Mundell’s was the hot spot for teenagers to hang out at in our small town back in the day, back when my oldest brother was finally driving legally. Mrs. Mundell was the owner of the drive in style fast food slash shake shop.
She was a dark haired woman that was old enough for her hair to have gone grey, but it was still just beginning to color at the edges, sorta like a leaf at the beginning of fall. Her reading glasses were perched permanently at the tip of her nose as she’d take the orders, mostly fountain drinks, from rambunctious teenagers. She’d never frown, but she’d never smile either. And her monotone voice matched her demeanor.
There was a faded sign under the metal awning where the cars pulled in on an angle and the four tabled patio, opposite side of the bathrooms, that read, “No Loitering”.
Now a lot of the kids would break that rule, but not all of them. If they bought a small drink and sipped it like it was poison they could stay all night. And some of them did.
Typical of our generation, the kids would go cruise the small town, sometimes race their or their parents car, ’cause everyone thought their V-8 powered cars were fast, and end up back at Mundell’s.
Occasionally my mom would take my sister and me to Mundell’s for a cherry Coke, before the mega corporation actually made one. It was fun to watch the teenagers, especially their cars, and dream of the day that I’d get to loiter and cruise.
I saw a sign the other day, I can’t remember where, a gift from time, that was sporting those old fashioned words, “No Loitering”. That’s what picked my mind up and dropped it back in the seventies.
You don’t see those signs much these days. As kids, those signs warning us not to loiter was a good excuse to do just that. I remember a few grouchy shop owners would point to the signs and bark at us, “No Loitering!” We’d chuckle and give them a smart reply, usually something about not feeling like a Loiter. It was kinda fun just to say the awkward word.
The loitering signs went the way of the loud V-8 powered cars and the dinosaurs, not to mention Mundell’s Drive In. After Mrs. Mundell retired the old drive in became a used car lot. Eventually it was torn down and is now a two story office building.
These days a lot of businesses encourage folks to loiter, they don’t call it that, but that’s what it is, at least to us Baby Boomers.
I have frequent business meetings at convenient Starbucks. Unfortunately, sometimes they last a long time. And inevitably when I’m in those meetings there are youngsters, and oldsters alike, with their noses in a book or laptop, loitering. They don’t even keep the key to the bathrooms locked up behind the counter… not to mention the bathrooms are inside now…
Not that everyone in small towns are best friends, but you still know everyone. When I go back to visit the town I grew up in, which isn’t so small anymore, you know when a Home Depot pops up you’re officially not a small town anymore, I still run into people I grew up with. We know each other a little more intimately than folks who had more people to interact with…
And because we loitered under the signs that said, “No Loitering”.