10 Pounds of Bacon, $5.49

No, it’s not some anniversary special price roll-back for a grocery
store.
It’s what Homer Simpson could consume  at the Shoney’s Breakfast Buffet. (“Ah, gee, Marge, you promised we could have  pork SIX nights a week!”)

But why stop at bacon?  Load up on patty  sausage, thick-sliced country ham, artery-clogging biscuit gravy or white sauce,  light flaky biscuits that settle in your stomach like mini bowling balls,  scrambled eggs with 20-30 omelet-type toppings, pancakes, cereals, and one or  two things that are actually good for you.

You can do this every morning of the week at  Shoney’s, beginning at 6AM – or you can do it once in your lifetime, truly go  overboard, get that Homer Simpson glazed look on your face –  ‘arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrhhhhhhhh, baconnnnnnnnnnnn’ and then call  911.

What’s the point of writing about someplace  like this?  Genealogy.  Inquiring minds want to know from whence Shoney’s  sprung.  Don’t they?

Sherman, set the wayback machine for post-WW2  Los Angeles…..cars are whizzing, suburbs are forming, the commuter generation  has got to eat, and at least one Angelean, Bob Wian, in suburban Glendale,  figured it would be better to feed all those drivers than to be one.  He sold  his car, and opened a small restaurant called “Bob’s Pantry.”   Members of an  orchestra, playing in the area, stopped into Bob’s one night and asked him if he  could dream up something different than the “plain hamburger.”

(Readers Query:  “Peter, what’s the deal here?   You start out about Shoney’s in New Orleans, then we are in suburban LA with double burgers –  what’s the connection?) (Eds. reply: I’m getting to it!)

One day, a chubby boy walked into the now  successful restaurant, Wian recalled.  He was so amused by the boy, his  jocularity, his love of the new sandwich, that Wian started calling him “Big Boy.”  And thought – “why not call the hamburger Big Boy?”  And he  did.

A sandwich innovation was born.  A restaurant  chain was born:  “Bob’s Big Boy.”  The oldest surviving original location (built in ’49) is a historical landmark, located on Riverside Drive in Burbank, not far from Warner Brothers.  It has been completely restored to its former glory, a great example of the combination of 40s modern architecture, and the beginning of the 50s free-form design period.  It’s noted for its spectacular 70  foot tall Big Boy sign out front.   Beautiful moss-green terrazzo walkways  surround the building.  The fully intact cantilevered, boomerang-shaped steel awning, reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin, covers what was originally  drive-in parking.

While all this buzz was happening on the West  Coast, a guy named Alex Schoenbaum opened his first drive-in restaurant in  Charleston, WV.  In 1951, Schoenbaum acquired the Big Boy franchise rights for the Southeast, and started growing the chain regionally.    Two years later, he  decides to launch his own concept restaurant, and in an employee contest, Alex’s  nickname, “Shoney” emerges as the victor in the naming rights game.  (Obviously  long before companies decided to plunk down 25 mil or so to name stadiums and
such).

1971 and Alex merges his company with Danner  Foods, the Big Boy franchisee in Nashville, and “Shoney’s Big Boy Enterprises”  is born, operating 130 Big Boy Restaurants throughout the  Southeast.

They start other concept chains, including  “Lee’s Famous Recipe Country Chicken” and “Captain D’s Seafood” and ten years later are operating 300 Big Boys.
And the moral of the story?

Well, haven’t quite figured that  out.  There must be one.