I can’t seem to get away from that Barefoot, and I have another tale to tell; but first must introduce you to one of my employees because she is very important in the story that follows this intro. Annie Kane Campbell. She and her husband, Bill, had moved to San Juan Capistrano in the early 1950’s. He had bought a nice little bungalow-type home in the area close to the Mission San Juan Capistrano. He was gone a lot out to sea doing his job as a Merchant Seaman, and I think he was hoping a little religion would rub off on Annie being alone there while he was gone because she could walk a block to the Mission — instead she kept on going into the next block — and there was The Swallow. Now that place was my very first venture into the bar business in late 1947. So this is how I met Annie.
Annie started stopping by, and she loved to shoot the breeze with the bartender and the other customers. It was much better than talking to herself at home alone. During these times when she was in attendance, we discovered that she could fix all kinds of things — a real handy-dandy to have around. One day, I was starting to change an empty beer keg, and she spoke up wanting to help. I said “Okay, follow me.” I had the empty keg on the dolly and went to the walk-in refrigerator for a replacement. Well, in a flash she had a full one on that dolly, and out we went with her in control and wrestling with the keg to get it back into its place at the bar. That was nice, and I thanked her profusely. “Anytime,” she said. Another time, a waitress was needed, and she filled the void. This went on with all kinds of crises — plumbing, carpentry, cleaning, filling in for the cook, or bartending, the list goes on. So now you can see why I sweet-talked her into taking the job of “Chief of Go-to.” She was my Chief Aide and Bottle Washer for about 10 years.
When her husband was home, we would cross our fingers that nothing would go wrong because she’d be off with him on his little vacation.
At the Barefoot, Annie would waitress, or bartend, if needed. During the week she just waited for something to go wrong.
She and I came up with a routine for Wednesday nights in the slow winter months, and we had a great time doing it. We decided to cook up some spaghetti with a great meat sauce to slather over it. No meatballs because that would be too much work. The butcher down at the Alpha Beta would grind up some very good beef, and we would chop up onions, celery, tomatoes, garlic, add tomato sauce and all the herbs and spices, etc., all of which would then go into a huge restaurant pot to simmer all day. We would fix garlic bread — with real butter — and make a tossed green salad. It was gourmet, let me tell you, served on a huge plate — FOR 50¢!!! Well, by golly, you would be amazed at the number of customers who planned their Wednesday dinner at the Barefoot. Cheap, cheap, cheap! When this ritual first started, we had so much spaghetti and sauce to get rid of, we would give out seconds for free, but then after awhile we had to start charging because we were deluged with more customers to feed. We didn’t make a huge profit on the food, but it paid off in the long run — much more beer was consumed than on a plain old Wednesday night in the middle of the winter. And everyone had a great time.
Wednesday Nights — Yes, Life was Good.
I am going to “milk” The Barefoot dry before I’m through. Tune in next week for the fourth and final tale (until I recall another one) in this series. It will be mostly pictures I found recently — in the garage — on 35 mm film. Priceless!
MELITAS FORSTER WEDNESDAYS WITH MELITAS