Working for Gus: Memories from Peter's Drive Inn by Kathy Newman

4 Mar 2022 10:59 AM | Anonymous

Working for Gus: Memories from Peter’s Drive Inn

by Kathy Newman 

Do you remember your first paying job? I had earned money  helping my brother with his Star Weekly Route, but my first real  money job was as a 17-year-old working at Peter’s Drive Inn on  16th Ave. N.E. in Calgary. I worked for Gus and Barbara Peters  slinging hamburgers, making dairy treats and all the other  necessary tasks I was asked to do such as washing the floors. 

I had a lot to learn, especially about washing floors. “No, no,  not like that!” admonished Gus as I pushed the huge, sopping  wet, mop back and forth across the Drive Inn floor, diligently  trying to complete one of my least favorite tasks. Gus grabbed  the mop and showed me the only way to mop floors which was  the Naval way. I almost saluted as I watched the methodical  sweeping motion demonstrated by my well-practiced boss as  his strong arms maneuvered that mop into every corner. I was  impressed but stayed silent as he completed the job for me! I  think he liked the physical exertion during the quiet moments  when the Drive-Inn wasn’t busy.  

However, those moments were few and far between as we  were normally functioning at full capacity. Gus was the master  of organization. As two employees manned the intercom  orders, another added the burgers to the automatic grill and  waited for them to plop down into the tomato sauce before  being placed on the bun which already had the addition of  condiments. Someone else monitored the French fries and hot 

dogs while window employees made ice cream cones, banana  splits and sundaes when they weren’t taking orders.  

The RCMP detachment was just East of the Drive Inn, so we had  many red coated customers. Two fellows liked to innocently  flirt with us sweet young girls working the windows. They  would doff their impressive hats and bow when placing their  orders like knights requesting the company of princesses. 

We decided to have some teenage fun with these two, so I  neatly sliced rounds of banana into the middle of their double  burgers and without smirking passed it through the window  with a gentle, “Have a great day.” About 20 minutes later, I  politely answered the phone in the back office and a deep voice  introduced himself as a Captain with the RCMP.  

“I sent two of my sergeants over to pick up my lunch. Did you  make my double burger!” 

“Oh sir, I am so sorry!” I spouted with the realization that the  flirts did not eat one of the altered hamburgers and that I might  now be in danger of losing my job for being silly! 

“Oh, no need to apologize. I just wanted you to know that your  creation is the best burger I have ever had!” he laughed.  

That wasn’t the only embarrassing moment at Peter’s. A young  man that I had dated, drove up to the window for a milkshake 

and I became so flustered that I forgot to add the chocolate  flavouring. He wasn’t impressed! 

Then there was the time that Gus locked me into the walk-in  freezer with the bread boy! He liked to tease us as our age  range was similar and we were both shy around each other.  Buns were delivered frequently, and Gus always inspected  them. If the tops and bottoms didn’t match, he sent the whole  order back but if the buns were up to his high standards, he  gave the delivery person a milkshake for their efforts. We  always helped to load everything into the freezer, thus, making  it easy for Gus to have his own fun with one of the younger  fellows. We weren’t locked in very long but realized that Gus  liked to play cupid! 

Gus worked around the clock, but he had a special technique  for relaxing. When in the back making the special sauce, I would  marvel at his ability to sit down, lean back with his feet on his  desk and fall asleep for exactly 15 minutes before jumping up  and completing another task. “I learned that in the Navy too.”  He responded to my query. “We had to rest whenever we  could.” 

The Drive Inn was constantly under the surveillance of the Fire  Department Safety Officer, but I think he came more than he  needed to as Gus always gave him a Strawberry Milkshake.  Once, he came in when I was peeling a fifty-pound bag of  onions and he wanted to chat. “Sniff, yes, I had, sniff…a good 

weekend.” I cried using the back of my hand to swipe away the  unbidden tears as I attempted to answer his question. 

“Girl, I can’t stand to watch you cry.” He uttered as he  retreated from the noxious fumes and breathed in the fresh,  outdoor air.  

I worked at the Drive-Inn for May and June and then left to  attend the Provincial Recreation Leadership Course in  Drumheller for the month of July. Gus wanted me to come  back in August, so Barb sent me a reminder; a box containing  too huge onions that was labeled, “Less You Forget!” A paring  knife was also attached! 

In August, I received an order over the intercom that really  surprised me; ” Six Banana Splits.” We had never had that  request before…maybe one or two splits but never six. Luckily, I  asked the customer to repeat their order and Gus heard their  response; “Yes, six banana splits.” A flurry of activity ensued.  Gus helped by lining up the trays and splitting the bananas  while I loaded the ice cream and Carla heaped on the chocolate  sauce, strawberries and the pineapple. Gus finished off each  split with whipped cream. When the car drew up to the  window, I started to carefully hand out the splits but was  stopped when the driver shouted, “I didn’t order Banana Splits,  I ordered Fish and Chips!” 

“Get out of here and never come back!” ordered Gus who  immediately backed me up at the window and noted their 

licence number. He had heard me repeat the order so knew  that this was a carload of bad apples out to create mischief.  Anyway, it wasn’t busy, so Gus invited each of us to have a  Banana Split…the most expensive item on the menu! 

I thrived on the responsibility given to me that summer at  Peter’s Drive Inn as I progressed to the honor of opening the  shop first thing in the morning. This entailed turning on the  burger conveyor belt, making the sauce for the hamburgers,  and training any new staff. I also had some evening shifts so I made sure that everything was cleaned before locking up and  heading home often around one AM.  

Gus was a taskmaster and a great boss. He demanded  excellence and, as a result, Peter’s Drive Inn won national  awards! Even though Gus has since passed away, Peter’s Drive  Inn still thrives! 

Now, tell me about your first job!

Comments

  • 5 Mar 2022 12:42 PM | Mari-Anna McCargar
    My husband and I had many a burger at Peter's Drive-in, particularly when he was attending the University. If you came at closing they usually gave an extra patty to your order. Great milkshakes and chips. We go there once-in-awhile, but not like the good old days. Thanks for the memories.
    Link  •  Reply
    • 5 Mar 2022 1:57 PM | Kathy Newman
      I worked there in the summer of 67…might you and your husband have been at the drive in then or am I showing my age!
      Do you remember your first job?
      Link  •  Reply


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