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Weenie Roasts and Fun Times When Weenies were all We Had
It wasn't too long ago while I was getting ready to watch a college football game the pregame show included some footage of tailgate parties that were happening around the stadium. Boy! Those guys sure knew how to put on a feast. Grills were filled with steaks, burgers,brats and all kinds of meats sizzling over the flames. I don't have to tell you how they "flung a craving" on this old boy and my salivary glands went into high gear and my mouth watered. My stomach began growl and cry out, feed me! I guess the Good Book would hold me accountable for coveting and I must confess I sure was.
As most of you know who have read my hubs, you know that I am a pretty simple man and that much of my writing is often to share my own personal stories. Though not interesting to most, writing them down does preserve them in a unique way. So with that said, please bear with me as I share the following story of a simple social event from my youth.
Before all the fast food chains came to our town, many of us who grew up in this rural community our first experience with a "fast food" was those wonderful hot dogs we ate at a VBS or Sunday School picnic. They sure tasted good even if perchance we might have held our weenie too long over the open flames of hardwoods burning in the cooking pit. Some of them even turned a little black before we pulled them back and placed them into a soft bun slathered with mustard and ketchup.
We each had our own stick which had been cut from a sapling growing near the creek and had been sharpened with pocket knife on one end and just long enough for us to hold over the cooking pit without any danger of us getting too close to the fire and accidentally being burned. Chili and onions were extras and of course potato chips. Desserts were usually cookies or maybe a slice of pound cake someone's mom might have made for the occasion.
Those picnics were held outside and many of those times in the late afternoons. The first one I ever remember going to was at a cousin's house. Her father was a minister and the event was church related. He had built a fire pit down by creekbank and had made a table using sawed lumber, 2X10's laid over a couple of saw horses. I don't even think the makeshift table had a cloth on it but there was plenty of potato chips and other fixings. Baked beans,slaw and potato salad. There were plenty of soft drinks to wash down those hot dogs. Like the hot dogs we would eat were a rarity for meals in our homes, soft drinks also were not drinks commonly consumed in most of our homes. We took full advantage of consuming several of those sugary carbonated beverages.
I suppose the fact that hot dogs were relatively inexpensive and easy to prepare for young kids who would also be proactive cooking their own weenies was the main reason the weenie roasts were held. These were special times we all cherish to this day.
Hot Dog Jingle
Yummy Hot Dogs
From those early Sunday School events we had learned to love hot dogs. Many of of who had grown up in the mill village of Tuxedo already knew about those famous Freeman's Lunch hot dogs. We had sat at the counter and watched them being made for us. Old man Freeman had began the restaurant in the early 1940's and sold a variety of sundries, patent medicines, and other items one might find in a modern day drug store like Walgreens or CVS. In addition to the food grill, there was also a pool table in a side room attached to the restaurant. Outside were also couple of gas pumps.
A single bathroom was also attached to the building on the backside accessible only from the outside. Other than our public school restrooms, this restroom was one of few in our village that actually had a commode that flushed and a sink. As a kid I recall seeing machines inside that bathroom similar to a large bubblegum machine that dispensed some kind of a latex balloon looking thing called Trojan for fifty cents. It would be years later before I learned all about those things.
Word soon spread far and wide, Freddie Freeman had the best hot dogs anywhere and folks would drive the distance from our county seat of Hendersonville a distance of 10 miles to Tuxedo just to get one of his famous hot dogs and some peculiar potatoes that were fried in a deep fat cooker. They called them French fries, but we all knew they were not from France, they had grown them here in North Carolina and had been sliced in long straight pieces. They sure tasted good but not as good as my mama's fried taters however they were especially good with a little ketchup! Freeman's changed ownership several times over the next 35 years but the Freeman hot dog was always the main attraction on the menu until the day it finally closed for good. The relocation of a major highway diverted virtually all traffic from our village and the truckers who would often stop, no longer came.
Hot Dog Vendor NY
Hot Dogs by a different name
In 1968 I left my hometown and the people I loved to serve my country as a member of the USAF. After basic training, I was sent to Inventory Management School at Lowry AFB, Denver Colorado. We had so many in our school that classes had to be held in shifts. My shift was from 6 PM until 11 PM. During those three month of school we often were given a break to catch a local food truck that came to the area where we were having classes. The food vendor had chili dogs!!! Those hot dogs were eatable but nothing like those I had grown up eating in my home town or the ones we would get in high school at one of the eateries in Hendersonville. How I wished I could have gone to Jody's Drive-In for a couple of those footlong hot dogs, tater tots and a big chocolate shake.
Soon I had completed my specialty school and was off to Long Island New York to Suffolk County AFB near West Hampton Beach. I was assign duty in Special Services in addition to my regular job manning a radio and taking supply orders for the flight line. As a member of Special Services, our unit had to perform military funerals and serve as color guards for various functions for the VFW and American Legion. Many of those activities took us into NY City.
When we would go into the city we always encountered food vendors on street corners. These were independent entrepreneurs. They didn't call them hot dogs but franks. They sold them right out on the street to foot traffic and the wieners were tough skinned and hard to chew. The condiments consisted of mustard and sauerkraut. Not too bad if you were hungry and most of the time we were hungry. They also sold bagels and those great big old pretzels.