The Varsity Jr. closed its doors on Lindbergh Drive on Aug. 22, citing differences with the city of Atlanta in its efforts to rebuild at the location. The Varsity Jr. had been around for 45 years.
For 43 of those years, Williams served countless customers and came to know more than 100 co-workers. Interacting with people from different backgrounds is what he said he will miss the most. One of his favorite customers was former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland.
“He was always friendly,” Williams said. “He’d tell me what was going on in politics and he always asked for me when he came in, because I’d always give him good service.”
Another perk was the free food. Williams estimated that he’d eaten more than 100,000 hot dogs from the time he began working at the Varsity Jr. in 1966.
“When I first went there and starting working at night, the curb people would get all the leftover hot dogs and hamburgers to take homes; pies and all,” Williams said.
Not working at the Varsity Jr. is bittersweet, he said.
Freda Castleberry said it has been difficult getting her father to retire. She said the longtime Marietta resident has been working since he was 6 years old, delivering newspapers.
The Varsity Jr., however, was merely Williams’ night job. He continues to work his day job as a materials handler at Lockheed Martin. He has been there since 1956.
“He’s been around a long time,” Castleberry said. “We can’t get him to retire.”
Freddie Williams and his wife Betty Williams met in Roswell and have been married for 52 years. They have five grown children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Betty Williams said she is very pleased her husband has slowed down.
“It was time for him to retire,” she said. “He worked so long and hard.”
Freddie Williams grew up on Rigby Street in Marietta. In 1955, he graduated from the city’s all-black Lemon Street High School. At age 16, he began serving hamburgers and sodas as a carhop at Varner’s Drive-In, a popular hangout in Marietta. Williams stopped working there in 1965, shortly before it closed.
Freddie Williams may have slowed down, but he said he doesn’t plan to quit working anytime soon at Lockheed. He lives by a simple principle that has carried him through the years.
“I do it day-by-day,” he said.