I Wuz Just Thinking: Twisting at the Thunderbird Lounge
October 3, 2021
We served up great root beer in frozen glass mugs and danced to the most popular music played on a jukebox in the 1960s.
K&N Root Beer in Kilgore was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Douglas, and sometimes their son, Lynn Douglas, ran it in their absence.
I was a senior in high school when I was told that the local K&N Root beer stand had an opening for a short-order cook. I had no idea what the job would entail, but I was looking forward to learning the art of serving up root beer and earning a little money… fifty cents an hour!
Mrs. Douglas was a real nice lady and had lots of patience when she taught me how to cook up the items on the menu. There was also a chart on the wall with instructions for cooking, as well as the recipe to make the famous root beer.
The root beer was kept in a large covered metal-shaped tub in the kitchen area. The flavoring came in gallon jugs. We had to use a water hose to dilute the syrup mixture. It was quite tasty to drink from the frozen frosted glass mugs.
In the rear of the building was a small room with an outside entrance. It was called the Thunderbird Lounge. A few tables and a jukebox filled most of the space, leaving only a small area for dancing.
Some of the popular songs on the jukebox during the 1960s were ‘Theme from Summer Place’ by Perry Faith, ‘Cathy’s Clown’ by the Everly Brothers,’ Running Bear’ by John Presto, ‘Save the Last Dance for Me’ by the Drifters, and ‘The Twist’ and ‘Let’s Twist Again’, by Chubby Checker.
Mike Guilford was a daily customer. He and I had been in the high school band together, so I knew him, his mother, and his sister, Pat. When there were no customers, Mike and I practiced dancing the ‘Twist’. We had so much fun.
Mike was a freshman in the Kilgore College Ranger band. He invited me to be his date for the dance. I was so proud to go with him, ‘a real college man.’.
The ‘Twist’ music began playing, and we immediately took to the already crowded floor. We twisted and twisted. We would bend our knees and lower ourselves nearly to the floor, then slowly rise again. we twisted and twisted –round and round – up and down. Suddenly, I looked up and Mike and I were the only two people on the dance floor. Everyone else had formed a huge ring around us and was watching us dance. We were quite good if I do say so myself.
The shock of everyone stopping to watch us frightened me, and I ran off the dance floor, leaving Mike all alone. He must have felt terrible and could not understand why I had fled. I was just so embarrassed. Needless to say, Mike never asked me for another date, and I definitely understood. We did, however, remain good friends.
Sometimes the winter nights would be so slow at the root beer stand that it gave time to get better acquainted with the young ladies who served as car-hops. Ruby and her sister Peggy Madewell, as well as Donna Merritt, are the main ones I can still remember.
We had so much fun and sometimes felt guilty for taking our paychecks. We enjoyed our work that much. Mrs. Douglas would insist, that even if there were not many customers, we had served our shift and had rightly earned the pay.
The Douglas family moved out of town. Mr. Douglas was in the National Guard, and later Lynn joined the military too. I don’t recall what happened to the K&N Root Beer stand after that. Memories of that era of my life still make me happy..…as I wuz just thinking.