The grounds at Alpine Village
After a few weeks of washing dishes I got promoted to waiter.
Alpine Village operated on the “American plan,” so guests got breakfast and dinner served at specified times and ate whatever our cook decided to prepare. The wait staff would carry in platters of scrambled eggs, meat loaf, pancakes, and Swiss steak and put them on the long, communal tables for everyone to share. The dining room usually was filled with lively chatter as the wait staff weaved in and out, dropping off fresh, hot plates of food and clearing the dirty dishes.
The dining room at Alpine Village
I also worked as a lunch-time short order cook, flipping burgers and making grilled cheese sandwiches and milkshakes at the “Rathskeller” in the basement of the main lodge, and as back-up bartender at that same location in the evening hours. For that summer, at least, I could make a tolerable Tom Collins or Harvey Wallbanger.
The workday stretched from 6:30 a.m. sharp to 9 p.m. or so. When the day was over, the staff would party in the common area on the second floor of the barn, playing the Eagles and Jackson Browne albums on a battered communal stereo and drinking cases of beer, or take the Alpine Village speedboat across the lake to a local establishment that served ice-cold pitchers of beer and buckets of steamed clams. Few things taste quite so good after a long, hot workday as a cold beer in a frosted glass and a hot steamed clam dipped in drawn butter.
I roomed with Jerry, the speedboat captain. He was a fun-loving, 30ish Vietnam War veteran who was primarily interested in testing the virtue of the bored mothers who spent the long weeks at Alpine Village with their spoiled kids, waiting for their husbands to come up from the City on weekends. My other great friends that wonderful summer were Sharon, the hilarious and acerbic bartender, and sharp-tongued Kate and good-hearted Ceal, who worked as waitresses and chambermaids. Our bosses were Marilyn and Peter, the chain-smoking, highball-guzzling married couple who owned the resort.
There was no individual tipping at Alpine Village. Instead, guests would leave envelopes for the staff as a whole, and if they wanted to reward a particular employee they could designate part of the money for that person. We got the accumulated tips at the end of the summer. Peter and Marilyn did it that way to prevent reckless staffers from irresponsibly blowing their pay as the summer progressed — and they were right. I received several thousand dollars on my way out the door, which was a huge amount of money in those days.
When I left Alpine Village at the end of that summer, with money in my pocket and a sense of self-confidence from having succeeded, on my own, in that faraway job, I felt like I had taken a long step toward becoming an adult.