Magic Fingers Motel Massager

Magic Fingers Motel Massager

During the twilight of the fifties, the Englander Company manufactured a commercial sleeping slab with a mechanical vibrator at its core. One of their top salesman, John Houghtaling (HUFF-tay-ling), peddled the unit to customers in the lodging industry. When a number of clients complained that the buzz boxes were burning out, he took it upon himself to find out why. For almost two years, he conducted a relentless campaign of under-the-bed research. Mattresses were dissected, bedsprings analyzed, and motors monitored. After disassembling the mysterious motion transducer and studying its intricate workings, he discovered…continue reading →
The Texas Pig Stands Drive-in

The Texas Pig Stands Drive-in

People in their cars are so lazy that they don't want to get out of them to eat! The proclamation still rings as true today as it did when candy and tobacco magnate Jessie G. Kirby first uttered the words in 1921. At the time, he was trying to interest Rueben W. Jackson, a Dallas, Texas physician to invest in a new idea for a roadside restaurant—a “fast-food” stand, although at the time he didn't call it that. Kirby’s idea was simple: patrons would drive up in their automobiles and make their food…continue reading →
Birthplace of the Hamburger

Birthplace of the Hamburger

Sure, history books tell of the Tartar's fondness for raw meat and how sailors from Germany loved to order Hamburg Style Steak upon their arrival in the New World. The real question is: Who created America's first all-beef patty, the ancestral prototype of today's Quarter Pounder, Big Mac, and Whopper? Popular food folklore—peppered with a light sprinkling of facts—often gives the top billing to “Hamburger” Charlie Nagreen, an inventive resident of Seymour, Wisconsin. Seems it all started somewhere around 1885 when fifteen-year-old Charlie began peddling his chopped beef to the throng of hungry…continue reading →
American Diner History

American Diner History

What do McDonald's, Wendy’s, Burger King, Denny’s, Arby’s, Roy Rogers, Taco Bell, Jack-in-the-Box, and Kentucky Fried Chicken have in common? All have their distant origins in the diner, that unsung institution of roadside America that began over one hundred years ago, decades before there were automobiles, drive-thru ordering windows, milkshake mixers, and remote-controlled speaker boxes. The Invention of the American Diner The precursor to the fast-food eatery began in 1872 when Walter Scott, a myopic pressman for the Providence Journal (and one-time street vendor), became serious about selling food and refreshments in the…continue reading →
From Fish Brine To Ketchup

From Fish Brine To Ketchup

Ahhh ... that tangy, thick, and sticky condiment known as ketchup—where would American road food be without it? Certainly, drive-ins, diners, coffee shops, and in many cases—fine restaurants—wouldn’t be the same. Burgers would be bland, fries embarrassed by their nakedness, and hot dogs robbed of their bite. In a world devoid of the red sauce, Archie Bunker would have starved. Historians trace the ancestry of the zesty mixture as far back as the Roman Empire. Ancient cooks created a sauce from the entrails of dried fish they called “garum,” a highly prized addition…continue reading →
The Bumper Sticker

The Bumper Sticker

Regarded by pundits as cheesy and lowbrow, the bumper sticker is living proof that businesses can get customers to paste a miniature billboard promoting their establishment on their bumper, trunk lid, or car window. As mini-billboard, it pre-dates imprinted T-shirts, urinal ad space, and web banners as a medium to display a variety of political, social, and marketing messages. According to some sources, the first bumper stickers appeared in America during the 1950s, but it's likely that they were used much earlier than that. Originally, they weren't "stickers" at all, but brightly silk-screened…continue reading →