A day working at Rustler Steak House (1977)

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/04/22/a-day-working-at-rustler-steak.html


About the only real difference I spotted between that place and a similar fast-ish food restaurant today, aside from the haircuts, was that archaic cash register.

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The guy doing the books had an electric adding machine, no display. There were lots of calculators by then, but an adding machine probably had a lifespan of a dozen+ years - and did the job.

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Kudos. Funny to think that the routine of my own young life is now “history” to another generation or so on. Didn’t expect that, because, as the first post said, there hasn’t been all that much change, not in a restaurant at least. (A 1977 office with zero screens and many secretaries would be different.)

But to MY generation, our parents really did come from “history”. Horse-drawn milk wagons, and the one telephone two blocks away where the doctor lived (in a small coal town in the 30s, my mom), and trips to Europe were by boat until the 50s. I grew up watching space missions and their world seemed very distant.

Then I saw one episode of Mad Men, with the smoking in bed, kids playing with dry-cleaning bags, and the casual remarks about women and races,and it was like double-vision: both history and memory (“oh yeah, that really happened…OMG”).

Hoping you whippersnappers appreciate that video took a ton of effort - the shots were edited together into a story by chopping away at yards of celluloid - my Dad had a whole kit for it and spent evenings turning our vacations into … well, into… random snatches of action that have no story at all. I didn’t say he had talent, just a kit and enthusiasm.

But I had a guy turn reels of them in to MP4s anyway, that have no value at all except to us (now old) kids. Some date to the 50s, me a baby, and really saturate me with that weird I-can’t-believe-this-ancient-history-is-me feeling.


I can’t remember which one of those steak places we went to back then (Ponderosa , Rustler or Bonanza) but it was the one with the cafeteria style service. The thing I really remember, and really liked, was that you could get a real steak sandwich there and steak fries. A real steak sandwich being a grilled steak, cut into strips and put on a bun. Not the pressed, super thin sliced stuff you get nowadays that’s just a half step away from hamburger. (Sorry to any Philly cheesesteak fans)


That video is full of little things that gradually vanished, but were never so important as to notice-
like those wood-effect cafeteria trays, the ubiquitous oval platters, short and squat coffee cups, the little metal trays for holding condiments.


One other thing that has definitely vanished is a $4 steak dinner. The only place in America where you can still find that is maybe in Vegas.


Are there still fast food style restaurant chains were you can walk up to a counter and order a filet mingon dinner for what appears to be about $16 is 2019 dollars? I can’t think of any, but it might just be one of the many things that exist in California but not in Canada. Seems like a bit of an odd concept to me, frankly.


Us older folk need to speak up more often to remind the rest just how we got here. I adored The Wizard of Oz as a kid, but I never saw it in color until college. The speakers in movie theaters sucked. Etc. I believe we are living in future shock (see: Alvin Toffler) and that alone dates me.


I wonder what was the average salary in 1977…

Nary a green vegetable in sight… /s


Minimum wage in 1977 was $2.30/hr.

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I was thinking of food handling, not a gloved hand in sight. Back then people touched your food with their bare hands.


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