“Tradition is a guide and not a jailer.”
W. Somerset Maugham
(a welcoming image as seen from out of my car window / Julie Cook 2020)
If you’re familiar with either Atlanta or Athens, Georgia, you no doubt know about
The Varsity is as synonymous with Atlanta and Georgia as is Coca Cola.
The snappy “What’ll ya have?!” is equally synonymous as that is how each
counter customer has been met at The Varsity since its inception in 1928.
This anchoring mainstay has weathered the ravages of time and has managed to
survive when other seemingly enduring institutions have given way to the various burdens
of fickled consumerism.
The Varsity was the drive-in restaurant dream of a man named Frank Gordy.
Ironically this 1928 drive-in was born the same year as my dad,
So I’m certainly not surprised that my dad had a life long affinity with this
car hop ladened hamburger / hotdog joint.
From that of a hungry young boy to that of cash strapped college student whose dorm
was within walking distance of this iconic drive-in, my dad loved his “Varsity.”
And so the irony has never been lost on me that thirty years later,
the Athens drive-in was within walking distance from my sorority House in Athens.
It was the place of late night exam runs.
It was the place you went after your date had brought you home… or…
it was the place you went after you dropped your date off at her dorm or sorority house…
each hoping not to run back in to the other…
It was, and is, the ritual place of both pre and post football game meals.
This was the case for both me and dad…spanning the course of separating decades.
The funny thing is that it’s just that one of us went to Tech and the other went to Georgia.
The two schools known for their good old fashioned hate.
Two rival schools who love to hate one another but who are bound together by a love
for classic Georgia cheap eats.
So yes, grease dripping from onion rings, hand cut french fries, chili dogs and fried
peach pies running throughout both the veins of me and Dad is the ultimate
comforting calling of “home”…
Not the greatest of foods…not the healthiest nor always the tastiest…
but there is just something to be said for traditional consistency and staying power.
The Varsity has both.
Fast forward to this past week.
It was spring break for many school systems…
Our daughter-n-law was blessedly out of school.
We thought we’d volunteer to keep the Mayor for a day or two—
splitting up the madness at their home from having both the
Sheriff and Mayor constantly under foot.
And so, in this new outskirts of Athens home of ours,
it only seemed fitting that we had to pass the torch, bringing forth a right of passage
by taking the Mayor to The Varsity.
(the Mayor visiting during “spring break” visits the Varsity with mom and da)
The Mayor is three years old.
In her young life, she’s already been a time or two to the Varsity in downtown Atlanta…
Her dad took her.
Her dad, our son, spent his own time with his granddad joyfully dining many times
at Atlanta’s Varsity, making lasting memories.
He thought he would be the first to introduce his daughter, this young member
of our clan to the tradition of good ol fashioned grease…however…
I happen to know that our memories really begin to percolate to the surface
at or about the age of three.
So despite her ‘dada’ thinking he was the first…
I’m banking on this latest trip being the visit that will stick.
“What’ll ya have…What’ll ya have…”
Two dogs, walking all the way
A sack of rags, and an FO– or maybe a PC
(aka, two loaded hot dogs, an order of onion rings, and a frosted orange…an orange sherbet
based drink or chocolate milk over ice)