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In conversation with a Rudford's girl

It takes years to learn to be an arm waitress

It was Harvey’s Eat Shop before Tommy took it over after the war. Tommy was the bread man, and had a drive-in up in Linda Vista.
  • It was Harvey’s Eat Shop before Tommy took it over after the war. Tommy was the bread man, and had a drive-in up in Linda Vista.
  • Image by Craig Carlson

Tomorrow is Saturday, that’s the busiest day. They’re either having a garage sale or going to one; and some of them come in to read the Racing Form.

Helen Richards: "I’ve worked at Rudford’s since 1965. Twelve years altogether — I left three times."

Helen Richards: "I’ve worked at Rudford’s since 1965. Twelve years altogether — I left three times."

I leave home before four, especially if I’m working up front. The first thing I do is go to the iceboxes and see what I have to bring up from the back. That is very important. I do the trays of tartar sauce and get out all the butters. We put an orange slice on each breakfast plate, so you have to have enough of those out front, and have the sweet rolls ready and bring those out. We bring up the cold cereals and make sure there's half and half. The front has the pies to cut; the back does the syrups. That’s my hour before I even go on at quarter to five. I do this for me, so I’m not short. When I’m ready to go to work it’s all set up. Then all I have to do is devote myself to my customers.

My first job was in a confectionary in the old Union-Tribune building. One side was all candy, the other side had a soda fountain and kitchen. It was early ’41, before the war started. I was fourteen and going to San Diego High at the time. My mother took me down, she said. You don’t have to pay her, just train her.

I started at twelve dollars a week, full time. I gave all the money to my mother and I got a couple of dollars a week to go to the movies. I’d rather have had my throat cut, but later I was grateful because I was trained right. I got out of school at 3:00 and hit the floor at 3:30, grabbed a rag and started wiping or cleaning the counter and didn’t look behind me. I scrubbed shelves, swept the floor, cleaned mirrors, whipped cream by hand with a large whip in a great big bowl — and in between waited on the customers.

A row of booths runs parallel to the counter.

A row of booths runs parallel to the counter.

At midnight, after we closed, we had all the cleanup to do. The owners, a man and woman, stood there and watched us — it had to be spotless before we left. I worked eight and a half hours. The extra thirty minutes was for your break, and you could eat certain items on the menu. But if it was too busy you didn’t take your break, and you can’t serve people with your mouth full. Many nights I’d go home hungry, really hungry.

"People can order anything that’s on the menu, anytime. One man ordered cherry pie with brown gravy on it."

"People can order anything that’s on the menu, anytime. One man ordered cherry pie with brown gravy on it."

I worked six days a week, we all did. They were closed Sundays. Every Thursday I would give out, I couldn’t make it to school. I was just too tired. After nine months of working with that woman being on my heinie — you never did anything right — I quit. I went back to get my check and she asked if I was coming back and I said, I’m never coming back. But she lit a fire under me and I haven’t stopped yet.

We have a joke here: we’ll say. Oh, she’s been a waitress since the Last Supper, and she trained me; and she’ll say, Yeah, and it took a hundred years to do it.

I’ve worked at Rudford’s since 1965. Twelve years altogether — I left three times. I used to get mad at something and I'd go back and quit. Some of the girls have worked here twenty years, thirty years. It’s a pleasure to work here — you know your relief is going to be there. It’s not like some places, where they’re always short. We’re all conscientious, we start fifteen minutes ahead of time. I’d rather shoot myself than be late. After you’ve been here so long, when you come in and get behind the counter, you just know you’re home.

A long, low building on the north side of El Cajon Boulevard in a restaurant-rich section of North Park, Rudford’s Restaurant has large, curved, ocean-liner windows, white metal awnings with blue trim, and a tall sign with a knife and fork and a clockface that is framed by the motto,

Always/Open............Always/Good.

Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Inside, past the cash register, is a long counter lined with swivel stools that makes a short left turn down by the coffee machine; on the other side of a narrow aisle separating them, a row of booths runs parallel to the counter. Beyond is another room of tables, where people stand and wait when all the stools and booths are full. The original, diner-style building dates from 1936: the extra room was added in the Fifties.

The phone rings by the cash register. The caller wants to know when they have Yankee pot roast. Unsure, the young woman, who looks like a new cashier, goes back to the kitchen to ask. Meanwhile, a diner at the counter says, Yankee pot roast is Monday. Another diner, waiting to pay, adds, Monday is always Yankee pot roast day.

It was Harvey’s Eat Shop before Tommy took it over after the war. Tommy was the bread man, and had a drive-in up in Linda Vista. He was a red-headed Irishman. When he came in, everyone knew it. If you asked him. How are you, he’d say, Better than nothing. But I’ve seen him throw customers out, saying they couldn’t talk to his waitresses that way. I was lucky, I got along with him. One time after I had quit, I was eating here and he said to me. Come back. And I said. When I come back I’ll come in the back door. Another time he took my hand and said, I need you. Baby. Tommy used to cook. It was pretty lousy sometimes — he raced and would send the food out half-cooked. His daughter Donna took over two years ago, August. She’s here in the afternoons, she brings her baby and has a baby bed in the office.

Never early in the morning is there a boss — it’s always that way at Rudford’s. Some places, the bosses are so afraid they’re going to lose something, they stand over you and watch you. Here, they treat you like an adult, not like a child they have to lead around.

I like breakfast. The time goes by fast. I don't get a chance to get tired or wish I could sit down. If you get a lull, you know there’s something wrong. The union used to say. If you can make it at Rudford's you can make it anyplace. Mornings it’s so crowded, they line up clear back in the room. You have to fight to get in and fight through to serve orders. The minute one gets up at the counter, thirteen more sit down. There’s not much room behind the counter, and there’s as many as four girls and two bus boys, Saturday and Sunday at dinnertime — plus the cashier has to take the to-go orders. You always go to the right and the other girl goes to the left. It’s just like a roadway. But in the middle of a rush it gets very confusing, and it’s easier to walk clear around and go up the main highway. The word is. Behind you ... or.

Move it. You get used to it, you don’t even think about it, unless there’s somebody new or if they’re talking — then I say. Can a working girl get through?

Sunday starts off a lot slower than Saturday. When it starts, though, it’s like everybody talked to each other the night before and said. Okay, let’s all go in there together, and they do. Then you’re on the run. You just have to prime yourself for it. The wheel gets so full of tickets that we’ll hang a Sweet ’N Low' packet up there so we’ll know where the beginning and the end of the orders are. I always give water and a menu immediately. Then, even if you’re swamped and you can’t get back to them for a while, they’ll wait patiently.

All the twenty-odd parking spaces in the lot are full, but that doesn't prepare you for the noise inside, which is something between a bustle and a din. It’s the clash of heavy restaurant china and tinny flatware, the stop-and-start conversation of people eating and those waiting to eat, the sounds of pouring and lifting and scraping and stacking. In the background food sizzles and boils and steams, and the cash register opens and shuts.

At least half her customers greet her by name, say good-bye when they leave, and don't even look at the menu. From behind the counter, she positions a tissuelike paper napkin in front of each one. centers cutlery on top of it, and puts a plastic tumbler of water down with a small flourish . She reaches for a coffee cup. fills it full from the pot. turns around, and sets it before you in one nonstop motion. Walking over to the booths, she cocks her head and leans forward, taking the orders in a fast hand, pursing her lips to concentrate or opening her mouth wide in a quiet laugh. Coming back, she makes more coffee, grabs a handful of half-and-half containers from a bucket, opens the cooler for orange juice, walks by with three plates of fried chicken on her arm. She brings a hamsteak dinner to a regular customer, and then, before being asked, a “people” bag because this man never finishes his meat. She refills your coffee cup so automatically, you begin to feel like a member of the family. And as quick as she is with the coffee pot. she is with her quips. If you tell her you don't want coffee, she’ll ask. Oh, are you driving? or if you say you ’ re not very' hungry that day, she'll say. Then I'll just bring you water and a toothpick. If a boothful of people are talking and don’t stop when she’s ready to take their order, she’ll say. Okay, knock it off. I've got to go to work.

I work my own way. There’s so many, they don’t care about the people. Everyone is so relaxed today. They don’t jump. They stand around and talk. Whether it’s busy or not, the customers can just wait. Or they have to wait to pay their money. Is there anything worse? You’ve had your meal, you want to go.

People say to me. You don’t have to run. I tell the little old ladies. I do for this guy — he’s my dollar tip. They say. Sure you do. I have a collection of roadrunners they bring me. That’s what they call me. I’ve got pins, drinking glasses, embroidered pictures — one lady goes to garage sales every week — a mobile, a lipstick case.

She uses red lipstick but no other makeup, and wears a small gold roadrun-ner pin on the collar of her service smock. Her hair is very short and neatly permed, off her face. Hidden under her plain polyester slacks are green-, purple-, and orange-striped socks.

There used to be a code of dress. Neatness. No dangle earrings. I don’t wear perfume. It’s out of respect. I’m not the customer — they’re the ones who preen themselves. I don’t approve of jogging shoes — it’s a little gross. I learned to always wear white shoes, and proper ones. You have to, to be on your feet. My feet and legs don’t bother me but a lot of girls’ do. I worry about my feet. I never go barefoot. You can get hurt so bad, just by dropping a cup of coffee. If you bum your foot you’re not going to be able to walk. Once, at home, I tripped and ran into one of the iron tables in my living room, broke a toe. I still worked but it was all black fora long time.

I never smoke in front. If you get a puff in the back, you’re lucky.

Service has changed. Now they throw the food at you — and the customers take it. I have the guilties about that. It’s happened to me, I drop the ball and they still leave me a tip. I feel that’s not right.

They’re paying for courtesy. If they send you back to the kitchen four different trips, you shouldn’t let them hear you complain. A waitress can’t afford to have a temper. The customer is always right — even if I know' that sucker ordered sausage and he says he ordered bacon. __

The worst kind of customer is when you go up and you're all happy with yourself and they’re just a grump. You can’t do anything right to please them. They slam stuff. “You call this food?’’ Finally I tell them. Well, why don’t you go up the street. But if I let them get to me, it’s going to hurt my day.

A lot of waitresses think they can do the job but they can’t do it, they’re not professionals. That’s why most places want the older waitresses.

Some would say the great old waitresses are already just a memory, that they and the grand old hotels where they used to serve from trays have gone out of style. Others would point out that restaurants with any pretense to dignity always hired men and not women; for one thing, the fancier restaurants used more crockery and the trays were heavier. In any event, most of the top restaurants today have waiters, not waitresses. They say the two don’t mix. Rut on the other hand, some people never did like ritz.

I could go down to a big hotel where they throw five-dollar bills on the table, but I’d be no better off. I’d spend more.

It’s always been arm service at Rudford’s. It takes years to learn to be an arm waitress. Tray service is much nicer, when you take a plate off a tray and present it to the customer. I’ve worked tray but I don’t like it. You get a tray loaded, like at a banquet, I can hardly lift them. But I can carry just as many plates on my arm, especially at breakfast. You have the toast on those little plates, you can serve six without any problem.

Every day you can learn something new in a restaurant. I thought I’d been a waitress for many years but when you’re just slinging hash you don’t think about certain things, when you work in a nice place you’re made aware of it. Just by chance I noticed, the entree should face the person. I saw people turn their plates around. Now — in a mixed group, I always serve the ladies first — I think a minute, this one goes to the left, and I present it that way so she gets the meat facing her.

You name it, I’ve worked there. I had to support myself.

We all had to work. My brother went into the army when the war started, he was eighteen. My sister three years older worked at Convair. When I was seventeen everyone in town needed a waitress and I could have gotten a job anywhere. Men were being shipped in and out and the older girls went with their men. I went to Ray Smith Drug at Park and University. His brother was a judge. We had to do our own sandwiches. It’s still there but I don't think there’s a soda fountain anymore. I worked at Ferris & Ferris at their soda fountain; at that time it was an all-night drug store. Then I went to work at a little drive-in on El Cajon. It used to be, El Cajon had drive-ins up and down. I can’t remember the name of that place. There, you had to fry the shrimp. I worked downtown in what is now the Bal Char on Sixth, at the time it was called Gregory’s. I worked the night shift, all night. I worked downtown at Woolworth's. I worked at Kress’s in the fountain. When I went to New York I worked in Bell Telephone Laboratories in their cafeteria. I worked in the grill at the Federal Building. One summer I was head waitress at Cafe del Rey Moro. That’s a beautiful place. I loved the atmosphere. You only had to walk fifty miles to get to the kitchen. People were nice, a different class of people, but it’d get so dead there because the menu was overpriced. I worked the Holiday Inn at the Embarcadero and the old Bronze Room in La Mesa that’s Servomation Catering now.

Then there were places where I’ve walked out and never gone back and collected my money. Bad work, lousy food, and dirty conditions. You wouldn’t eat there, you wouldn’t have a cup of coffee in there, let alone be serving. Some of them used to get their A rating, you’d wonder how and why.

If I won’t eat it I don’t expect my people to eat it, and I usually tell them so. If they mention something, I just . . . Oh, you’ll like this much better . . . You don’t want that today. Here it’s very seldom if anytime 1Ihave to say it. If somebody’s mentioned the ham is tough, I don’t mind telling the customer, but usually the ham’s so good you just wonder what’s wrong with the people if they’re complaining.

Some places, you don’t dare send the food back if it’s cold. Over here you do, you just tell them if something’s wrong and they fix it. Or we can go to management, if the cooks are doing the orders wrong and you’ve talked to them and they still do it, if the food is bad, or if we’re short of anything — and it’s there the next day.

I’ve worked places, some of the food they put out for the help is absolutely spoiled, left over from banquets or whatever. You just lose your appetite. I wouldn’t eat it. Over here, we can have prime beef, breakfast ham, ground round, veal cutlet, the fish. You can’t have oysters or mahi mahi or the specials, we’re not allowed to have those because the help would eat all the specials and there wouldn’t be enough for the people.

For fourteen years I didn’t work. That’s when I was married. I was a bum. I took care of the yard. He was a-body-and-fender man, had his own shop. We went fishing whenever we felt like it. We just haunted the river. We fished from Yuma all the way up to Vegas. When we’d run low on money, then he could get a job. I had to learn to sand cars. You’d have no skin left on your hands. We worked in Barstow and in Vegas and in Indio. He lives just up the street from my daughter, Terry. I still see him often.

Afterwards, that’s when I went to Indio. I worked in a Chinese restaurant. I guess it was just what I needed. It was a work-house. Just me and three little girls, the daughters of the owners. I didn’t know anything about Chinese food but I loved those people. The first night when I worked there those little girls watched the cash register, but after the first week I had it all. I don't blame them, in a town like Indio there’s so many people floating by. I never felt any resentment. Then one night

a drunk came in. The wife would cook in the evening and Johnny would go home and get some rest and then he’d come back before they’d close. This drunk came in and wanted to cash a check and I wouldn't let him in the kitchen and he kept insisting and I said No, you’re not getting through me. You know, those people took care of me from then on. Whatever they had, I had. And she’d make me give back some of my paycheck every week and she started a bank account for me so I could save some money. Bank of America. Anytime I get over there I try to see them. I always go through the back door.

I worked for a few years as a colorist in a photographer’s studio, got quite interested in it, even went to New York City and took up retouching. I liked it, you see a picture come to life. I still have my paints. I also worked for an engraving company. I made the nameplate above my door [Menopause Manor]. But I always come back to food. I missed serving the people.

Rudford’s is in a class of its own. There’s no place like it. It’s home cooking. It’s how I’d cook at home, but I don’t think mine would be as good. I wouldn’t make Swiss steak, or sirloin tips, or boiled beef like we have for the special today, with horseradish. The business has changed, but not here — portion control, micro-waves, we don’t have any of that. Other restaurants buy it all in the little boxes. Our ham is the best in town — big Farmer John hams that come from the East. Our turkeys we do ourselves, our stewing chickens are not frozen. Our potatoes, we cut and boil them. It’s as it’s supposed to be. People want the homemade stuff. That’s what keeps them coming back. Once they start coming in, they’re regulars.

Each girl has her own special customers. I get a lot of fruitcakes and all the dirty ones. I like them with a sense of humor. They bring me jokes — the women, too. There’s fifteen million jokes and they’re all rotten.

Do you know the definition of Jello? Kool-Aid with a hard-on.

Did you hear about the Polish woman who had an abortion? She didn’t think it was her baby.

I think that people in prison chitty-chatty and one thing leads to another and then they [the jokes] get out. Some are terrible. And you have to give it right back.

I can be very shy on the other side of the counter, but once I’m behind that counter and I’m working. I’ll say anything to those guys, and they know it. I always talk to people. But I keep it short and snappy, as I go by. You don’t stand and talk.

Many years ago a little old lady came in and looked around and asked. Is this just a men’s restaurant? I said No, you sit right here by the coffee where I can watch you and where you can watch all the action. One lady came in and sat in a booth for six months. Then all of a sudden she sat at the counter with the men. They’re married, most of them, but they tease her and she has a great time, where before she read a book. And I have these two sisters that come in, they’re about my age. One of them works in a bank and the other one, she stays home. They still live in their folks’ home. Their folks have left and both their husbands have passed away. They won’t sit in a booth, they’d rather sit at the counter and heckle me, make little remarks. “We come in just to give you a bad time today.” And they try. They’re so good to me.

Early mornings it’s the construction workers and gardeners. Later on we get doctors, attorneys, and slobs, nurses, pharmacists, you name it. There’s a lot of older people in the neighborhood come in. We get people off the freeway, tourists coming from the motels. They spend their whole vacation, as far as eating, at Rudford’s. Because you like to make them feel at home and they do. They become a part of us.

My job is to keep them coming back, keep them happy. The main obligation is to take care of the people. They like to be coddled, recognized. They need somebody, especially the older people — their kids are grown and gone. For instance, people who come in and like cream in their coffee, I put it in for them. It always tickles them because those little creamers can splatter the cream on them. They appreciate that and it’s no more trouble to me. They thank me for remembering, it’s the little things.

Since they’re rebuilding downtown, we have had some different people come in. One fellow just stared at himself in the mirror, no expression. Another woman came in — hallelujah and we’re being atom bombed and everything — I just turned her around and I walked her out the door, I said. You can’t do that in here. Today a drunk was standing outside, looking in the window. He didn't know there was a window. A lot of policemen eat here, there’re four or Five cars early in the morning. They took him away. He didn’t know what town he was in.

I don’t get downtown anymore but there was an article in the paper about the people with the shopping carts. There’ve been several of them around. They leave their shopping carts outside. I feel sorry for them; you can’t communicate with them. A lot of people come in with mental problems or on dope, you just don’t understand them. It’s hard for me to cope with that — I don’t know what they’re going to do. A drunk, at least you can predict —you humor them. I say, sit here, drink your coffee, pretend you’re reading this newspaper. It’s funny during the bar rush at two o’clock, when this place and every place fills up: they come in, they’ve been drinking all night, and they’ve gotta have a cup of coffee. It’s like they’re dehydrated..

Drinking is an occupational hazard for a waitress. At the Bronze Room we served booze all night, and then we’d go to a little bar down the street to have a beer or a cocktail. We called it our office. I never drank when I got up or at work, on the job. But as soon as I got off work, it was unlimited. You don’t even know you’re getting into trouble. You’re just a body. Dull eyes, anyone who drinks, you can tell, they have a glazed look. Then it becomes no fun. I joined AA. You go back to find the person you hoped you were. Now, I don’t go out much. Around here, everyone knows us from the restaurant, and they buy us beers. Even those who don’t tip at the restaurant buy us a beer when they see us. I’m good but I can’t drink that much. One beer is enough. So I just go home.


There’s so much to do in a restaurant. You’re never through. Most people think a restaurant is just what they see in the front, they don’t see the part in the back. That’s where most of it is. We’ve got a chef, two fry cooks, two dishwashers, and a kitchen helper peeling potatoes. We don’t have a large area to store food. Every day we have to call the meat man and the milkman. Joe, the chef, brings everything up from scratch. He buys big pieces of meat. He cuts the steaks, the pork chops. Fridays, he’ll slice fish for a couple of hours. Everything is done daily. He makes all the puddings, and then on Sundays he makes apple betty and peach cobbler, that’s aside from the puddings. On Saturday we have three cooks. As soon as the chef brings up the dinner, then he does all the fry cooking, the man in the middle keeps the potatoes going and does the hotcakes, and the man on the right docs the toast and makes the waffles. They cook all their eggs in the pans. Joe’ll have four or five different egg pans going at the same time, besides French fries and a hamburger and fried oysters or chicken or whatever. It’s so small back in the kitchen, they’ve got to work together. And if one gets overweight, it’s too bad — especially the guy in the middle, because he’s got no place to go.

Wing worked in the kitchen for thirty years. A marvelous man. I always said to him. Hi Wing, what’s Wong? and he always laughed. He played on an old wooden flute, and every pigeon in the neighborhood knew him. When Tommy came in he’d have a fit to see all those pigeons outside the back door, but he never said anything to Wing. He always worked the afternoon shift, his friends came in, and if it was quiet they played cards. We gave him lollipops and he used to sneak them to the kids. He finally retired but he had to come back because he missed the girls. Then he went up to San Francisco, his son lived there. He visited the Chinese cemetery where he was going to be buried, and he died soon after, of a heart attack, about three years ago. I think he knew he was going to die, he was ready. It really shakes the people who ask about him to know he’s gone — people as kids who remembered him.

So many have passed away. That’s sad, too. Or when they get out of the hospital, they have to come and see us girls. Some of them can hardly stand, but they say, I wanted to stop and say hello. One man called me early yesterday and he said he was in the hospital. Well, he hadn’t been in for the last two days, and he gets here about 4:30 or just when we’re starting, and I just put the note on the register that he was in the hospital. He was going to call today but he didn’t so now we’ll just have to wait and see until I hear from him or somebody goes down to see him. He’s one of the guys that comes in in the morning, and he’ll sit here for two hours talking to the other guys before he goes to work. There’s just a lot of good people. Slowly, you get to know them.

I’ve waited on some people for years without knowing their names. Every year we put the Christmas cards up. Then you find out, So-and-So is the man who comes in the afternoon . . . Somebody goes on a trip and we’ll get cards from around the world. We’ll get cards that just say, to the Rudford girls. It’s quite a compliment.


There are some who don’t order the same thing twice in a row, but not many. People are creatures of habit. You can just run down and say, Same thing? and they always say yes. One man has hotcakes and sausages, hotcakes and sausages, never changes. Or on Saturday I’ll get one couple and that's all I see them is that one day a week, and I don’t even have to set them up if I have the coffee in my hand. They drink it black, they can sip their coffee and I might not get back to them but their order’s turned in. Sometimes I remember wrong — who doesn’t? If I get it wrong they let me know, and I’ll never forget with the particular people after I’ve done it once. This couple I see, maybe

once every two weeks, maybe a month, they always have the two number-fours over easy, whole wheat toast, one is dry, and a side order of a short stack. I gave them scrambled eggs the last time. Everything else was perfect. “You know, it’s over easy .’’“Ido now. ’ ’ They went ahead and ate it, but I’ll never do that again. Then there’s some that you’ve known for so many years, sometimes they want to change. If I’ve put the order in already and they say. I’m not having that today, I say. You can’t change today, you’ve got to make an appointment. You can have what you want tomorrow but the order’s already in. And they’ll always take it. I love them for that. Or one guy comes in and has two scrambled eggs, but he’ll change that to a short stack or once in a great while a waffle. If I’m really rushed and he comes in, I tell him. You’re getting two scrambleds, and he’ll eat it, he doesn’t say anything.

There’s one man, he comes in. he tips me first, he hands me a dollar and I’ll just say. The same thing? Yeah. I tell the cook, this is for that guy, the ham and scrambled and he wants the whole wheat. They know it now so I get it right away. The other day I didn’t even wait on him and he gave me a dollar. That one shook me up. I said. Do you want the usual? “No, no. I already ate.”

There isn’t really any special language anymore. Used to be, in the Forties, early Fifties, when you got everything from the kitchen and you called your orders in, a bowl of soup was a money bowl. Adam and Eve on a raft, that’s two poached eggs on toast. We didn’t have a wheel to work out of. The cooks would remember all these orders and we’d remember where they went. You wrote the check after you got the order and put it in front of the customer. Now everything’s written. A hamburger is HB. A cheeseburger is CHB. If a guy wants two eggs over easy, whole wheat toast, and cottage cheese instead of potatoes, we’ll write a #4 OE WW and CC NO POT. On the dinner shift, CF is chicken fry, though I always write Chick Fry.

People can order anything that’s on the menu, anytime. One man ordered cherry pie with brown gravy on it. Honestly. Another man likes hotcakes with cream gravy on it, or another one’ll have hotcakes with brown gravy. Then another one comes in, he orders French toast with ketchup. You don’t say anything, you just shrug and go get it. That’s what they want and that’s your job, to provide it. The cooks’ll give you a look ... but they’ll do it. Then one man has orange juice, two poached eggs over easy in a bowl with dry wheat toast, a bowl of oats, coffee, and a small milk — and he eats the whole thing with a fork. I don’t know how he does it.

Every once in a while, you hear a certain question at Rudford's — asked by men and women, the young, old, and middle-aged. "Have you got anything going?" The answer is usually, "Not today, early tomorrow."

I wasn’t going to mention the baseball pool. We have two pools, with different people in each pool. When they Fill up, that’s it, you have to wait till tomorrow. During the World Series, we have Five or six pools a day. When Rudford was alive we had so many — twenty — baseball pools, we had $200. Only two of us handling it. We asked old Rudford, could he open the safe, there was too much money. He’d cuss at us, but he’d do it. He’d say. You’re going to get me in trouble yet. But years ago, even the police ofFicers were in on them. Collecting for the pool the other day. Judge _ was sitting right here. When I’m all by myself, though, there’s no way to take care of all my people and the baseball pool, too. . . . A dollar isn’t that much. No one person ever wins more than two times in a row. It’s just the law of averages.

The most closely guarded secret is how much a waitress makes. Side money is ninety-nine percent of a waitress’s life. Of course it’s better now than it was. But I can’t afford the moon. Most of the girls are married, what they make is pocket money.

Everything I have has to go to a specific place. I haven’t been out of town in years. My car is a 1970 and it’s been to Vegas twice. I can’t afford to go out of town. But I’m going to Reno with my daughter for an Arabian horse show in August. She raises and trains Arabian horses. I'm looking forward to it.


These eight hours at work, everything I’ve got in my gut is over here. But when I leave, that’s it. I go home to my life. Sunday is my Friday. Mondays, I’m at the laundromat when it opens at 5:30. Sometimes I’ll see some of the people on their way to Rudford’s. Here comes whole wheat toast. When I’m in the restaurant, I never know what direction they come from. Then I shop for groceries with my daughter and get ready for the week. Tuesday is my private day, my day of rest. I sleep a lot, maybe for a couple of hours in the afternoon. I’m up at 4:00 [a.m.) but at 6:00 I’m back in bed.

Sleep. That’s what I look forward to on my vacation. I take two weeks a year. I get so keyed up working, I have to sleep. On my day off, sometimes I can’t get out of bed.

I live just across the street. I go to bed between 6:30 and 7:30 [p.m.], even on my night off. It’s better that way, so I’m alert in the morning. You have to be. If I’m not, the customers notice it. I get up at 2:00 [a.m.] — not because I have to. I enjoy reading the evening paper and having a cup of coffee before I go to the restaurant. I let Sam, my dog, out. Then he’s cooped up all day, when I’m at work.


In the restaurant you can’t feel intimidated. We get a lot of runners [who eat and leave without paying], usually at night. I’ve chased two of them, young kids, down the street. I almost broke my legs. The next time they come in. I remember them, I go up to them and say, Hey, you owe me. Sooner or later they come back, because the food’s good.

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