Friday, February 28, 2003

Amazing Eddie's Sandwich Shop

I am amazed at all the attention being given Eddie's Sandwich Shop.

No, I do not think people are being silly. Let me explain.

I grew up in a town similar in size to Brazil and we, too, had a favorite place. I understand Eddie's would not have drawn nearly as much attention if it had not burned about a month ago. Still, the testimonials have been amazing. Take the letter of the Northview High School student, Brett Siples, who was so upset that his little sister would never have the opportunity to experience an Eddie's hamburger (with dehydrated onions, of course).

“My grandpa took my dad to Eddie’s, and then my dad carried on the tradition by taking me there. I had always hoped to take my son there some day. I wanted to cry when I found out that it had burnt,” he wrote.

Amazing response. So amazing, in fact, I have e-mailed the producers of CBS Sunday Morning and suggested they do a piece on Eddie's and its grand re-opening. I wish Charles Kuralt were still alive. What a story he would have made out of it! (Nearly as good a story as Linda Messmer wrote in The Brazil Times (http://www.thebraziltimes.com) -- but that's my own biased opinion.)

If CBS responds, I'll let you know.

Lest you think I am not sympathetic to the fans of Eddie's Sandwich Shop, let me tell you about Veni's Soda Shop in Niles, Mich., the town where I grew up. Veni's had a hand in my parents' engagement and provided me with some of the happiest memories of my dad.

When Mom and Dad were going together, back in 1950, he bought a box of Veni's chocolates and hid her diamond engagement ring in it. He gave it to her for Christmas and the rest is history.

A few years later, Veni's was a monthly stop for Dad and me on Saturdays. I remember the dark-haired, man with the dark complexion. He worked behind the counter, always dressed in white shirt and apron with a black tie. I would never call him a soda jerk, because he was more than that -- he was a friend of my dad's. I think his name was Vic, but I'm not sure.

I never saw Mr. or Miss Veni in the shop. I suspect Veni was either a family name or, like Eddie, he had died years before I became familiar with the establishment.

Veni's still sold Green Rivers when I was a boy. A Green River was a popular soft drink before Coca-Cola came on the scene. In fact, Coke and Pepsi eventually led to the end of Green River's popularity, though I have heard Green River drinks can still be purchased over the Internet. But my favorite was a vanilla shake.

Dad would park his car on Main Street in Niles and we would walk to the bank, walk to the various offices to pay utility bills and stop at Veni's before going home.

Niles' main street is set on a steep hill. In the 1950s, Dad always set his emergency hand brake before leaving the car. Usually we parked in front of the First National Bank. One time, Dad had a nightmare that I stayed in the car while he went into the bank. For some reason, I then got out of the car and was under it when he came out. He hopped into the car, started to drive away and ran over me! But I always went into the bank with Dad. Then, we crossed the street, went up to the gas company to pay the monthly bill, crossed the street again at the Ready Theater, walked to City Hall, paid the other utilities and walked back toward the bank.

Veni's was located on the same side of the street at the bank. It had a long soda counter with a few high-back booths in the back of the store. Opposite the soda counter was the candy display. It was filled with rich chocolate, chocolates covered with sprinkles and piles of empty boxes, inviting shoppers to order a custom mix of their favorite delights.

We would sit down on bar stools at the counter. Dad would order a chocolate malt and I would order a vanilla shake. They were hand-mixed, using real ice cream not soft-serve. They were mixed in the old electric malt mixers. I still remember seeing the silver tumblers vibrating as the motor whirred. Then Vic gave us the whole silver tumbler. Almost too much to eat, for a little boy! The first portion was poured into a silver holder fitted with a waxed paper cup. I always noticed the design on the top of the cups -- they looked like leaves. Later I learned they were the trademark of the Dixie Company. I would suck and suck on my straw until I thought my head would cave in. Then, the reward! A mouthful of icy cold, delicious ice cream filled my mouth and rolled around my tongue. What a treat! And the price -- 46 cents!

That was probably the last time I enjoyed a trip to pay utility bills!