Judy Beck with granddaughter Hannah Reed. [Photo: Courtesy of Moody's]
Judy (Moody) Beck started washing dishes at Moody's Diner when she was 12, and became a waitress soon thereafter. Now, some 62 years later, she's "in the process of trying to retire," but not before she's taught her granddaughter everything she knows.
Beck's parents opened Moody's as three rental log cabins in 1927, adding a restaurant in 1930. There have been changes and expansions over the years, but the now-iconic diner has remained a family-run establishment built on the simple principle of serving good food at a reasonable price.
Beck, 74, has spent some 43 years in the restaurant business. She's been back at Moody's for the past 26, waitressing and managing the dining room. She recently talked with Eater Maine about her life in the diner, and how running the restaurant is truly a family affair.
Here's what Judy Beck had to say:
· My mother and father started the business in 1927. I am number eight of nine children.
· I started at 12 years old washing dishes. I started waitressing when I was 13, and did that until I got married at almost 22. Then I've been back in Maine since 1987 and have worked that whole time, managing the front end and waitressing.
· My dad always wanted to serve good food at a reasonable price.
· About 12 years ago, our son Dan came on and he's now a part-owner, general manager and president of the corporation.
· In the progression from going to my father, to my brother and sisters, they changed the menu at times. They brought on different things. But it was always run the same way. One of the biggest changes for my father was that he paid everyone in cash — with an envelope of cash. He was very insulted when the family decided to start paying by check because that just wasn't done in those days.
· In '93 we closed the restaurant for like six weeks, I believe. We totally changed the restaurant. It was very small with low ceilings and needed to be redone. We added on to it and put tables in so we could accommodate large parties. Then we did something unheard of in Maine — we went non-smoking. This was several years before the State of Maine went non-smoking.
· We make all our own pastries and pies and muffins and doughnuts and cinnamon rolls and cakes and whoopie pies and all that kind of stuff. Everything is made from scratch.
· I'm in the process of trying to retire right now. I was in there yesterday. I'm working with my granddaughter getting her up to snuff on learning the menu, because she's going to be a cashier, hostess and waitress. I've been doing all the training for my son for the new people who have come on to help get us through the summer season. So I haven't quite got done yet.
· I just turned 74 and I can keep up with the kids. And usually outrun them.
· At 12 or 13, I wasn't very happy when I had to work. None of us were.
· My brother tells a funny story when I was probably 13 or 14. When someone couldn't work, one of us had to work. I walked in and stomped my feet and said, 'I hate this place. I hate this place. I hate this place' One of the cooks looked at my brother and said, 'She'll get over it.' Well, I ended up loving it. I have thoroughly enjoyed working. To decide to get done has been very, very hard for me.
· My dad always taught us to be hard workers. My mom and dad worked very hard to raise nine children. All but two brothers went to college. Seven of us went to and graduated from college. Everyone of us worked at the restaurant. We worked summers. We worked weekends if we were needed.
· I'm just so thankful that my father didn't let us get away with a bad attitude. We were taught to work. Nothing is given to you. You've got to earn it. And when you work, you work hard. You always want to smile and be polite to people.
· I've gotten to know so many people. I can't say I'll remember their names, but I remember their stories. One that really sticks out is a few years I ago, I served a party of young women. They had come to the diner because it was their mother's favorite place and their mother had just passed away. So we just talked. When they got up to leave, I walked over to the lady I had talked to the most and said, 'I just want to give you a hug because I lost my mom at 36 and I know how hard it is.' I just gave her a hug. They come back to the diner and she always looks me up. It's a special memory for me.
· My favorite menu item would probably be the pies. The coconut cream pie and custard pie are two of my favorites.
· Some days, my son has been on the floor working, I've been on the floor working and my grandchildren have been on the floor working. It's pretty neat when you have three generations out there.