Friday, July 28, 2006

Bluto and The Varsity Drive-In


This is T-shirt that The Varsity sells illustrated by Jack Davis of the famous people who have eaten there.

No one of any fame comes to Atlanta without going to the world’s largest drive-in restaurant, The Varsity, to eat a famous Varsity chili dog or glorified cheese burger. It is mandatory that all presidential and governor candidates be photographed at The Varsity.

Bluto had no plans on running for President but he wanted to eat at The Varisty just the same. He saw it on the food channel.

As a teenager we used to cruise through The Varsity every time we were in Atlanta. We tried to make small talk with cars full of giggling girls more than once. Then, when you first drove in the drive-in section a car-hop would hop on your fender and sit on it until you park – he usually had a say in where you parked… because he was directing you with his hands… and the way it was done it was a thanks to him you got such a good parking place. He would slap his number on your window, take your order, and if he was good he had a gimmick … maybe some quick one-liners, maybe the way he could recite the menu backwards, maybe he would have the person in the car that appeared in charge to pick a card and he would guess which card. The more he could fascinate the occupants of the car the more the tip. I never seen a white, Spanish, or Asian car-hop. They were all black. And the sat fact they had to pay to work there. They got no pay, it was all tips, but they had to pay to have their white lightweight coats cleaned.

Later when I worked all night at the Atlanta Post Office about 5 or 6 blocks away, you could count on somebody during the night to make a Varsity run.

The Varsity was separated from Georgia Tech by the I-75 expressway, but is connected by the North Avenue Bridge. The founder, Frank Gordon, used to sell his hotdogs and hamburgers on the Tech campus in a small store front. He started in 1928.

Lester Maddox started about the same way with his Pickrick Restaurant.

Now there is a Varsity at the Mall near Marietta in Kennesaw and also one in Athens. All three have identical menus. I think there may be more scattered throughout Georgia now.

But the one near here was not yet built when Bluto visited.

When we were in Atlanta we did what Atlantians do – we ate at The Varsity, inside where you buy the tee-shirts.

As you go through the line at The Varsity there will be a person shouting at you when it is your time urgency shouting, “Whattayahave? Whattayahave?”

With the urgency tempo you feel they are very impatient and you want to hurry up and give them the information before they grab and shake you for being in a daze. When you tell them, it is surprising how exactly they get your order and how they prompt you to say more: “Fries? Fried apple pie?” Whew! Finally you have your food and you are out of line.

The Varsity has three big rooms with a TV in each room. Each one has a different TV station playing. The seats used to be students desks. But this time I noticed they improved and have little tables…. Progress.

Where Bluto and I decided to sit was in a room in a corner near the TV. Pictures of politicians were all over the wall. There was a picture, life size, of Governor Zell Miller and President Bill Clinton sitting and each enjoying a hamburger… I guess neither wanted to be photographed coming down on a wiener. It was in the exact place we were sitting – there as the corner in the background, the only thing different in the picture they were in and the real life we were in that in their picture their picture was not on the wall. Does that make sense?

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2 Comments:

Blogger kenju said...

I think I saw the Varsity once. Mr. kenju took me to Atlanta with him on business back in the 70's. Was it still there then? I think I remember him pointing out a famous drive-in to me. In my town, the first Shoney's was built (the owner was from there - Alex Schoenbaum) and it was a drive-in back then. everybody in my town went there all the time.

10:47 AM  
Blogger ET said...

Judy,
Sorry I didn't respond sooner. We have out car shopping.
Yes, The Varsity has been in business in Atlanta since about 1928.
Remember "The Big Boy" statue Shoney's used to have.
I heard of Alex Schoenbaum before.

3:47 PM  

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