Big Dipper shines on in memories

September 12, 2004|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

WAYNESBORO, PA. - The Big Dipper, a popular restaurant and teen meeting place of the 1950s and 1960s, has been closed for 34 years, but fond memories of it brought many former patrons back Saturday for a reunion.

The "former teens" danced to Elvis Presley music, ate hamburgers and fries, and reminisced about the fun they had at the Big Dipper.

The reunion at Waynesboro Area Senior High School was the second one for former Big Dipper owners Dick and Mary Jane Boyer to renew friendships with former patrons and employees.


Mary Jane Boyer, 87, said she recognized the many people who greeted and hugged her, but that she couldn't remember all of their names.

She did recall the names of Billy Rudolph of Rouzerville, Pa., who worked for her as a soda jerk, and Carolyn "Tubby" Biesecker. who was a cook. Biesecker and Rudolph had not seen each other in "40-some years. We had to be introduced," Biesecker said.

Lamar Sease of Waynesboro said he went to the Big Dipper in the late 1950s and early 1960s to hang out with friends and enjoy the french fries, Cokes and juke box.

"(The Boyers) ran a tight ship," Sease said. "There was no carrying on. It was a wonderful place. We still went there for lunch after we were married."

The clothing of many in attendance reflected the era. Dick Boyer, 84, wore his white Big Dipper shirt, one man wore a class of '52 sweater and several women wore poodle skirts and neck scarves. Blue jeans and white T-shirts were popular with the men.

Donna Benchoff of Waynesboro recalled that the food at the Big Dipper was inexpensive, and that she and her friends had a wonderful time there.

"I don't know what we would have done without it," she said.

Nancy Rohrbaugh Curd of Detroit said that she parked her apple red Morris Minor out front one evening while she was in the Big Dipper, and when she came out, she couldn't find it.

"The guys had carried it to the opposite end of the parking lot," she said.

Others recalled that the restaurant often was so crowded that food and drink had to be carried overhead, and that it was nearly impossible to dance.

"Dick and Mary Jane were second parents to a lot of people," said Randy Beamer of Waynesboro. "It was a nice atmosphere."

Memorabilia on display included an ice cream scoop, an early menu and an orange apron worn by waitresses when they served 35-cent hamburgers and 40-cent milkshakes.

The Boyers danced the first dance of the evening to an old recording of "The Big Dipper Fox Trot" by Larry Clinton.

The Boyers keep busy in retirement, volunteering at Vision Quest, an alternative school in South Mountain. They recently donated a building, The Boyer Academy, to Vision Quest.

"The best thing we can do is keep busy," Dick Boyer said. "We help out wherever we can."

"We work too hard, but it keeps us going," Mary Jane Boyer said.

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