It was the taste of summer: a frothy root beer served up in a chilled frosted glass mug, always from A&W.
A&W was the first drive-in restaurant I remember, on Victoria Avenue in Brandon Manitoba, not too far from my family home.
It was not just an occasion, but an event, when the family climbed into the station wagon and drove into the parking lot. It was curb service at A&W where you ordered through a speaker set up next to each space in the lot. The family would sit in the car and decide.
It always seemed easy to order at A&W; my Dad would have a Papa burger (double beef patty) and it only seemed natural Mom would order a Mama burger (single). I ordered a Mama as well, as did my brother and sister. French Fries or onion rings completed the meal, and root beer.
Dad would then call the order into the speaker, and we would the wait (impatiently) for the waitress to bring the specially-designed tray out and rest it on the driver’s side window.
The car smelled heavenly as Dad would distribute the food to his hungry family.
It was a treat then to go to the drive-in. Fast food wasn’t a staple in society’s diets in those days; not like it is now as we line-up and drive through the parking lot of any number of international burger chains.
As a kid playing baseball in those summers, I was fortunate to be a player on the A&W-sponsored team for a few years. Each time we won a game we’d climb on our bikes and head over to the drive-in where we would be rewarded with a free drink. It was one heck of an incentive, and we often won the games.
At that time the only other team with such a tasty reward was the team sponsored by Dairy Queen. Ice cream was a part of summer, but not like Root Beer.
Today is Free Root Beer Day at A&W restaurants across Canada. I no longer live in Brandon, and the drive-in there closed years ago, but you can be sure I’m going to find a location in downtown Toronto. I’ll indulge in the taste of my youth.
Free root beer. Priceless memories.