Tom Ross' column appears Tuesdays and Saturdays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs Most of us have amusing stories to tell about our first jobs as teenagers. And if you’re like me, you associate those jobs, which marked your entry into the adult world, with a particular summer.
I packed football mouthguards the summer I received my learner driver’s permit.
The summer I turned 16, my grandparents took us to Hawaii to celebrate their 50th anniversary. Returning in mid-July, the best employment I could find was an early morning gig de-tasseling hybrid seed corn (I would explain, but it might bore you). During my senior year, I scooped ice cream in the mall.
But it was the summer after my freshman year in college, in 1972, that made the biggest impression on me. That was the summer I drove a Rambler American into the wee hours of the morning delivering pies for Pizza Pit.
If Bob Seger had been a pizza deliveryman, he might have based “Night Moves” around his summer at Pizza Pit. You’re correct, the album didn’t come out until 1976, but I’m not going to let that detail stop me.
“We weren’t searching for some pizza pie in the sky summit
We were just young and restless and bored
Working on our moves in the summertime
In the sweet summertime.”
Sorry about taking liberties with your lyrics, Bob. But as a matter of fact, I was a little too tall that summer and could’ve used a few pounds.
So what were the odds that I would return to my hometown of Madison, Wis., this month — exactly 40 years after my stint at The Pit — and my wife’s shopping errand would deliver me to the Westgate Shopping Center on a fateful day? What are the odds that I would arrive at Westgate on the very hour that a giant track hoe tore into the southwest corner of the mall and began laying waste to the very storefront where my Pizza Pit once was located?
I won’t tell you that piece of heavy machinery ripped my heart out as it clawed away at the stucco. That would be overly dramatic. But the sight of its demolition did cause me to experience a few pangs that are difficult to articulate.
What I liked best about my job at Pizza Pit in summer ’72 were the shift meals. The owner generously allowed us to make a pizza for ourselves — a crew pie — at the start of every night. I ate a few slices of pie for dinner five or six nights each week in that brief season of my life. To say we added extra cheese would be an understatement.
I’m happy to report that the business survived our over-indulgence and has expanded to many locations, including one barely a mile from the little delivery shop I worked in.
The other thing I remember fondly about that summer was the homely little Rambler. It wasn’t exactly peppy, but it was nimble, and the radio could pull in “underground rock” on WIBA FM. The DJ called himself “Strider,” which is an alternative name for the character Aragorn in “Lord of the Rings.” Pretty cool, huh?
Anyway, the Rambler American was built in three different eras, with its heritage traced to the Nash Rambler. My Rambler (technically, my parents owned it) was a member of the third generation and likely was assembled in Kenosha, Wis. And by the time I was cruising around the west side of Madison with a pizza-warming oven in the back seat, the car, which was among the least expensive in the country, was on its way out.
But I didn’t care because I was working on some night moves and trying to lose those awkward 19-year-old blues. And eating a lot of crew pies.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com