Last month they celebrated 75 years of continuous operation of the Half Way House with many of their long-time customers and staff. Specials guests were the Benders’ daughter-in-law Joan, her son Jay, and Jay’s daughter Samatha.
Along with select items that have been on the menu for 75 years, like filet mignon, baked ham, veal cutlet, and fried chicken, the Youngs served a traditional drink from the Benders’ menu, Claret Lemonade as well as their own famous tradition, cinnamon rolls.
The house and restaurant remain in their original form. A log cabin on the back of the property serves as the kitchen. The interior steps are worn to the second and third levels. The main restaurant is in the lower level, which served as the ordinary or tavern in the early years. The second floor has two rooms that can be reserved for parties. While the third floor is used as an office.
Rick Young and Joan Bender entertained the guests with stories from the early days. Young shared how he and Sue met, married and how they met the Benders and ended up purchasing the restaurant.
Jay Bender’s father, also named Jay, grew up in the house and had his bedroom on the third floor. Joan shared her memories of dating the older Jay and their wedding in the main room on the second floor. She also talked about spirits in the restaurant and how one day, when their dog would not go down the steps, she said she wasn’t going down either for fear that a ghost was resting on the stairs.
Audra Butler fell in love with the family when she began busing table at the restaurant at the age of 17. She worked 12 years there working her way up to manager. She was there to help celebrate.
“Every big significant life moment in my life I have had here,” she said. “It is very much a family operation. The best memories for me are here. I met my husband here, my wedding reception was here, there are just a lot of good memories. It was really great to get so many opportunities here. It was really hard to me to leave.”
The Half Way House, at 10301 Jefferson Davis Hwy., is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. and dinner every night from 5:30 p.m. until 9 p.m.