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Velma's Work
Valiantly Velma - Page 1

The tall, good-looking man who walked through the door of Wimpy’s Café stood out like velvet in a bin of calico. He was well dressed in a business suit and carried an expensive, brief case. Something about his attitude made a person believe he was practicing a discipline that had been instilled from a higher source. The line of burly men on the stools at the counter barely looked up from their plates of home cooked fare. The food was what brought the workers, cowboys, truck drivers and small families into the eating establishment. Someone always seemed to keep the juke box plugged with small change and it sawed out country music which always soothed the patrons, somehow. No one of the help complained about the sometimes raucousness of it because the pennies added up enough to pay a great deal of their expenses. In fact, the red nickels, painted with fingernail polish, left by the owner of the juke box were used to plug the machine when it stopped for a while. This always stimulated the customers to drop their own change into the nonsensical machine.

The waitresses in the jumping little restaurant were so experienced they carried heavy plates, easily, to their customers almost as if they were in a choreographed dance. Usually the women were selected because they were past the prime of their lives but were still attractive with neat, hair styles and clean, sharply pressed uniforms. These mentally strong women didn’t let the weaknesses of youth interfere with serving their patrons. How they could remember what each individuals had ordered was always something astonishing. Seating was for fifty and usually every space was filled and often there were people standing, waiting to eat. The waitresses had a good attitude about this as if to say, “the more, the merrier.” Occasionally, a young, women came to work who was a good waitress but, nine times out of ten, she would hook up with a truck driver or someone else and be gone, leaving a sudden vacant space on her shift. This was another reason for hiring an older woman.

Velma, the owner, was alert to anything just a bit out of the ordinary and this distinguished person before her certainly sent up a red flag. Would he bring good news, tax problems, legal questions or some other difficult situation? Little did Velma know of the great changes this man would make in her life and the lives of her family.

She was Native American in an area populated by descendants of land rush people, who staked their claims for Indian land, busted the sod, or branded their cattle with their mark. Years later someone would refer to her as the little Chinese woman who had owned Wimpy’s. Something in their minds couldn’t see a Native American female with the business acumen to successfully operate an eating establishment where everyone wanted to go. She served up fat, long French Fries, huge hamburgers, chicken fried steaks, mashed potatoes and daily baked hot rolls, but it just wasn’t in their understanding that it was the good food that made the place successful. It was a like a refuge and to this day some get a dreamy look in their eye when someone mentions the wonderful food at Wimpys. The three shifts were totally separated in how they served the public. Mornings were for the early rising cowboys and farmers who enjoyed the plentiful, bottomless cup of coffee along with sausage gravy and biscuits, pancakes, bacon, or hot, freshly made cinnamon rolls. There were never any complaints to be made about the mud on their boots or shoes. The waitresses uncomplainingly and quietly swept this up at the end of their shift before they mopped the floor.

Noon was for the working people when hot gravy over mashed potatoes was made daily along with fresh yeast rolls. Every day the entree was different and some came on just the one day when their favorite was served whether it be; Thursday’s, calves liver, Tuesday pot roast, Sunday’s, turkey and dressing, Friday’s fish, Wednesday’s Filet Mignon, or the Spanish plate on Saturday.

Saturday nights brought a whole different group of people to cross over the threshold. These were the party goers who came to sober up before driving or returning to their homes. Steaks, milk, lots of milk and heavy foods were on the ticket.

Sunday was another time for catering to a totally different group. Families came after church so Mama could have a wholesome meal for her family without having to cook. Turkeys were always being prepared in the early mornings at Wimpy’s along with all the trimming of dressing with cranberry sauce and, of course, the mashed potatoes, giblet gravy and those wonderful hot yeast rolls kept that way in a moist, roll saver, machine.

The steam table with vegetables was pulled by two o’clock on week days and that shift went to dinner steaks or jumbo shrimp. The legendary Wimpy burgers and fries were like no other served before or after that. Fresh salad was continually created and only one house dressing was provided. Rosy, the dishwasher mixed that and she almost did this with her eyes closed. It was a thrill to see her pour the mixed ingredients from a large gallon container into small-mouthed containers with no funnel, yet. A long stream ran neatly into a bottle with never a drop spilled. Not to be forgotten were the home made pies. Some came in for those alone. Velma paid 6.00 to have the pies made and easily sold them for 2.00 a slice. There were six pieces in a pie. Velma kept to her 24-hour-a day-job with determined steps.

“Yes Sir? Is there something we can do for you?” Polite conversation works for any situation and it was what Velma used with this polished looking gentleman at the time who was obviously there now for some necessary business of one kind or another. If he felt out of place in his carefully pressed business suit, tie and dress shirt, he did not seem to be bothered by that.

“Well, yes! Are you the owner? He asked.

“Yes, yes I am.” Velma smiled.

“As a matter of fact I would like to speak with you on a confidential matter?” He handed her his business card to show he was associated with an organization called, “Oklahoma For Indians Opportunity,”or shortened to the acronym, ‘O.I.O.”

She knew of their work via the grapevine but other than that was not familiar with what they actually did. Although, so complete was this pipeline of information among the Native people it was, actually, quite dependable. Someone, who did not know them, found their people’s telling of events were often most accurate even down to the color of a person’s eyes and the clothes on their backs.

“You have caught us in a busy, noon rush hour. Is there another time we can talk?” Velma continued with her cordial manner.

“I’ll need your attention, when we could sit down for a while to talk. What I need to discuss with you will take some thought.” Velma respected the man’s courtesy and his business like bearing. Everything about him made it obvious he had something positive he wanted to share with her and she was interested.

“What about meeting with me at my home, tomorrow around two o’clock?” Velma asked. “It will be quieter there and more conducive to our being able to think without all the background noise. There is a potential crisis here, ever minute and I can’t give you my full attention. Yes, I believe, my home is a much better place to meet. Velma and Lee were always a united-front with their children and any other decision to be made. She knew Lee would wish to talk with this man and this is what she wanted.

“Certainly! Just give me your address and I’ll be there.” He answered.

Velma scribbled off her address on the cardboard back side of one of the meal ticket tablets and handed it to him. She was then, instantly busy with an immediate small problem.

As Velma quickly turned back to the business at hand with her café she spoke to her book keeper. This woman was not only an accountant but worked as a waitress, cashier and manager. “You will have to try to replace Vera for the two o’clock shift. She called in sick.” Velma mentioned this in almost a matter-of-fact way.“Again?” Marcy, the book keeper asked.

“It’s okay. She’s a good waitress and brings a following with her. If she makes it by this afternoon that is good enough.” Velma was a conscientious and benevolent overseer. Her years of working in restaurants over her life time gave her an understanding of the ordeals women had to put up with to take care of their families. It was funny when she fired someone because in a few days when they came back with apologies she always rehired them. Other places were always short of help but Wimpys was where people wanted to work. The payroll was constantly fed with money from the volume of customers coming through. The tips were good and the owner was gentle, yet firm.

“Order up!” The waitress called. “Chicken fry, left and right,” she almost sang. Left and right was café slang to say, “besides mashed potatoes and gravy, two vegetables, one on the right and one on the left.

Another waitress made her voice loud and clear so the cook could hear over the juke box and whatever other noise was in the back ground. “Three eggs, wreck ‘em, toast, side of pig.” And it was another way to say scramble the eggs and serve with sausage.

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