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Childhood burger joints

July 26, 2011

A few weeks ago I was at my regular Saturday morning hangout, the Community Market, discussing childhood burger joints with an old friend, artist-author Laurie Parker.  I mentioned to her that several readers had written me about an A-frame building on Eckford Drive that I had left out.  The interesting point was that nobody I heard from could quite remember the exact spelling of the place.  Sherrif’s?  Shera’s?  Sharif’s?  Laurie said, “I can tell you exactly how it is spelled – or I can at least find out.  I have a phone book from 1968 - I’ll look it up and send it to you.”  She did one better.  By the end of the day, I had scans of the restaurant section from what turned out to be the 1969 Starkville Phone Book Yellow Pages.  Kudos to Laurie for being one of the best unpaid research assistants ever.   This bit of info set me on a search of all the local phone books from the seventies.  With that research in hand, memories began to fall into place.  And by the way, it was Sherer’s Drive-In.
Quite a few readers had tales about Grady’s 10 Cent Hamburger Hut.  One reader wrote that his mother would send him to Grady’s on his bicycle from their home in Green Oaks with two dollars, and he would bring home a bag full of burgers for lunch.  Grady’s served their burgers in the style of what we would call a Krystal burger today – lots would fit in a bag.  Another friend told how Grady’s kept him fueled during his days of working at the superette nearby.  One remembered it as a tiny place - the customers entered a door at one end, ordered, picked up, then exited on the other end - one way traffic. Though the links may not have been direct, that corner of Starkville real estate was destined to be burger central.  After Grady’s came Bulldog & Shake and eventually Christy’s.    
Though it may have taken several years for our little town to reach Waffle House status, we did rate our own Omelet Shoppe.  This was also the day when just about every hotel had a restaurant – not just a “free hot breakfast” - thus, the Holiday Inn was listed almost every year as a restaurant option.  A few years into the seventies, the Plantation Bell Motor Lodge appeared as well.  And though we may be moving into the early eighties with this thought, let’s not forget that Harvey’s started out in what eventually became University Inn.  Even the Lakeside Golf Course took a restaurant listing.  And come to think of it, perhaps I should acknowledge here that a few of the memories I have shared over the past weeks didn’t show up at all in those ten years of Yellow pages!  I shot right into the eighties and didn’t even realize it. 
Cafés, Inns, and Inn Café’s seemed to come and go with great regularity.  Circle Inn Café? Ma-El’s Catfish Inn?  Golden Inn Café?  Smith’s Café?  I heard a few stories about late-night visits to Sarge’s Café out in Clayton Village.  Somebody named Rex tried burgers one year and barbecue the next.  Mr. Goodwin had a BBQ House for a couple of seasons, and shortly thereafter a Goodwin’s Fine Foods made an appearance.  I remember a Mr. Goodwin who ran the Golden Triangle Skating Rink, where many a fine birthday party was held, and pickle juice over crushed ice was the sports drink of choice for the roller-skating crowd.  He later took over Coleman’s Barbecue and, if memory serves - I grant that it is a deep reach - transformed it to yet another barbecue joint.   If dancing drove some to hunger, Fantasy Island could be counted on for a meal as well as a disco ball, or so I assume – remember, I was twelve.  Diehard Bulldogs could eat (briefly) at the Bulldog Corner Mini-Deli or The A&M.    In the very earliest years of this swingin’ decade, a couple of other pizza places came and went – Dino’s Pizza Palace and Pizza-Q.  I wonder what the “Q” stood for.  Another one-phone-book appearance was made by Mr. George’s Sandwich World, listed as being located in The Village Mall.  Wow.  I had all but forgotten The Village Mall.
Last but certainly not least, Oby’s got its start in the late seventies, survived Y2K, a couple of recessions and six presidents, and is still with us today.   That’s no small thing, considering the number of restaurants that can make the same claim are easily counted on one hand.
Thanks to all who have shared their stories with me.  Eating our way through the seventies has been a great ride.  I’m glad to know I’m not the only one in town who can fondly remember the aroma of a restaurant that has been closed for 30 years.

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