My pap Ashcraft’s favorite chain restaurant, bar none, was Bob Evans. Pap was a hustler, selling at flea markets, changing inventory from season to season, and often traveling out of the state to resupply. Just one example, railroad policy involved changing the 6v lantern batteries in beacons, lanterns and train lamps very often, even if they had never been used. I believe it was monthly, but maybe even more frequently. The end result? Cases upon cases of basically brand new, top of the line, 6v lantern battens discarded monthly. My genius grandfather, former rail man, had an arrangement with the switching yard in Conway, PA, to dispose of the like new batteries monthly. The batteries had there own store room. Pap had his own key. Old batteries on the left, new on the right, never touch the new ones. A dozen in a box, dozens of boxes. It was not unusual for my grandfather to own several thousand 6v lantern batteries at a time. To the point that he would import lanterns from overseas by the case to sell at flea markets.
Which brings us back around to Bob Evans. Flea marketing is hard work and any day you are going to work hard you need a breakfast that will “stick to your ribs” since lunch may be late, or never. The best place to get that was Bob Evans. Why? Because my grandfather knew the Evans family and you supported friends. Pap knew everyone. And everyone knew him.
Pap had a way of setting his placemat. He would put a drop of honey or syrup at each upper corner and stick it to the counter. We almost always ate at the counter, the service was amazing and fast. We’d hit Bob Evan’s before daylight and be on the road as the sun was coming up to hustle the wares. Lanterns with free batteries for an amazing price… You can’t sell a used battery, pap would say. But you can give it away with a lantern or flashlight that is the same cost as everyone else sells them without a battery. Growing up I must have helped sell enough lanterns to light up a decent sized city. I was only able to help in the summer. Pap did it most of the year. You might recall that pap also sold Knapp shoes to guys on the railroad… At Conway, PA. Every trip anywhere had more than one purpose. My pap was a hard working man and set his own course. I miss him. I miss that he was unique but so like every other man of his era.