The fall of 1966, my friend Debbie introduced me to Marilyn in the halls of Lincoln Senior High School, Nine Mile and Federal in Warren. Inseparable seniors, Marilyn’s yellow and brown Fiat offered us an escape during lunch hour to the Golden Arches newly rooted two miles north.

Since my mother couldn’t believe “people paid good money for those cardboard hamburgers,” I’d order the Filet O’ Fish. The wimpy piece of fish and cheese, splat of tartar sauce, and bun satisfied my conscience rather than my appetite.

Nonetheless, I spent my babysitting wages on fast food for the fun, friendship, and independence it brought. We loved the French fries. Seldom did I have enough change for the sandwich too.

Van Dyke Avenue south of Martin Road became Warren’s hotspot Friday nights after football and basketball games. Cars cruised with radios blaring the likes of I Got You Babe and Help Me Rhonda.

However, when it came down to taste and value, I preferred Elias Brothers’ Big Boy, the double-decker burger with sauce similar to Mom’s Thousand Island dressing.

Although the restaurant sat one block from school, it may as well have been in Wichita. Our threesome could seldom afford the larger and better burger. McDonald’s knew that.

When I married, Mom’s good food rules governed our family table and allowed few exceptions to homemade. Our budget didn’t include McDonald’s. Nor Big Boy.

I admit, out of the blue, that messy burger still intrudes upon my taste buds. Last Friday night, for instance, when Marilyn came into town for Christmas parties with numerous folk in Romeo, her home for thirty-three years. “Let’s meet in Papa Joe’s parking lot,” she said.

Oh, laying your eyes upon an old friend after a long separation is good medicine for memory recall.

“Get in. I’ll drive,” I said.

“I didn’t bring enough clothes for the weekend. Let’s go shopping at the Rochester outdoor mall first, then eat. What about that Big Boy for old times sake?”

I glanced to the southeast corner of Rochester Road and Tienken. “Believe me, I’d really like to, but it might shock my body.”

After eight o’clock, a young, sweet waitress seated us. Upon Marilyn’s recommendation, I broke Mom’s good food rules and ordered the Big Boy Classic. Well, she would’ve approved had she ever tasted one. That’s all it takes.

“Do you remember when you and Debbie hid in my car in Lincoln’s parking lot at lunch hour and begged me to drive you to McDonald’s?” Marilyn asked.

I shook my head.

Within the immutable bond between food and friend we reminisced the past fifty-two years and closed the restaurant.

“How was everything?” the manager asked when Marilyn paid the bill.

“The food and service were excellent,” we said.

“Oh yes! My staff is the greatest, all drug free high school students! Look at them sweeping and mopping the floor.”

On the cusp of 2020, Marilyn and the Big Boy remain the same in this mercurial world.

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