|Ralph Archbold, the quintessential Benjamin Franklin|
For those who don't know, the City Tavern is an accurate reconstruction of a period colonial tavern in Philadelphia on the exact same spot as the original building where we servers would wear colonial garb and serve tourists traditional American fare with a twist. The Chef Walter Staib, still overseas operations since the early 90's. It was called the "most genteel tavern in America" by our founding father John Adams and hosted other founding fathers by the likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin.
One of the fun aspects of Independence National Park is the opportunity to interact with the impersonators who play historical figures walking around the Park conversing with the tourists. We Servers at the Tavern ran into the historical actors on many an occasion as the Tavern was a popular stop for their wanderings.
Benjamin Franklin, played by the late Ralph Archbold since the 1970's, would come in quite often and mingle with the guests moving from room to room stopping at tables, offering advice, commenting on people's "gadgets" or clothing. He would try wandering into the kitchen and we would kindly direct him back to the dining rooms. Always nice, always professional, he would continue his educational anecdotes and speeches while being directed by staff into the more common areas of the Tavern.
Sadly, Mr. Ralph Archbold passed away this year on March 25, 2017. Mr. Archbold was absolutely incredible at his job. I didn't appreciate his dedication to his job and his craft was until I matured a bit more. Here is a link to the great article written by Jonathan Lai on Philly.com.
It isn't until I thought about Mr. Archbold's impressions of Mr. Franklin that I really how good he was. This blog post also serves as an apology to Mr. Archbold because my friends and I were a bit of a menace to the poor actor back in the 90's while he just trying to do his job and do it well.
To a twenty something kid who was trying to handle 10 lunch tables at once, Mr. Franklin ... was downright annoying. He would get in my way, disrupt my service, and be the cause of a great deal of stress for myself, a snotty nose obnoxious waiter, serving lunch in the 90' Philly summer heat.
Even between lunch and dinner services, Mr. Archbold would NOT break character. He was devoutly loyal to his alter ego, Mr. Franklin, to the core. For instance, someone would pull out a flip cell phone and Mr. Franklin would inquire, "What is that newfangled device you are speaking into?"
One of us servers would respond, "OMG Ben, it's a cell phone, you know that ... Break character and have a Coke."
|Marc (with Cindy, the nicest server ever)|
"UGH!" we'd collectively reply.
"Oh my look at that horseless carriage? What will they think of next?" Ben would exclaim.
"It's a Philly taxi cab Ben! We are all on break! Now please give US a break!"
"No, no," he'd reply in his slightly faux British-American accent. "Much work to be done today and then I'm off to bed, for remember, early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise!"
"Please Ben, it's 99' out, it's hot, and your are quoting us your famous quotes again!? I've got two lobster pot pies in the back I will most likely burn myself on, I need to focus on juggling them to table 10, four pepper pot soups to table 4, and pick up 3 Thomas Jefferson Ales at the bar!"
Ben, I mean Ralph, no I mean Ben, would quote his famous quotes often much to our surly dismay. We'd comment to him, "Oh my GOD! Are you kidding me? Will you not break character? There is no one else around? We are not tourists!"
I was an asshole to be sure, a punk bitch ass ungrateful waiter to be more specific. I get that now.
Ben/Ralph was truly a nice guy. It just annoyed our immature selves that he would be in character 24/7. Hell, even George Washington and Thomas Jefferson broke character every now and then to complain about the hot weather, their girlfriends, the honking taxi cabs or the fact that all they wanted was a beer in the August heat.
But there was Ben, always in character, ever so knowledgeable. "You know when I was a child, we didn't have these large metal electric cold boxes, we kept our ice in an ice house! Do you know I invented electricity?" as he wandered through the restaurant kitchen while we were trying to eat our pre-service staff meal.
"REALLY BEN!!?? Can't we just each our employee meal!? Will you just stop it for 10 minutes while we eat! Then you can go back to being Ben, OK?"
"Oh I surely don't know what you are referring to my good man. Remember ... An investment in knowledge pays the best interest."
"Please for the love of God, Ben, stop for just 5 minutes! What does that even mean? I'm just a waiter who can barely pay his rent and have enough money for partying the night away at a local dive bar!"
Ben would just laugh, shake his head, and continue wander the building dropping quotes and missives to unsuspecting tourists.
The man was incredible, he absolutely loved his job. As a young server, it annoyed the hell outta me. But then again, most of the world annoyed the hell outta me. My job did, my apartment did, the summer heat did.
As a (ahem) mature adult, I now appreciate this man's dedication and loyalty to his craft. AND I formally apologize to Mr. Rich Archbold, our Philadelphia's own Ben Franklin.
Rich Archbold, you will surely be missed by your great city of Philadelphia! And actually, you will be missed by me. I wish I could have the love for my job that you had for yours.
Lastly, I am reminded by a quote from Ben Franklin I've just recently discovered. And I thank Mr. Ralph Archbold for it, as I would not have discovered it if I had not started writing this blog post:
"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." by Benjamin Franklin