The Special

When I list my sins on judgment day one will have to be my stops at Pete’s Famous Hot Dogs in downtown Birmingham. Oh, going there was not sinful, just the 1,000 times that I did. Stand with me at the scales and you can tell I loved the menu. The Special…now that was a hot dog.

The man behind the grill, Gus, didn’t really know my name, although he called it out occasionally. He did know that I wanted a Grapico and would hand me one as soon as I walked in. That personal touch, I sure liked that.

Others shared my admiration of Pete’s Famous. Recently I was talking to a retired businessman about the 1963 assassination of President John Kennedy. “I was standing in Pete’s Famous eating a hot dog when I first heard about it” he said.

We lost Gus this week. Constantine Koutroulakis passed away at home at the age of 81. He was getting ready to go to work, which he did seven days a week. He had held court in his 7-foot wide dining hall since 1948. That’s only 63 years and a jillion hot dogs. A proud graduate of Phillips High School, Gus had a 1948 baseball team picture hanging in the grill. He knew all of the boys, of course. Robert Veitch, a fine business man in Fairfield and the first male cheerleader at Alabama, was on that team as was the Bragan brothers who went on to become major league stars. Gus loved to talk baseball, especially if it included Alex Grammas, Jimmy and Bobby Bragan.

How often do we say there will never be another like him. He was The Special.

“I will have two specials, please” I said as I swallowed a swig of Grapico.