A & W
As a teenager, riding the strip in the evenings of the early 1970s, a favorite place to stop was A & W. The food there was great, but the Root Beer Floats were fantastic. In fact, A & W was famous for their Root Beer Floats. My husband, Bob and I used to go there often, and it was a favorite of his little brother Ron’s too. It never occurred to me in those days, just where Root Beer came from, or who invented it. I didn’t really care. I just knew I liked it, and even though I no longer drink pop, I do like an occasional Root Beer Float.
But…where did Root Beer come from? Well, on this day, May 16, 1866, Charles Elmer Hires first came out with an early version of commercially prepared root beer. Hires was a Quaker pharmacist from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania…his version of Root Beer became famous. I’m sure you’ve heard of Hires Root Beer. It was named after Charles Hires, but it was not the Root Beer that I grew up loving. Maybe that is because, as far as I know, A & W Root Beer was the first make a Root Beer Float. Of course, I could be wrong too.
In the days of Hires’ childhood, children were allowed to work, and at age twelve he had a job as a drugstore boy. Then at age sixteen he moved to Philadelphia and worked in a Pharmacy. He saved his money and when he had earned about $400, he started his own drugstore. Things were different then, and that was possible for a young man to do, o he did it. Nevertheless, he had that entrepreneurial spirit, and maybe that is why he was able to come up with something new.
There are those who say that he learned about root beer on his honeymoon in New Jersey, where the woman who ran the hotel served a herb tea known as “root tea” made from assorted roots. It is said that Hires thought that “root beer” would be more appealing to the working class. He originally packaged the mixture in boxes and sold it to housewives and proprietors of soda fountains. They needed to mix in water, sugar, and yeast. I suppose that after a while that got to be too much work, and eventually it came processed and in bottles. The funny this is that Root Beer was slow to catch on until Reverend Dr Russell Conwell told Hires to present the drink as “the temperance drink” and the greatest health-giving beverage in the world.” Hires was active in the temperance movement, and some say that he wanted root beer to be an alternative to alcohol. I can’t say that he was successful in that respect, because I don’t know anyone who would drink Root Beer instead of beer, unless they already didn’t drink.
My husband, Bob and his brother, Ron Schulenberg have been good friends since Ron was born. The fourteen years between them made no real difference at all. Maybe Bob was just excited to have a brother…finally, after having four sisters. Bob took Ron places with him and they really had a lot of fun. That continued after Bob and I began dating, and it was a realy good deal, since it meant that Ron got to go cool places like A & W, for Rootbeer Floats. Of ccourse, going places wasn’t the only reason they were friends, but when Ron was little, it was a big part of it.
These days, Ron and Bob have a different reason to be good friends, besides the fact that they are brothers. They have teamwork. Both of them are mechanics, and when they are working on a vehicle, sometimes assistance is needed. It is just a part of the mechanics game. They each have tools, but often share them, because it makes no sense to buy a tool when your brother has one already. They have always shared a love of vehicles and mechanics, as have most of the men in the Schulenberg family. In fact, the teamwork the Schulenberg men have includes all of them. If one needs help with something, be it mechanics, or cutting wood, the others are right there to help. They know that they can count on each other.
Ron served in the Army for three years, and then was called back to participate in Desert Storm. His formal training in diesel mechanics came from his GI Bill benefits. It was a great way for him to go to college, but I’m sure he would rather not have had to fight in a war. Nevertheless, it was necessary, so he did it. We all missed him very much. No one wants a loved one to have to go to war. You worry about them every day. And that’s what we did. We worried and prayed the whole time he was gone, and rejoiced when he came back home and the war was over. We were also very proud of his service. Being a Veteran is something to be proud of, and being a part of a team is something else to be proud of. I don’t know what Bob would do without him sometimes. I am very thankful for the many times Ron has helped Bob with a project, and I know that Ron is thankful for Bob’s help too. They do make a wonderful team. Today is Ron’s birthday. Happy birthday Ron!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
If you were a teenager in the 1970’s, in Casper, Wyoming, you know about dragging the strip, because that was what the kids did back then. The local businesses didn’t appreciate it much when we stopped to talk in their parking lots either, although to this day I don’t know what harm there was in it. Nevertheless, if you sat in their parking lot very long, the police would show up and make you leave, and if you were caught there very much, they could even give you a ticket for loitering, although I never heard of anyone who got one.
Dragging the strip gave the local teens the chance to show off their cars and hang out with their friends. Our friend, Lana had a yellow Mach I Mustang. She took that thing to the car wash after work…every day, and then she headed out to the strip to hang with her friends. That always struck me as funny, because I just couldn’t see how her car could have been that dirty. I asked her about it once, and she said she just couldn’t take a dirty car out on the strip, and she lived on a dirt road, so it got dusty every time she went home. It made sense, I guess, but it was still funny. The things that bug us as kids…right.
The strip went from Red Barn, now Peaches, on 2nd Street to Smith’s on CY Avenue, and if you rode it very long, you would see just about every beater and hot rod imaginable. Bob drove a 1974 AMC Hornet, which would not be considered a sport car, except that it was gold, with racing stripes, mag wheels, and it was jacked up in the rear end, plus it was a V-8, and that gave it plenty of power, because it was a small car. My car was a 1968 Plymouth Fury III…not a sporty car, because my dad told me that I should get a car that could go from being my first car to being a family car later. It was a good idea, and it did do that, but I really wanted the pink Plymouth Duster that I tried to sell him on, or even the old panel van that I thought looked funky. Our friend Leroy drove an orange Road Runner, and another friend Kurt, drove a blue fastback Mustang. Some of the cars were beaters, as I said…just something to get by on, but not much for looks. It didn’t seem to matter as kids, because the main thing was to have the freedom to hang out and drag the strip, peeling out of A & W and wearing out our tires, and wasting gas…which I’m sure more than one of us wish we had back these days.