Where has Big Boy gone?

Pat Haley - contributing columnist

One drizzly morning early this spring, Brenda, my sister Rita and I went to Frisch’s for breakfast. “Where is Big Boy?” Brenda asked.

“He’s gone!” Rita said.

The cement square where Big Boy has called home for 40 years was empty. It happened overnight. No note. No nothing. It was obvious he had left without saying goodbye.

The light rain turned heavy as we entered Frisch’s. The words of Randy VanWarmer came to mind. “You left in the rain without closing the door” … I didn’t stand in your way.”

“You seem awfully quiet,” Brenda said, as we sat down in a booth.

“Well, Big Boy and I have been through a lot together,” I said.

Big Boy and I come from different backgrounds. He is older than me. He is from a big city, and I was born in a small town.

Yet, our paths did cross along the trail. He would stand in the rain, the cold, the heat and humidity of Ohio, and watch us, when we were young, cruising hour-after-hour around Frisch’s.

He never said a word, only holding the Big Boy sandwich high in the air.

After my high school years, Big Boy and I parted ways for a time. He remained in the restaurant business, while I entered law enforcement.

“May I take your order?” the waitress asked bringing me back to the present.

I told Brenda and Rita how I had asked our great niece, Uma, a few weeks ago to stand in the spot vacated by Big Boy as I snapped her picture.

It wasn’t the same. No friendly-faced Big Boy to greet her with a huge smile. No broad shoulders to put her tiny arms around.

“I may never come to Frisch’s again,” I said.

“Oh, yes you will. You’re just feeling melancholy right now,” Brenda said. “He’ll be back. I’m sure of it.”

“Think of the memories,” Rita said. “Remember last year during the strict fasting of Lent when you wanted to order a fish sandwich? You pulled up to the speaker to order, and before you could open your mouth, a young woman’s voice came over the speaker and asked if you wanted a hot fudge cake with whipped cream?”

“You said, “No, I would like a … but, again, before you could answer she asked if you wanted an order of onion rings? Again, you said no and started to speak, and she came back on the speaker and asked, “May I get you a nice piece of strawberry pie?”

Little did the waitress working the intercom know, although those who read my articles do, that I’ve never eaten a piece of pie in my life.

Brenda appeared thoughtful. “Do you remember the time when they charged you 70 cents extra for three pickle slices for your grilled cheese? Or what about the time you were charged 25 cents for a cup of water?” she asked.

Both Rita and Brenda had made good points. I will miss Frisch’s culture.

As the years passed by, Big Boy and I saw our waistlines grow a little wider. His the result of too many French fries, Big Boys, Brawny Lads, Swiss Miss, and Cherry Cokes. Mine is the result of an abdominal hernia.

He has promised to come back. Rumor has it he went to a “fat farm” to lose weight and reinvent himself.

According to the new owners, “He’s a little thinned down, but he’s still a big boy.” Pictures in the paper show his chubby cheeks are gone.

When is he coming home? Will he come home?

A few years ago, I saw a family from Portugal standing beside Big Boy. They were loud and excited. Not speaking Portuguese, it took a minute for me to understand their excitement.

“Do you want me to take a picture of you and Big Boy?” I asked.

The father nodded as he hoisted his small son on his shoulders and stood behind him. The teenage daughter climbed up and sat on Big Boy’s arm, as the rest of the family gathered around, looking for exactly the right pose. Their faces lit up as I aimed the camera.

It was a great picture, marking new memories for the family.

Last week grandson Jack came for a visit. We went to Frisch’s.

“Grandpa, where has Big Boy gone?” Jack asked. “Will he be back?”

“We hope so, Jack. But we just don’t know yet. We just don’t know.”

Pat Haley is a Clinton County Commissioner.


Pat Haley

contributing columnist