Teenagers are natural-born eating machines. The perpetual quest to gratify their food-related neurological pleasure center is daunting indeed.
I long for the days when I was burning the candle at both ends, and my metabolism efficiently was operating at full throttle. I could (and would) consume mass quantities of foodstuffs with total disregard for saturated fat content, sugars, carbohydrates, or nutritional value.
While viewing the latest episodes of The Rockford Files or Columbo, snarfing two Tony’s sausage/pepperoni pizzas all alone at a sitting was not uncommon. Generally, the crusty, baked Italian discs were routed down with a 16-ounce Coke or high octane Mountain Dew. I didn’t gain an ounce. My pancreas, cholesterol, and waistline recoil at the mere suggestion of trying that today.
For we boomers, fast food always has been an option for filling the void. Burgers, fries, coney dogs, and tenderloins, all awash in a sea of sugary carbonated beverages, have been at our beckoned call as long as we can remember.
Scotty’s was located at three separate locations in Kokomo at Lincoln and Washington, Morgan and Washington, and U.S. 31 in front of the K-Mart. I was a slave to the double decker Big Scot, luscious breaded tenderloins topped with tomato and mayonnaise and piping hot, fresh cut french fries.
The original Burger Chef, located at Hoffer and 31, offered taste-tempting sandwiches as well. But the winner for me was the chocolate shakes. Thick and chocolaty. Yum!
My inaugural trip to the original set of McDonald’s golden arches in Kokomo was on South Washington Street across from Maple Crest Plaza in 1961. There were no Big Macs, McRibs, McCafe’ beverages, kids meals with toys, or Play Place. You stood outside and ordered one size fries, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, Coca-Cola, root beer or orange drink. Triple-thick shakes were dessert, period. Take it or leave it. But we loved it anyway.
As popularity for Micky D’s increased, so did the number of locations in the City of Firsts. The old Henry’s Hamburgers drive-in on the southwest corner of Markland and 31 bit the dust when McDonald’s erected its money maker there about the time Dick Nixon took up residence in the White House.
As a matter of fact, just prior to that, a pair of arches went up in downtown Kokomo. That’s right. McDonald’s shrewd marketers planted one of its drive-ins within a very short distance of Kokomo High School on the northeast corner of Sycamore and Market, giving the Coney Island, Woolworth’s, Kresge’s, and Fenn’s Drug Store a run for lunchtime money. Uncle Sam has a post office branch planted on that corner now.
A gentle north/northwest breeze would conveniently drift the aroma of sizzling all beef patties, onions, and hot cooking oil, laden with Idaho’s best spuds, toward the nostrils of the ravenous throng of Wildkat pupils.
If you were really swift, a quick dash from the old Central Building would take but a few seconds. From the main building or Memorial Gym, a few more ticks of the Timex.
I was never privileged with a lunch break at the downtown arches during my high school years, as I attended classes at a closed campus school. And, as fortune would have it, McDonald’s didn’t stick around downtown but a few years. With the evolution of Haworth High School in 1968, and the U.S. 31 malls siphoning off large segments of retail traffic, the downtown population was curtailed, thereby a decrease in lunchtime traffic.
Some attribute McDonald’s departure to the racial friction near the downtown campus during the late ‘60s. I asked my former work partner, Norris Jones, if he felt that was the case. He said although there were racial issues at the time, he had no recollection of an impact on businesses in the area, excepting those in the immediate vicinity north of Taylor Street during the 1968-’69 unrest. As a student, he was aware of off-duty police officers at McDonald’s but never witnessed any untoward issues among students or patrons.
Regardless of the underlying reason for departure, McDonald’s downtown was but a brief stitch in the tapestry of Kokomo history. The next time I stop in for postage stamps at Market and Sycamore, I wonder if I can get fries with those.