Former Becker’s employees recall working at Columbus staple

Former employee enjoyed job

I worked for Bill and Joan (Becker) for one-and-a-half seasons, 1950 and 1951. I remember them as very nice people. Bill always took us home after our shifts.

We wore white uniforms and little money aprons. We went to the cars to take orders. Trays were attached to rolled down windows. Their menu consisted of coney dogs, popcorn and root beer. This was before the addition to the building. Lovely memories.

— Patricia Stewart Hoard

Key skills learned at Becker’s

I worked at Becker’s Drive-In from 1974 to 1977 during my formative years when I was in high school at Columbus North. I was very lucky to get a job working for two wonderful people (Mr. and Mrs. Becker).

Forty years later my Army soldiers often ask me where I learned my management skills. I am regularly asked to describe my Army management philosophy. It is my belief that I learned all my management skills and began to form my management philosophy while working at Becker’s Drive-In. Mr. and Mrs. Becker helped me prepare as a youth for work through training and guidance in soft skills.

Soft skills can be described as everyday, common-sense skills that are important in all aspects of life. The soft skills that I learned from the Becker’s include, but are not limited to, communication skills, interpersonal skills, decision-making skills and lifelong learning skills. I was able to listen and learn from two amazing people.

Year one and two, I began by working in the back room cleaning and organizing. I spent a lot of time outside sweeping the driveway and emptying the trash. I got to make hot dogs and coleslaw. Year three, I graduated to making hamburgers on the grill. Year four, I finally made it to the front counter to take orders and eventually was able to work the cash register. During this fourth summer, I would close the store down at night. This would include locking up, driving the car hops home and taking the day’s cash to Becker’s home after hours. Can you image a company today giving a 16-year-old a car, cash and that kind of responsibility?

Everything I know about management soft skills I learned from the Beckers. Thank you.

— Craig Hawes, Hope

Wonderful memories of Becker’s

In 1949 a new concept came to Columbus. It was an eating establishment which did not require its customers to eat inside a building. We actually ate inside our cars. It was known as the A&W Root Beer Stand owned by a couple from Wisconsin, Bill and Joan Becker.

Bill had not been home long as he was involved in World War II and Joan was previously an English teacher in Wisconsin. When the stand opened Bill worked inside the stand and Joan served as the car hop. Slowly this new idea caught on and the stand became the place for refreshment on the far north side of Columbus.

Since business increased greatly, new employees were hired. In 1954 Bill Becker hired me as one of their new employees, and for the next six years I worked at the stand around my high school, baseball and college obligations.

The menu was rather simple and short: It included hot dogs with the options of mustard, diced onion and relish. Cost: 15 cents for popcorn, 10 cents for root beer. Baby beer was free to little ones, regular beer was 5 cents and a jumbo cost 10 cents.

In about 1957, a new item was added to the selections, a big orange drink. In the late 1950s, the coney dog was introduced and became very popular.

Some of the employees I recall were: Howard Epperson, Joe Denny, Charley Quillen, Bob Green, Donna Whitehorn, Janice Hunter, Beverly Mc Clanahan, Donna Burton and a super car hop named Nina, who made the giant share of tips. The males were hired in at the rate of 50 cents an hour, but the girls were in a position to make considerably more from their tips. I recall Nina had a shift of four or five hours where she earned $22.

The typical workforce usually involved four males inside and four females as car hops. The four male positions were: popcorn popper, mug washer, root beer dispenser and money collector — Bill Becker usually had that title — and the hot dog maker. Usually the shifts would rotate about every hour. It was extremely hot in the kitchen as both the dogs and the buns were constantly in steam.

Sunday evening would always be the stand’s busiest time of the week. There would be 40 cars in the lot all facing the stand with the cars full of people. A typical order might include 10 to 15 dogs, few bags of popcorn and various sizes of root beers. When it really was crazy in the kitchen, we’d bring on the varsity: Joan Becker. She could make hot dogs faster than any other employee. She was amazing!

Bill always took the girls home if they worked the late shift and lived a bit of a distance from the stand. I would not think many employers provide that service to their young employees today.

Here is one other item I remember very well from my experiences at the root beer stand. I seriously doubt that there was, or is, an eating establishment in Columbus that was as clean as the A&W Root Beer Stand. When we were not serving food and drink, we were cleaning!

My experiences at the A&W stand were great. I enjoyed and respected Bill and Joan Becker greatly. They ran a tight ship and all customers and employees knew that.

I’ll really miss the dog and beer very much.

— Phil Pickens, Columbus