We slipped out for a date night on our family vacation. We were in Michigan, after all, where we started dating fifty-plus years ago. And we knew exactly where we were going to eat. Although cowboy-style food is not our first choice, we remember the gift Ponderosa Steakhouse once gave us.
We were poor then—college students and parents of two toddlers with one part-time job between us. Each week we spent ten dollars at Meijer Thrifty Acres, buying milk and eggs and beans and cornmeal and very little else, except for 25-cents-a-pound chicken livers.
But one day, Steve came home from scrubbing floors at a car dealership with a spring in his step.
“I found a way for us to splurge,” he said.
And Saturday lunch found us at Ponderosa Steakhouse, where for 49 cents we ate chopped-sirloin steaks, dinner rolls, baked potatoes, and an endless salad bar. Every Saturday we did this—even when the price went to 99 cents. Cornbread and beans were fine on weekdays when we knew Saturday was coming.
Our date-night meal last week tasted just like those long-ago meals, but what cost us one dollar then, now put us out thirty. And when we stopped by Meijer to replenish the milk and eggs and cereal for our family of fourteen, we spent much more than ten dollars.
But at the end of the check-out counter, I found what hadn’t changed.
Our children had loved Meijer Thrifty Acres, not for the groceries, but for the “penny pony” named Sandy.
Riding this bucking pony was the reward for not grabbing candy or begging for sugar cereal.
And after all these years, the cost to ride Sandy was still one penny. I felt like going back to the beach house and grabbing grandkids.
“Come ride, Sandy,” I wanted to say.
But didn’t. Being a grandma of teens and tweens, I know about eye rolling!