Lewis Brown, an occasional contributor to my column, asked me if I was familiar with a former Johnson City business known as the Spudnut Shop. 

“Many years ago when I joined the Optimist club,” said Lewis, “John Roach (former parts manager for Tennessee Motor Company, 401 W. Market Street) told me about a donut shop in the downtown area that opened sometime after WWII and made donuts from potato flour. Apparently, it was inexpensive and made good donuts.”

I do not recall that eatery. According to my research, the product was the brainchild of Al and Bob Pelton, brothers from Salt Lake City, who had eaten some potato-based doughnuts while visiting Germany from a folk recipe that traces its beginnings back to that country. The boys, impressed with the taste of it, experimented with potatoes, wheat dough and other ingredients before deciding on a secret dry potato mix formulation. Thus began a business in 1940, which they cleverly named Spudnuts. 

In 1946, the entrepreneurs established a nationwide chain of franchised Spudnut Shops; two years later, they totaled over 200 stores across the country. The tasty delicacy was widely advertised, using as its slogan “Coast to Coast, Alaska to Mexico.” Soon Mr. Spudnut, a doughnut cartoon character, began appearing in advertisements. Within six years, there were over 300 shops operating in 38 states. By 1964, the company was distributing about 400,000 Spudnuts per day.

One tantalizing ad from 1952 promoted other Spudnut products: “Buttons and Bows (luscious pastry, succulent taste and appetite surprise, topped with fresh coconut and maraschino cherry, five cents), Spudnut Persians (a crispy melt-in-your mouth goodness, tangy cinnamon layers, smooth, five cents), Spudnut Bismarks (tender crisp crust with tangy fresh-flavored filling, wonderful for lunches, five cents), Spud-Overs (a light flaky crust surrounding a generous portion of Spud Apples, blended with an exciting selection of rare spices, two for five cents).”

An advertisement from 1956 described the product as “a special blend of finest wheat flour, powdered whole eggs, specially prepared potatoes, milk solids and other vital ingredients, all mixed and blended perfectly to the secret Pelton formula. Spudnuts are 'raised' in a proof box, just like all finest pastries. Then they are cooked at an exact high temperature in highest-quality shortenings, causing them to be greaseless. Finally, they are glazed, sugarcoated or chocolate iced.” 

A newspaper in 1960 referred to Spudnuts as “a delicious doughnut-like pastry made from light fluffy potato flour, cooked in pure vegetable shortening, making them easy to digest. Is there just one kind of Spudnut? No. There are at least 30 varieties including chocolate, maple, glazed, nut, coconut, jelly, lemon, cream, twists, honey, apple, spice and others.” A 1962 flyer urges the consumer to come by for some freshly ground coffee and 45 varieties of Spudnuts.

When the Pelton brothers retired in 1968 and sold their business to National Oven Products, Inc., annual sales were $2 million. By the 1980s, the parent company had closed, leaving their franchisees unsupported. Today, the only remnants of the once flourishing sugary business are a handful of stores still marketing the yummy product. One has to wonder if the independent stores use their own formula or have the “secret” one developed by the Pelton brothers.

I can’t believe I missed out on Spudnuts since I love doughnuts, but possibly I was away at college during this time. If anyone can recall eating at the Johnson City shop or perhaps at another one in the area, please identify its location and tell me what you thought of the potato-based product.

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In 1953, Johnson City had 62 mostly “Mom and Pop” restaurants in the Johnson City area. Most were located within a short distance of the downtown Fountain Square area for the convenience of shoppers and workers.

Two of my family members owned restaurants in the early 1950s. I mentioned one, The Green Bean, at 514 W. Market in my “Aunt Ween” column last October. The other one operated at 501 W. Market about 1951-52 at the former site of (Carl) Long’s Lunch (previously Long’s Barbeque).

The new owners were Lester and Carrie Bowman and Staley and Jennie Cain. Lester ran Lester Bowman’s Auto Exchange just two doors west at 505 W. Market (previously located at 235 W. Main). Jennie and her sister, Pauline were vaudeville performers, known as the Bowman Sisters, in New York in the early 1930s.

The two families opened the business a couple of years before Pauline established hers. The name of it escapes family and friends; perhaps a reader will know. Mom, Dad and I ate there frequently. In spite of all the nourishing meals they doled out, hamburger and French fries were about all I ever ate.

Staley worked at Lester’s car lot so Carrie and Jennie were pretty much responsible for running the café on a day-to-day basis. I am sure the men came over regularly to chow down the victuals. Lester's job was selling cars, not flipping hamburgers.

Carrie and Jennie placed one bottle of each different brand of soft drink they sold on a high shelf behind the food counter that included Pepsi Cola, Coca Cola, Royal Crown Cola, Old Colony, Double Cola, Orange Crush, Dr. Pepper, TruAde, Mil-Kay Orange (made with real oranges), Hires Root Beer, Dr. Swett’s Root Beer, Upper 10, Red Rock, Tip, Frostie Root Beer, Golden Cola, Grapette, Nehi Grape, Nehi Orange and Cheerwine.

Carrie Bowman was a witty lady who spoke a colorful language of her own. Those who remember her likely recall some of her unique sayings. In her younger days, a man once asked her, “Where have you been all my life?” Her respond was “I've only been born about half of it.” When she spotted an unattractive person, she would say, “They can't help being ugly, but they could at least stay home.” Anything slippery was referred to as “slicker than owl grease.”

After purchasing something, Carrie would often declare, “This ought to last me until I die, if I die when I ort (ought) to.” An impoverished person was “as poor as Job’s turkey.” Someone who made a quick exit took off like “Moody’s goose.” Anyone who went by “Shank’s mare” walked. If an inconsiderate person blew his car horn at her, she would said, “Blow your nose; you'll get more out of it.” Two more quotes were “Pretty is as pretty does” and “Have it your way.” 

Lester once invited my family to eat at the restaurant with a new family who had just moved to Johnson City. They were Mervin and Mildred Pratt. While we ate, they discussed a new business venture they were starting in the city. They quickly got my attention when they said it would be called Dairy Queen and located at 714 W. Market Street (opposite the Kiwanis Park Little League ball field. We lived near there.

A Science Hill classmate of mine, Bill Durham, once told me that his sister, Christine, was the first employee they hired. Living so close to the Queen, I often walked down there for a “Cone with the Curl on Top.” As I recall, they were priced at five and ten cents depending on the size, milk shakes cost a quarter and banana splits were pricey at 50 cents. This was the first time I ever had the option of eating a cone dipped in chocolate and spread with nuts. Mervin’s place was quite popular since it was the only one in town, but that would soon change.

The Bowman-Cain restaurant operated between one and two years before closing, but my love for the “Cone with the Curl on Top” continues to this day. 

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I enjoy walking the streets of downtown Johnson City when everything is relatively quiet and peaceful, allowing me to reflect on the thousands of stores, from pre-Henry Johnson days to the present, which were once open for business.

If the storefronts could talk about all their previous owners, they would say that many were highly successful, operating for years and often passing the torch to another generation family member. Countless others were short-timers who struggled and were forced to abandon their rainbow dreams in search of another pot of gold. 

Of particular interest to me are lesser-known establishments that vanished from the scene long ago. Case in point are three of my recent subjects: Lee Hotel (anonymous contributor), the Busy Bee Restaurant and New York Café (the latter two from George Buda).

Several months ago, Paul Gill sent me a photo of the Tip Top Restaurant that was dated May 1904. I was not familiar with it. Paul surmised that it was located somewhere in the vicinity of Fountain Square. I forwarded the picture to Brad Jolly who ran it on the history page asking readers if they knew anything about it. 


The man in the apron is storeowner, George R. Brown. Standing beside him on the right side is his wife, Sallie. Their son, Melvin, and daughter, Phoebe, are in front of them. The other men are unidentified. 

Recently, I received a letter from Jim Brown with further information about the former eatery: “My father was Melvin Earl Brown who lived all his life in Johnson City. My mother’s name was Lillie.  My dad worked 40 some years for Railway Express.  His father was George R. Brown (my grandfather) and he owned and operated the Tip Top Restaurant and boarding house, which opened in 1904. 

“After my oldest sister passed away in March, we received old pictures from as far back as the 1870s. The Tip Top Restaurant was in some of the first ones we received. Then came another envelope with more pictures, including a newspaper clipping from the Johnson City Press-Chronicle that mentions the restaurant.”

Although Jim’s newspaper clipping was undated and unidentified, I readily recognized it as a portion of a Tom Hodge column. In part it read: “M.E. Brown, whom I have known for years, popped into my office recently. Back in the days when I was going to Science Hill High School and did the public address system for Cardinal Park for Appalachian League games, I saw him every home game.

“At any rate, he came bearing an old photo for me to examine. The photo accompanies this column. The picture was made in May 1904 of the store his father ran at the corner of Tipton and Buffalo streets. That’s of particular interest since that building was recently torn down to make way for the new Downtown Loop.

“His father, G.R. Brown, is in the long apron. His mother stands next to her husband. The girl in front was his sister, Phoebe, and that’s M.E. Brown in front holding the newspapers. His father ran the store – restaurant – boarding house for (a few) years, closing it in 1908. Lodging was at the rate of 25 cents a night.

“The papers M.E. carried at that tender age of six were the Cincinnati Post, which he sold. You’ll note that the streets were unpaved and the sidewalks were of wood. It was not until later that I started wondering about the fresh oysters. Back in 1904, how did you get fresh oysters this far inland? I’ll have to ask Mr. Brown.”   

Excluding the Cardinal Park comments, two telltale verbal tracks in the article identified it as the late Tom Hodge. Mr. Brown “popped” in the newspaperman’s office. No one ever just entered his workplace; he or she “popped” in. Second, the photo “accompanied” his column. It was never added, appended or affixed. Such wording was standard fare for the man who made significant contributions to area history over many years. 

Thanks to the efforts of Paul, Jim and Tom, we now know something about the Tip Top Restaurant including its downtown location.


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I have been a hamburger connoisseur my entire life. My favorite burger in the late 1940s was cooked by Bill Lawson at his small 302 W. Market Street cafe, The Sandwich Shop, just west down the road from our apartment. After Bill closed his business, my taste buds promptly migrated west to the Apex Barbecue at 604 W. Market where I was became acquainted with the Gurney Burger, a large and tasty burger made from a secret family recipe of the Gurney Campbell family.

Compared to standard burgers of that day, this meaty gastronomic delight was gigantic. It was so big that the joke around town was that if you ate too many of them, you might end up on a hospital gurney. My family made frequent trips to the Apex to get a bagful of burgers, which I seem to recall were individually wrapped in white paper. Several years later, Gurney left the Apex and opened his own restaurant at 1418 E. Main, just beyond Broadway Street. Everybody in town knew Gurney Campbell.

In 1988, Johnson City Press-Chronicle writer, Mark Rutledge, interviewed Gurney and Mary Campbell about their highly popular business. The 84-year-old couple revealed that they initially opened a hamburger and hot dog joint in Hampton about six years after they were married in 1921. After more than 60 years later, they were still flipping burgers with the help of four generations of family members.

Betty Jackson, daughter of the Campbells, is credited for naming the burger after her father. “How many family businesses,” asked Mrs. Jackson, “have you seen with four generations working? We have a few non-family employees working for us, but it’s mostly family members. Anytime anybody says, ‘I need some money,’ I tell them, ‘I’ve got a job for you.’” 

After the Campbells moved their business to Johnson City, their life became saturated with hamburgers. People fell in love with the Gurney Burger and the product became a household name. That is what the public wanted and that is what they got. Mrs. Campbell labored over the grill six days a week flipping meat patties. She told people that her husband paid her “twenty-one fifty a week.” She clarified that statement as meaning twenty-one meals and 50 cents.

Gurney and Mary initially charged a dime each for a cup of coffee and a burger. Over time, the burgers became slightly more expensive, but the coffee remained the same. Mary jokingly explained that she would not let her husband raise the price because “that’s all it’s worth.”

Making Gurney Burgers was more than just a trade with the Campbells; it was a family tradition. Raised in the business, Mrs. Jackson passed the art to her daughter, Ann Lee, who in turn taught the trade to her daughter Jennifer.

The Gurney Burger competed well with the newer kids on the block – Shoney’s “Big Boy,” McDonald’s “Big Mac” and Burger King’s “Whopper.” Aside from its scrumptious taste, the burger’s success was probably due to the fact that the Campbells kept the business simple and did not try to expand it, a concept that obviously worked well.

A highlight of the Campbells’ career occurred when CBS television’s Charles Kuralt cruised by the restaurant in his motor home to verify the existence of the celebrated sandwich. He mentioned the establishment during one of his many “On the Road” segments for the CBS Evening News.

After the Campbells eventually closed their business, several people tried to return it to its former glory, but efforts proved futile. Today, the colossal scrumptious Gurney Burger is but a fleeing lip-smacking memory from yesteryear. 

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In 1985, former Press writer Tom Hodge wrote about a restaurant that he occasionally patronized. Located in Unicoi, it was Clarence’s Drive-In, owned and operated by Clarence Tapp who opened the popular eatery in 1969. It is still going strong 40 years later.

The signature meal, according to current owners, Jerry and Teresa Collins, is the biscuits and gravy plate, which is served anytime. The thing that intrigued Tom about Clarence’s, aside from its tasty victuals, was its reputation for producing some of the most outlandish tall tales imaginable. I located several of the writer’s columns that dealt with the trendy restaurant. I am repeating my favorite yarns along with the names of the perpetrators.

Lawrence Hahn said that he and Briscoe Edwards once were driving in Erwin when they spotted a dog chasing a cat from a yard into an alley. After the dog apprehended the cat, a fierce fight ensued. The feline not only whipped the canine, but moments later, the latter ran out of the alley with the cat behind in hot pursuit.

Bill Honeycutt, while working on a Clinchfield Railroad crew repairing a bridge, once observed a man with a shotgun and a dog coming through a field. They passed in front of a house where a second man was standing in the doorway. About that time, a large rabbit came hopping across the front yard. The dog spotted the animal and took chase. The man with the shotgun hollered to the man at the door, “If my dog kills your rabbit, I’ll pay you for it.”

When the dog caught the rabbit, the rodent-like creature unexpectedly kicked the dog three feet into the air. Every time the mutt got up, the hare belted him again. Seeing what was transpiring, the man at the door shouted to the man in the field, “If my rabbit kills your dog, I’ll pay you for it.”

Carl Jones related that when they wanted to go hunting, they’d make an appointment with Smith and Ike Nelson because they had the best dogs in the country. He went with them several times and noticed something unusual. The dogs would bark for a while, suddenly become quiet, and soon afterward resume yelping again. One night he inquired why the animals so frequently lose the scent and stop barking. It was explained to him that the dogs were trained to cease barking anytime they passed through posted land.

Bill McInturff’s dog, Tige (same name as the Buster Brown Shoes canine) weighted maybe five pounds soaking wet. He noted that the animal once saved his life. It seems he was out in his pasture working when one of his cows went berserk and chased him into the middle of his pond. Even worse, the bovine started in after him. Tige, seeing what was happening, immediately came to his owner’s rescue by nipping at the cow’s heels until it turned and chased the dog back onto dry land.

And finally my favorite … Bucky Church owned a dog that every evening would faithfully go into the pasture and bring all 22 cows home. The dog showed up back at the farm at precisely the same time with the herd. One day, Bucky sold one of the animals to a neighbor. When his dog went to the pasture to acquire the cows that evening, he found only 21 of them, realizing one was missing.

The dog eventually located the animal in a nearby neighbor’s pasture and ushered it back to the herd, bringing the number back to 22. Bucky returned the cow to its rightful owner, but the dog retrieved it again the next day. This went on until Church figured out how to solve the dilemma. He obtained the cancelled check from his neighbor and showed it to his dog. The canine promptly adjusted his cow count from 22 to 21 and the problem was resolved. 

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The downtown Johnson City I fondly remember in the 1950s-60s was a lively place especially on Saturdays. Between 1962 and 1964, I was a full-time student at ETSU with a part-time job at Frick’s Music Mart (403 S. Roan).

I planned my campus schedule each weekday so I could finish my classes by early afternoon and work at the store until closing time at 5:00. I drove downtown usually before 1:30, parked in the municipal lot and grabbed some lunch at one of the many downtown restaurants before reporting for work. In 1964, there were 73 cafes and restaurants in Johnson City with 17 of them within walking distance of Fountain Square.

Let me name a few: Byrd’s Restaurant (101 E. Market), Guy’s Café (126 W. Market), Lecka Restaurant (119 Buffalo), M&L Café (118 Windsor Way), Main Street Café (111 W. Main), Melody Lane (115 Fountain Square), Miller’s Café (137 W. Market), Ed’s Town House (101 Buffalo), The Par (105 Fountain Square), Piedmont Café (116 W. Main), Rich Luncheonette (112 Commerce), Sevier Café (115 Fountain Square), Royal Café (109 Buffalo), The Smoke Shop (109 Spring), Tennessee Snack Bar (148 W. Market), Dinty Moore’s Restaurant (121 E. Market), Tip Top Café (114 W. Main) and  Victor Café (124 E. Market).

My favorites were Byrd’s, Dinty Moore’s and Ed’s. While I ate at all three over time, it was Ed’s Town House that regularly captured my business. I was usually half-starved upon entering the establishment that was located directly across from the old City Bus Station. Ed occupied the former site of the Boston Shoe Shop.

The proprietor, Everett “Ed” Gass, an Elizabethton resident, was a tall blond middle-aged man with a flattop haircut. He opened up for breakfast at the crack of dawn and closed in late afternoon after the lunch crowd had dwindled. There was not enough activity in the downtown area to justify his staying open after mid-afternoon. While Ed served the customary burger and fry fare, it was his daily “Special” that attracted me. His offering included one meat, two vegetables, bread and a drink of choice. The food was unusually good and reasonably priced at less than two dollars, equating to about two hour’s pay. His hamburgers were equally scrumptious as they were cooked on a flat grill. 

The restaurant was small with six to eight tables and a long counter with stools along the left. I usually occupied a seat at the counter. By the time I arrived, the dinner crowd had pretty much moved on. From time to time, I came in late to find that the daily “Special” was depleted, prompting Ed to fix me a delicious meal from scratch.

Gass was a super guy and really appreciated my business. He employed two helpers who waited on customers leaving cooking chores to the boss. Occasionally, the health inspector was there prompting Ed to nervously pace the floor. I frequented Ed's Town House for over two years. After enrolling at the University of Tennessee, I sporadically dropped in on Saturday to eat with him.  On one visit, I regrettably found the Town House door closed and padlocked; Ed had gone out of business. 

Some time later, I ran into the former restaurateur at the downtown General Dollar Store (104 W. Main) where he was then working. He said the long daily hours eventually caused him to pull the plug on his once profitable business.  

I often think back on this restaurant with much fondness, perhaps because I was a famished university student when I entered his place of business each day. Ed’s tasty daily gastronomic “Specials” are firmly deposited in my yesteryear memory bank. 

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The 2008 World Series has come and gone. Area residents mature enough to remember the Oct. 2-10, 1926 event may recall it for what happened in Johnson City rather than what transpired in New York and St. Louis. The Yankees and Cardinals squared off in a seven-day contest that concluded with the Gateway City taking the coveted crown four games to three.

The Sept. 29 sports headlines of the Johnson City Staff-News boldly stated, “World Series Games to Be Played In Johnson City; Begin Saturday.” The largest crowds to ever attend a city amusement event watched a simulation of the World Series games on a large magnetic player board mounted on the roof along the Main Street side of the one-story Appalachian Publishers newspaper building office, the same location as today’s Johnson City Press.

According to several news articles, the game was reproduced exactly as it was being played during the series with a delay of 1-10 seconds. The newspaper furnished play-by-play service at no cost to the public, offering in miniature representation every imaginable movement of the players in the game.

Even team practice prior to the game and warming up of pitchers in the bullpen were shown in addition to the exact movement of the ball and players as the game progressed. The outdoor crowd stared with interest at the minutest movements that included “winding up” of the pitcher, the specifics of curve balls thrown and close plays at the bases. Recreating the game was an amazing feat for that era that was void of home television sets.

A strong magnet weighing ten pounds that was balanced by window weights on wires powered the electric board. It ran over pulleys at the top and was capable of being moved to any position on the board. The field was fabricated of a very thin non-magnetic composition. The steel ball was drawn to follow the magnet on the other side, which was marked with player positions and heavily oiled.

The popular creation required a nine-man crew to reproduce the whole ballgame. Three were at the playing field end of the wires, four operated the board and two were in the telegraph room. The plays were received in code over the United Press wires the instant they occurred in the ballpark from one operator and two baseball experts in the press box. As soon as it was received in the telegraph room, the play was immediately read by telephone to those at the back of the player board. 

The three people handling the operation of the board were said to be former baseball players, official scorers and sport writers. Their detailed familiarity of the sport was of immense value in operating the board. Watching the simulation was the next best thing to being in the actual ballparks.

Through the courtesy of J.A. Parsons, O.E. Miller and J.H. Miller of the White City Laundry and John Anderson of Anderson Service Station, the large vacant space immediately opposite (south of) the Appalachian Publishers building was made available for parking.  

In addition, approximately 300 cars were parked on both sides along two miles of road that included Main, Market, Wilson, from the Southern Railway tracks almost to Watauga Avenue and along Boone and Whitney streets. During the seven games, the crowd fluctuated between six and nine thousand. The paper complimented Captain Jensen and the patrolmen of the Johnson City Police Department for their competent handling of traffic.

After the series ended, the final article concluded with the words: “Well, it will happen again next year.” The sports treat continued for a few years before fading into yesteryear.   

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My two previous Dutch Maid columns evoked additional responses from readers. The first came from Mike Burgner, nephew of the late Otto (nicknamed Ott): “Your article brought back many memories for me as I used to work for Uncle Ott. I wish that he could have read your article. I miss him and the Dutch Maid.”

Rex Burgner next responded with his own reminiscences: “Your article circled through our family, those of us who are left. It brought back fond memories of a good time in Johnson City when we were not trying to compete with every other city in Tennessee. If anyone can remember the kids that ran around the restaurant, well, that was us.

“As I read the article, I can still see (my great) Uncle Ott in the back of the restaurant cooking chicken and potato wedges in the pressure cooker. Yep, that was the secret; cook potatoes and chicken together in a pressure cooker and make sure to serve them with a biscuit and a pack of honey to put on the potato wedge.

“’Frog,” the cook, had a secret technique that he used for cooking the best liver in Johnson City. He always covered the meat with a plate when he cooked it on the griddle because he couldn’t stand the sight or smell of liver, ha ha.”

Rex went on to say that his grandfather, Rev. Roy G. Burgner, preached at several Baptist churches in East Tennessee: “When my grandfather died some years ago in Walhalla, SC, I was shocked to see all the people who came to his funeral from Johnson City. The talk that day centered about “The Preacher,” as he was known, and the Dutch-Maid Drive-In.”

I mentioned Jerry Honeycutt’s impressive painting of the restaurant in my previous column. He sent me the attached photo that epitomizes the frenzied activity level surrounding the popular business at night with hordes of people arriving by car, truck and motorcycle. Some cruised the restaurant repeatedly; others stood outside talking with one another; and a number of patrons enjoyed curb service dining in their now antique vehicles.

Jerry remarked that he had a creamer with the Dutch Maid stopper still in it. He also commented on the large sign above the famous eatery, indicating that he worked several years for the sign maker, the late James Hensley, who was one of the “Erwin Nine POWs.” Jerry eventually created the drawing for the prisoner of war monument at VA’s emergency room entrance.

The artist related that he possessed three books that once belonged to Burgner. John Alan Maxwell, who was one of his art instructors, provided the art for their jackets. They were valuable to him because of who had owned them and who had illustrated them.

According to Jerry: “My family had a lot of get-togethers when my aunts and uncles came to town for our annual family reunion. I guess that is how I got into the Dutch Maid reunion and the annual Racer's Reunion that I produced for 11 years. I knew a lot of people who went to the Dutch Maid.”

Let me close with some fitting words from Rex Burgner: “It would be nice to be able to have a place like the Dutch Maid again, wouldn't it? Nobody has time anymore to relax and enjoy life. I can still remember taking the food out to the cars and hoping for a tip. Does ‘curb-hopping’ even exist anymore? I hope so.”

I will feature a fourth Dutch-Maid column soon that captures Lynn Williams’ treasured and humorous remembrances of the time he worked for WBEJ in Elizabethton as one of the deejays who broadcast nightly and took record requests from atop the Dixie/Dutch-Maid Drive-In. 

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I haven’t operated my Yesteryear Time Machine lately so let me crank it up and take us on a voyage to 1908 in downtown Johnson City, a municipality of about 7500 inhabitants. The sole purpose of the trip is to dine at Pardue’s Quick Lunch Counter at 239 E. Main. Take your heavy coat along; you will need it.

I set the dial on the machine to noon, Thursday, Jan. 9, 1908 and off we go to that era. We disembark on Main Street, a two-lane newly bricked road with almost no vehicular traffic. This is nine months before the Model T automobile will be introduced to the public. 

As we approach the “eating house,” as the are called, Henry Pardue, the proprietor, greets us at the front door. His customers are a mix of storeowners and shoppers. We learn that he also owns a wholesale distributor business selling groceries, fruits and bakery items. The food must be really good because the place is teeming with customers.

The lunch “Bill of Fare” contains a surprising 96 items subdivided into Meats, Dairy Dishes, Specials, Seasonable, Fruits, Relishes, Vegetables and Beverages. Prices vary from 5 to 25 cents.  We casually glance over the menu to decide what to order.

The 19 meat choices and prices include ten sandwiches: liver .05, hamburg (yes, hamburg) .05, tongue .10 (no thanks), ham .10, chicken .10, turkey .10, cold beef .05, cold pork and sausage .05.

Other items are breakfast bacon .10, small steak .15, fried liver and onions .10, American sardines .10, French sardines .25, pickled pigs feet .10, pork chops .15, and oysters .25. My pick is liver and onions, but Henry is going to allow me to sample the hamburg beef because he says it contains coffee, brown sugar and sundry other ingredients.

The vegetable items are priced at a nickel each: Boston baked beans, soup beans, stewed corn, boiled cabbage, raw or cooked sauerkraut, butter beans, string beans, succotash, stewed tomatoes, fried sweet potatoes, greens, red kidney beans and a bowl of soup. For my sides, I want soup beans, boiled cabbage and stewed corn.

Also on the menu are 14 relishes: dill pickles .05, sour pickles .05, sweet mixed pickles .05, sweet plain pickles .05, sliced beets .05, sauerkraut .05, cold slaw .05, India relish .05, queen olives .10, celery .10, stuffed olives .10, and cucumbers .10. I believe I will try India relish and sauerkraut.

Looking over the fruits section, I notice they have 11 items: oranges .10, grapefruit .10, bananas and cream .10, peaches .15, pears .15, apricots .15, white cherries .15, rolly polly cherries .15, plums .15, pineapple .15 and baked apples .10. Give me the cherries.

Included among the 11 beverages on the menu are young (leaf) Hysop tea .05, ginger ale .15, buttermilk .05, and cocoa and crème .10. I understand the tea is quite refreshing so I will sample it.

The 20 dairy dishes consist of graham bread and milk .10, dip toast .10, corn or batter cakes .10, jelly roll .05, graham wafers .05, shredded wheat biscuit .10, force (whole meal biscuits) and milk .10, Malta Vita and milk .10, and Elijah’s Manna and milk. I definitely must try the last one because where in 2008 would I find that item on a menu?

The Bill of Fare also contains five seasonable choices: watermelon on ice .10, Rocky Ford cantaloupe .10, cantaloupe and cream, new peaches and cream and sliced tomatoes. I will go with the tomatoes.

After a leisurely enjoyable lunch, we pay our bill at an old fashioned cash register. My meal comes to .50 plus I added a .10 tip. We depart the eatery, board our time machine and return home. I hope you enjoyed our brief yet unique lunch excursion to 1908 to savor some gastronomic delights of yesteryear.  

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I received a note from John Salyer saying that my recent Dutch Maid Drive-In column made no mention of his family’s involvement with the restaurant. Mr. Salyer agreed to help me with a follow-up column.

He sent me some written material about the restaurant and asked artist Jerry Honeycutt (“Cruising Down Memory Lane”) to furnish me with some old photos including his wonderful painting of the establishment. The image shows incredible detail including many old cars from the mid 1940s to the late 1950s.

According to John: “My mother and father, John Kent and Dottie Salyer, moved to Elizabethton from Kingsport in 1951 and purchased the Dixie Maid. In 1954, they built a restaurant in Johnson City on property owned by Dayton Pierce. The Dixie Maid was renamed Dutch Maid #1 and the Johnson City location became Dutch Maid #2.”

John said that in its heyday the Elizabethton store featured Curly White, a local WBEJ disc jockey, playing records over the air from the top of the restaurant. Carhops would routinely bring him requests to play records for customers.

Salyer went on to say that his family formed a partnership with Otto Burgner at the Johnson City store. His mother recalled that they introduced pizza to the local area after Otto returned from a trip to Chicago with the unique concept. The co-owner had a reputation for handling rowdy customers. Once, a man on leave from the Navy got into a scuffle with two other fellows. Otto abruptly picked up the Navy man by the nape of his neck and seat of his pants and tossed him into the back seat of a convertible that was cruising by the establishment.

John sent me an eat-in menu from probably about 1980 that showed food categories of Eggs & Omelettes, Wheat Cakes, Biscuits & Gravy, Cereals & Toast, Sandwiches, Side Orders, Flavor Crisp Chicken (with Jo Jo Potatoes), Steaks & Chops, Seafood, Salads and Soup.

For breakfast, one egg with potato cake or grits, hot biscuit, cream gravy, butter and jelly and a choice of ham, bacon or sausage cost $2. Three wheat cakes went for $1.75. A quarter-pound jumbo hamburger was $1.25 with $.50 extra for fries.

Attached to the menu was a “Daily Menu for the Week” page showing nine items including Country Style Fried Steak and Gravy ($2.75), Grilled Ham Steak with Pineapple ($3.75) and a Rib Eye Steak ($4.00). The daily specials were $2.50 each: Monday, Pepper Steak; Tuesday, Braised Beef Tips; Wednesday, Meat Loaf; Thursday, Roast Pork and Dressing; and Friday, Grilled Liver and Onions. The daily and special items included a side order of two vegetables.

An analysis of the old restaurant photo really brought back some memories for me. Several ads were visible on the glass window: “Try a Tally Ho, The Sandwich That Melts in Your Mouth; Dip Top Ice Cream Cone; Banana Split; Dutch Ice Cream; Do I Smell Pizza-Burger?; Take a Pizza Home; and We Bake Our Own Pies.”

 A portable sign along the front says “Original Crispy Pizza Baked Fresh to Your Order?” There were two service windows along the front with the one on the left having a fan above it. A speakerphone can be seen suspended from the overhang on the right. I also noticed that my former late neighbor, James Hensley, fabricated the large sign on the roof.

Writing this column evoked some very pleasant culinary feelings for me from the Dutch Maid Drive-In. I only wish this restaurant were still around today so I could go there right now and fetch me a plate of their scrumptious liver and onions. Yum! Yum! 

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