Follow by Email

Monday, April 09, 2012

Diners, Drive-inns and Dives, Part 3


Back in the eighties, I was a high school student in one of the last known dry towns in the world.

Well, at least in the province.

I was also an excessively well behaved child. If I said "Call me for a good time", I usually was hoping for a chance to go skating, swimming, tobogganing, snowmobiling, or indulging in an ice cold dip at the pits. Maybe I just wanted to watch tv at your house because we were raised pure. No television and lots of Sunday School. We were so pure that we hardly ever ate chips either so the two boxes of Old Dutch salt and vinegar that my mother bought at Christmas time vaporized like so much steam from the Sunday bubbat cloth.

I rebelled by walking two miles down a country road in the dark to watch "The Love Boat" and "Fantasy Island" at my best friend's house on Friday nights. On Sundays we'd lay in her brother Henry's smelly bed all afternoon munching on ketchup chips and working our way through Cinema One, Cinema Two, and Walt Disney. Occasionally we'd find his naughty magazines underneath his mattress. We never spoke of it.

My brother on the other hand, rebelled properly. He'd disappear for days and nights on end, drive drunk, take the car through fields for joy rides, hold entire conversations with turkeys in fields at night, indulge in illegal and alternative lifestyle choices, etc, etc. One of the sure marks of a proper rebel in Steinbach was if they exited town limits and frequented THE INN. Otherwise known as FRANTZ. My brother was a Frantz guy. Everyone knew him; both inside and outside of town limits.

Frantz Motor Inn remained an enigma to me. A place where the truly brave resided. The kids who had stared the pressure of parental and community expectation in the face and said; "nah. who cares. I'm going for a beer".

I didn't even know how to order a beer, or where Frantz really was. I thought of it as a hazy place just east of eden. I mean, east of Steinbach.

But that's all behind me now.

It has taken me a few decades to remember Frantz Motor Inn and the mysteries that it might have contained. But when it came to mind, there was really only one thing left to do.

Just as soon I got that whole awkward family vacation thing to Minneapolis over with, I rushed back to Manitoba to finish up my Triple D series.

Within hours of arriving home, I dashed out to Steinbach to pick up one of my old equally puritanical high school friends. It was time to even some scores.

Into the den of iniquity we crept.

It was indeed a dive.

The lounge side of the inn had long dark lines of slot machines tended by frizzled women who had actually never left the facility since 1981.

The dance floor mocked my limp Mennonite limbs. The dark brown chairs, cheerless tables, rows of vacant bar stools reminded me of all I'd missed. All the REALLY GREAT TIMES I'd sacrificed while skating in circles at the duck pond.

We stopped for a moment of silence in memory of the eighties, and the parts we'd played in it all.

Then I bought my friend a drink, and we set about changing history at one of the world's truly greatest and underwhelming diners, drive-inns, and dives.




Anonymous said...

Ha ha, this is good!!! I was there a few times, not as a REALLY bad kid, just someone going for a drink (real one!) or for many many cups of tea. It was fun going there just knowing that it was one of the baddest places to be. I've only ever gone there with one of my childhood girl friends, she was kinda naughty though. Fun memories.

joyce said...

yer such a badass you remain anonymous. Good on ya.
The other place in Steinbach that I thought I wasn't allowed inside was this trendy little shop in the Clearspring mall. The girls who worked in there wore tight jeans and smoked on their breaks. I knew they'd smell country on me a mile away. I mostly stayed near Penner Foods......

Brenda said...

O.k. If you think Frantz is teetering on the edge of humanity then you really haven't lived till you've spent a Friday night at one of the 3 little French hotels (which shall remain unnamed to protect the sordid innocent) just West, Northwest and Northeast of Whoville. Frantz Motor Inn is a luxury diner by comparison. They remain one of the few service industries that see no need for progress as long as the few loyal contingent keep darkening their barstools. I haven't been there since the late '70's myself but I understand that I haven't missed a thing. Same stains in the 1950 something carpets, same grafitti behind the teal painted bathroom stall doors, and the pungent scent of 4 generations of Labatt's and stale smoke permeating every cranny. Sounds enticing, doesn't it? Maybe we need to plan a good old-fashioned bar hopping tour. These places are a little safer when you move in groups.

Brenda said...

PS if you go there and you find my name and number carved into the bathroom door in stall #2 just remember, I was just a kid!

joyce said...

that's so awesome, Brenda.
Do you have any scores to settle? We could form a roaming support group- a sort of "local bucket list"

Valerie Ruth said...

Brenda, you share a name with my mother. by which i mean you couldn't possibly BE my mama cuz i KNOW she's not that badass. and if you happen to be my mom... you have some 'splaining to do! we would have to talk. over a tall drink.

janice said...

That looks a lot like the Acme bar - Linden was another dry Mennonite town, and Acme was 'sin city' where you could get cigarettes and booze - a whole 6 miles away. About 14 years ago, I went to a 40th birthday party there and stayed overnight at the hotel. Truly a culteral experience. I think the hotel was built in 1720, and never renovated.

Anonymous said...

I'm right there with you Joyce...only this time if I go I'm wearing a pair of gloves and bringing my own freshly laundered seat cover.

Valerie Ruth, as far as I know I have only 3 kids and you're not one of them. But a lot of crazy things happened in the '70's many of which I may have blocked either by choice or substance abuse...or both!

Brenda Funk said...

Oh no -- that's not me Val! I would NEVER do such things. I was probably even more excessively well-behaved than the writer. So no talk!

Jenn said...

This could totally win an award it was so good! You should see if the "Carillon" is having a contest.

I rolled out of that place a few times in the mid-nineties.