My Dream Job


As a high school girl, in the 60’s, I held various summer jobs.

I baby sat, and detasseled corn. The one I remember with fondness, however, is the one at the DREAM DRIVE-IN. Yes it’s true, I was as car-hop!

The Dream, as we called it, was the place to work. It was a way to keep up with the social scene during those crazy days in high school– to make a little extra cash (65 cents and hour) and of course, to see and be seen!

Waiting on a cute guy was always exciting, and a little frightening. If he had a date, that pretty much killed the flirt factor. Usually the order went smoothly. I could tell if it was their first date by how nervous they both were. He’d also grin and say, “Hold the onions.”

If he was alone, or with his buddies, it would be, “Howbout a Cherry Coke!” Emphasis on the Cherry! I’d politely nod and fantasize about dumping the cherry coke in his lap to cool him off. If you were a girl in that era you understood his, not so subtle meaning. You learned to have a thick-skin when it came to waiting on fellow teens.

Older adults like, Doc Hunt, our veterinarian, or Mr. Biggs from the hatchery would always leave a nice tip, as well as my relatives. The tips, thank God, made up for the meagre wage.

The work was hard and many shifts were long, especially if there was something happening in town, like the County Fair, ball games, or The Old Threshers Reunion. And, when the Drive-In let out…yikes! Some nights the cars would be three deep in the parking lot.

One summer our boss decided we needed to wear roller skates. I don’t know what he was smokin’, but balancing those trays was hard enough without putting our feet on rollers! Trying to come to a stop, step down from the middle island, and settle the tray without spilling it on the customers lap, was like performing a circus act.

Often I would be called-in early to slice onions or pound our famous pork tenderloin. If you’ve never had an Iowa breaded tenderloin…well, you’ve missed out on the best sandwich in the world. It’s big, crispy, and heaven on a bun! Anyway, I pounded out those little gems until they were the size of a dinner plate.

My good friend, Charlotte worked across the street at the A&W Drive-In. We’d wave at each other if we had the same shift. Even though they were a national chain, I always felt we had better food.

Shrimp baskets, chicken baskets, burger&fries basket, tenderloin basket, and onion rings– it was all greasy and wonderful!

There was something magical about those warm summer nights that brought out the community. Horns would honk and tires would squeal out of the parking lot to empress anyone in the vicinity.

Conversations would float between cars with a, “Hey what are you doin’ out so late?” or, “Does you wife know you’re out with such a pretty gal?” Knowing full well it was the wife sitting next to the customer.

Dates were made and broken, as well as hearts. Gossip was shared– who was heading off to the service, who was getting married, and who had to get married. Who was smoking, who was up for Homecoming King and Queen, etc…etc…etc…

I smelled like a vat of grease when my shift ended. I’d tumble into bed, my head filled with the nights events, and dead to the world in no time.

I learned many important lessons while working at the Dream… how to count back change… was a big one, but getting that paycheck was the icing on the cake!  It wasn’t a lot of money, but it was mine.A rite of passage that would mark my youth.

I wouldn’t trade all the cat-calls, spilled drinks, and onion tears for anything.



If anyone has photos of the Dream, I’d love to see them. Just forward to my email.

One thought on “My Dream Job

  1. Karen, Iave had the breaded pork tenderloin… but I favor the Maid-Rite! I visited many summers in Fort Madison, Montrose, and Nauvoo across the river. We always looked forward to eating Maid-RIte sandwiches and Turtles from the Dariy Cream on the riverfront. Those were great days growing up.


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