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Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

Picturing the Past 8: Burger Chef

Posted Tuesday, May 12, 2009, at 11:25 AM

(Photo)
Burger Chef, from the 1960s or 1970s. (Photo provided by Jan Phillips)
Hungry? Thinking about Burger Chef for lunch or dinner? Dream on...

Thanks to Jan Phillips for passing along this undated photo of Burger Chef, probably the main spot for street-cruisin' teens, and hungry folks of all ages, during the late 1960s and early-to-mid 1970s.

The building's still there, on Lane Parkway just up from the Union Street-Elm Street intersection where they meet up with Colloredo Boulevard, which wasn't there during the Chef's heyday. (Remember when a barber shop was in a building located where today is exactly in the middle of Colloredo?)

Apparently Burger Chef took over as the main hangout from the Rebel Maid and the other fast food restaurants from the 1950s and 1960s such as Mr. Burger, on Madison Street where Dr. Will Alcorn's dental office is today. Mr. Burger burgers were great as well. I think the original Mr. Burger building burned and the replacement structure is actually Dr. Alcorn's office building.

The Chef eventually faded as well; by my high school days in the mid-to-late 1970s Dairy Queen/Pizza Hut, followed by McDonald's in the late '70s, eventually attracted the crowds.

But I remember Burger Chef well, and am actually almost tasting one of their burgers in my mind.

A Consumer Price Index calculator indicates that the 15-cent hamburger mentioned on the sign would be worth 83 cents in today's dollars.

So what happened to the Burger Chef chain? More competition?

A lot of other folks around the country remember their Burger Chefs. Check www.thebawdycloister.com/reliquary/ and www.freewebs.com/burgerchef for more memories of Burger Chefs.

Picturing the Past is featured in this blog each Tuesday.


Comments
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We moved to Bedford County in 1972, so I did get in on the last few years of Burger Chef. I liked them because they had a top-your-own burger bar, at least during their last few years.

-- Posted by Jicarney on Tue, May 12, 2009, at 11:45 AM

the works bar!! I loved it, as a kid I finally got to squirt my on ketcup! boy I sure felt like a "Big Kid"

-- Posted by punkin1129 on Tue, May 12, 2009, at 12:34 PM

Loved Burger Chef, fixing the burger the way you wanted it. We used to go there after ballgames at Hillard Gardner and it was sooooooooo much fun!

-- Posted by titansfan on Tue, May 12, 2009, at 12:53 PM

Another good one. I remember the Burger Chef well. There was a man from Arkansas who came in and was the overseer of the construction. Tom Segroves had a big part in getting the franchise here. (Tom was also instrumental in getting Minnie Pearl Fried Chicken to build in Shelbyville). Minnie Pearl was located on the corner of Elm and Morton, just across the corner from the Bedford County Training School (Harris High School). Burger Chef was Shelbyville's first move into the fast food restaurant business. I was on the crew that did the wiring and plumbing of that establishment. If my memory serves me correctly the date would have been mid 60's or maybe a little earlier.

Before the Burger Chef and their famous "Flame Broiled Burger" my only experience with fast food was in Nashville at the Krystal, and at a restaurant on Gallatin Pike called Ray's Big Boy that was owned by Ray Danner. Ray's Big Boy later became Shoney's Big Boy.

I to remember when Roy Moon had a barber shop at the location you are talking about. Many years before that T.L. (Tom) Smith had a store and restaurant in the bend of the road there on Elm and he made a really good hamburger for 5 cents. He cooked the little burgers ahead of time and kept them warm on the top of a wood stove in a cast iron pot. My mouth is really beginning to water now so I better close this post for now.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, May 12, 2009, at 1:19 PM

I can't believe that the building in this picture is the same building that remains standing today. It has really changed and hasn't been taken care of. I am too young to remember this place since it was already out of business when I was born. But I do like the idea of a burger bar. Maybe some of the fast food places today could take a hint. This is a good idea.

-- Posted by honda14 on Tue, May 12, 2009, at 1:20 PM

I have just remembered that the owner of the Burger Chef was Sam Manire I believe.

Also it has been a while since I have been in a Wendy's but they used to have a burger bar where you could build your own burger.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, May 12, 2009, at 1:27 PM

Awwww Burger Chef I really do not recall their food but I do recall the Hang out. :>) It makes me wonder how much gas I wasted all those years of circling and circling Burger Chef..of course back then 5$ of gas lasted me all week :>)

-- Posted by Dianatn on Tue, May 12, 2009, at 1:29 PM

I remember Burger Chef and used to sit there on some Friday nights or Saturday mornings. Of course I would be cruising the strip, but whenever I cruised around Burger Chef I would check for a pirate radio station that called itself Underground Radio....years later I found out who and where this station was broadcast from, but if Underground was on, then I hung out in the parking lot for awhile, because if you went 1/2 mile in any direction, except the direction the station was in, then you lost the signal.

As far as the food at BC, I loved the Rancher platters and the Works bar.

William

-- Posted by HorseGentler on Tue, May 12, 2009, at 2:32 PM

Underground Radio! I've never heard anyone else mention it. I remember it in the mid-to-late 1970s on 1120AM. I tracked it down one day and found it at a home on Mac Street. It actually could be heard with a listenable signal at my family's home across town on South Hillcrest Drive.

Seems like he came on Sunday afternoons, played gospel music early then switched to hard rock, using his own records or tapes. In later years, like the early 80s, he simply rebroadcast KDF and talked over the top of the KDF personalities.

-- Posted by David Melson on Tue, May 12, 2009, at 2:48 PM

Ah, those were the days my friend, we thought they'd never end. Playing rock and roll at The Cellar and hanging out at Burger Chef after the dance. Sitting on the hood of my 64 Red Fairlane, rocking to the beat and eating that fantastic burger. The radio staion belonged to an old friend who has passed on known as WUS (weak under modulated station). It was our age of innocence. Of all the stages of my life, this is the one I would gladly relive.

-- Posted by cherokee2 on Tue, May 12, 2009, at 4:56 PM

Oh I remember The Cellar, although I don't remember ever actually being inside. It seems I wasn't quite old enough to go..but I want to go.

-- Posted by Dianatn on Tue, May 12, 2009, at 7:01 PM

Im 34 so I dont remember this place. My parents talk about it sometimes. Was it at the intersection where the BP gas station is at now? Is it that same building?

-- Posted by thementalist on Wed, May 13, 2009, at 11:19 AM

Underground Radio, Underground City, USA.

RIP Underground DJ

-- Posted by dh38583 on Wed, May 13, 2009, at 12:10 PM

do any of you remeber:

Handy Dandy when it was across the street from its' current location?

There was a little resturant in next to it where the chicken wing place is. It was called, Scotties..do you remember that, they had the little Krystal like burgers.

Also up the road where Best Western is now was...

the gas station Working Mans Friend.

-- Posted by punkin1129 on Wed, May 13, 2009, at 12:19 PM

You're thinking about the Scotsman, punkin1129, and I definitely remember their miniburgers. Seems like the Scotsman met a fiery end when the building exploded one night.

-- Posted by David Melson on Wed, May 13, 2009, at 2:48 PM

I remember when Handy Dandy was across the street from it's current location. Wasn't there a restaurant there originally--where Handy Dandy is now? For some reason, I'm thinking there was a drive-up type (like Sonic) restaurant that my parents took me and my brother to when we were very, very young. I remember getting ice-cream that was the best! Someone please correct me if I'm wrong in that recollection.

-- Posted by k_collins39 on Wed, May 13, 2009, at 3:17 PM

k_collins39 you are right. It was Bud's Drive-In owned by Bud Watley. Years earlier Bud's dad also Bud Watley owned a restaurant and beer joint on North Main next door to Newell's Market. They served the best Chili Dog that I have ever found. Bud Jr. also served those Chili Dogs at Bud's Drive-In.

-- Posted by leeiii on Wed, May 13, 2009, at 5:47 PM

Was Bud's Drive In also the place where they did A&W Root Beer in frosted mugs? Or was it actually an A&W Drive In? I seem to remember when I was just a little kid about A&W being served in tee Tiny little mugs for kids.

-- Posted by Dianatn on Wed, May 13, 2009, at 7:12 PM

Dianatn, it was actually an A&W Drive In, which was in what is now an vacant lot just west of Freeman's Shoes on Madison Street. I remember eating there, and also remember that it apparently wasn't there very long. The building later housed Madison Street Tire Shop in the 1970s. Look at that vacant lot as it stretches from there to Deery Street and it seems amazing that the drive-in/tire store, a Chrysler-Plymouth dealer and a service station were all shoehorned into such a small space.

-- Posted by David Melson on Wed, May 13, 2009, at 9:41 PM

Great to see this picture of the old Burger Chef. Boy does that bring back memories of the good ole days. I have cruised around this restaurant countless times.

I actually remember when Handy Dandy was across the street and the Scotsman next door had the hamburgers very similar to the Krystal burgers. I actually used to ride my bike to the restaurant for lunch. I also used to visit Yancy's store for a cold Double Cola most afternoons which was across the street from the John Deere dealer.

You are right, Bud's drive in was also a classic.

Great memories!

-- Posted by bigdaddy63 on Wed, May 13, 2009, at 9:51 PM

When I think about Bud's on N.Main it usually brings to mind a series of memories that range from the taste of his roast beef with potatoes and gravy,to fallout shelters, a red hot "cold war" and the Russians beating us to outer space with Sputnik.

But one thing always comes to mind when I think of Bud's, and that's the sign he had on the wall behind the counter, which gave instructions to be followed in case of an atomic attack.

(1)Remain calm.

(2)Pay bill.

(3)Run like h_ll.

I wonder if anyone else remembers that sign.

-- Posted by ilikeoldsongs on Thu, May 14, 2009, at 10:34 AM

Wow. I haven't seen a photo of Burger Chef in many years. I remember it well because of the countless times I circled it with my friends -- and also because as a junior I briefly dated the owners' daughter. Jan Phillips and I, by the way, were both members of the Class of '71.

Man! That was a while ago.

-- Posted by theseeker on Fri, May 15, 2009, at 4:48 PM

I thought Sam owed Burger Chef in the 70's but he had a daughter also, her name is Rita.

-- Posted by Dianatn on Fri, May 15, 2009, at 8:10 PM

ilikeoldsongs, yes I remember that sign. I had gotten so enamored with the memories of his Chili Dog that I forgot about his famous open faced roast beef with potatoes and gravy. Yum Yum.

-- Posted by leeiii on Sat, May 16, 2009, at 9:37 AM

I used to LOVE this place! Fixing the toppings on our burgers was the best...I guess this was my first fast food place unless you consider JoBoy's fast food.

-- Posted by justmytwocentsworth on Tue, May 19, 2009, at 12:33 PM

hey JoBo's was that at the end of H.C. Martin's store?

-- Posted by punkin1129 on Tue, May 19, 2009, at 2:59 PM

punkin1129 and justmytwocentsworth I am so glad that you mentioned JoBoy's. I had forgotten the name of it, but I remember well that Coke and Billie ran it. Hardly a time passed when I went to H. Clays that I didn't stop in at JoBoys for some of that good ole Al's Bar-B-Que.

Hey, has anyone else beside me noticed how easily we can get off the subject onto food when we are remembering the "good ole days"?

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, May 19, 2009, at 3:49 PM

Good ole days and good old food...always good for a smile!

-- Posted by punkin1129 on Wed, May 20, 2009, at 10:21 AM

leeiii,let me stay on food for just long enough to say that since I arrived here in 1950, I have not found a better pecan pie than those available at Pope's Cafe in the 50's and 60's.

At the risk of getting banned from this site, let me go back to a previous thread and mix a little of it in with this one.

On the King Of Clubs thread there were numerous references to the little building and lot across from the old Eureka Pants factory, now Krystal.Arnold And Ragan was the first car lot that I remember being there, and in fact I bought a car from Bob Ragan at that lot.

In the other end of the building, toward Tullahoma, there was briefly a joint called "Teen Town". This was in 1957, based on the number of nickels I ran through the jukebox listening to "Searchin'".Best I recall someone said Ernie Darnell owned the place.It got pretty rough before it went out of business.

Ahh,the "good ole days".Pull in to the Rebel Maid, blink my lights, order 2 grilled cheese and 2 milkshakes, and feed my beautiful future bride and myself for ninety three cents, including the three cents sales tax. Yep, been there, done that.

-- Posted by ilikeoldsongs on Wed, May 20, 2009, at 10:21 AM

Good ole days and good ole food...always good for a smile!

-- Posted by punkin1129 on Wed, May 20, 2009, at 10:22 AM

Yep, remember the time well. Also when I took my date to the drive-in the cost was 40 cents each except on Wednesday nights when you could get in for 6 Pepsi bottle caps each. I used to raid many cold drink box bottle cap catchers during that time.

-- Posted by leeiii on Wed, May 20, 2009, at 1:41 PM

While looking for more negatives (found some good ones!) I found some from Burger Chef's grand opening. They're almost exactly like the photo above so no need to post it -- but it opened in August 1965.

-- Posted by David Melson on Thu, May 21, 2009, at 2:58 PM

ive just found your blog and really enjoyed the comments about the burger chef> i rode many times around that place watching evryone hanging out.what was the big deal of having a plastic straw hanging out of uour mouth? i never understood that. i left shelbyville in 1979 so reading all of this it brings back many times from long ago again thanks evreyone. lookin foward to reading more bout the old shelbyville.

-- Posted by MARINEDAN on Fri, May 22, 2009, at 7:36 AM

i remember going to burger chef for the food, which was awesome burger, look at carney, he still is showing it-lol, but my mom used to drag us out of bed and go looking for my oldest brther, he was usually there. if you go to duck river speedway site you will find sammy manire standing beside his #71 burger chef car.

-- Posted by fabulous1 on Thu, May 28, 2009, at 8:57 PM


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David Melson is a copy editor and staff writer for the Times-Gazette.