Random Thoughts: Change, Primary Sources & Other Stuff

A coke and a doughnut, Mary? A story about a young girl, her dad and a small town cafe

Posted on: August 16, 2012

“A Coke and a Doughnut, Mary?” Glendon would ask—it was an unnecessary question because she knew the answer would be “yes.”

The 5-cent Coke in its squat, greenish bottle and a freshly made doughnut on a square of wax paper would arrive, ad I would be in my glory because I was having “coffee” with my dad at Belle’s Café, the final stop after a morning of running the necessary in-town errands for a farmer.

Our trip to town began after the cows were milked and the pigs were slopped. I would put on my jeans and red plaid jacket, tie a red and white print bandana under my chin and get in our Ford pickup for the 1-mile trip to town. Or, if the muddy South Fork had made the bottom land rutted, we rode to town on our tractor.

The first stop would be the creamery, where Lars would deliver fresh milk. I can still hear the metal cans clanking down the roller coaster passageway (And also hear my mother exclaiming all too often, “Cleaning those cans make me gag.”) and I can still smell the stale odor of cans needing a scrubbing.

Another stop was usually Maynard Nelson’s feed mill. The smell of freshly ground oats is still sweet and vivid to me. Olaf Larson, cigarette dangling from his mouth, would hold out a scaly, crinkled hand and give me 5 cents which I would put in the peanut machine.

I tagged along patiently while my dad talked business, but all was fine since I knew Belle’s Café and my favorite treat were next.

The fizz would tickle my nose as I poured the Coke into a tumbler.

I saw on one of the round, tattered red plastic-covered stools at the counter, my feet barely touching the worn, green and white tile floor. While I sipped, I could watch Glendon, Belle Coulson and Grace cook 25-cent hamburgers, mix thick malts in a green malt mixer, and disk up heaping 5-cent scoops of vanilla ice cream. They were dressed in house dresses with aprons tied around their ample middles. These ladies enjoyed eating their own delicious food!

But back to that Coke—the taste, the fizz, the special treat of something we didn’t drink often at home in the early 1950’s were not as special as the ritual of being with my dad. Carpenter Clifford Norskag, insurance agent Bud Albee, and other men would often join us, which added to the fun because they would always tease me.

I like to that then when I was growing up, Coke, a doughnut. and Mary became synonymous. The last time my dad and I went to Belle’s, a few days before my marriage (and only a short time before Belle’s Café closed and my father died) Glendon asked, “A Coke and a doughnut, Mary?

Originally published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, April 23, 1982.  The following day the regional coca cola representative stopped by the media center where I worked with a six pack of coca cola in hand!  A few years ago a former neighbor brought me an original copy of the newspaper along with the photo included here.  The newspaper is one of my favorite primary sources.

Interested  in coke ads? Fifty Years of Coca-Cola Television Advertisements , highlights from the  Library of Congress archives has a variety of television advertisements, never-broadcast outtakes, and experimental footage reflecting the historical development of 20th century television advertising.

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1 Response to "A coke and a doughnut, Mary? A story about a young girl, her dad and a small town cafe"

Loved the story – makes me hungry for the amazing chocolate sundaes with chewy syrup that we used to get as kids at our favorite soda fountain.

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