"Just sing for Rita and I'll be right out!" - Across America - 70 years ago - CycleBlaze

"Just sing for Rita and I'll be right out!"

How they must have chuckled back in the Forties!
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ON TOUR in Britain, if we meet a fellow cyclist hailing from our county or city, we are pleased, and some firm friendships have been cemented in this manner, but the very vastness of the North American continent makes similar greetings over there assume a far greater importance, frequently being tinged with a sentimentality that strikes foreigners as strange.

It was given to me to seen an example of "State love" on quitting the Okefenokee Swamp. My new friend called a greeting to a man driving a truck in leisurely manner, and the reply caused my companion to jump in the air. "You're from Iowa," he challenged.

"Sure thing. Waterloo is my home town."

"Waterloo, why, I'm from Cedar Falls, not five miles away!"

I was introduced and nothing would do but that we put our bicycles on the truck and accompany its driver into Jacksonville, twenty miles farther along Highway One. So I crossed my last State line on four wheels instead of two, as hitherto, but the knowledge that I was now in Florida, five days ahead of schedule, made me eager to start away again, untrammelled by petrol.

I rode out of Jacksonville bound for St. Augustine and the Atlantic coastline, for now Highway One was destined to follow the seashore all the way to Miami. An old soldier, strangely akin to Britain's "Chelsea Pensioners", struck up acquaintance outside the Spanish Cathedral in St. Augustine, and gave me much news of the city. Here was made the first permanent settlement in the United States by Europeans in 1565.

Florida gave me blue skies and sunny hours in full measure. Something else besides: wayside food huts the like of which I have never encountered elsewhere. Although the staff obviously were unused to catering for cyclists, they rose to the occasion genially. Near Bunnell, a particularly attractive café drew my wheels to its jigsaw pattern of gay umbrellas of giant size and wicker chairs. Not that many customers sat down in them; all present, except me, were driving cars, and the procedure was for a toot and cry for "Maud," "Dot," or "Margie", whereupon a tall waitress, either very dark or unbelievably blonde, would appear, all smiles and ready to serve.

And what they had to offer! Clams, corn on the cob, and a bewildering array of pies, apple, cranberry, lemon, and a dozen others. The coffee, as befits America's favourite beverage, was delicious and thickly creamed... what a wistful remembrance for an English cyclist to-day! (A reference to the absence of coffee and much else in wartime Britain.) Cigarettes were neatly stacked at the side of the waitress's gleaming tray, with free booklets of matches, of course. For the equivalent of two shillings [ There were 20 shillings to a pound: two shillings was therefore a tenth of a pound, or 10p in today's currency.) a wholesome and satisfying meal was provided. All around me, smiling girls were clamping trays to car doors, and my waitress showed he had a sense of fun by working away until she found a method by which she could clip her tray to my handlebars. With one foot resting easily on the grass I got to work with fork and spoon, and congratulated the attentive young lady on her service.

"Glad you're pleased. Come again and ask for me by name - that will please the boss if he hears you. Just sing out, 'Oh, Rita!' And I'll be right out to give you a welcome!"

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