My brother is in Florida as I write this.

We were finally able to secure an annual rental for our parents’ home, from some doctor in Port Charlotte it seems. Brian is down at the house getting it ready for the renter, and said he slept in the folks’ old bed last night, mere feet from the den where Dad died in September 2008.

When Mom and Dad moved down to Florida (somewhat out of necessity, actually, since the hobby farm they owned in Minnetrista was lost in a fire), it was always going to be the beginning of their retirement, and they wanted to do it up right: build the house Dad always wanted by the ocean, even if Florida was, as they said, “God’s Waiting Room.”


April 19, 1976. I came home from school that Monday to discover Dad had bought a tri-hull sailboat. All that spring and summer I took it out, learning how to tack with the wind and sail my way back to the dock. While I’m sure Brian must’ve taken it out for a spin, it was actually my toy. It didn’t have an outboard engine, but I brought a paddle in case I couldn’t get back home on wind power alone. There was barely room for one—I had to slouch down to avoid getting hit in the head by the boom when the wind shifted.

Segue to summer 1976: Casco Point, Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota. Out of school. Swimming off the dock and sailing around Spring Park Bay. Working nights and Sunday brunch at the Lafayette Club.

Two words come to mind: “Bicentennial pancakes!”

The Fourth of July at the Club was going to be the blowout of all blowouts. That year the holiday fell on a Sunday, so everyone was working, some even on double-shift: brunch in the morning, then back in the afternoon to serve a pre-fireworks buffet from 5 to 8 p.m. Children were treated to cartoons in the Breakfast Room from 7 to 10 p.m. The cost per member: Five dollars and 95 cents. I even have the original banquet kitchen menu Chef posted for staff by the time clock. Table linens were to be white with alternating red and blue napkins at each place setting.

The diary has a double-sided insert for that entry, so it was a busy and memorable day. Dan Rogers apparently worked brunch and evening buffet, since he said that Chef had announced to the staff before brunch: “These will be bicentennial pancakes … filled with strawberries, blueberries … and bananas.” Dan reacted by saluting Chef, who scowled in reply.

Dad drove me to the Club at 2:30, where I scraped plates for 450 hungry buffet diners. The grounds were packed with people arriving to catch the fireworks over Crystal Bay. It had been a beautiful, hot (90 degrees) July day, with a clear evening sky.

I was still mooning over Linda from church, wishing we could be watching the celebrations together. But I was in my busboy monkey suit, helping break down the buffet line after 8 and setting up the projector for the cartoons. “I snuck away during break,” I wrote, “and went to the Larsen’s to see Loren and everyone from the church. Linda wasn’t with them.”

On the way back to the Club I ran into some high school friends, then rejoined the other busboys—snapping pictures from the roof or lighting off bottle rockets. We set up for the next event around 11 p.m., and I was home just after midnight, the sound of firecrackers still crackling in the distance.

~ by completelyinthedark on September 18, 2011.

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