Memory Lane Ain’t What It Used To Be

June 29, 2006

Growing up, whenever we’d visit Park City, Utah, we made a point to stop and have pizza at the Red Banjo Pizza Parlor. We had to eat there at least once; preferably more. They served a wonderful soda mixture of Orange, Root Beer, Sprite and I think Coca Cola – the menu called that wonderful concoction a ‘Suicide’. We found that the Red Banjo Pizza Parlor in Park City served it, along with wonderful pizza (with a lemon wedge on top), a vintage jukebox and a dark and dreary, almost dismal, atmosphere.

It wasn’t unclean, but it had very high ceilings as vintage building do and the retrofitted electric lights didn’t have the umph to illuminate every nook and cranny. There was a long bar on one side of the room with a cash register dating back long before electricity gave the world something else to worry about. Along the wall behind the bar were various bottles, some labeled, some in use, with a mirror running the length of the wall. At the end of the bar was a doorway into the kitchen and if you walked around the wall back into the dining room you could look through the large picture window and try to figure out which pizza was going to be yours.

Over the years, the Red Banjo opened up the downstairs as an arcade to draw in the kids (and their parents) which seemed to work for a while. I remember that there was usually two people working – a waitress and a cook and we’d never see the cook. The waitress was always bustling about though.

This was before Park City became the popular winter and summer destination for the Hollywood flora and fauna. It was becoming famous as a ski resort though and we thought that the 26$US price for an all day lift ticket was outrageous! My parents owned part of an apartment at the top of Main Street and the different owners traded off who was staying there. At least once each winter and usually more we’d spend a week there, skiing and getting into trouble roaming the halls. When I stopped skiing lift tickets at Park City were up to 50$US or so and I’m sure the price went up from there.

Alas, time changes everything. We visited the Red Banjo Pizza Parlor recently on a vacation to Park City and it was still there! The pizza was fine, but the salad dressing isn’t the same (but close) and they no longer serve Suicides. The two kids running the restaurant were ready to go out to play so they closed the place down early, turning away customers. The jukebox now plays CD albums or single tracks and lists many of the more recent titles. It just wasn’t quite the same though – the lights were too bright, the waitress too bored.

On the plus side, while David and I were finding something on the Jukebox we played a Queen song, a Jack Johnson song from the Curious George soundtrack and a Grateful Dead track! David saw the cover with the skeleton and had to play at least one song.

It was a pleasant evening, but I don’t think we will be going back as an ongoing tradition. I will always be comparing it to my memories and as it wanes I’d prefer to remember it in the glory in my head. I’m not imagining its decline though; the missus and I would go for pizza when we were first married and she thought it wasn’t “quite right” either.

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