Let Them Eat Pancakes

a stack of four pancakes. there is a pat of butter on the top and maple syrup dripping down the side.
Photo by Michelle W. (CC BY 2.0)

At the Chicago Tribune, Christopher Borrelli introduces us to busboy Othea Loggan. Othea Loggan started working as a busboy at Walker Bros. Original Pancake House in 1964, and he works there as a busboy still — the most senior employee at a restaurant with an unusual number of long-term staff. In ’64, he made minimum wage; now he makes slightly more, with no benefits. Management is loyal to its bussers, but you can’t actually pay bills with job security.

Winston Brown, another busser (for the past 38 years), taps his chest and a red light glows through his white coat — “I’m on dialysis,” he says. “Medicare only. We make just enough to pay bills — sometimes. When I started here, there was one Walker Bros., this place, and now there are seven of them. And what do we get? We get to pay our rents.”

Any savings?

He laughs sardonically.

Loggan doesn’t complain.

Rumbult, similarly, says management “does a lot, but we could always use help.” In a sense, their major benefit is a feeling of job security. With new hires today increasingly less likely to stay at a pancake house long, Ray Walker says his loyalty to his aging bussing staff has only deepened. His father, Victor, who started Walker Bros. with his uncle Everett in 1960 (franchising the business from an Oregon pancake house chain), hired Loggan. He says he probably treats Loggan a little better than the rest of the staff, but hesitated to go into detail: “Others would want to know what they’re not getting.” For instance, the company took out life insurance on Loggan (payable to his wife); Ray says that for years he’s set aside about $50 a month for Loggan, as an informal retirement fund (subject to a 30 percent penalty for early withdrawal).

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