Monday, May 21, 2007

Hardee's Chronicles, Part I



In 1985 a Hardee's opened in my hometown of about 4,000 people. I didn't bother telling mom and dad I wanted to go. It was a forgone conclusion. A sign that popular in a town that small would eventually attract everybody. The bright orange sign might as well have said "This way to the outside world." It was a status symbol, at least in that little corner of the US. I would be able to say that I saw people I knew, eating at a Hardees.

And our store was unique. It boasted a train theme, in honor of the town's origin. There were train pictures, train memorabilia, and a wall border with an old-fashioned train design.

At first I was awestruck at having a nationally familiar store in our town.

Hardee's sold plastic goblets that could hold a quart of the new Cherry Coke, and twisty cones with spiralling towers of ice cream that could feed three and were served with a tiny sheet of wax paper wrapped around the little cone, increasing the chance that it would slip from your hand.

Behind the counter, unapologetically big burgers accented with lettuce and buns slid down metal chutes like cattle fodder, boxed in styrofoam that would puff up big sacks of garbage scented with ketchup and cigarettes.

Salads were condiments.

There were padded wooden booths and greasy brass handrails. Tinfoil ashtrays, some already full, were on half of the tables in the store. The floor seemed slippery, like someone had washed it with oil.

Employees in orange and brown polyester would walk around with water bottles and swipe wet rags across tables. They always looked too oily to be cleaning something else.

The drive-thru had only one window, where one employee would talk to one customer, into a microphone, mounted to the cash register.

There was no nutritional information.

There was no fruit.

I never heard anyone question anything.

Those were the real days of fast food.

5 comments:

jana said...

Ah, so many great Hardee's memories. My sister and I were talking about it. She recalled us sitting in the car in the drive-thru, trying to decide whether we wanted twist cones or swirl cones. Our dad got so frustrated trying to order. On top of that, my brother would then score my dad's order performance on a scale of one to ten. He often got lower than a six because of our antics. It's nice of him to still love us.

John's Brain said...

Scoring your dad's performace? That's brilliant! Why didn't we think of that? All those orders, now wasted.

Moxy Jane said...

I can't believe how much you remember! I did so love the raisin cinnamon buns that I'd bolt down before track practice. And years before that, I took my youngest brother through the drive-thru on our bikes for ice-cream cones and we thought we were insanely brilliant. I never appreciated the train theme, though. Totally lost on me. But I do remember a person dressed up as a clown...do you?

paul said...

hey, here's a sweet first memory of hardees stuff; me riding my bike to church and suddenly being assulted
by shredded hardees ice from a passing green station wagon driven by two maniacs. remember that?? that's what hardees brought to our town - ice pain and wet pants.

John's Brain said...

Moxy -- yes, there was a clown. Her name was Bubbles, and she represented the downfall of humanity. I think she was my boss, which is how I always saw her anyway.

Paul -- Ha ha ha. I'm laughing and sorry at the same time. I have no recollection of it, but I'm sure I was one of said maniacs.