We crossed the bridge into Miamisburg and there it was: Sitting right at the end of the bridge was the very first hamburger restaurant I had ever seen.
It must have been in the early 1960s. Our entire family loaded into our old Chevy Belair and rode a little over five miles to “The Burg.”
There was a significant rivalry between the kids from Germantown and the kids from Miamisburg. Rarely did we have anything nice to say about “The Burg.”
It changed that day. From that day on, we loved going to “The Burg” for a 15-cent burger.
That little hamburger restaurant was named Burger Chef. It seemed like everything they sold (hamburger, French fries or a milk shake) was only 15 cents each.
The older boys from Germantown loved it because they could take a girl on a date and for 90 cents they could both eat. For another dollar (50 cents each) they could go a movie. A gallon of gas was only 30 cents.
For the low, low price of $2.20 you could take a girl out on a really cheap date.
That was the beginning of my many experiences with convenient foods. At that time in our food history, we didn’t have many fast-food options. Years later, the Wilmington Burger Chef was converted into a Hardee’s. Today, a quick drive down Rombach Avenue provides all the options you might need for quick grub.
As a youngster, whenever we headed to southern Indiana to visit grandparents, Mom would pack bologna and cheese sandwiches for the trip. A pit stop would only be for gas, never for food. Certainly, there were restaurants along the route, but they were not very convenient for a family of six.
A quick stop for a burger would have been nice.
Now that I’m older and the pandemic has restricted our dining options, we often go out just for drive-through, convenient food. During our entire year of being grounded by COVID and not being able or comfortable going to regular sit-down restaurants, a trip out for dinner might take us out of town for convenient food that is not available in town.
We visited Sonic, Long John Silver’s and White Castles. We also drove into Dayton for a Root Beer Stand experience, where I enjoyed a foot-long hotdog loaded with lots of condiments, followed by a root beer.
Now, that was just downright good eating — I ended up wearing a lot of it.
At times, I find that I choose my convenient food based on whether I’m driving or not. There is no way I would try wrestling down a big, sloppy Burger King Whopper while driving. If I did, I would be wearing a shirt-full of mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, and pickle by the time I got on the interstate.
Maybe it would be a good idea to carry a supply of lobster-eating bibs in the glove box if I’m going to eat in the car. That would save having to do laundry when I got home.
Years ago, I was driving my little, red Jeep Wrangler home from a respiratory therapy convention in Cleveland. I was in a hurry to get home, so I headed south as soon as the last speaker finished. I had skipped lunch and was getting hungry. Soon, I realized that there was a McDonald’s at almost every exit on I-71.
I waited a short while before pulling over. Rather than buying a burger or other sandwich that could leak stuff all over my shirt, I decided to go with something I thought would be clean and easy to eat – McNuggets.
Of course, I couldn’t eat them dry, so I had the girl at the food pick-up window throw in an extra little white tub of barbecue sauce. It was a great food pit stop. I probably was off the highway barely five minutes.
I loved my little Jeep Wrangler, but if you have ever driven one, you realize it can be a bumpy ride. You feel every pothole and every bump in the road. It is never smooth.
I opened a little tub of sauce and carefully held it with the thumb and index finger of my left hand. I was steering with the other three fingers of my left hand while balancing the sauce. My right hand was free to pick up nuggets and dip them into the sauce.
I had only driven a few miles when I realized this was not a good plan.
Just as I prepared to dunk my next nugget into the little tub of barbecue sauce, I hit a good-sized pothole. Rather than a nice dip-of-the-nugget, the bump caused me to slam the nugget into the sauce. Thick red barbecue sauce flew out of that tub like doing a cannonball in a baby pool.
It looked like an injured opossum had jumped into the Jeep and ran back-and-forth across the dashboard. A lobster bib would not have helped.
I had to pull over at the next gas station, grab a handful of wet paper towels and that long stick with the sponge and squeegee on the end to clean off the entire inside of my windshield. It took a while.
That helping of McNuggets certainly did not save me any time, and they were anything but convenient.
I don’t think I’ve eaten chicken McNuggets since then.
I’ll see you at the drive-thru.
Randy Riley is a former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.