Vidakovich column: Pancakes made in heaven
“Goodbyes are not forever. Goodbyes are not the end. They simply mean I’ll miss you, until we meet again.”
My old friend Lupie Gonzales passed away on March 3. I attended her memorial service on March 19 because I needed to say a final farewell to a lady I have known since I was a boy, and also because my mom, if she was still around, would have kicked my butt up one side and down the other if I wouldn’t have gone.
Born and raised in Glenwood, I spent a lot of time at the Eagles Lodge when I was young. My mom and dad were staunch members of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, and it’s because of this fraternity that I got to meet many caring and good-hearted people like Lupie and her husband Filbert.
The lodge itself was located down on the riverfront, right next to where the Pullman restaurant now resides. To me, as a boy in the late 1960s, the place seemed cavernous, with a dining area, a bar, meeting rooms and a large dance hall that also served as a perfect setting for Friday night BINGO and the every so often rummage sales, which were like having several large garage sales packed into one big room.
Probably my favorite memory from the Eagles, and my most tasty, was the Saturday night dime-a-dip dinners. All of the food, including desserts, was homemade. I remember filling my plate with a little bit of everything and paying only 10 cents per serving. You could eat like a king for under a dollar. Our family hardly ever missed these delicious meals, and we would always walk down to the lodge together from our home on Bennett Avenue right after the Lawrence Welk Show aired on our old black and white television.
During the decade of the ’90s, the folks at the Eagles used to let me have a yearly spaghetti dinner at the lodge as a fundraiser for my girls’ basketball team at Glenwood High School. All of the ladies including my mom, Lupie, Ann Wilson, Jennie Cruz and many others, served as cooks and waitresses to help me out. We would raise enough money in one evening to help pay for new practice gear, for kids to go to basketball camp and for other needed items for the program. Those ladies always worked their butts off to help me, but that’s what I had always learned from them and others growing up here. The value of hard work and helping each other out could never be overstated.
I loved attending the Sunday morning pancake breakfasts that were held at the lodge. For $5, it was eggs, sausage or ham, orange juice and all the pancakes and coffee I could pump into my stomach. As my beloved friends from the lodge got older and began to slow down a bit, they enlisted me to become one of the cooks for the Sunday breakfast. I was a little scared at first, but once I learned the ropes from experts like Larry Pretti, Judy Hughes, Bill Phillips and Pat Letey, I began to take pride in my batter and the end result.
I did my share of cooking and cleaning on those Sunday mornings, but I mostly talked sports and any other subject that came to mind. The best thing though was the company I was in and the wonderful stories I got to listen to. I was a part of many of those stories from years gone by, but the adults would always say, “Oh, you were too young to remember that, Mike.”
Little did they know that I did remember some of the stories they told, and I know for certain the one thing I will never forget is them. The example they set for me not only when I was a little boy, but through my adult years until now is priceless. Their memory will never leave me.
Legend has it, that when the great distance runner Steve Prefontaine would step onto the track at the University of Oregon for his 5,000 meter race, the sun would break through the gloomy clouds in the Pacific Northwest and bask the fans with light until he had crossed the finish line. I believe this to be true.
No matter the weather, we all have people in our lives that make the sun break through the clouds and shine brightly for us. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by many of these kinds of beautiful souls when I was young. Most of them are gone now, but maybe the main lesson that was taught to me was to try and carry on in myself the gift they gave to me. I think of them often and try to be just as good as they were.
The greatest generation can never be duplicated, but I will, each day, try to keep their legacy alive.
Glenwood Springs native Mike Vidakovich is a freelance sports writer, teacher and youth sports coach. His column appears on occasion in the Post Independent and at PostIndependent.com.
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