Clifton’s Cafeteria, LA, CA 1940’s
We ate there every evening
after our late night Vaudeville performance
at the Hippodrome Theatre on Main Street.
We chose from an uncountable variety of foods–
peas, peas and carrots, string beans, lima beans,
pickled beets or plain, creamed corn, and spinach.
Mashed potatoes with gravy pools or if you preferred
a pat of butter. Sliced and diced or whole peaches, pears,
and apricots, stewed purple plums with cinnamon.
Hot baked or fried chicken, crisp hash, and pork chops
wearing their green feathered parsley. There was Jell-O plain,
fruited, and marshmellowed. Pies for every tastebud
that bloomed. Two-layer carrot cake that oozed cream cheese
frosting and chocolate cake freckled with walnuts
and always the menacing, unforgiving, staring fish-eyes
of tapioca pudding. You could wear scruffy overalls, empty pockets,
mink coats, or Crowns and fill a tray with any plate that huddled
and waited—five or 10 cents each. Then pick the Rain Room
with its tin roof, Jungle Room with chattering, screeching monkeys
and an occasional roar that ducked your head in fear or
the Waterfall Room with its misty, tumbling water that collided
with lily pads, the Polynesian Room where leis and hula skirts
swayed on the walls as if at a luau—then sat and became part
of the cacophony of glee. Father fended for himself at home
those nights with a pot of beans, and his own cornbread,
and a quart of beer from Ward’s Grocery Store around the corner
on Hadley street. If he wished, he could wipe his lips clean
with one of the initialed Clifton’s napkins
Mother always inserted covertly
into her purse beside several swabbed, white dishes.
Gloria Piper Roberson is a wife of 62 years, a mother of four, grandmother of six and great-grandmother of twin boys and their younger sister. She has taken 12 quarters of Creative Writing at Wenatchee Valley College since 2002, eight with Derek Sheffield. Her work has appeared in Mirror Northwest (2006-2007) as well as Whitman Community College’s The Noisy Water Review (2006-2007) and she authored the book Winning Hearts…Winning Wings, The Story of the First Nonstop Transpacific Flight (Wenatchee Valley Museum Cultural Center, 2003) which has been translated into Japanese. She lives in Wenatchee.