is for Yolo.
Driving from Redding to Bakersfield last week, a Yolo County boundary sign caught my attention triggering a cascade of memories reaching back more than sixty years.
My father, Clyde Kenneth Crook, was killed in a train wreck when I was seven years old. Though my memories of him are sketchy, two memories standout.
A salesman for Old Home Bakers, makers of Betsy Ross Bread, in Sacramento, Dad was often called out at odd hours. One evening, he had to drive to a barbecue restaurant in Yolo County. He took my sister and me with him. I sat in the front seat and Gaynl sat in the back seat of his black Chevy company coupe. Dad parked in front of the restaurant and left us alone in the car.
On either side of the restaurant’s door were picture windows framing large rotisseries each with six spits skewering racks of succulent spare ribs. Slathered with tangy barbecue sauce and dripping fat, the ribs turned seductively in the glow of the rotisserie flames. The tantalizing aroma of barbecued pork permeated the atmosphere. Despite locked doors and rolled up windows the smell of barbecue licked the glass and slithered into the car.
On her knees in the back seat, Gaynl fixed her eyes on the restaurant door. I rummaged through the contents of the glove box in search of fold up replicas of Betsy Ross Bread trucks.
Dad returned to the car with a napkin in each hand. The napkins contained a barbecued spare rib wrapped in waxed paper. He handed one to Gaynl and one to me. We attacked the ribs like cats going after catnip.
“Daddy,” I said as he pulled into the driveway at home, “do you have any of those fold up Betsy Ross trucks?”
“They’re in the glove box,” he said. “One for you and one for your sister. And don’t get barbecue sauce on the whole stack.”
At the Irish Tavern, Chet, the bartender, always gave me a bag of Top Hat potato chips. The chips were in a thick waxed paper bag. A red square with “Top Hat Potato Chips” and a shiny black top hat printed on the bag form a vivid memory. Dad drank a beer and talked to Chet. I sat on a bar stool enjoying the crisp crunch of big, salty potato chips. Three or four men drank beers or highballs, smoked cigarettes, and played shuffleboard. I wanted to play, but I wasn’t tall enough to see over the edge of the shuffleboard table.