PUTNEY—Ellie Lascore stayed at the Putney Diner hours after her shift ended on Dec. 13.
Instead of going from table to table to take patrons’ orders and bring them food and coffee, as she had done for 17 years there, Lascore sat down and a line of customers brought things to her. Cards, gifts, hugs, kisses.
“Oh, I got everything!” Lascore said. “A lot of flowers. And a lot of money!”
Lascore’s boss, Putney Diner owner Eleni Maksakuli, threw her a retirement party that afternoon. The kitchen was closed, but Maksakuli set up two buffet tables with sweet and savory treats.
Even though, when the clock struck three, Lascore had officially retired from waitressing, she couldn’t help herself.
“I have that tea you like,” she said to Nancy Olson. “They might not have it here any more,” she noted, and disappeared for a few minutes, coming back with a box of her customer’s favorite lemon herbal tea.
To another guest, Lascore said, “Are you sure you don’t want something to drink, honey?"
“You’re not working anymore, Ellie!” the guest replied, and went to get herself a cup of tea.
Old habits die hard.
“I’m a career waitress,” Lascore told The Commons. “I’ve been waitressing since I was 15 years old.” She turned 80 this year.
’I didn’t like anything else’
Lascore began working at the Putney Diner in 1990. Before that, for seven years she was at Jad’s, the Brattleboro family restaurant on Canal Street in the space now occupied by the Flamingo Diner.
Her first gig in town was at the Riverview Diner in Brattleboro, where the Whetstone Station restaurant and brewery now sits. She worked there for 19 years.
When asked if she ever held any other type of job, Lascore said, “I didn’t like anything else."
She said she loved working at The Putney Diner.
“I felt bad today. I started to cry. I’m going to miss my customers,” Lascore said.
“I loved it here. There’s a lot of nice people — the customers, and the people I work with. I made a lot of good friends,” she said. “I’ve had some very good luck."
But maybe Lascore’s success isn’t entirely due to luck.
Her advice to anyone interested in waiting tables: “Do you like people? You have to like people. You also have to remember a lot."
Em Richards, who was Lascore’s customer for 17 years, said, “she always knows what you want and when you want it."
Carolyn Holt remarked, “Did you know Ellie never wrote anything down when she took [customers’] orders? She always gets ’em right, too. She’s incredible."
Lascore also kept a firm grip. When asked for some funny moments in her career, Lascore said, “when my customers made me laugh and I dropped the coffee. I never dropped the food, though!"
After 65 years of waiting tables, what does Lascore plan to do with all of her free time?
“I think I’ll stay home for awhile. I’ve never done that,” she said, and added, “I’m going to read, watch TV, and lay around. I love doing that! I don’t care what people think of me.”
Lascore will soon move to Hinsdale, N.H. Former diner owner Robin Wright built Lascore an apartment in the Putney Diner building five years ago, but she is leaving it to live closer to her family.
A guest asked Holt — a longtime customer and friend of Lascore’s — “will Ellie be lonely, being so far from this community that loves her?"
“At first,” Holt said, “but she’ll make new friends."
After Lascore commented to a guest about that day’s wintery temperatures, he asked her, “Are you sure Hinsdale is south enough for you?”
“I know! It’s freezing cold!” replied Lascore, who added, “Your coffee gets cold before you can drink it."
When another guest offered Lascore her shawl to help keep her warm, she responded, “I don’t want your shawl, honey. I don’t want to look like a baby."
Many customers refused to break ties with the woman who served them for so long.
“Now you take care, honey,” said Tom Goddard. “If you ever need anything, you can call any one of us,” he added. Another customer chimed in: “If you need anything, you know how to get a hold of us."
She was frequently asked when she’ll return — but not necessarily to work.
“Many of my customers today said, ’You can come in and sit with us every darn time you want to,’” Lascore said.
“Are you coming back to visit?” Richards asked, and offered an idea: “I think we should have a bulletin board with the days you’re coming to visit."
“I might fill in,” Lascore said. “Eleni doesn’t want me to leave."
“I know you’re retired, Ellie, but what days will you be here?” a man asked her. Another wanted to know, “What time is breakfast at your new place?”