Sarah Lyman knows what she likes. As a new Carthage student a couple of years ago, she took a walk to explore her new home. It was the same walk John and I took from campus in July on my first visit to Kenosha. What caught Sarah’s eye was a little diner, cozy and old-fashioned, that reminded her of a favorite spot in her Illinois hometown. She ate there that day and has been a regular ever since.
Sarah proposed her favorite Kenosha spot as a stop on my Welcome Home Tour, and I had to confess to her that I’d already been introduced to this particular piece of local culture. A group of Carthage staff women meet there regularly and had invited me to join them at the impossibly early hour of 6:30 a.m.
I suggested to Sarah that she and I meet the women at their regular hour on the first Tuesday of J-Term 2018, and I could then report on both experiences. I was worried that the time of day would not appeal to a young person, but she said an early breakfast would be a great way to kick off the new term, and of course what better place to start than her beloved Coffee Pot?
It is very dark in Kenosha at 6:30 a.m., but the cheery neon of the vintage sign outside the diner welcomed me in. The smells of frying bacon and hot coffee reached me on the sidewalk, even before I opened the door to find Sarah and all the women already seated and waiting for me. It was exactly 6:30, but I guess when it comes to lining up for breakfast at The Coffee Pot, everyone wants to be early!
Sarah already knew some of the women at the table and enjoyed meeting the others. Our conversation ranged from regional food differences to Carthage traditions, but the biggest surprise for me was the discussion of Bingo. Several of the group were planning to attend a Moose Lodge Bingo game that week, doing their own cultural tourism, and the conversation turned to pot size (up to $10K!), game variation (four-corners, postage stamp, windowpane), good-luck rituals (lucky shirts, troll dolls), and the correct pronunciation and spelling of “dauber,” the word for the pieces used to mark the squares on a Bingo card. Sarah surprised us all by being a Bingo fan and player from Illinois, with her own stories of lucky charms and her own bucket of daubers which she offered to loan to me. Alas, I could not join the Moose Lodge expedition this week, but I will keep Bingo on my wish list for the Welcome Home Tour.
Sitting at table with Sarah and the group of women — Elaine, Jane, Ashley, Bridget, and Diane — I remembered my own undergraduate experience and how much fun it was to meet and know the adults in my college world as individuals apart from the jobs they did for the college. What I didn’t know then was how much fun it would be to participate in those interactions from the other side. In the picture, we are all holding the famous “homemade toast” of The Coffee Pot, an experience and a memory to treasure.
See for yourself
The Coffee Pot
4914 Seventh Ave.
The Coffee Pot on Facebook
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