I’M JUST CURIOUS: Soda jerks and diners

by Debbie Walker

Recently I received the latest issue of the Reminisce magazine. I do enjoy that magazine because it encourages people to write their stories of memories of years ago; the ‘40s and ‘50s are what I am attracted to. I am sure many of you have experienced some of these memories that are shared.

I tell you this to go along with this article about Short-Order Shorthand. These slang words were developed for short order cooks and servers in diners so they could let the cooks know what “to burn,” what to “wreck” and what to “put a hat on.” I hope this brings back happy memories for some of you and a new slang for others to learn. (have fun)


Breakfast: Adam and Eve on a roll = Poached eggs on toast, Burn the British = English muffin, toasted. Sinkers and soda = Doughnuts and coffee. Wreck’em = Scrambled eggs.

Lunch: Bloodhound in the hay = Hot dog with sauerkraut. Bossy in a bowl = Beef stew. Burn one, clean up the kitchen = hamburgers. First lady = Spare ribs. Radio = Tuna. Two cows, make’em cry = Two burgers with onions. Whiskey = Rye bread.

Condiments: Axle grease = butter. Paint it red = with ketchup. Sand = Sugar. Sea Dust = Salt. Twins = Salt and pepper. Warts = Olives. Yellow paint = Mustard.

Special Orders: High and dry = Served plain. In the alley = Served on the side. Keep off the grass = Hold the lettuce. On the hoof = Meat cooked rare. On wheels = To go. Put a hat on it = Add ice cream.

Libations: Adam’s ale = Water. Baby juice = Milk. Blond and sweet = Coffee with milk and sugar. Shake one in the hay = Strawberry milkshake. Squeeze one = Orange juice.

I’d love to know how you did with recognizing these slangs. Some just don’t make sense to me. But some I really like.

I am following all this with information about the Soda Jerk part of this column:

The conversation my friend, Dee, and I had following the Diner information led to the Soda Jerk. This is what I gathered up: According to Wikipedia a “soda jerk” is a person, typically a youth, who operates the soda fountain in a drug store, often for the purpose of preparing and serving soda drinks and ice cream sodas.”

It seems that these folks also had a slang much like the diner staff:

A glass of milk was called Baby, and a strawberry milkshake was “in the hay.” Coffee ordered, and the slang was “draw one” and when served strong it was referred to as “draw one from the south.” Concrete is another term used and is a super thick milkshake or custard.

I enjoy mentally traveling back in time, to a time frame that I am only going to be able to experience through someone else’s stories. So many people don’t see the value of their own stories; they think no one would be interested. I invite you to share your memories with me anytime. I am just curious who will take me up on it! I’ll be waiting.

As usual please contact me at dwdaffy@yahoo.com with any questions or comments (or sharing). If you would like me to phone, you can leave a message at The Town Line at 445-2234 and I will call you back. Thanks for reading!


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2 replies
  1. Avatar
    john lawrence says:

    Debbie, Thanks for your column. Every Thursday morning I start my day with reading The Town Line on my computer. For the past six years I lived in NC where I worked for Home Instead helping people with Alzheimer’s to remain in their own homes for as long as possible. One of my favorite aspects of the job was learning the stories of people who did amazing things during their 80 and 90 years of living. My father, who was born in 1909, drove trucks in the 1930’s and knew much of the cook language which you wrote about. I wonder how it evolved, if there were many regional variations and how it began to disappear.

    • Avatar
      Debbie Walker says:

      Thank you so much for writing, I appreciate your time. I grew up with my great grandmother in my life. She is my most favorite person and I am sad we only have them when we are too young to remember all their stories. She was a traveling nurse, horse and buggy days. Wouldn’t I love to visit with her for a day now!!!!!
      Thank you for taking the time to read and comments!!!


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