Thinking of a cheeseburger

Images lifted from the Internet. Original sources unknown.

Thinking of a cheeseburger

Not too awful long ago I had a hankering for a good cheeseburger for lunch. The kind dear ol' Mom used to make. It turned out I didn't get one but I thought about it more than I should have.

There are plenty of places around Clarion to get a cheeseburger. There are fast food joints, Mom and Pop places and upper-scale chain restaurants.

While I tried to decide which restaurant to visit, I weighed the pros and cons of each place and realized that by putting that much thought into it I probably wasn't really that hungry.

The fast food places stayed on my mind, though.

I grew up on the western edge of Salem Township and when I was a young lass, Oil City was a major hustling and bustling town. We just didn't travel to Clarion very often. Mom tended to do the school clothes and such shopping in Oil City.

There were grocery stores closer to home.

But I have a vague memory of the first fast food joint I knew of being in Clarion "Burger Chef."

Burger Chef was located on the Strattanville side of the Jamesway parking lot. I really only remember going there one time.

According to the Internet which always speaks only the truth the "Burger Chef chain closed nationwide after being purchased by Hardees in 1982. Up to that time, Burger Chef was the main competitor of the mighty McDonald's machine with over 2,500 franchises nationwide. Burger Chef was the first fast food chain to offer a kid's meal, a drive-thru window, and a salad bar."

I don't know when the Clarion Burger Chef closed. One day, it just wasn't there anymore.

I also don't know when the Clarion McDonald's opened. It was just there one day.

I have a clearer memory of the Oil City McDonald's opening. We went there for lunch one day after Mom finished shopping.

Shopping trips happened only two or three times a year so the lunch at McDonald's was a treat.

Dad usually got a Big Mac, Mom got a fish sandwich and each of us four children had a simple cheeseburger and a small french fry.

During one trip to Oil City, we all went inside the McDonald's restaurant. We had the usual order and we all packed into a single booth. (I was smaller then.)

My brother, the youngest of us, was seated between Mom and Dad on one side of the booth and my two sisters and I on the other side.

My younger sister, Karen, was seated between me and sister Diana.

Karen was going to apply a squeeze packet of ketchup to her fries.

Karen tore the little packet open at the corner and gave a squeeze.

Maybe the tear was crooked. Maybe she was holding the packet at the wrong angle. Maybe she squeezed too hard.

From my angle, I saw the jet stream of Heinz ketchup take to the air. The lead glop climbing through the air on a trajectory straight toward my little brother.

He wasn't looking. He was looking intently at the pickles on his cheeseburger. In my mind, it was all happening so slowly. I prepared to laugh at the ketchup splattering on my brother's face.

But the glop of tomatoey goodness was still moving forward. It was ignoring the law of gravity.

It sailed over my brother's head, between Mom and Dad.

Behind Mom and Dad, in the next booth with his back to us, was an older man. He was bald on top with a half-circle of perfectly white hair just about ear-level.

The flying glop of ketchup hit the man in the center of the back of his head. About half in his hair and half on his tanned bald head.

Karen froze. Mom looked horrified. Dad was stunned. Diana cried out in fear for her little sister. Hank continued to look at his pickles.

I decided it wasn't the time to laugh.

The older fellow of course first stuck his hand in the ketchup on his head.

Mom offered to wipe it off with a napkin. The older fellow was incredibly understanding and kind. He told Karen to not feel bad about it.

Odd thing, though, I don't remember ever being in that McDonald's or any other fast food place with the entire family again.

Mom, I remember, liked "Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips."

I believe there was such a restaurant in the Oil City area, but I can't be sure where it might have been.

Again, according to the all-knowing Internet, "Arthur Treacher's Fish & Chips is a fast food seafood restaurant chain. At the peak of its popularity in the late 1970s, it had about 800 stores. As of May 2018, there are only seven remaining: three in New York and four in Ohio."

(One of them is in Youngstown, Mom.)

By the time I returned home from military service, fast food restaurants were all over the place in Clarion and they had lost the sense of novelty they had when I was a kid.

I'm not quite sure how I can miss something I can't remember, but I could go for a Burger Chef "Big Shef" today.

The author is the editor of the CLARION NEWS.