One More Karen Story By Request

When the Karen Series came out here on the sketch blog I heard from a former sister-in-law who was also close to me and Karen for a number of years. “What about the cold hot dogs?” Rita asked.

Ahhhh yes.

I guess I had to pick and choose to write my memories of Karen but this was another classic incident. And Rita was a big part of it. Again, I’ll just tell my version of it for what it’s worth. I may not be entirely accurate, but it’s a good story.

This goes back to the days when we were all “working parties.” Our boss was Karen’s mom Betty, who was also mother-in-law to me and Rita. We worked those parties for years and years, some very small and some very large. Sometimes it would be just one of us serving drinks and dinner to 4-6 people in a private home. Sometimes it was all of us plus a commercial catering crew doing a wedding for several hundred people.

One of the biggest parties we did was on a summer evening at a residence on Route 37 just north of Lancaster. It was the home of the man who owned the local radio station and it was a whopper of a party. I don’t recall the occasion, but a local restaurant/hotel was doing the food and Betty had our whole crew on hand to bartend and serve.

We got there in the late afternoon and began to set up. We didn’t often work with “the hotel” as we called them and their staff didn’t seem all that glad to see us. I’m sure they would have preferred to bring their own servers but Betty had the market cornered when it came to her clients and their home entertaining. We got more than a few curious looks from the hotel staff and decided we should probably just be nice but stay out of their way.

Like I said… this was going to be a BIG party. There was a champagne bar in the front yard, a full bar in the back yard, various tables of food all around and a huge spread in the dining room of the house. At one end of the table was a whole roasted pig with an apple in its mouth. So you can imagine all the other entrees and side dishes that went along with this celebration. And Karen was fascinated with that pig. She kept walking by it and touching it and adjusting the apple. Rita scolded her to quit it and I just laughed. And of course we didn’t let Betty see us fooling around.

roast pig

Rita and Betty took over the backyard bar and Karen and I went out to the front yard to assemble the plastic champagne glasses. There were several galvanized troughs full of iced-down champagne bottles so Karen and I studied the situation for a few minutes. Then Karen suggested we start taking the paper and wire cages off the champagne so it wouldn’t take so long to open the bottles when the crowd hit the bar. I thought that sounded like a good idea.

We both started getting the bottles ready but leaving the rounded corks in. Then Karen went back in the house for more napkins or something and I was fussing around the bar-top organizing things. All of a sudden I heard a loud pop. I turned to look and didn’t see anything. I went back to what I was doing.

About that time, Karen came back outside and something popped again. “What was that?” she asked. “I don’t know,” I replied. And then all heck broke loose. Pop! ..…Karen and I looked at each other… Pop! ..…Karen squealed, “What did you do?”… Pop! Pop! Pop! …..“I didn’t do anything!” I said in alarm.

Then we realized that the champagne bottles, without their wire cages on, were exploding their corks left and right. Not only that, some of the corks were shooting clear over the house and landing in the party in the back yard! We could hear the startled cries after every pop!

At this point we couldn’t stop what was happening and we began to laugh. Pop! And Karen guffawed. Pop! I was howling. Then we saw Betty running from around the house towards us. “What’s going on?” she shouted. Pop! Pop! Karen and I simply could not control ourselves. “Stop it this instant!” yelled Betty. “We can’t!” we protested. “Then stop laughing!” she demanded. “Everyone can hear you!” We were banished to the house to calm down. But it was no use… the tone of this party was set. Every time Karen and I passed each other we would lose it.

Meanwhile, Rita was doing most of the work because we could barely get hold of ourselves. And it only got worse.

Rita kept smacking Karen to stay away from the pig and we were all keeping out of Betty’s way to keep from getting scolded. Then we stumbled onto the head guy from the hotel (I’ll call him Roger) who was working on the alcoholic dessert drink recipe in the laundry room. Now none of us were big drinkers, but this drink he was making looked really good. It was some kind of tropical concoction that was more like a milkshake. He invited us to take a small taste with a spoon.

“Wow!” said Rita. “Yum,” I chimed in. But Karen… she got a look of pure bliss on her face. “I can’t wait for one of those!” she exclaimed.

Roger, however, gave us a look of disdain. He literally looked down his nose at us and retorted in his lisp-y voice… “the help doethn’t get any!” (Yes, he said “doethn’t” not “doesn’t.”)

“We’ll see about that,” said Karen under her breath.

So the party went on and when we got dessert served, Karen hissed to me and Rita, “meet me in the laundry room.” We did and there were a half dozen mugs of that special drink. We each grabbed one and chugged it. “Don’t tell ME we don’t get any!” crowed Karen.

Back to work we went but I noticed Karen and Rita ducking in the laundry room quite a bit. At one point when I walked past I peeked in and they were taking turns drinking that milkshake stuff out of a coffeepot. I figured I’d cover for them since they were obviously having a lot of fun.

Soon I noticed I was all alone in the back yard clearing dishes. I took a huge tray to the kitchen and the hotel staff was looking at me suspiciously. “Where are your friends?” someone asked. “Out back working,” I lied.

“I don’t think tho…” lisped Roger. “You should check the hall bathroom.”

Uh oh.

I went back the hall and heard muffled voices behind the door. Then a groan. I gave a quick warning knock and opened the door. “It’s me,” I said. “what are you guys doing?”

“I need to be sick,” Rita said weakly. “Me, too,” said Karen. “I’d be better if I could just throw up.”

I looked from one to another and said, “well, my sister always says that when she needs to be sick she just thinks of cold hot dogs…” And before I could say another word, Rita was bent over the toilet and Karen was wretching in the sink. I closed the door and fled.

Somehow we got through the rest of the night without Betty catching us and I cleared dishes double time while Karen and Rita recovered. But I was later told by both of them in no uncertain terms… don’t ever mention cold hot dogs again!

And I don’t think we ever worked with that hotel staff again either. Oh well… their loss!

So to end, here are a few more classic Karen moments…

Karen gets something in her eye at the Memorial Day Weaver family reunion and thinks she’s going blind. Rita must think so, too, while Kristen tries to help.

Karen eye2

After a day in the Hocking Hills we still weren’t ready to go home so we pulled into a roadside park area to sit and chat a while longer. The guys probably had beer. Sure enough a patrolling officer said we had to leave. Karen turned on her charm with him and got him laughing. But we still had to leave.

K and police2

Here’s Karen and Jim at Burr Oak State Park lodge. Why they look like this – and why that couch cushion is raised up on the far end – have always been a mystery. This photo was always a hit at the annual family slide show.

Burr Oak couch2After that we always encouraged Karen and Jim to be goofy in pictures. This one was taken at Bill and Brad’s graduation party.

Karen and Jim grad party2

Karen always doted on my boys.

K with B&B2

And she lived for her girls

Beth grad2

Betty, Karen, Beth Anne, Grandma Tisdale

Jamie play house2

Jamie Jo


Julie Justus

Karen knew how to get comfortable anywhere. This is when we shared a cabin at Burr Oak. She was always Queen of the Cabin!

Burr Oak cabin2

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