Then & Now: Dale Cousins

Irregardless has been around for 43 years and has seen many people coming and going, including the wait staff and cooks. To celebrate the years and the people who have helped make the restaurant what it is today, our staff blogger Alix V. has created a Then & Now Blog Series – capturing the special memories of previous employees when they worked at the cafe back then – and what they have been up to now.  Let’s catch up with Dale Cousins!

How long did you work at the restaurant?
I worked there about a year and a half from 1978 to 1979.

What was your job there?
I started out as a bus person and then I was a waitress, a hostess and then a cashier, so I did all of that intermixed in that year and a half.

What drew you to the restaurant?
My friend Martha, that you’ve interviewed, said they were looking for people to work there and I was looking for a job. That’s kind of how I ended up there.

What was it like working for Irregardless back then?
I loved it because the people that you worked with and the people who came in to eat were all a part of this community. They all knew one another; they all socialized together; they were artists, musicians. It was like your whole world was centered around people in that restaurant and it was a lot of fun.

Was it strange being one of the few or only vegetarian places in Raleigh at the time?
I don’t think it was strange; I think it was welcomed. People were looking for that option.

Okay, and what about smoking, too?
I worked there when smoking was permitted before the fire. It was just sort of a given, back in those days. We smoked everywhere. I don’t even recall thinking about it. It did kind of add a downer to Sunday brunch because you’d have this wonderful, classic music for brunch and everything smelled like eggs, but then there was this cloud of cigarette smoke over the top of it. A lot of us had been out together having too much fun on Saturday night, so it kind of puts a damper on Sunday brunch, but I guess it was part of the times.

How did working there affect your life?
Well, I was thinking after talking with you about it and reading the other interviews, I realized I grew up on an isolated, little farm in eastern Wake County. Even though I came to NC State for college, I just didn’t have a large world view about things. I’d never met anybody that was Jewish and I had never met any other African American kids that weren’t rural farm kids like I was. Except for one family, I didn’t even know anybody that was Catholic; probably hadn’t even met anybody from New York! You know, I was very isolated and protected growing up and I realized that at Irregardless, a lot of those barriers came down because there were all kinds of artists, Craftsmen, musicians, and very creative people there. It was very eye-opening and it expanded my world. I don’t think I even realized it then until I looked back on it and realized what an impact it had on me.

Do you remember any significant stories of your time then?
I remember that when I was a waitress – a couple things happened – there was a big murder trial going on in Raleigh. Jeffrey MacDonald was accused of murdering his wife and two children and his trial was here in Raleigh, so his legal team – which was Wade Smith and a bunch of other local attorneys – came in for lunch and I remembered Jeffrey MacDonald had these stunning blue eyes and I remembered being mesmerized by them and how handsome he was. I remember that and that everyone in the restaurant was whispering. There was also a big party on May Day, it was probably in ’79 on Park Drive which is a couple streets over from Irregardless. It was a big party and the police were called and all these people were arrested for violating a sound ordinance and disturbing the peace and that Sunday brunch, a lot of the people that were involved in that melee were eating there in the restaurant or working in the restaurant so everybody was smiling and nodding. “You were there.” “I was there.” “You were there, yeah.” A local punk-rock band, the Cigarettes, were kind of the leaders of the music that was played at that party so they were all there, nodding and grinning. It was all so funny!

Sounds like it! What’s one thing you miss about the cafe?
The people. I stay touch with Marsha and Sarah and Martha just erratically, though. We were a tight-knit little group back then, you know. I kinda miss that.

Who’s dog was it in the photo?

Martha’s dog and Sasha was a Wonder Dog. Back then, a lot of us – Martha and myself included – moved a lot. We’d get an apartment and lived there for a year and then we’d find either a better place or a cheaper place or one of a different circumstance. Martha and that dog lived on Dixie Trail and then they lived in Boylan Heights and then they lived on Lake Wheeler Road, so Sasha knew the city. She could get from West Raleigh all the way over to Lake Wheeler Road without blinking an eye. She was a wonder dog.

Has she done that before?
Oh yeah, she has. I used to say that if you looked up dog in the dictionary, it would be Sasha in the picture. She was a great animal.

Have you gone back?
I go back, probably not frequently enough. Coming from a very isolated environment the food was just fantastic to me. I’ve never had moussaka or hummus or spanakopita. You know, all this wonderful food that I love to this day, that was my first experience eating that food so it was great. Another thing that’s interesting about the restaurant was the whole Gordon family. Arthur with the restaurant and then he had a brother, Sandy, who is a fabulous dancer and then his sister Barbara was there and then Ruth, his mother who was like the cashier and hostess for a long time. They were funny; they were just a great family I thought. And the thing I remembered about Ruth was that she always on a diet. She was on the banana diet and then she was on the hot dog diet and was always going on and on about the latest diet she was on.

What are you doing now?
I am retired. I had been a library assistant at Wake County Libraries all during college and the program I was involved in was a federal program that came to an end. So that was when I started working at Irregardless and local bookstores. Did that for year and a half and then I had the opportunity to go back to the library and eventually got my Master’s Degree. I was a librarian for Wake County Public Libraries for almost 40 years. And then I retired about 3-4 years ago. Now I just volunteer in the community. I’m involved with Wake County Smart Start and the League of Women Voters and the North Carolina Library Association and the Friends of the NC State Library, so that kind of keeps me busy and kind of engaged professionally without having to go to work every day which is nice.