(An excerpt from Feeding the Christians)
It was a picture of my family looking much younger and almost giddy. My father’s hair coal black, my mother rested and vibrant, my brother in elementary school, and me much thinner with a broad smile. We were sitting on the edge of a flat bed trailer; strapped behind us was the restaurant’s new 20×40 boxed sign. After the picture was snapped, Seymour Advertising raised, mounted, and secured the sign atop a 40-foot pole and connected electricity. That first night the illuminated sign with its green background and yellow lettering signaled that Daniels’ Family Buffet would soon open for business. Since 1951 it was the third and most recent incarnation of my family’s restaurant legacy in Ft. Sackville.
That August was sunny and warm, not miserable like southern Indiana can be. Our restaurant was built on the highlands of the former Bonhomme Apple Orchard above the valley in which Ft. Sackville lay. And from my perch on the flatbed I could see the white steeple of the Baptist Church, the four Gothic courthouse towers, and Sycamores safeguarding the Wabash River like silver-green sentinels. My family’s journey was long –planning, constructing, and supplying the new Daniels’ Family Buffet. That day the sign was a cherry on top of our hard-earned sundae.
We opened for business Labor Day weekend. The anticipation throughout Ft. Sackville was palpable and no one was more excited than my family and me. I remember the smell of that day, like hot asphalt, the exhaust of the crane lifting the sign. I watched as the welder’s sparks fell to earth. His electric blue flame a star burning hot and bright.