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If there's one thing that makes America stand out above anything else, its our slavish devotion to fast food. As the expanding waistlines of our populace attests, a more fitting slogan on our currency would be "In Burgers We Trust". According to the book "Hamburger Heaven" by Jeffrey Tennyson, the burger was invented in 1885 by a 15 year old boy named Charlie Nagreen who was serving them at a county fair in Wisconsin. Soon, restaurants started serving the tasty beef sandwiches across the country, but in 1927, the first chain of stores, White Castle, opened, and changed the way America ate forever.
McDonald's, Burger King, Jack In The Box, Wendy's and others are some of the most well known burger joints in the world. Here's a loving look at some of the great ads and spokespersons of retroburger lore.
Ronald McDonald is certainly the most recognized icon in the fast food business, and his appearance has gone virtually unchanged for decades, but as this rare photo shows, he had a slightly more mischievous look when he made his first appearance in 1963. If he looks familiar, that's because he was originally played by TV weatherman Willard Scott.
Rodney Allen Rippy's commercials for Jack In The Box were incredibly popular when I was a kid. Between 1971 and 1973, his cute antics in which he would fumble with Jumbo Jacks bigger than his little hands could hold. Rodney's currently has his own radio show and had a cameo in the latest David Spade flick. You can check out his website HERE.
One of the more interesting fast food icons is Wendy from the late Dave Thomas' Wendy's chain. The cartoon pigtailed girl is actually based on his real-life daughter, who's shown in this 1970 photo. Rumors that Wendy got a sex change and became Danny Bonaduce are completely false.
Of course, the most famous Wendy's spokesperson was Clara Peller with her famous "Where's the Beef?" slogan, which became so popular that Walter Mondale adopted it as a campaign catch phrase in the 1984 Presidential Election. Clara was actually fired from her job after she did a spaghetti sauce commercial!
Burger Chef was an east coast chain that I remember fondly as a kid in the 70s. They always had the best toys of any fast food burger joint. In 1982 they were purchased by a Canadian company that converted them all to Hardees restaurants. One sole holdout in Cooksville, Tennessee lasted until 1996 before it was finally changed over, as well. You can read an awful lot of cool things about this great burger chain of yesteryear at JSF'S BURGER CHEF PAGE.
I've never heard of Peter Pan burgers before, but something tells me eating food prepared by a one eyed razor clawed elf with a single tooth hanging out of his mouth isn't a great idea.
Long before McDonald's pioneered their Special Sauce, Gracie O's restaurant was marketing their famous Irish Hamburger with the baffling "Shamrock Dressing", which reportedly could be made only after some vigorous rubbing o' the leprechaun's shillelagh.
Of all the great McDonald's sandwiches of the past, I miss the McD.L.T. the most, which was served in a split package that kept the hot side hot, and the cool side cool. Their advertising heralded the idea as if they figured out the secrets of cold fusion. The expensive and wasteful packaging was largely to blame for this burger's demise.
Of course, if your girlfriend mentioned this phrase to you at the beginning of a date, it was a mixed message indeed.
You can read more about the great history of burgers in Jeffrey Tennyson's book "Hamburger Heaven" (where these and tons more cool pictures are contained). Its apparently out of print, but Amazon has nearly 28 used copies for sale starting at just $4 that's well worth the price. You can CLICK HERE to buy it.
HEY! If you liked this, you'll probably dig these other great retroCRUSH stories about fast food, and other crazy snacks!
Nickelodeon's Green Slime cereal, Orbitz soda, squishing Wonder Bread, sick meat recipes, make a squirrel nut ball, and my weird beer bottle collection
ideas with meat, Chuck E. Cheese, fast food fiascos, do Chinese people really put pee pee in Coke?, a Ronald McDonald tragedy, and The Trix Conspiracy
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