At dinner with my boyfriend this evening, I mentioned something about Roy Rogers and how I wished it was still around, with its curly fries and fried chicken and--
"Uh...Roy Rogers? Don't you mean Kenny Rogers?" came the interruption.
I chuckled. "Kenny Rogers is a person. I mean, so was Roy Rogers, but Roy Rogers is the person and restaur--"
"No, Kenny Rogers is a person and a restaurant. Kenny Rogers Roasters." It was explained to me that Kenny Rogers Roasters sold a lot of chicken. I tried to explain that Roy Rogers also sold chicken, and realized that we were both right. Being from different parts of the country, we grew up with different fast food chains.
I began to wax poetic on the subject of Roy Rogers, how as a food-loving child I loved Roy Rogers because it was a fast food place with regular hamburger fare and fried chicken, delicious fried chicken that tasted even better cold the next day. That fried chicken was the food of road trips for me; in my memory, I-95 between NJ and Disney World was lined with Roy Rogers, and that was where my family would go, snubbing Burger King and McDonald's for its more diverse fixin's bar. That was how I learned about the cold fried chicken; leftovers would go in a cooler or a hotel room minifridge, and were enjoyed for breakfast the next day, if we didn't find a Shoney's to stop at.
I then explained how at some point during my childhood, all of the Roy Rogers in New Jersey began turning into Wendy's, all at once it seemed. Even the ones on the Turnpike were beginning to turn into Burger King or Sbarro.
As usual, the debate was solved by Wikipedia. Roy Rogers only existed in the Northeast (which means that my childhood memory of Roy Rogers all along the East Coast was a bit fictional). But Roy Rogers is not gone; it even exists in New Jersey. I wonder where.
We also learned that the Kenny Rogers fast food place was more common in my boyfriend's part of the country than mine, and pretty much has ceased to exist in America, but is pretty popular in Asia, mostly the Philippines.
During the debate, before it was resolved that both Rogers restaurants were real, I said, "Don't you remember that story I always tell about Roy Rogers?"
When I was in third grade or so, the job my dad had for my whole childhood (or at least the part that I remembered) ended, and one Saturday, he drove with my mother and myself in the car to go back to the office for something, probably to clean out his desk or pick up his last paycheck. He left my mother and me in the parking deck.
Though we lived at the time in rural New Jersey (a place that some of my readers probably think I invented), my father worked in a normal suburban part of the state that had strip malls, good Italian food, and lots of highways -- the stuff most people picture when they think of New Jersey (or at least, pre-Jersey Shore.) What it also had was familiar chains of fast food restaurants and grocery stores, and so my parents would go there for a lot of shopping until they learned where to find things close to our house, and I associated this part of the world, specifically Daddy's office and Daddy's office parking deck, with getting to eat my favorite fast food things. My town had a Burger King, a neighboring town had McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken, but no place closer than Daddy's office had Roy Rogers. So I, having little idea what was going on in Daddy's office, asked my mother, as we waited in the parking deck, "When Daddy gets back, can we go to Roy Rogers for lunch?"
My mother turned to me, her eyes large and serious, and she said to me in a sorrowful, heavy voice, "Sarah, it's going to be a long time before we can afford to go to Roy Rogers."
I didn't argue. I said nothing; I believe I merely nodded. I don't know if it was her tone of voice, but I thought I understood, and I was willing to sacrifice Roy Rogers for the good of our family.
They were, I believed, sad times indeed.
Recently, during my college years, I reminded my mother of this incident.
"What!?" she nearly squawked. "We could afford Roy Rogers! I don't know why I said that!"