Hash Browns & All-Nighters

The Texas Gal and I headed out early this morning, grabbing breakfast at a Perkins restaurant just down the block from her office in downtown St. Cloud. She and her co-workers pop in frequently for muffins and such, so she knows many of the folks who work there.

“There’s one hostess who’s been working in this restaurant for forty years,” she told me as we ate. “I can’t imagine working in one place that long.”

I nodded and took another bite of hash browns, and as I did, two things crossed my mind. First, working in the same place for forty years (or more) used to be common in the U.S. Second, the hostess the Texas Gal knows likely started working at that downtown Perkins when it opened its doors. I’m not exactly sure when the place was built, but it was sometime in the early 1970s. I vaguely remember stopping there for snacks after movies during my college years (not often, though; I was a regular at the Country Kitchen on the East Side).

I remember more clearly having breakfast at that Perkins very early on several Monday and Thursday mornings during the spring and summer of 1977, when I was the arts editor for St. Cloud State’s University Chronicle. Our Sunday and Wednesday evening paste-up sessions often ran into early Monday and Thursday. The long hours weren’t because there was so much to do to get the paper ready for the press run but because were so disorganized and frankly, not yet very good at newspapering.

We did have the occasional late-written story, like the time I assigned a reporter to review a Wednesday night Cheap Trick concert on campus. I evidently wasn’t clear that I wanted the review the night of the show, because after the reporter did not show up, I called her at home. She apologized and came in and wrote the review, leaving behind – based on the voice I heard in the background on the telephone – a disgruntled boyfriend.

Most of the time, though, our stories were finished by the time paste-up started at 5 p.m. or so, and then we struggled to assemble the twelve tabloid pages, most of the time finishing about midnight a task that should have taken no more than three to four hours. On those evenings, we all headed home. But on the nights that stretched into the early morning, say 3 or 4 o’clock, we’d head downtown and crowd into a corner booth at Perkins.

That corner booth is still there, empty this morning but filled in memory with the laughter of exhaustion and the exhilaration of once more completing a task as a team. As I glanced at that corner booth this morning, I heard a snippet of music coming from the speakers in the ceiling: Jim Horn’s saxophone solo on Neil Sedaka’s “Laughter In The Rain.” And I wondered for a moment what music would have been coming from those speakers during the summer of 1977. Probably something middle-of-the-road, very unlike the stuff we’d been listening to as we did our paste-up.

And Perkins’ music in 1977 was no doubt very different from a minor gem I found this morning below the Billboard Hot 100 that was released on this date in that long-ago year of 1977. Thirty-seven years ago today, “Funky Music” by the Ju-Par Universal Orchestra was bubbling under at No. 109.

Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles tells us that the Ju-Par Universal Orchestra was “a funk group assembled by Juney Garrett and Richard Parker,” and that tells us where the Ju-Par came from. (As you can see in the video below, “Ju-Par” was also the name of the label on which the record was released.) The record, which is indeed pretty funky, would bubble up to No. 101 the next week and then disappear (though it went to No. 32 on the R&B chart).


One Response to “Hash Browns & All-Nighters”

  1. jb says:

    I found the whole Ju-Par Universal Orchestra album in the wilds of the Internet a couple of years ago. It’s a clavinet junkie’s paradise and not bad. You’d never guess it was a jazz-funk album from the cover, however, which is one of the most incongruous I’ve ever seen compared to the music inside. Also docked points for the equally incongruous 19th century typeface on the cover.


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