Eye Piece: Rudy’s roller skating car hops

Rudy’s Drive In is a staple in La Crosse, but it hasn’t always had the charm of the roller skating car hops.

In this week’s Eye Piece, Photographer John Schmidt pulls us into the world of the waitresses on wheels.

“Back about 1983, I think, we had a 50 year anniversary. And we decided we’d roll back prices and a lot of the girls, the car hops, said ‘well can we wear poodle skirts, can we get some roller skates’ and I said sure why not,” explains owner Gary Rudy.

“And they had such a great time that after that they didn’t want to walk any more. They said skating was a lot more fun, it was quicker, it was faster. And so that’s, probably 1983, that’s when we started skating all the time,” says Rudy.

“Its actually really fun and its a lot faster serving food on wheels than it is on feet. There’s not a lot of places that roller skate out your food, so its different,” says a cap hop Jenna Turner.

“Because skating is one thing, skating and carrying a tray is certainly another. We have everybody walk until they’re comfortable with roller skating. And then we let them take to go orders only, so, you know, they don’t break glassware putting a tray on a car, they can just hand them a bag. So when they’re comfortable, that’s when they start skating,” says Rudy.

“Um, actually on the first day, the most challenging thing on skates was getting through the door. The stopper and going out with one hand and coming in with another hand,” says Turner.

“And they may fall, they may bust a glass on ya, so just normal carry out, coming to your car its a lot more fun to see if they’re going to make it all the way or not,” says Rudy.

“Ah, yes, I have fallen. Not too many, but there are a lot of broken mugs that happen. I’ve definitely improved, I used to never go over our median to get to trays over, far side. And now, I can just kind of hop over them,” says Turner.

“I’m a lot faster and more confident with it.”

“This is something that I don’t see every day. You know, I’ve never had a job like this, you know, there’s other waitress jobs, but I definitely say this is the most fun. Especially being outside in nice weather I get to enjoy that. So, its fun.”