Picnic areas, or rest stops, in the 50’s were little more than grassy areas with one or more picnic tables on them. A potty stop was at a gas station, at fill-up please. A really good rest stop included a tree for shade and a trash barrel. As time went on you would see a BBQ pit here and there.
The general rule was to include a tablecloth, napkins, and a washcloth with your road food, which was packed at home or purchased at a grocery store along the way. Fast food wasn’t a phrase yet. Bird signatures were the standard graffiti. Remember, the vast majority of the roads were two lane. Pulling off could be done easily at any time.
As I told you before, it was tough keeping the girls in the back seat under control. So when Mom couldn’t stand the begging anymore she declared it was time to look for a roadside table. Dad wasn’t all that excited. It meant time lost. I think he timed the loss too. Why can’t we eat while we drive? He ignored the wiggle factor as often as he could. So we were all put on the picnic table search team. It was hard getting Dad to stop. He would find a good reason– no tree, too small, too big, wrong side of the road, too soon, too something, or the best one–he couldn’t hear the screaming in time to stop. Deaf, y’know? Mom had to insist, usually on the side of his arm, and, wouldn’t you know it, we were suddenly losing time.
The eating stops we use now are overflowing with restaurant chains, gas stations, and shopping malls. Stan and I are part of the Cracker Barrel fan club. The menu and the prices are the same everywhere. Comfort food and familiar atmosphere. (Now that I write this, I think we’re in a rut.) However, going through Lexington, KY, Stan had a craving for KFC. Get it? Kentucky? Kentucky Fried Chicken? ok, ok.
We also realized we were still in the official South. Any iced tea lover from anywhere north of the real or imaginary Mason-Dixon Line who has even once ordered iced tea in the South knows you have to specify “unsweet” or you will get a bag of sugar disguised as tea! However does one pack that many sugar grams into one glass? It’s the closest thing to syrup. You can tell I take it unsweet, with extra lemon, thank you. So at the KFC in Lexington, KY, just off the Man’O’War exit, I ordered unsweet tea (heavy on the UN). The (trainee) handed me an empty cup and pointed to the two urns of tea which is standard at a fast food place in the South. You get to choose. I am used to that. What I saw when I stood in front of them, staring, was new. Someone used the label gun as follows:
The urn on the left was labeled “Sweet.” Standard. The urn on the right was labeled “Not.” Where is the camera and is there film in it?