Fun and Games

All of this action resulted in good business for the “Good Eats Cafe.” After only a few weeks, a parade of musicians, stage hands, boxers and handlers were joining in with, local workmen who piled into the restaurant daily for great home-style cooking. In the afternoon, too, many of them started popping in for an extra cup of coffee and another piece of pie.

During summer vacation that year, when I was able to spend more time at the restaurant, I started collecting autographs of the top boxers who came in to eat. I got myself a cheap autograph book, which I kept under the counter. Id approach my targets when they were in a good mood, usually right after they finished eating a big slab of Aunt Phoebe’s pie.

Most of them were ham and egg fighters. No big names—until the day when Max Baer, himself, walked through the door, along with his towering brother, Buddy, and a couple of handlers. Everybody instantly recognized the recent ex-champ. He was in town to help manage the corner of his younger- brother, who had top billing in the upcoming Saturday night fights.

When several of the locals called out, “Hi, champ,” Max Baer worked the room like a Hollywood, star. He turned and waved, shook hands up and down the counter, slid into his brother’s booth, and then signed a few autographs, including a flourish for me that filled one entire page in my book.

Buddy Baer lost that Saturday night fight. But I got his autograph before he ever got into the ring. Some years later, he went on to carve out a minor career for himself in Hollywood “B” movies.

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As far as I know, none of the concert stars who appeared at the civic auditorium ever made it across the street to the “Good Eats Cafe,” with one notable exception. That was the violinist, Yehudi Menuhin, one of this century’s greatest musicians. He visited our little restaurant one day in the company of his manager. At the time, Menuhin was about 19 years old.

Menuhin agreeably signed a special page in my “boxers” autograph book. And his manager invited me across the street to sit through an afternoon rehearsal.

I don’t remember the program. Part of it might have been a Hungarian Rhapsody. I remember that it was an enthralling eye-opener for me. Hauntingly beautiful music. An incredible violinist. An absorbing afternoon.

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