My family loved going to Happy Joe's in the early 80's. They were located on the west side of town near the roller rink. Mom would find us seats while Dad went up to the counter and ordered taco pizza along with a pitcher of pop. There were plenty of things to do while waiting for the pizza to be served. For one, you could actually watch the pizza being made if you climbed a few stairs and looked through the glass window. That's where the magic happened. We also liked to play songs on the jukebox. A favorite of ours at the time was Little River Band's "Lonesome Loser". They also had video games to play as well. I remember getting to the 6th screen of Ms. Pac-Man there on one evening. The screen was orange. Holy shit, it was hard. The screen, that is. When the pizza came, everyone would dig in.
That stuff is tasty, especially with taco sauce on it. Whenever another party had a birthday to celebrate, a lady would come out with a horn and ask for everyone's attention. She would sing, "Happy Birthday" to the person (usually a child) and then after the song was over, sirens placed on the ceiling would flash and make noise. If we still had room after the pizza, we would sometimes be able to get an ice cream cone for dessert. They had at least a dozen flavors in which to choose from. Also, sometimes the waitresses would blow up helium balloons at a stand and give them to the younger kids. Sometimes out in the parking lot, one of the kids would let go of their balloon. It was quite a sight to see it fly high above the river town to an unknown destination. The Happy Joe's in Winona closed in the mid-80's. A restaurant called Golden China is there now. Time went by and memories of Joe's faded. There was still a Happy Joe's located in Onalaska, a city near LaCrosse. But not having a car for most of the 90's prevented me from ever going there.
In the early 00's, with my childhood nostalgia running high, I went with a friend to the Onalaska location. It was quite a trip down memory lane, like going back in time. They still did the birthday thing, still had a viewing area where you could make sure that no one spat into your pie, and the food was as good as I remembered it. Over the last half decade, I've gone there at least 3 times a year.
A couple years ago, I went with my friend, Shanon. We were at Goodwill looking around and I saw one of my sister's children. I knew my sister was close, so looked around and found her. She said she was heading to Joe's shortly. I told her we had the same plan. She said my brother, Matthew Patthew, was also gonna be there. I was able to catch up with both siblings that day.
In late '05, me and Shanon met my mom at that same Happy Joe's. She hadn't eaten at a Joe's since we were kids. Who should walk in but my uncle Pete (dad) and his wife. So we all sat down together and were able to shoot the shit. Good times. But that's why they call it Happy Joe's, innit?
In February of '6, I went to Illinois for a funeral. The day I drove back was Super Bowl Sunday. I don't need to tell you that I ate at Joe's that afternoon while looking forward to the big game that night.
I brought my video camera to Joe's one evening with Shanon, his gf, and Art fart. I taped about 8 minutes, including a b-day celebration. Watching the tape, I can now go there without leaving the comfort of my home. Nothing beats the real thing, however. So not too long ago, me and Shanon returned there yet again and had the usual (he drank a suicide, by the way). We topped it off with a couple sundaes and went home happy. There were about 4 pieces of pizza left over. I said he could have all of them. He planned to eat them for lunch the next day, but was afraid his roommates would eat them if he left the slices in the refrigerator. So he decided to leave the stash in his car that night. Man, that kid's got it bad for the good stuff.