Go Back in Time.
Go Back in Time to the days when you stopped at a roadhouse restaurant rather than a fast food chain outlet for a meal.
Do you remember Your Best Cheeseburger, Ever?
OK, that question, by itself, should have brought a smile to your face, and sent your brain scrambling back through your personal memory bank to one great time or another in your life.
But, let me stop you right here, before I go on. Let’s eliminate the whole world of fast food chains that are so dominant in our lives today.
Go back in time, to your youth, when there were no shiny arches along the road, no plastic faced kings of burgers, no cute red-headed pig-tailed girls on signs, all touting that their burgers are the best!
Go back to a time when, if you were traveling, you stopped at a roadside restaurant, that was usually a Mom-and-Pop operation for something to eat.
A place that had a menu of fresh made dishes, and maybe, just maybe, being a kid, it included a Hot Dog and a Hamburger.
That is kind of place where I remember getting the best Cheeseburger that I ever ate.
My childhood memory;
It was the late fifties, and I guess I was around 10-11 years old at the time.
We lived in the Fairview Heights section of Lynchburg Virginia, a small Southern town at the time. Trust me, Fairview Heights was not the best or richest part of town.
We lived in a four room bungalow that my Dad had just built an addition onto, just himself and my uncle Jesse. That addition was as large as the original house, so I guess we were a little better off than most of our neighbors as far as our home was concerned.
Anyway, one hot Summer day, my Mom came outside and called us kids in from playing in our yard. She then marched us into our bedrooms and told us to clean up and put on our good clothes because we were going to visit our Uncle and Aunt who lived about ten miles away in Madison Heights.
My brother Darrell and my sister Starlett, and I just looked at each other, stunned. This had never happened before, and all three of us started pummeling Mom with questions, all at the same time, of course.
She let us run on for a couple of minutes, and then she “shushed” us. For those of you that don’t understand “shush”; in our house, it meant; Shut Up or I’m going to Smack You up beside Your Head!
Then an even stranger thing happened; instead of taking a swing at one of us, Mom just smiled and said that we were all going on a drive to visit her sister in Madison Heights, and she wanted us to look good, and not like the dirty waifs we usually resembled.
I looked at Darrell and Star thinking; What’s a waif?
Anyway, thirty minutes, a destroyed bathroom, and a few strategically placed smacks from Mom, later; the three of us were sitting on the sofa in the Living Room, giving off our best “little Angel” smiles for Mom.
Dad had been sitting on the porch, smoking one of his Lucky Strike cigarettes, and once he had finished it, he walked into the Living Room, and after his eyes had scanned the three of us, he nodded at the front door. That was the signal for pandemonium to break out as we raced to be the first through the door, allof us yelling “dibbs” for the two rear door seats of the car.
I got to the car first and, hanging onto the rear door handle that was behind the driver’s seat, I looked back and Iaw that Dad was walking towards the car, shaking his head, while Mom was working up a small rage to rain down upon us when she got to the car.
I put on my phoniest “who me?” smile for Mom, and I ended up escaping most of her wrath, as she focused on Darrell and Star, both stubbornly (and stupidly I thought) hanging onto the other rear door handle until Mom had to pull them apart.
Dad, well he just walked around to the driver’s door, opened it, and slid behind the steering wheel. Then he looked around to all of us and said;
After I start this engine, I am going to pull out of here, and anybody that’s not in the car can just sit on the porch until the rest of us get back.
Then he did that thing with his voice, that all Dads learn, the tone changes and the words that came out did not really matter, because the sounds from his mouth seemed to say;
I am the dominate Male, and you will DIE if you do not submit and do as I say, NOW!
Male Lions do it, Tigers, Elephants, and the males of all of the wild species, that I know of, do it. It is a deep, raw, primal sound that you learn right from the womb and automatically respect.
Mom would get so frustrated when dad did this.
She could yell and scream at us and threaten us with all kinds of different punishments, and we would just keep on with our antics.
But her final and most powerful threat was when she just said;
That’s it! I am going to tell your Dad what you just did, as soon as he walks in the door from work!
The room always went silent with that threat.
Anyway, we all piled into the car, immediately, and took whatever seat we landed in for the trip.
Dad owned a four year old Oldsmobile sedan, which back then was a pretty big car that had a soft ride and was really quiet. We all loved it when we could go somewhere in the car. It was a real treat.
Dad reached over and turned the AM radio on tuned it to his favorite radio station, and we all settled down to enjoy our new surprise trip.
Mom got Dad to make a couple of stops, as we drove through downtown, to pick up some things that she needed, but finally we got through town and across the James River to Madison Heights.
It was then that my sister Star started whining that she was hungry.
She could always get away with whining.
She was a girl, and Darrell and I had learned long ago that a girl could get away with things that we, being boys could never get away with.
So, we waited for Mom to turn and glare at all of us for what Sis had just said.
Instead, she turned, smiling, and told us that Dad was going to buy us Lunch at Woody’s.
For your information, Woody’s was a roadhouse/restaurant on the side of the highway as you got near the north end of Madison Heights.
Well, all three of us immediately went into a rash of questions sprinkled with; Wow’s, Oh Boy’s, Hooray’s, and other exclamations of joy.
Mom let us go on for a couple of minutes and then she “Shushed us” with that threat that if we were not on our very best behavior, starting immediately, we would end up sitting in the car while everyone else got to eat in a restaurant.
Dad pulled into the parking lot of Woody’s and we were ushered in the front door and over to a booth by the lady cashier.
Mom and Dad sat on one side and the three of us kids sat on the other.
A waitress come over and left two menus with Mom and Dad, said something about what cute kids we were, and walked away popping her gum and clicking the heels of her shoes on the worn hardwood floor.
Looking at the menu, Dad picked out a plate of Chicken Fried Chicken and Mom finally said that she was going to get the Meatloaf. For side dishes, they both picked the Green Beans and Mashed Potatoes with Gravy.
Then they turned to us and asked us what we wanted. My silly sister said that she wanted a plain Hot Dog on a bun with French Fries, while my brother picked a Hamburger with Mustard and Cheese, which I also thought was stupid.
But, I considered both of them stupid most of the time.
You see, I was the eldest, and it was kind of a requirement to look down on your younger siblings, if you were the eldest.
Mom and Dad then turned to me, waiting, while I tried to figure what I could get away with ordering.
I had read a story recently where one of the characters had ordered a burger with “the works’. That phrase had captivated me, “the Works”, it just sounded so Cool, so special, to get a burger with “the works” on it.
Of course I had no idea what “the Works’ included, but I looked up at Mom and said, as casually as possible and in my most mature voice;
I think I’ll have a Cheeseburger with, and I added a little emphasis here, “the works”, if you don’t mind.
I don’t really know what I expected; rage, red faces, an explosion, a lightning fast smack across my head, something.
But, Mom and Dad just looked at each other and Mom said, with a smile;
OK, that will be fine, Don.
The smile on my face must have spread past my ears, I was going to get my dream Cheeseburger, WOW!
The gum-popping waitress came back and Mom gave her our orders.
We sat there for what seemed like an eternity and were into the serious squirming mode, accentuated by the occasional surprise pinch when Mom and Dad weren’t looking.
And finally, I heard the sound of popping Gum and clicking footsteps.
We all turned and there was our waitress performing the best Circus juggling act I had ever seen, and with our food.
She had all of our plates of food lined up on both of her arms and was nonchalantly clicking towards us, smiling.
Was I supposed to cheer her on for her acrobatic feat?
Was I supposed to move out of her way?
Or, and this was something to think about, was this the way food was served in restaurants around the world?
So, I watched, with my mouth hanging open, as she placed everyone’s food onto the table in front of us and never spilled the first bean or French fry.
I was newly impressed with our gum-popping waitress.
Of course, all three of us kids reached for our food immediately, and Darrel, being the closest to Moms right hand, got his hand smacked.
We then had to wait as we got our lecture about how we were raised, and saying Grace to express our gratitude for the meal that was before us.
So, eventually, we bowed our heads, Mom said grace, which was far too long this time, in my opinion, and we all finally got to do our Amens.
By now, we weren’t sure what Mom and dad were going to pull on us as we watched our food get colder and colder, so we just sat there and stared at them.
Mom smiled, enjoying her power over us, I think, and said; OK you can go ahead and eat…… But, you had better eat your food properly, and slowly, and enjoy your meal. …..
And, you had better not make a mess. …..
And, you had better not get anything on your good clothes. Do you understand?
We all vowed that we would be the neatest and cleanest and most wonderful kids in the world, and then we reached for our food.
I looked down and in front of me was my dream meal, my Cheeseburger with the Works.
The bun had been steamed and was so tender that if you touched it, your finger left an impression in the surface. It was so soft.
On top of the bottom half of the bun was a handmade, greasy, well done hamburger patty that looked to be a half an inch thick and was so large that it stuck out all around the bun.
The Patty had a piece of melted yellow cheese on it that was also covered with grease.
Sitting like a crown on top of the cheese was; several leaves of green lettuce, a thick slice of homegrown tomato, a ring of sliced onion, and three slices of Dill Pickle.
Beside this artistic creation was the top of the bun, upside down and smeared with what looked like half a jar of mayonnaise.
This took up half of the plate and the other half was covered with what must have been a pound of steaming hot French Fries.
I looked over and Dad was concentrating on slicing his Chicken Fried Chicken, Mom was enjoying her first bite of Meatloaf.
Darrell was pressing his hamburger bun down until it was flatter than a pancake, to make it easier to eat, he told me later.
And Sis? She had decided to be a little lady, and was cutting her plain Hot Dog into little pieces that she proceeded to place in her mouth and chew each bite into mush for several minutes, moving her head around in that prissy little girl way that she had.
I examined my target and finally decided that it was going to be a two-handed proposition to eat this beautiful thing properly.
I carefully reached and wrapped both hands around the bottom two-thirds of my prize, and picked it up.
I was ready!
I placed the top edge of my grand Cheeseburger into my mouth and I bit down.
Oh, the ecstasy, the Joy!
Meat fell on top of my tongue, the bun seemed to melt.
The tomato and Pickle slid to one side of my mouth while the Lettuce and Onion squirted to the other side.
The mayonnaise and melted cheese oozed between my teeth.
I closed my eyes and I slowly chewed this heavenly mixture of fresh flavors together until it was all at just the right consistency and then I swallowed.
That was it! I had just eaten the best food that I had ever put into my mouth.
Oh, I had eaten Beef, and I had eaten bread, tomatoes, onions, mayonnaise and all of the ingredients at one time or another, but no one had ever told me that such a combination of ecstatic flavors, as what ensued would be so ….. perfect!
I opened my eyes, and Dad was sitting there, his fork halfway to his mouth, trying, but not succeeding, in holding back his laughter. I looked over at Mom and she was just staring at me with a “what the hell is he doing” look on her face.
I felt that I had to say something to them, so I repeated a line I had heard in an old movie I had seen, I said;
With that, Mom laughed, and Dad actually choked on the piece of Chicken he had barely gotten into his mouth.
I sat there, until they had regained their composure, and Dad, with tears in his eyes, told me;
Just enjoy your food Don! Just enjoy it! And then he avoided my eyes, as if pretending that I wasn’t even in the room and went on eating his meal.
So, a little embarrassed, I looked down at my Cheeseburger, to continue my attack and I realized that things had changed.
Or, should I say, shifted. I now held a bun with an enormous beef patty still perfectly centered, but the Lettuce had decided to slide totally off of the bun.
And, the Tomato, the delicious fresh home grown tomato?
It had decided to break into several pieces, one dangling in the hole where I had taken my previous bite, and the other piece was lying on my pile of French fries. The ring of Onion? It dangled from the bottom of the burger between my hands.
I had a problem!
How do I eat this piece of art that had suddenly decided to morph into such an unstable shape?
So, I laid it down on the plate and examined it anew. Finally, I figured that there was only one thing to do, rebuild the darn thing back to its original beauty. Which I proceeded to do.
After a minute or so, I had my burger back in shape and I carefully picked it up again with both hands, placed it into my mouth, and took another large bite.
Hooray! The second bite was just as great as the first.
Then I looked down and sadly, the self-destruction phase that my wonderful burger had gone through before was even more extreme, this time.
The patty and wonderfully soft bun had torn in half and the Lettuce and tomato had decided to just lie there covered with mayonnaise and daring me figure a way to eat them.
I laid it all back down on my plate and looked around the table.
Darrell was halfway through his burger with only the occasional Mustard stain on his hands and face, so far.
Star? She was now chewing her second piece of Hot dog into oblivion, while the other neatly cut pieces dutifully waited for their turn.
And Mom and Dad were ignoring us totally and really getting into their own meals, so I examined my burger more closely.
I stared for a while and then I realized that I had to give up, before my burger got cold.
So, with a deep sigh, I grabbed the largest portion and rammed it into my mouth and chewed.
Yep, I had mayonnaise and tomato that oozed from my mouth, running down my chin, but by breathing slowly through my nose, I could chew, swallow a little bit, chew, swallow a little bit, until I had finished that piece.
I was having such a good time that I wiped my face with my napkin and devoured several fries, to cleanse my palette.
Then I grabbed the other piece of the burger, rammed all of the loose stuff that had fallen onto my plate between the two bun pieces, and rammed the whole thing into my mouth and ate it just like the other half.
As I finished my last bite of my burger and reached for some more of my fries, I let out a Belch.
Not a polite Burp, but a long, drawn out, monotone, low Baritone Belch. I swear it must have lasted for a full minute, before it tapered into a little high Tenor squeak.
Now, I was an eleven year old boy, and a well-placed Burp or Belch was one of your favorite things to pull out and embarrass others with, especially your parents.
So, having just generated the absolutely best and loudest and longest lasting Belch of my life, I looked up at Dad and waited for my praise.
Well, I was surprised.
It seems that a quality Belch is not as acceptable in a restaurant as it might be at home over the dinner table.
If looks could Kill, I should have dropped over Dead, right there, with my face in my fries.
Both Mom and Dad were looking at me with that; You shall Die for this and we shall generate a replacement for you immediately, a replacement that knows better than to make such a sound in front of us, in public.
Duly scared, I started to apologize and then I heard the laughter.
The gum popping waitress was bent over, across the room, laughing her head off, along with the couple at the next booth and the cashier at the door.
I just hung my head. I was a goner for sure!
At the moment, it seemed that it wasn’t a matter of, if I was going to be punished, it was just a matter of when!
While Mom, red-faced, chastised me, in that low whisper-like; voice of death, of hers;
Dad, through clenched teeth was explaining the variety of punishments that were now waiting to be inflicted on me.
This was all, while they had those scary frozen smiles on their faces, shrugging, and implying to the public;
Kids! What are you going to do when they act like this?
I knew the look because it had been used by Mom and Dad before, and generally it was about me and my transgressions.
So, being totally doomed, I waited for the end, just staring at the paper napkin dispenser on the table and wondering if I could sneak a bunch of them and slip them into the seat of my pants without Mom and Dad seeing me do it.
I figured that they could give my Butt a little cushion later.
The laughter in the restaurant finally died down, and the waitress brought the bill to Dad, but not before ruffling my hair and saying;
That was quite a Burp you let out there Junior. I think you rattled the windows with that one.
With this, both Mom’s and Dad’s faces turned red again, and I decided that there probably weren’t enough napkins in the world to protect my Butt, this time.
Everyone finished their meals, and finally we left Woody’s and got into the car. Both Darrell and Star were snickering because they knew that I was in trouble and they weren’t, this time.
Mom and dad got into the car and just drove onto the road, not saying a thing.
We got to my Aunts house, a few minutes later, and the three of us filed into the living room. Dad pointed and we all sat on the Sofa.
The three of us were just sitting there, waiting for me to get my punishment when the strangest thing happened.
I could hear Dad talking to my uncle Carl, in the next room.
And he was telling my uncle about me, my Cheeseburger, and how I ate it.
And they were both laughing as he described my loud Belch and everyone’s reaction in the restaurant.
I relaxed, sat back on the sofa, and smugly crossed my legs, as I thought;
I had just eaten the greatest Cheeseburger in the world and I had avoided getting what I thought was going to be the whipping of my life.
What a Day!
What a Burger!
by Don Bobbitt, 2011
Copyright Don Bobbitt, 2011, All Rights Reserved.
You, the readers are free to rad and enjoy this article, but if you intent to use it commercially in any way, then you must have the written approval of the author before use.