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.