SBJ/Aug. 12-18, 2013/People and Pop Culture

My Start In Sports — Ken Young

Young (far right), with industry colleagues, started in concessions nearly 50 years ago.
Photo: COURTESY OF OVATIONS FOOD SERVICES
I got to the point that I could maybe sell nine or 10 loads of dogs at Eagles games and I could end up coming home, with tips … you made in those days, I think it was 12 percent a load. Hot dogs were only 35 cents, so it was $21 a load. I could have come home with $50, pretty good money.

Back in those days, you didn’t have pre-wrapped hot dogs. They were in a kettle with hot water. Rolls and a cup of mustard with a tongue depressor to slap it on. Used to work the upper
A long way from the hot dog kettle, Ken Young prepares one of Ovations’ signature dishes, Ballpark Bananas Foster.
Photo by: OVATIONS FOOD SERVICES
deck. After learning the ropes, I would take three loads before halftime, because especially in the end zones, there is no place to buy stuff at Franklin Field — it’s not like they had concession stands — so you just set up.

We used to sell Cokes with the shrink wrap. No lids. Soda would drip down your leg holding those trays. By the end of the day you were drenched from the thigh down.

I loved doing it, to the point that when I was in 11th grade, we needed to do a term paper in U.S. history class and I did it on the business of vending. I still have it.

I put that on a résumé when I was at Penn State and started looking for jobs, and it led me to my career. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and I ended up in February of 1972 having an interview with Aramark, then Ara Services. … They looked at my résumé and said you might be interested in our recreation division. … I looked up at them and said, “That’s what I want to do.”

My very first day, I had no idea what I was doing, none at all. I was selling hot dogs and … I went back to pay for my last load, and they said, No, you already paid for it. I knew I hadn’t paid for it. I’m just a 16-year-old kid, not ready to beat the system, you know. I actually argued with them there. They said, no, we’ve got you checked off, you already paid. Finally, I just shrugged my shoulders and said OK. I left with an extra 15 bucks that day.

I have thought about that so often that, OK, that was my first experience of learning how accountability can screw up an account. When I first got my first job with Aramark at Providence [College], I used to challenge those vendors. I knew most of the tricks.

I had a load of hot dogs and walking through the concourse [at the 1968 Penn Relays]. … Next thing I know I’m in the middle of a circle and basically two guys are trying to rob me and I am scared to death. … One of the guys who pushed me had on this green suit and my mustard tongue depressor flew out and onto him so he got mustard all over himself. At that point, he doesn’t care about the money as much as he cared about his suit. Fortunately, there was a policeman who stepped in and broke it up.

I can’t tell you how often, I think back: What if I never vended? Would I have gotten into this profession because I would have showed a résumé to somebody and there wouldn’t have been anything about recreation on there. When I look back, I know I did it right. There was no question in my mind that this was the career for me. I’m 61 years old and I still think it’s the career for me.

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