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Tuesday, 17 March 2015

It’s St. Paddy’s and I've Never Forgotten Mavis

By Janet Thompson

For years Mavis worked at Duffy’s Restaurant, resembling the typical “hash-house” waitress. She was beautifully and bountifully heavyset. Dresses with the compulsory flowered handkerchief poked from the pocket of her white uniforms.

She wore those typical white nurse shoes that are especially valuable if you are on your feet all day. She was feisty and lippy to hold her own with her customers. When necessary, she had the vocabulary of a stevedore. As far as I knew, she had always been a waitress.

Duffy’s was famous in uptown Denver. The lunch clientele were the prominent Denver movers and shakers, politically and legally. Hotshots could easily hoof it from the nearby state capitol and the City and County Building to grab a bite with the regulars.

Because of her seniority, attitude and skills, Mavis handled the busiest and most favored wait-station in the place. She served lunch on bar stools and the six or seven booths just across the walkway from the bar. Her faithful regulars were huge tippers. I would often view the loot with envy when she dumped it out on her kitchen table.

Customers fought to be served by her, regaling her with the latest jokes, many of them raunchy. She could have told jokes steadily never repeating one, probably 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

She overheard and was privy to all the high-level city and state scandals, politics and insider dirt. She always knew “where the bodies were buried.” The scuttlebutt fascinated me.

In the 60s, the Murchison boys from Texas came to Denver instigating the downtown, high-rise building boom. By the 70s, Duffy’s became a hold-out, not selling their one-story building for development.

Skyscrapers eventually dwarfed it on every side. The owners’ refusal to sell their gold mine lent the fodder for a story in a big New York City newspaper. Describing the famous Denver restaurant, the article depicted Mavis as being almost part of the fixtures.

I worked from a home office so Mavis and I had coffee almost every day after work. No topic was off-limits about our lives and secrets. Her husband was disabled. Her kids were teenagers, the same ages as mine. I was single, owned my own business, and had a steady gentleman friend.

We commiserated with and hugged each other as our kids got into their sometimes serious, juvenile troubles.

In those days, we never locked our front doors. The drill was just knock twice, say “Yoo Hoo” and walk on in. Regularly, as Mavis stepped over my threshold, Ivan, our small Beagle-Dachshund mix would sneak out, right between her legs. Mavis loved Ivan’s crafty smile.

One memorable time was when Mavis invited my best friend and me to Duffy’s for St. Paddy’s. Folks had arrived by 8AM, the action, delirium, drinking and celebrating ended after midnight.

We got there early, it was already wild. The crowning glory was a naked streaker starting in the alley, ran in the back door, right through the kitchen, down between the bar and Mavis’ booths, charging out the front door. So what?

Well, the boozed up college kid streaked right into a parking meter, cold-cocked himself, laid face-up, naked on the sidewalk until the cops came to haul him away.

A couple of years later, Mavis decided not to work anymore on St. Paddy’s. Instead, she would tell the bosses she was scheduled for minor surgery. And she never worked another St. Paddy’s Day.

Mavis didn't have a driver’s license so she took the bus to work and back, snow, rain and heat-wave, transferring once each trip. Never in tip-top health, she coughed a lot, probably from the heavy restaurant smoke. Nonetheless, she made it to work to support her family five days a week for years except for missing those St. Paddy’s Days in the end.

Mavis has been gone now and I remember her as a special friend. I'm sure up in heaven she is still hearing lawyer jokes, insider scuttlebutt and “where all the bodies are buried.”

2/2007: I just learned the Lombardi brothers finally agreed to sell the building. One like theirs has to have had many unique ghosts, including Mavis's. Thus is the finale to a legend.

I'll bet now there are a bunch of sad and disappointed lawyers, judges and uptown workers. Where do you suppose they will go for lunch?

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Janet, you've given us a nice word portrait of Mavis and I really enjoyed "seeing" her and the diner too. We had a place in the tiny town where I grew up called The Sparta with wooden floors and a fabulous soda fountain. Mom always took me there after a trip to the dentist. That place, too, is long gone. Thanks for your story!

Beautifully told story. How wonderful to be so attuned to another person you can paint her a portrait of words many years later!

What a wonderful tribute to someone you loved. I can almost envision her. Thank you.

Great writing Janet - you brought Mavis alive beautifully - good days to look back on even with all their ups and downs.

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