In the mid-1960’s in South Denver, a short distance from the apartment where my mother and I lived, was a hotel on Colorado Boulevard. I think it was called Writer’s Manor. Or maybe it was Riter’s Manor. “A fancy place,” my mom called it. They had a large dining room in which all the tables were covered in white tablecloths, each graced by a small vase of fresh flowers. At one end of the room, a wall of windows overlooked an inviting swimming pool. The first time that I went there, I couldn’t stop looking at the pool. I longed to be in that water in the hot afternoon sun. The pool was, disappointingly, only for hotel guests.
Two glasses with iced tea with lemon and ice on the wooden table
On this day, my mom created an outing for us: we got dressed up and went to the hotel dining room where we were going to order banana splits. My mom was creative in the ways in which she entertained me. She worked during the week, and weekends were the times I got to see her the most. We didn’t have a car to go places, just the bus. There were no trips to the mountains or lakes like my other friends, but she tried hard to come up with things that were not just fun, but affordable. This is one of the reasons I still love summer so much: it feels like time for fun.
Mom had insisted that I wear gloves. She was a woman who had watched one too many Joan Crawford movies. I didn’t think that gloves were cool, but I put them on anyway, and we walked to the hotel on that hot summer day. I can’t remember the dress I wore, but during those times, almost everything I owned was an A-line cut, and I was partial to little flowers, so I imagine myself in a sleeveless flowered dress, wearing uncomfortable patent leather flats, inappropriate for walking, but perfect for a formal dining room, and those stupid little white gloves.
I was sweating by the time we got to the hotel. Still, I remember being excited about getting to see the swimming pool again, and I was excited about ordering a banana split in the hotel dining room. Years later, I realized my mother probably couldn’t afford to buy us lunch there, but at twelve, I was very enthusiastic about banana splits — not having lunch made no difference to me. We were led to one of the tables, and I told her I was thirsty.
A waiter came by and poured water into what I observed to be grown-up glasses. The glasses had stems, not like the glasses at home that were short and squat.
“May I bring you ladies an Arnold Palmer?” the waiter asked.
My mother nodded. “Would you like one?” she asked me.
Yes, please,” I answered. And then as soon as the waiter was gone, I asked, “What’s an Arnold Palmer?”
“Half iced tea and half lemonade,” she said, and smiled.
I felt grown-up and proud to be with my mom. I felt special sitting in the beautiful dining room all dressed up with her. And I loved her for her making me feel that way.
Disappointingly, the Arnold Palmers didn’t come in the kind of grown-up glasses I’d hoped for. There was no stem. Still, I felt very grown up drinking one. As with all things I remember, it’s not so much the thing itself, as it is the feeling tone that lingers in the heart and mind. Sitting in that fancy dining room with my mom, wearing those stupid white gloves—it was all just kind of perfect.
After the Arnold Palmer came the banana splits, and I ate mine slowly and carefully, as a grown-up would, careful not to let any ice cream or topping spill on my A-line dress or the white linen tablecloth.
Years go by, and I’m middle-aged, married, and sitting in a lounge chair on my deck next to a girlfriend. We’re recalling summer stories from childhood, and I tell her about the hotel, the Arnold Palmers, and the banana splits.
“Arnold Palmers,” she says. “Those sound so good right now. We could make some.”
“I have lemonade, but I only have green tea.”
We look at each other.
“What the hell . . .” I say. I get up and mix them—half green tea and half Knudsen’s lemonade. I pour the mixture over ice and stick in a couple of paper straws.
“Ta-da, Arnold Palmers,” I say, holding out the glasses to my friend.
She takes a sip. “They’re good,” she says. “What’d you make these with, again?”
“Lemonade and green tea.”
“I guess they’re not really Arnold Palmers,” she says.
“No, but close enough.”
“Who else do we know named Arnold,” she asks.
“The governor of California?”
“That’s it. I dub this drink ‘The Governor,’” I say.
And that’s how The Governor, made with green tea, came to be. Gone are my banana spilt days, but I often enjoy like a grown-up glass into which I can pour The Governor on a hot afternoon.
Steep 3 Tzao Zen Green Tea bags in a 2-quart pitcher. This is best if you steep this in the sun all day, instead of boiling water and pouring it over the tea bags. The tea will turn a light greenish-gold color after about 6 hours. Refrigerate it overnight. The next day pour ½ glass of green tea over ice. Fill the rest of the glass with Knudsen’s lemonade, which is sweetened with fruit juice rather than white sugar. You won’t need any additional sweetener. This is the perfect tea for any summer afternoon.