As I drove home tonight after having dinner with my husband and daughter, I noticed that one of the “fast food” places had been torn down to make way for a—–ah, BLISS–a Krispy Kreme. I have wanted one that made HOT doughnuts in my town for ages. Finally, we are getting one! It also reminded me of all those fast food places that were in the town where I grew up. I though this would be a great post for tonight.
First, let me gather up the extensive list I have made of fast food restaurants in Marietta during the early 1950’s. You see, there were none. That’s right-NONE. NOT.A.SINGLE.FAST.FOOD. PLACE. So you are probably wondering what in the world people did about feeding their family as they drove to ball practice or dance or cheerleading. Well, that is easy. They ate at home. Or they ate when they got back home. That’s it. End of discussion. People just ate at home.
In 1955, that began to change. McDonald’s was born. When one opened in Marietta, it was on the 4 Lane near the runway for Lockheed and the Naval Air Station. Probably they got a good deal because it was not very quiet with planes zipping in and out all day. It was a walk up. You parked your car and you walked up to the window and ordered and paid. Then you moved to the next window where you picked up your order. They had cement picnic tables where you could sit down outside. Lots of people just went back to their car and ate there. They had the coolest sign that said how many burgers they had sold. And it changed as they sold more. They didn’t have a big variety of burgers. They had hamburgers and cheeseburgers and sodas and French fries. Those fries were something else. They were HOT and SALTY and had the best flavor. Much better than today. And I can tell you the…shhhhh….secret. Want to know? Really want to know? L.A.R.D. Yep. They fried those slender tater strips in lard. Oh MY! Be still my heart as it is headed for cardiac arrest from all that lard. They were amazing.
But my favorite fast food place in the world was not in Marietta. It was in Atlanta and was called the Varsity. The “legend” behind the start of the Varsity is that a Ga. Tech student flunked out and was told he would never be successful. So he went down a block and bought some land and started the Varsity in 1928. He sure showed Ga. Tech because tons of students eat there daily-still. My Dad was a student there and that is about all the food he ever had—-Burgers and Hot Dogs with or without chili with onion rings or fries. They were the best. You could drive into the parking lot and a waiter would jump onto your car and take your order when you parked. Some of the waiters were legendary. Or you could go inside the Varsity and order at one of the many order stations. The person in charge would say-Wha-cha have? Wha-cha have? And you would tell him. Every day the main corridor of the Varsity looked like an ant hill. People were everywhere-touching each other-holding their order-pushing through the crowd. You could literally walk from one end to the other on the shoulders of customers. That is how many people where in there. Once you got your food inside, you could sit in one of the rooms in wooden desks and watch TV. What a great idea! Watching TV and eating at the same time. Hmmm-sounds rather like today’s family dinner.
My favorite meal was a chili-mustard steak with onion rings and a Coca-Cola. Or I had a chili dog with rings. Sometimes I had a naked steak. Love that terminology! To end the meal, I ALWAYS had a peach pie. It was hand made and then fried to a crispy golden brown. Oh it was heavenly.
To this day, I can still have those same foods at the Varsity. Are they as good as when I was a child? Nope. There is ONE ingredient that is missing. It is LARD. They fried everything in lard. And was it good! Those animals fats give a wonderful flavor to fried foods. Please let me remind you that lard was a perfectly acceptable food ingredient in those days.
Today, fast food addicts can satisfy their hunger with a variety of foods. And these foods are lard free. Hallejah! We have seen the light!