Box Lunch

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Growing up in a family with five kids my parents had to be frugal to make ends meet. We always had everything we needed, and one day a year, one of us kids got everything we wanted, sort of. During my early childhood, our family did not get to go out to eat very often, but I remember that for each of our birthday’s we always got to go out to a restaurant for a Sunday Dinner celebration.

The first order of family business after we would arrive at a restaurant was setting our spending limit. We would always ask with eager anticipation, “How much can we spend Daddy?” With five children, my parents knew all about setting limits, although the birthday boy or girl had no dollar limit at the restaurant. Unless of course, you wanted to order the most expensive thing on the menu, in which case Dad would have to impose a birthday maximum amount. This haggling was all part of the fun, which took place before the waitress came to take our orders, and usually ended with my father pulling out his wallet to double check the amount of cash he was carrying.

Back in the 1960’s, everyone knew the best place to go for Sunday dinner in Julesburg Colorado was Whitten’s Cafe on West 1st Street, a square shaped building painted white, just past Obermier’s Mobile station. They had broasted chicken.

One of my family’s most retold and laughed about inside-stories of all time is the one about a funny thing that happened at Whitten’s Cafe. Trying to save money and help Dad out with his budget, my older brother poured through the menu determining what he could order to get the most food for the money. To remain under his spending limit when it came his turn to order, he orded the “Box Lunch.” I was too young when it happened to understand why it was so funny to everyone but funny it was, and oh how we laughed. Back in that day and time, take-out was a menu item. If you wanted take-out at Whitten’s Cafe, you ordered the “Box Lunch.” My brother still contends that the “Box Lunch” was the best value on the menu, and I think that maybe it was too.

When I was old enough to have my first summer job, Alvin and Agnes Whitten hired me to be a bus boy at Whitten’s Cafe. I worked for them a summer or two, even learned how to run the broaster. When the Interstate Highway opened in 1970, traffic began bypassing 1st Street in Julesburg. I got my drivers license when I turned 16 the following summer and took a job bussing tables at a new truck stop restaurant out by the interchange.

On Monday, Agnes Whitten passed away. She was 92.

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