It was with genuine sadness that I read that the Varsity Jr. will be closing next Sunday. I grew up in Atlanta and graduated in 1967 (barely) from North Fulton High School (now an international school) just down the road from the Varsity Jr.
It was our high school hangout, the place where we took our dates in our Chevrolets, Pontiacs, Fords and Plymouths, cars that we rarely paid over $200 for. There was no such thing as state inspections, and as long as our cars would start, we could fill them up with quarter-per-gallon gas and drive to the Varsity Jr.
There, we could lollygag for hours under the canopy beneath the trees and drink from our illicit quart bottles of Country Club Malt Liquor and wolf down chili dogs, sidled alongside homemade french-fried onion rings. Dessert was a fried peach pie.
The carhops who served you were like family and we tipped them generously (or at least we thought we did). They would always warn us when the Atlanta police were coming through and break up our fistfights.
I was at the Varsity Jr. enjoying a Friday evening with my date when, unprovoked, a guy by the name of Jimbo socked me on my jaw through the open window of my ’59 Chevrolet Impala. The drunken Jimbo didn’t realize that I had learned to box at St. Bernard Seminary, where my father had sent me years before when he thought I might be priesthood material. I was having my way with Jimbo when the carhops came out and restored the peace. No police intervention necessary!
There was a friend who drove through the Varsity Jr. one evening and came upon a Frito-Lay truck in the process of unloading. He grabbed several cases of Fritos and threw them in the back seat of his Pontiac LeMans just as a police car came up. A chase ensued; he wrecked and went to jail. The judge offered a choice of a year in jail or joining the Marines. He joined the Marines. Yes, those things really did happen.
Another evening, a friend and I went by the Varsity Jr. to eat some chili dogs. A friendly carhop introduced us to a couple of girls, the night was young, and we decided to go to the Piedmont Drive-in, better known as the “passion pit” (Lindbergh MARTA is there now). But we didn’t have enough money for all four of us, so my buddy Terry and I crawled into the trunk and sprawled next to our case of cold Pabst. Even though the girls swore they could drive my manual transmission, the car lurched violently as the clutch was let out, gears grinding.
They made it to the drive-in, and as we bounced over the humps, Terry and I weren’t feeling so well with the combination of beer, chili dogs and being in a car trunk on a hot July night. The car came to a stop and we started to relax when the car doors opened, but then we heard the girls walk away.
I looked at Terry in the dark of the trunk and his face was panic stricken. I’m sure mine was, too. We debated in whispers whether we should start banging on the trunk or scream. We decided to wait. After what seemed like hours, the trunk opened and the girls ordered us out like we were Gestapo prisoners. Settling into the car, the girls told us a suspicious employee had followed them and that was why they left us in the trunk. I’m still traumatized by the event.
Surely there must be a way for Atlanta and the Varsity Jr. to work out their differences. It doesn’t look like it, though. I suppose I can get my chili dogs at the downtown Varsity, but it just won’t be the same.
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