Was Walt Johnson haunting the Road’s End Restaurant?

Havasu Palms_064Back when I managed Havasu Palms’ Road’s End Restaurant, we installed a computerized point of sale system. We were one of the first Havasu restaurants to go computerized – even before such notables as Shugrues.

While computerized POS systems are commonplace today – that wasn’t the case back in the early 90s.

The Road’s End Restaurant’s POS system involved two touchscreen computers – one in the waitress station and one at the bar. Neither had a hard-drive, and both were hooked up to the main computer – located in my office at the rear of the restaurant.

Placing an order involved entering it at the bar or waitress station computer. If it was a food order, the order printed out on the small printer in the kitchen. If it was a drink order, that one printed out on the small printer behind the bar.

The system was installed before my father passed away in December of 1992. Back in those days most folks weren’t that computer savvy and as far as most of the crew knew, the only way to send orders were from the waitress station or bar computer. But I had a secret – I could also place an order from my office.

My father, Walt Johnson – founder and developer of Havasu Palms had recently passed away. One evening after the kitchen closed, Don and I went up to the bar to say goodnight to the remaining employees and customers – all who were seated at the bar. They could see the kitchen and hallway leading to my office was dark. After saying our goodbyes, we left out the side door – supposedly to go home.

Before I reached my golf cart to head home Dad’s playful spirit encouraged me to slip back into the restaurant at the back door – and to my office. From my office computer I sent a message to the bar printer.

Imagine our bartender Bonnie’s expression when the printer started spitting out paper. Glancing to the kitchen, she could see there was no one in the waitress station…and since she was the only one behind the bar, who was sending her an order? Was it perhaps some forgotten order stuck in the system and had somehow unstuck and decided to print?

Hesitantly she approached the bar computer, tore the piece of paper from the printer and slipped on her reading glasses.

It wasn’t an order. . . it was a message: Walt says hello.


Looking back at the Roads End Camp

Every once in a while I’ll receive an email from someone who used to visit Havasu Palms back in its Roads End heyday. I love it when people share their stories with me. Here is an email I received a little over a week ago. I wanted to get his permission before I posted the email. When Mr. Danielson granted his permission, he mentioned he recognized one of the men from the book, and I believe the above photo is the one he was referencing.

I was looking for information on “Roads End Camp” and happened across the website.  I read your story.  I used to camp there from 1957 through the summer of 1964 with my parents.  Have always wanted to go back, but too many wars and interventions got in the way.  I’m sure the only things I would recognize now would be the road and Pilot Rock.  I once buried “treasure” there, on the sandy shelf in about 4 feet of water .  I have ordered your books from Amazon (paperbacks) and looking forward to the old pictures.  We used to fish under the bridge and over at Parker Dam.  My dad got to know one of the divers that cleaned the underwater gates.  He could tell some stories about giant catfish down there.  I remember the time we were ‘asked” to leave Squaw Dam because it was on a reservation.  We had been going there for years.  Vidal Junction was a place at the edge of the world then, the last sign of civilization (well almost).  Your sister is right, “…the best of times”.

We never met and I was recovering from my first tour when you first saw Roads End.  I get the feeling that the camp (Havasu Palms) became special to you too.  I’m sure the family connection played a major role in that; but back then, the way it was, the place could put a spell on you.  Reading your story has saddened me, but helped to put a touch of closure too.  Knowing what I do now, I wouldn’t want to go back.  I’ve never gone back to Pico Rivera since leaving.  Too much change, too many memories of how it once was.  I once walked across “London Bridge”, before it moved to Arizona!

 Thank You,

 Joe Danielson, CMS USAF (Ret)