Linda Zeigler’s funny, touching story was a hit at the Sweet Tree Arts’ annual storytelling event

Unexpected love at the hot dog stand

Fri, 05/04/2018 - 8:30am

HOPE — A good story has conflict and drama, or as Jack from the show, Will & Grace, calls “conflama.” A great story also has laughs, pathos, and a surprise ending. Linda Zeigler, one of the participants of the Sweet Tree Arts’ most recent annual story SLAM, had all of that and more. With an innate interest in public storytelling after attending a Live MOTH Radio Hour storytelling event last June in Portland with her daughter-in-law, she wrote a few short stories, playing with the idea of telling one particular story to an audience. But, it needed some polishing so Zeigler turned to storyteller coach Meghan Vigeant to prep for the Sweet Tree Arts SLAM on March 24, 2018. The theme this year was “Magic.”

Here then, is the story told to Penobscot Bay Pilot (with the story behind the story in italics).

“When I was 17 years old in 1965, my family had moved back from California to the small Illinois town where we’d started out and I was pretty unhappy about it,” Zeigler said. “I had not wanted to move back to the town where I’d grown up and I was nursing a broken heart and missing my friends. So, there I was in hot, flat, boring Illinois, no friends, no ocean, no sweetheart.  My folks rented a small house in a subdivision outside of town that had one bathroom for five people, so I really wanted to get a job. I needed the money, but even more, I needed some breathing space. Our former neighbor’s oldest son had bought an old hot dog stand from about four miles where we lived. It was an original drive in called the Dog N’ Suds with car hops, root beer and Coney dogs. I peddled out on my old Raleigh, applied for the position of Car Hop at 25 cents an hour and was hired on the spot.

“I worked with two girls, Sheila and Rosie and the three of us were the car hops,” she continued. “We wore white tops, black Bermuda shorts, with a red cloth change apron around our waists and of course, a very attractive Dog ‘N Suds hat with an orange and brown dog serving a hot dog and root beer bobby pinned into our hair. The three of us were very interested in boys and we worked out a system where when a cute guy would drive up, it was somebody’s ‘turn.’

“One hot and humid July afternoon we had just gotten through a really busy lunch rush and a very handsome guy drove his blue Plymouth Valiant into the parking lot. It had a Go Navy! bumper sticker on the front bumper.  It had been a busy lunch hour and it was ‘my turn’, Go Navy! was mine. So, I sashayed out to take his order and flirted outrageously. I could tell by his response he was interested in more than a hot dog and root beer. But he said, ‘I’ll have a large root beer and a couple of Coney dogs’ so I took his order and when I came back with his lunch I said ‘I was looking at your bumper sticker; are you in the Navy? And he replied he was in the Naval Reserves and was probably going to get called up to active duty in the fall. I said, 'Oh wow, do you think you’ll end up in Vietnam?'

“You see in1965, our nation was in the early stages of what was to become the Vietnam War. It was 1966 when the draft called up the troops and dramatically increased American casualties.  But in 1965, each reported American casualty was still met with shock and a communal grief. And he said, 'Yeah, I probably will ship out to Southeast Asia.'

So, I went back to our station and told Sheila and Rosie,  ‘He’s probably going to go to Vietnam. So, we teenage girls got all worried about him. And Rosie said, ‘Oh my God, that poor guy.’ And Sheila, who was a minister’s daughter and a total smart ass said, ‘Well, Linda maybe you should kiss him goodbye for luck.’ I said, ‘Are you serious?’ And they both said yes, so I said, ‘I’ll tell you what. You guys bet me half your tips and I’ll do it.’ Because I knew we’d all made good tips that afternoon.

“When he flashed his lights to return the tray, I went back out there and asked him if he could wait until I took the tray back so I could talk to him something. He was pretty enthusiastic about that, so when I took the tray back to the window, the owner and the cooks from the back had all come to the front. Rosie and Sheila had obviously let them know about the bet. When I went back to the car, I just told him I hoped he’d stay safe when he got deployed and I could tell he was touched that I’d said that to him. Then I said, ‘I was just wondering if I could give you a kiss goodbye.’ And his eyes lit up: ‘Whaooogaaa’ like the cartoon wolf. I had just planned to give him a peck on the cheek, but he turned his face and laid a full lip lock on me and that was not what I had planned. I was a little flustered.

“He said ‘Well, if I come back, can I get another?” and I thought he meant from Vietnam. I said ‘I guess so.’ And he asked, ‘Okay, what time do you get off tonight?”

By now, Zeigler admits, she had the audience at the story SLAM laughing.

“This was not going the way I thought,” she said. “Without missing a beat, I said ‘11 ’o clock.’ Closing was at 10, I’d be long gone. When I got back to Rosie and Sheila, they were doubled over laughing and I was getting cheers and applause from the cooks and owner. The girls said they couldn’t believe I’d kissed him and I said ‘I can’t believe how much money you guys owe me.’ While they were counting out the 21 dollars in tips, I’d told them I lied to him about closing at 11, thinking I’d cleverly avoided having him pick me up. And Sheila started to make me feel guilty. And Rosie said ‘You can’t do that...he’s going to Vietnam!’

At this point, Zeigler admits, she waited until 11 p.m. sitting on the picnic table in the dark and sure enough right at that time, Go Navy’s headlights appeared and he pulled back into the parking lot. He put her bike in the back of his car and took her home to her parents. A week later he asked her out on a real date.

“The likelihood of meeting this guy at a little out of-the-way hot dog stand, that silly bet, and years later celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary sure seems like magic to me,” she said.

In researching photos for this story, Zeigler discovered the old Dog ‘N Suds hot dog stand had become a franchise and is still around today!

Kay Stephens can be reached at