Old Home Café: The Next Generation

A serial story by Edward Floden, based on characters and situations created by William D. Fries, Jr.

Episode IV: Looking In and Looking Around

(Originally published in The Legend-News of 2002 November 18.)

Old Home Café: The Next Generation is brought to you by Yellow Hail Popcorn, the official snack food of TechRen Enterprises (like you really care). When you've a Smokey on your tail and you need a munchie, grab some Yellow Hail Popcorn. It’ll blow your doors off.

Previously, in “Old Home Café”: Jon Bach, dissatisfied with the company for which he works, has decided to investigate a new line of work: operating a restaurant in Pisgah, a small town in western Iowa. Meanwhile, Avis Granelli, a recently-unemployed accountant, has travelled to Pisgah to visit her parents. They have passed like ships in the night (actually, like cars on a Saturday afternoon); but Jon has returned to Pisgah to examine the site of the once and future restaurant, the “Old Home Café”.

Margie Wilson was waiting outside of the Old Home Café when Jon arrived at 9 A.M. that Wednesday. He parked on 1st Street, in front of the Café. “Good morning,” he said, as he exited the car.

Margie had been selling real estate for thirteen years now, and she knew that she was good at sizing up a prospect and matching him or her to the property. But this man was a puzzle; he was out-of-place here in Pisgah, she thought. “Good morning to you, too,” she said. “You must be Jon Bach.” They shook hands. Margie unlocked the front door of the Café and waved Jon inside. “Let’s have a look around.”

Margie studied Jon with the eye of a practiced real estate agent. He wasn’t what she expected to see. She had thought that a person who was interested in the Café would be an almost-retired businessman, looking for a low-stress occupation far away from the smog and traffic of The Big City. Jon, wearing a casual outfit of blue jeans, black mock turtleneck shirt and black Reebok walking shoes, didn’t fit her idea of a prospective buyer for the Café. Margie’s opinion of Jon was “computer geek”; she was correct, of course, but she didn’t know that yet.

Jon entered the Café and Margie followed. He stopped in the middle of the room and surveyed the interior. The main room of the Café wasn’t very large; about 15 feet by 30 feet, Jon estimated. The seating was a half-dozen folding tables of various sizes, combined with chairs that wouldn’t have looked out-of-place in a kitchen of the 1950s. A bit less than a quarter of the room was occupied by the counter: three stools on the serving side, with a cash register sitting next to the counter on a glass display case. Behind the counter was a Bunn coffee maker and a carbonated drink dispenser.

The glass display case was empty; but on the east wall of the room, between the counter and the door that lead to the other half of the Café, there was a hanging display case filled with newspaper clippings.

Jon walked over to the case and read the headlines on the faded yellow newsprint. He turned to Margie. “Who’s C.W. McCall?”, he asked, flipping a thumb in the direction of the case. “He seems to be famous.”

“Do you remember a song called ‘Convoy’?“, asked Margie. “It was popular in the mid-’70s.”

“I’ve heard it a few times,” replied Jon, studying the clippings. “It’s a about a group of trucks that travel across the U.S.” He continued to read the articles in the case. “C.W. was one of those truckers?”

Margie pointed to an article entitled “C.W. McCall, Mavis Film Commercials at Pisgah.” “Close,” she said, “but way off. C.W. was a character that was cooked up for some television commercials about a bread company. Most of the commercials were filmed here in Pisgah, which was supposedly the home base for C.W. His girl friend, Mavis, worked here at the Café. In fact, this ‘Old Home Café’ was named after the truck stop that was created in those commercials. It used to be called Hinkel’s Café.” Margie paused, recalling the commercials that she’d seen as a teenager. “Those commercials were real popular around here.”

“Looks like they got married,” said Jon, pointing to a picture of C.W. buying a ring in a store called “F.E. Miller”. “The people in these pictures: they’re locals?”

“’Cept for the film crew, yes. A few of them might still be around after 25 years or so.”

Jon filed that information for future reference; he decided that when he got back to his hotel, he was going to search the Web for information about this “C.W. McCall”. Somewhere out there, someone must have published a page or two about him. And Pisgah used to be famous? Who would’ve guessed?

Walking through the nearby door, Jon moved into the “& Bar” portion of the “Old Home Café & Bar”. As bars go, it was small: twelve stools along the brass rail, plus a couple of booths at the far end. The wall behind the bar had the typical large mirror and glass shelves. A glass-front cooler, empty, sat in the corner. The shelves were empty too, of course.

Jon noted an “ABATE” sticker in the window near the entrance door for the Bar. He’d seen a few motorcyclists in the area last Saturday, and he realized that his guess had been correct: they had probably been hoping to stop for a cold beer here at the Old Home Bar. ABATE was an organization that promoted the rights of motorcyclists, and the Old Home Café & Bar seemed to have been a sponsor.

“All of the appliances: they’re included with the building?” asked Jon, stretching his arms apart.

Margie handed him a list. “Everything. It’s all listed here.”

Jon walked around the bar, examining the building and the fixtures. A little work would be needed, but nothing that he couldn’t do. He didn’t see any obvious problems, but still...

“I’m not saying ‘yes’,” he told Margie. “But ‘maybe’. I’ll have an inspector out here, later this week. After I get his opinion, we’ll talk.”

Margie pulled out a small wallet from her purse. “Not a problem. Just have him give me a call,” she said, handing a business card to Jon, “and I’ll arrange the visit. Is there anything else that I can do for you?”

“Not at the moment,” said Jon, when he noticed a man outside at the door of the bar. A biker, apparently, wearing a bandanna, leather vest, Harley Davidson t-shirt and shades. The biker looked at Jon, and motioned with his right hand as if he were drinking a beer, a questioning look on his face.

Jon shook his head. “Not yet,” he shouted at the biker. “Maybe a couple of weeks.” The disappointed biker shrugged and walked back to his hardtail hog at the curb, where two buddies awaited.

As for Margie, she was smiling. She’d set the hook, and now she was ready to reel in this fish.

In our next exciting episode: Avis goes jogging, and Jon meets Larry and his brothers.

Previous | Next