than the deep-fried ones, so I would have to call the 20-minute baked dish order to that particular cook, then monitor its progress in the cooking cycle in order to know when to call the 8-minute broiled dish to that cook, and then the 3-minute fried order to that department.

“Teddy”, a 70+ year old broiler cook, and who was some kind of favorite that had been working for the owners for years, took a resentful dislike to this 21 year old who had been thrust into the role of giving Teddy orders.

Several times, he deliberately sabotaged orders by not starting them to cook when I called the order over to him. His concern for the customers who were waiting for their meals to arrive was over-shadowed by his desire to try to make me look bad to my boss. This back-fired on him, as I brought the issue straight to the owners, even knowing the special relationship that existed between them and the cook, and I was relieved to find out that they had had enough, themselves, with this cantankerous old guy and moved him out of that function.

Rental Room in Old Hotel

A girl I knew from our Presbyterian church had somehow alerted me to the fact that she was working in Asbury Park that summer also, and that she was living in an old hotel that was specializing in providing cheap housing for college students working temporary jobs in the Boardwalk area.

I picked up on the advice, and rented a bare-bones, dilapidated, but clean, room for the summer.

This gal had always had a crush on me, and I believe that she figured she might “have a chance” to socialize with me during the times when the student/residents would party after working hours. The only problem with that was that my working day started at 6:00 AM and I was usually sound asleep in my room long before most of the other residents came back in after getting off their jobs in the evenings.

If there was much socializing between the students living in the hotel that summer, I didn’t get to see or participate in any of it.