A two-star is born
Renewing a Maine driver's license depends on a certificate that the applicant can still see, so spouse and I excursion upstate to let an old friend in the eye business give us an OK.
On these visits, we stop to ''lunch'' with Igor and Fedor Stravinski, brothers whose venture as victualers succeeded because, we like to think, of our encouragement. Igor and Fedor are Polish, and have a little joke they make, which is not true, that their father was a poor immigrant named Alexander Graham Stravinski and was the first Telephone Pole. The restaurant the boys operate, and they are no longer ''boys,'' is named Jaunty Jake's, and they always boil out of the kitchen when we come in to shake us warmly and renew the good old days.
In the good old days, they had a hot-dog cart by the curbstone on Myrtle Street, and were always at odds with Officer Raoul Leblond, who would bird-dog them because they didn't have a city license. They had no license partly because they didn't believe in them, partly because they didn't have ten dollars, but mostly because they could outrun Officer Leblond, cart and all, if he started anything. Spouse and I chanced to pause to trade in those good old days just as Officer Leblond was making a nuisance of himself.
Igor applied mustard and relish to our repast, Fedor delivered and took our ten cents (five cents apiece). Then he neatly tripped up Officer Leblond while Igor took off down Myrtle Street at a gallop, cart and all. A man standing by told us, ''They do this every day, I come to watch!'' Now we knew a cousin of Officer Leblond, and we gently suggested that the constabulary would be smart to make friends with the Stravinskis and stop abusing them. The cousin adroitly communicated, Officer Leblond adjusted, the boys got a license, and we were credited with a diplomatic triumph. On our next visit to the hot-dog cart we couldn't pay.
Soon Igor and Fedor took a ''hole-in-the-wall,'' now called a ''take-out,'' and put up their first sign, Jaunty Jake's. They got the McKeen girl, the red-headed one, to be a car-hop and prosperity was on the make. In time they built on behind their hole-in-the-wall, and opened a real restaurant, with tables and chairs and waitresses in uniforms, and even a cash register. We were invited to dinner on opening night, and the boys came from ''out back'' to shake hands and inaugurate this pleasant custom which continues whenever we need a new driver's license. Igor and Fedor operated their Jaunty Jake's in that place for some ten years.
Then they built a new place, which remains one of our better restaurants in the state, and razed the hole-in-the-wall building to put up some apartments - their first venture in real estate investment. From time to time after that we heard of various places they'd ''put some money,'' and while their numerous financial interests meant certain prosperity, the boys remained what, to us, they'd always been - the cooks in Jaunty Jake's. We heard that Igor had a shoe factory in Granby, Quebec, while Fedor had elected for a blue-grass horse farm in Kentucky. One of them put up a condo in Florida, and the other owned a ski resort in the Laurentians. Together, they bought a farm-team franchise in the National Hockey League. And so on, except that as their many properties accumulated, they never expanded their original restaurant business. Whenever we would appear, they'd be in the kitchen and would come forth with the traditional greeting.
Then we came in one day and Igor and Fedor were not present. No, the hostess told us, the boys had sold out - their restaurant had seemed a sound investment, and a group of businessmen had put up the money. There was now an executive chef , and a manager, yet. Igor, she said, was in Bermuda, but at the moment Fedor was on Anticosti Island for the salmon season, an outing which she said she understood came to something like $1,500 a day without extras.
Then we came in another time, and there was Igor and there was Fedor, coming from the kitchen, and Fedor said, ''Funny thing happened - we've gone into the restaurant business!'' Lost without their kitchen, bored with idleness, they had bought Jaunty Jake's back again and were supremely happy. So were we. Under the old sign out front the boys had added a new line:
NOW UNDER THE OLD MANAGEMENT