Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The nickel tip

Back in 1957, my dad was assigned to Scott Air Force Base near Belleville, Illinois. They didn't pay airmen much in those days, and Dad wound up taking a second job at a gas station in town. Down the road from there a bit, a new A&W Root Beer joint opened up. There was nowhere on the premises to go in and sit; you pulled your car up under the long canopy and a carhop came out and took your order. My mother's cousin owned the local A&W franchise, and he hired Mom as one of his first carhops.

It didn't take Dad long to notice the attractive blonde carhop who brought out his hamburgers and root beer floats, for which he always left a nickel tip. Dad was a bit shy around girls then, so it may have taken a bit for him to muster the gumption to start a conversation with Mom. My mother, though, had been nurturing a desire to get out of small-town southern Illinois and see more of the world, and the more she encouraged the handsome airman's attentions, the more she heard his stories of the faraway places that he had been stationed. They began to date, Dad spent more of his time at the A&W, and he kept leaving Mom his nickel tips.

Last Saturday, Mom and Dad have been married 50 years. It seems that in these times, a marriage that endures fifty years has become a rare accomplishment. They raised children, traveled a lot, saw both good times and bad, yet even through the darkest moments their love endured and grew. I feel extremely fortunate to have them for parents, and wish them many more years of happiness together.