I was lucky to get to know the late Lewis Grizzard pretty well. He wrote for the Atlanta Constitution, authored 10 or 12 books which were mostly collections of his columns. Lewis was funny and insightful and was proud to be a Southerner. He moved up north and lived right there amongst Yankees for a while, but came back south after a few years, vowing to never leave Dixie again.
One of my favorite columns by Lewis was about Waffle House. I thought of him this weekend when my boys and I bellied up to counter at the Waffle House closest to us. Much of what Lewis wrote came back to me during our breakfast. I intentionally didn’t go back and look at this column, but I will.
In these tough economic times it’s encouraging to know that some things don’t change much. You can pretty much stumble through the door of any Waffle House in America and you’d never be able to tell what city you’re in. You’re still greeted with a “good morning” when you enter. I imagine that a group of folks who have been up all night cooking for the late-night crowd and now the Dads who show up with their boys don’t really feel like yelling “good morning” every time the door opens, but they do anyway.
They call ya sweetie or darlin’ at Waffle House. I like being called sweetie and darlin’ and frankly don’t think I get called that enough, but that’s another story for another time. From taking your order to taking your money it’s an operation that you won’t witness anywhere else. Three or four folks barking their orders to one or two people doing the cooking and somehow it all ends up cooked right and delivered to the right customer. I’m telling ya they’ve got waffles, hash browns, bacon and sausage down to a science. If you’ve not seen a 13-year-old and almost 11-year-old boy eat all they want at a Waffle House lately, it’s a sight to behold.
Lewis Grizzard wrote about the consistency of Waffle House, how no matter how long of a day or night he’d had, he knew he could count on his coffee and patty melt being just the same every time. That’s worth a lot these days. The juke box still charges a quarter for a song, more than it used to be, but still worth hearing “Your Cheatin Heart” during a Saturday morning breakfast.
I did a little homework and I’ve learned that Waffle House opened its first store on Labor Day 1955 in Avondale Estates, Georgia. Tom Forkner and Joe Rogers Sr. started the company and Joe Rogers Jr. runs it today and has since 1973. Today there are 1,500 stores in 25 states. They estimate that so far they’ve served 1,173,838, 328 orders of hash browns -- I like mine scattered and smothered, thank you.
If you laid all the bacon they’ve served end to end it would reach from Atlanta to Los Angeles 7 times. If you’d like to visit the Waffle House museum, it’s located in Decatur, Georgia. You have to make an appointment to visit, and I believe I will. We’ll call it an education field trip.
I’m going to go find Lewis Grizzard’s column that he wrote nearly 20 years ago and see if his account is similar to ours. Things are a lot different these days, but once in a while it’s nice just to enjoy something that stays the same.
See you tonight at 4:30, 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00 p.m.
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