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Friday, January 27, 2012

The Rusty Pig

Looking back ....
and remembering fondly.
Many years ago, what seems like a lifetime I worked at a dive on the side of Highway 1 on the Central Coast of California, The Rusty Pig. I was the second customer through the door of what began as a doughnut shop out in the middle of nowhere. All that existed at the time was a tiny grocery/gas station and lots of open space. Oh of course people lived out there, but businesses were not, you had to drive 20 minutes to town for milk. Today there is shopping centers and places to eat, but at the time it was exciting. 

A few years after opening The Pig morphed and began to also offer oak fired burgers, deli sandwiches and all the fixens in the afternoon....and the best Tri Tip sandwichs served once a week on the entire Central Coast! So bit by bit it became a destination hole in the wall...even famous people who on a trip up or down the HWY would stop for a bite to eat. They had the best coffee, supplied by a local company and I would stop for my doughnut or pastry, or even a breakfast sandwich and a large coffee and often swing back around for a burger and fries later in the day.

The Pig was a owned and ran by a father and son team. Both very rough around the edges but with hearts of gold. They clashed with each other as much as they relied on each other. The crew that worked there was a hodge podge motley crew of misfits. They were a close knit extended family to the owners, because once you were part of The Pig, you became family. I was lucky enough to join that family.

I got my job there quite unexpectedly. I was there on a day they were short handed. I had been minding my own business while mayhem erupted. I finished my lunch and offered to help. I had not worked since I was a teenager, being in my early 30's at this time, but I could do dishes with the best of them. I said I would work for food, rolled up my sleeves and did my part. This food for work thing went on for awhile, and I became part of the family and began to actually hang out with the son, Mike was his name, and the morning manager, Radel on their off hours. It was during this time that I was offered a job of opening on the weekends. Though I had three young daughters to care for, I jumped at the chance. 

The next day with a hangover to add to the fun of a pre-dawn raising, I arrived to a dark, locked up tight Rusty Pig. I waited as regulars arrived and asked why it was not open. I had no answers and no phone to call number if I did. Soon however the father, Bill, arrived with a frown on his face...we had not yet met and he had no idea who I was. I explained and said "Just tell me what to do!" He did just that. Grumbling constantly and rushing around he directed me what to do and we managed to open. From that point on Bill and I were thick as thieves. 

As time progressed, I began to work all week long as well. I would show up in the morning, have breakfast with the regulars and shoot the breeze with Radel as she worked(her and her husband even eventually rented an apartment from us in our home) and chat with seniors, the multitude of quirky characters that came in each day and catch up with friends from my high school years who now came there each day to grab that quick bite. When it was my time to start work I was ready to go and pumped up on caffeine and would work till closing. I soon became a part time manager as well and brought my three daughters to work with me. Even the youngest had a job of swatting fries and running orders. Soon all three knew every inch of the place and how to work it. Eventually even my own Mother landed a job, much the same way I did on a day where we were short handed and she came in for lunch and started doing the dishes. People often thought Mike and myself were married. we certainly butted heads like an old married couple, and Bill always called me his daughter ...and often his girlfriend, with permission of his wife Joy of course! Bill taught me how to make the fresh baked bread each day, and I became known as the "Fry Queen" as well, when I taught him how to double dip fry the french fries for crunch. 

I loved working the pig, but soon the pace of working full time and being a full time Mom as well took more of a toll on me physically than I could handle...I later found out I had fibromyagia and that I needed to take care of myself and rest more...the pain was not mixing with the job. I had to leave, but a huge part of my heart stayed and of course I still popped in nearly every day. I did this until we moved to Texas. I still kept up with Radel who filled me in on what was happening at The Pig, until she left the job she had there and moved on herself. She did stay in touch with Bill and his family, and wrote me one day that Bill had Lou Gerhigs and was not doing wonderfully, but was a tough old guy and was fighting it. 

I had not spoken to Bill since moving to Texas, and later back to California, but did one time send him a card and an email to let him know my prayers and thoughts and a bit of my heart was always with him. I found out a few days ago he finally lost his battle and went on to a better place on the 14th of January. My heart broke with the news, but burst with joy at the same time to know that he is no longer kept down and struggling, but is able to be his old crotchety self now up in Heaven.

Bill wore so many hats in my life, a good friend, a Father like figure, a Grandfather like figure to my daughters and last but not least a boss who was unlike any other that I had ever had and I was better for having had worked under and next to him. He was a protector of my honor, he was a supporter, a jester when I was down, and taught me how to stand on my own and learn new things I thought I never could do. He and his son Mike even gave the foundation of who my daughters would become in their chosen professions. In many ways I am glad we lost touch so that I could maintain the memories I had of those wonderful hard,long but fun days I spent at The Rusty Pig...and my memories of the "rusty" old man than owned it. 

Rest in Peace Bill Rasey and 
Give them hell up there behind
the pearly gates!

Bill and Radel Vela

Rick Pierce (one of the Pig regulars in the mornings)
Radel Vela and Bill...wish I was in that photo...miss them all
so very much in my life.


  1. that was great :) i kinda miss those days

  2. Hi Steph, Great tribute to Bill and "The Rusty Pig." I knew you had worked there but had no idea that it was a very "full time" job. I drive by "The Rusty Pig" about once a week. I've always been intrigued by that name.

    Take care, Steph.
    Love you,

  3. Steph, That was womderful, it brings back so many great memories and great times.

    Thanks for writing this.
    Love Radel


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