As a teenager the fair was the place to be in Springfield every summer. Many youth worked there while others had jobs outside the fair. The Fortners were the competition when you worked at Dog ‘N Suds. It was a friendly competition between the Fortner’s A&W’s and the Costello’s Dog ‘N Suds. Both families were Christians and their businesses were anchored in their faith.
Root beer connoisseurs had their favorite and that was how they determined where they went. Hillcrest students in the seventies did not generally go to the drive-in on Glenstone. Your Examiner worked at that Dog ‘N Suds location. Because of this, when not working, one must visit both establishments to see every friend. Chris and Mike were on Kearney at their Dad, Dan’s place, except during the fair. The A&W’s on the fairgrounds were their home then.
After graduation things often change. Not for the Fortners. The franchise expanded and soon even the old D&S became a Fortner A&W restaurant. Mike and Chris were still there at the fair as was Mike’s wife, Diana.
The generations changed. The restaurants were closed and sold. The A&W logo was removed from the stands on the fairgrounds, but the Fortners, Mike, Chris and Di, continued to run them until a few years ago. They also added the Pinapple Whip stands that are a perennial favorite in the Ozarks.
All three Kensinger girls, Heather, Michelle and Kayla, learned to count change and “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.” from the Fortners. This father is proud to count them as friends of the family.
It is difficult to know how many doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, dads, moms and possibly even grandfathers and grandmothers owe their start to Mike and his family. While they mourn his loss in Springfield, many will celebrate this man’s legacy from afar. While he is remembered here, it will be only a short time before he will be greeted once again. He was one of the first of us to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”