Christmas at RCA

“There’s a time for lunch and there’s a time for drinking. How did that get confused?”

I went to work at RCA’s Westcoast Missile and Surface Radar Division the day after college graduation. As it turns out, RCA is in a hiring frenzy and a gaggle of us recent grads make up the majority of the Material Planning group. We are all either single or young marrieds. A comradery forms.

Christmas season arrives and the ‘big’ day occurs on a Saturday in 1959. The company policy of giving the afternoon proceeding Christmas as a holiday causes this ‘vacation’ to fall on Friday. I haven’t the foggiest as to just how the six of us decide to have lunch at the local bar, but at 12 noon we’re off to our first drink and lunch.

The afternoon passes. Somehow lunch never gets ordered; there is too much serious drinking to do. In a voice barely understandable, Bob Kitzman proclaims to the equally inebriated gang of all-afternoon-drinkers, “Hey guys, its 4:30, don’t ya think we otta head out to dinner before they throw us out of here?” A ‘hip-hip-hurrah’ response from an equally thick-tongued bunch rises from the table like we’d just won a football game or something.

Bob has convinced himself that since he made the original proclamation, he’s now in charge. “You guys all look too damn drunk, – I’ll drive. My car’s in the lot next door.” We somehow get the bill paid and head for the front door. And that wasn’t easy – these are the days before credit card.

The first guy opens the front door and all we hear is, “Holy Shit, Bob’s gonna have to borrow Noah’s Ark, it’s raining buckets out there.” Sure enough, it’s coming down in sheets so heavy we can’t even imagine what stores are across the street. Bob shouts from the rear, “Out the door to the left, first row in the parking lot!”

Everyone is in suits, ties, and leather soled shoes. No raincoats or umbrellas. We are all on a dead run as we hit the front door – I am fourth to dive into the swimming pool. The sidewalk out front is wide and sloping toward the curb. By now the water is running well over the curb and onto the sidewalk. I make my frantic left turn, banking like an airplane, out the front door. That’s all folks! I look as smooth as any pro base baller sliding into third base. Three steps and my right foot, my left hip, and all the rest of me is sliding flat-out on the sidewalk heading for the curb, the gutter, and all that water. The whole ensemble comes to a stop with my knee, calf, and shoe drowning in the gutter. The sidewalk has been washed clean by the rain so all I am is — WET.

I recover my dripping mess and head to the car where my five companions had watched my entire swan dive to the gutter. The ribbing begins. “Roche, why didn’t you try out for the Angles? Hells bells you might have become the best base stealer in all of AAA.” (Major league baseball had yet to come to the West Coast.)

Chaos prevails! Bob struggles to see out the front windshield! The deluge and the steamed-up windows have us in an ‘enclosed’ box. He shouts out, “There’s a Denny’s over there on the left, is that OK?” Again the cantankerous up-roar, “Hell yes, we’ll eat anywhere where they’ll let ole soggy-ass Roche in.” With that, Bob pulls on the left blinker and turns into Denny’s.


Somewhere between the alcohol and the overflowing gutters, Bob has headed straight into an EIGHT INCH CURB! The front end lurches up and when it reaches its heights it SLAMS back down. Everyone in the car has shifted two feet forward. It all comes to rest with no one hurt but the car is sitting half on the sidewalk, half in the street, with the frame resting on top on the curb. Here we are, drunker than six lords, parked perpendicular to Denny’s front windows with a full row of customers gaping out into the rain with mouths wide open.

Bob is able to back the car into the street and he finally drives through Denny’s official driveway but when we enter the restaurant, I’m not the only one looking like a soaked rat.
The waitress graciously ignores the appearance of her 6 ‘dashing’ customers and settles us into a horseshoe shaped booth back in the corner. By now you think this whole sorry tale about six drunks has come to an end.  Not so fast Charlie Brown, food has to be ordered – no wine thank you.

The six inebriates make a stab at civility. It lasts for two minutes. With a ghost-white face, Charlie raises his hand and exclaims, “I’ve gotta get out of here!” Unfortunately he’s at the very back of the horseshoe. Frantic City! All five of us bale from the booth in a stampede! Charlie is last out – he doesn’t make it. Yep, all over the isle in front of 20 customers, all trying to enjoy their dinners.

Denny’s wasn’t happy.

by  Edwin G. Roche

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