Having lunch with a couple of guys that are older fogies than myself I couldn’t win, so I just listened.
The talk turned to hamburgers and how cheap we used to buy them growing up. When they got down to a quarter burger I knew I couldn’t beat that myself.
I can maybe remember a 35-cent burger growing up but mostly I would say they were 50 to 80 cents back then.
In high school nearly every day at lunch I had the same thing, jumbo cheeseburger, fries and cherry coke at Pat’s Twin Cronnies. It cost me exactly $1.25 plus tax.
I can’t disclose the names of the other guys at the table. None of us should even be thinking about a juicy hamburger because of cholesterol concerns expressed by our doctors and our wives. However, I do love a good burger and I have the waist size to prove it.
In Portales, where I grew up, the chain burger joints hadn’t come to town for the most part. I had heard of McDonald’s but I don’t think I got my hands on one of their burgers until junior high or high school on a trip to Albuquerque. It was all right but we had some pretty good burgers available at home with drive-ins like Docs, Pats, Lukes, Dubs and Macs, along with several drugstores with fountains and a grill.
A few years before we moved in off the farm, I was 9 or 10, we grew a vegetable garden for extra money. On Saturdays we would get up early while it was still cool and help mom pick the garden. After an itchy morning of picking okra, squash and beans we would take the produce to town in the station wagon where we sold it at a local grocery market.
Mom usually treated us to a burger and tater tots at Lukes Drive-In. We didn’t eat out too often so we loved that hamburger.
The other burger that sticks out in my mind is the one we would get in the vinyl-covered booths or at the counter at College Drug. I always had a fountain root beer in a frosted mug when I got a burger there. I think I could have chugged a gallon of that stuff.
While polishing off the first mug of root beer you could watch the progress of your burger. When the buns were tossed on the grill and the cheese placed atop the patty started to melt your mouth began to water.
These days the best burger is the one I grill myself on my patio. If we’re having a burger at home that’s almost always the way it’s cooked. A little barbecue sauce, cheese, onion, green chili and maybe lettuce and I’m good.
Karl Terry writes for Freedom New Mexico. Contact him at: