Saturday, March 24, 2007

Make That With Mayonaise, No Onions ...

The Toddle House Restaurant used to be one of my favorite eating spots. In fact there were two of these Restaurants in Beaumont back in the 1940s. One was located on Pearl Street next door to the Yellow Cab/Star Taxi Cab Company. The other Toddle House was down on Calder Avenue west of the downtown district.

My family used to eat at the Pearl Street Toddle House every Sunday morning following church services. One reason we went there was because of their Banana Icebox Pie. I loved it. If you ever wondered what a little bit of Heaven was like all you had to do was to eat some of that pie.

The Toddle House was a chain of restaurants that was started in Texas in 1931, with headquarters later relocating to Memphis. The chain flourished through the 1940’s and 1950’s. But during the ‘50s a rash of fast-food restaurants hit the country. One of the executives of the Toddle House chain and another gentleman jumped into the mix by opening the first Waffle House in 1955. The Toddle House finally phased out while the Waffle House continues to flourish.

The basic layout for a Toddle House was just a counter with ten stools. You would sit at the counter and watch the cook do his thing. The restaurant was opened 24/7 and they did a great “take-out” business. I just can’t get over how delicious those Banana Icebox Pies were.

By the time my family moved over to Beaumont’s north end on Concord Road (Voth Road) in 1952, I had gotten my driver’s license. Still needing the Toddle House “pie fix,” I began stopping by the Calder Avenue location. It was much closer to my house than the one down on Pearl Street. I frequented the Calder Toddle House once or twice per week.

Then one day, a new hamburger restaurant opened up on Calder Avenue, just one block from the Toddle House. I can’t recall the name of this new place but something interesting happened there. This was a place where you placed your order at their outside window and gave your name. Then you waited in your car. When your order was ready they called your name. Then you paid for your food when you received your order.

Thought I’d give this place a try. I walked up to the window, ordered a cheeseburger and vanilla shake, and then gave my last name. In a few minutes the attendant called my name. I went to the window, pulled out my wallet with every intention of paying. The young lady said, “Oh you don’t have to pay.” I replied, “I don’t?” She said, “Of course not.” I expressed my appreciation and took the food. You ate in your car at that establishment.

After a bit, the young lady came out to my car and asked, “Your last name is Hamby isn’t it? I told her that indeed it was. She asked, “Are you Tom Hamby’s son? I said, “No, I belong to W. J. Hamby.” She exclaimed, “Oh then you do need to pay for your food.” I paid.

Turns out that the owner of this new restaurant was Tom Hamby. Since “Hamby” is not a very common name, the young lady assumed I was Tom’s son. Anyway, it was kind of fun getting to eat free for a few minutes.

But the main reason I kept patronizing the Toddle House was not because that new place made me pay for my food. No the main reason I stayed with the Toddle House until they closed down was because of their Banana Ice Box Pies. Those pies were just heavenly.

Winston Hamby


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