Monday, January 30, 2012

Burgers and bucks

People from all over the country have made it a pilgrimage to get to Fat Smitty's in Discovery Bay, Washington, for a burger. Satisfied patrons from far and wide have been leaving dollar bills on the walls and ceiling (above), sometimes marked with handwritten notes, ever since 1985, when a Caterpillar equipment salesman eating at the bar asked whether he could stick a dollar bill on the ceiling with his business card. Certain areas of the walls have been adopted by specific groups of patrons, like the military, the scouts, Rotary exchange students, high school sports teams, the widow and friends of a long-time customer, and fans of one of the few people to eat 3 Fat Smitty's burgers in one sitting. So far, the greed has been for the food and not for the cash. No one has broken in and customers have only occasionally tried to pocket some of the money. "There was guy who tried to take a few bills some time ago. But I just took the money back and threw his sorry ass out," says Smitty's nephew and manager. Estimated at $6,000, the tally in the accumulated "greenback rain forest" turned out to be much more. After the restaurant closed for the season, a total of $10,316 was pulled down by the local Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, and counted by Carl ("Fat Smitty") and his wife Mickey Schmidt. The scouts will receive the bulk of the money to build a dining hall at their camp, and $3,000 will be donated to St. Jude's Research Hospital in Memphis. With the walls now bare (the bills on the ceiling - which could easily exceed another $1,000 - were left in place to maintain some of the history), Smitty plans to continue the tradition by filling them up all over again when he reopens on March 1st: "Hopefully, because people know the money is going for charity, it will go up even faster in the future."

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