From Crocker Hall to the Chicken
Greetings from Syracuse, New York.
In 1983 I was a sophomore at A&M, living just across the street in Crocker Hall (now gone). I was in the market for a part-time job and someone suggested the “Chicken”…my first thought was… “yeah..I like fried chicken!” Went over and was surprised that it wasn’t a fried chicken joint but a beer saloon. Asked the front bartender where to go to apply…he sent me to the back and up the stairs…as I recall it was Peggy’s first week on the job, she handed me an application….then a deep voice inside the connecting office asked… “Who’s out there? …..come on in Bud.” I went in and sat down, first a bit intimidated by the guns on the wall and the pistol on the desk, “I’m Don he said, lookin for work?”….. and we proceeded to have a nice 20 minute conversation…..having nothing to do with my qualifications to work. We instead talked about where I was from, my family, my hobbies…like you were talking with a long-lost uncle..catching up on things. At the end “Don said… “OK Bud, we’ll give a roll in the hay, Peggy sign him up!” That was my first introduction to Don and the Dixie Chicken.
Started out on Bud Crew….as most do. The first job I had was cleaning out Pookies, the building across Bottle Cap Alley. It had been a shot bar in the late 70’s, full of old furniture, cases of old liquor, mixes and such. We filled Don’s truck 3 times with stuff to haul off to the dump. Don was turning it into an ice cream parlor as I remember.
Ended up working at the Chicken Oil Company, then back to the Chicken, swamping, then the back bar, then the front bar and eventually weekend manager. Worked from 1983 thru 1986. Have wonderful memories, I helped with changing out the snakes, we rotated the rattlesnakes between cages upstairs and the wall cage. Every once in a while a city highway worker would show up with a bigger rattler and we’d have to shuffle snakes. The Chicken only served beer at that time, bottles up front and glass pitchers at the back. Can’t tell you how many Sundays I spent polishing the brass at the back bar. I remember the ruckus Don started when he suggested raising the price of a longneck from 75 cents to $1. We were making a quarter tip on just about every bottle sold. We convinced Don to raise the price to 90 cents so we could still make a dime on each. Remember the cast of character’s who frequented the bar on weekends.
Enclosing a couple of pictures from the good ole days.
The first is of the front of the Chicken around 1983.
The second is of the Chicken staff at the 1983 (1984?) 4th of July party Don held out at some land he owned next to the Brazos River. I’m the blond guy holding up the Miller High Life in the middle of the picture. JB Fletcher, in the green hat, was the manager. The girl in the front row with the white hat is Don’s niece (don’t remember her name). Next to her is one of Don’s daughters, Don is holding the other. I only remember Katie’s name. I can remember all of the faces and voices of everyone in the picture but not names….time has erased them from my memory.
Hope this brings some joy and memories. Was very sad to hear the news of his passing a number of years back. He was one of a kind.
– Ross Shepherd