A return to events of 1938

Back in July of 1993 I ended the early portion of my memoirs with the trip my brother Robert (Shorty) and I took in 1932 while looking for work out west. After returning to Brady from our westward trip I went to work at the Central Drug Store and Shorty, in search of something to do built a small room that looked somewhat like an ‘out house’ between Papa’s station and the Riverside Hotel’ on North Bridge Street.’ It being Turkey season at the Roddie & Co. Produce House across the street, Shorty bought a cooking grill, a second hand refrigerator and installed them in the room he built. He then started cooking hamburgers for the turkey pickers across the street. The front of his ‘hamburger shack’ was hinged so that a portion of the front could be raised and lowered. When raised it exposed a counter where one could stand and eat his hamburger, sandwich or chili. During turkey season he sold his regular ten cent hamburgers for five cents. Shorty’s hamburger venture turned into such a success that Papa put up a larger building ( I would say it was about 20’x 30′). Shorty then expanded his food offerings to include lunches, soft drinks, tobacco and other products generally offered by eating establishments. His business became so good that in 1933 he got married. In 1938 I took over Shorty’s small cafe and continued making, in my opinion, the best hamburgers and chili in town. This may be news to my son and daughter for I do not recall having told them that at one time their dad was the ‘Hamburger King’ of North Brady. In addition to learning to cook hamburgers and chili I also learned to cook foods that made up pretty good lunches. I was just beginning to get the feel of the cafe business when the flood of 1938 washed out the bridge on north Bridge Street which was our shortcut into town and I thought for a fact that we (Papa’s filling station, my cafe, the Riverside Hotel and Pat McShan’s filling station) were ruined. Just how Papa and the Riverside Hotel continued to stay in business during eighteen months before the bridge was rebuilt is a mystery to me. Pat McShan was kept afloat by the Roddie & Co. business and I was fortunate in that the railroad men sent from Brownwood to repair the RR line between Brady and Menard helped my cafe to become a profitable business. I got up each morning at 4:30 in order to feed those RR men their breakfast at 5 o’clock, fix them a lunch to carry with them and then feed them their supper in the evening. In addition to the RR men the Roddie & Co. employees helped keep me busy during the day with their coffee drinking and between meal eating habits. I will say here though that Frank Roddie saw to it that his employees did not play favorites with their business for if they came into my cafe for their first coffee break they would go to the Jones’ cafe (in the Riverside Hotel) for their next break. This fairness on the part of the Roddie & Co. employees kept us both in business during the months the bridge was out. Among the old timers employed at Roddie & Co. in those days were Thad and Delmar Bell, George Hardin, Tommy Kaiser, Ewell Jones, Jess Woosley, Carl Holt, Bill Murray and John Allison Polk. After the bridge was first washed out the traffic from the north side as well as that coming in from Brownwood and Rochelle had to turn off North Bridge Street at White Street, go West to Highway 87 and thence into town. Therefore we who conducted business near the washed out bridge had to go some five miles to get to town. It was perhaps six months or so after the flood that the City of Brady built the low water crossing on the Brady Creek just east of the washed out bridge. After this was accomplished it was then just a short jog for us to reach town. Thus it was that during the ensuing 12 months the incoming automobile traffic on the Brownwood Highway turned left about 50 feet north of Papa’s filling station leaving him dependant upon friends who would drive out of their way to trade with him. Now let me get back to the hamburger joint and the days when a deluxe hamburger sold for ten cents but during turkey picking season at Roddie & Co. they were deluded to the point that they could be sold for five cents. Now I can’t say too much for that nickel hamburger but I am here to tell you that my ten cent’er was a dandy. I have always thought that a good hamburger could stack up to a meal any day but to qualify for that high rating it first had to have a good hamburger taste. While it is true that nearly all food eateries make hamburgers it is also true that a large majority of them do not make a good one. I believed at the time that I made the best hamburger in town and to this day I have found only one that could equal it in taste. So, if you are tired of eating a hamburger that equates to a bun with vegetables covered with a piece of meat that tastes like cardboard, follow me on the days my wife is out of town and I will lead you to the best burger in town. *** When I first wrote this story I had to call Ewel Jones for help in naming all of the old time Roddie employees so while I was at it I asked him to give me the names of his siblings in the order of their appearance and they are as follows: Milton, Golden, Pearl, Warren, Tim, Wayne, Naomi, Ewel and Jewel (twins), Wayne and Janie’now isn’t that a mess of kids for you’ FOOTNOTE: While telling stories that I wrote years ago here is one about Miers Johnson, a very likeable fellow whose yarns I loved to listen to while having early morning coffee at Mac’s. I had seen Miers at a filling station one day and was surprised to see that he had a four-wheeler tied down in the back end of his pick-up instead of a horse. Miers, in case some of you folk don’t know, is perhaps the premier horse trader of Texas and is usually seen pulling a rig with one or more horses in it. Seeing Miers the following morning having coffee at Mac’s I said, ‘Hey Miers, that was a strange looking horse you had in your pick-up yesterday’. He agreed and voiced the opinion that a man couldn’t ride a horse all of the time and quite often had to depend on a four-wheeler. However, even stranger than the four-wheeler was the goat I had seen in his rig on another day, and when I told him that I thought he traded only in horses he said, ‘Bill, I’ll trade for anything.’ Miers asked me to come out and help him ride some of his horses and I told him that his four- wheeler was possibly the only mount he had that I could ride. He then invited me to join him on one of his horse buying expeditions which often times winds up in old Mexico. One of the coffee clubbers listening to our conversation suggested that such a trip might give me enough material for several columns. I told Miers that I might consider his proposition because I hadn’t printed a good horse story since I told Ben Hodges’ yarn about the paint horse that ran away with the stick Ben had flogged him with. As badly as I needed some good material, a trip with Miers sounded quite interesting. Listening to him tell how often he is pulled over and questioned by city and county police as well as the highway patrol on practically every one of his trips one could reasonably believe, as he does, that his rig has a magnetism that seems to attract police whether it is traveling or parked. Before leaving my Miers Johnson saga I will tell about the fellow who asked me if I had ever heard that old expression about a horse that ‘had been rode hard and put up wet.’ Upon learning that I was familiar with that old western idiom he said, “The next time you are going by Miers’ place on the highway to Rochelle notice the iron horse he has placed next to his gate and see if you don’t think that maybe Miers rode that horse hard and then put him up wet.” Bill Bodenhamer is a weekly columnist for the Brady Standard-Herald. Email him at bodenhamer@cebridge.net.

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