The funeral service for Erby Walker will be held at St. Paul AME Church in Atlanta tomorrow. The longtime counterman at the famed Varsity drive-in died of a heart attack on Monday at the young age of 70 according to the
A Varsity employee for more than 50 years, his was the best-known voice among many crying out, “What’ll ya have?” to eager customers.
I always appreciated his efficiency and emphasis on readiness. It was consistent with the small sign near the counter that reads: “Have your money in your hand and your order on your mind, so we can get you to the ballgame on time.”
When Erby quickly calculated and revealed the total due was NOT the time to start fiddling with one’s purse or digging for change in one’s pocket.
“Spill it out! Spill it out!” I’ve heard him say to customers holding up the line to search for another penny or two.
And no one spoke the Varsity lingo better. I loved hearing him almost sing: “Two dogs walkin’ through the garden.”
He served celebrities and common folk like me with the same dedication to getting us through the line and to our seats quickly. Good food and quick service are a great combination that has caused me to visit the Varsity often over many years.
The world’s largest drive-in was started by the late Frank Gordy, a one-time Georgia Tech student, whose daughter Nancy Simms now runs the fast-moving operation.
The Tech community is blessed to have a pedestrian tunnel that takes them from Bobby Dodd Stadium under the multi-lane Downtown Connector (I-75/I-85) to the hot dog haven.
My favorite Varsity memory comes from the early ’80s when I grabbed a peach pie and Coke one day and quickly completed an entry form without paying attention to the contest.
But a call from the Coca-Cola Co. revealed that I had won a wonderful weekend in Atlanta that included two nights at the Marriott and tickets to the UGA-Tech football game.
The highlight was when a limo driver picked us up at our hotel and drove us to the Varsity. There Ms. Simms escorted us to a linen-covered table and brought us all the dogs, rings, pies and ice cream we wanted. I still have the Varsity “VIP” badge she pinned on me.
The limo driver waited patiently outside and then drove us over to the stadium although it would have been an easy walk.
It was fun — for a night — to see how the other side lives. And the seemingly odd combo of limo and chili dog was pleasing as well.
So today I tip my hat to Erby Walker for good and faithful service to many of us through the years. I look forward to stopping by the “V” soon for a chili-slaw dog in his honor.
(AJC photo by Louie Favorite)