Frisch's Big Boy Spans Eras of History

An Anderson Herald Bulletin article by Jim Bailey       Published August 08, 2009

 

The recent announcement that Frisch’s Big Boy will continue doing business as usual at its present location (for the time being at least) preserves a status quo that conjures up a past life for those who grew up in Anderson half a century ago. 

At the time it opened, Frisch’s provided the middle link in a circuit the high school- and college-age cruisers regularly hit during the evening hours, particularly on weekends.

The A&W Alibi Drive-In was the first, just south of the bridge where Broadway begins. It was sited at the present location of On Broadway. Soon after, it was replaced by Jerry’s Drive-In, then later by the Jumbo restaurant.

 

Dronberger’s Pink Horse at the corner of Broadway and Oak Street also preceded the opening of Frisch’s.

The building is still there.

 

Both would be outlasted by Frisch’s, which opened 50 years ago with Anderson’s first remote ordering speakers. You placed your order on the speaker, then a car hop brought it to your car. “Eat in your car at Frisch’s” was the slogan the Big Boy jingle advertised on local radio stations.  There was also a dining room, albeit smaller than today’s facility. It was the best of both worlds for the young-adult crowd.

And as the younger set aged, inside dining became more popular and the restaurant was enlarged. Gradually the drive-in popularity waned, particularly with the advent of the drive-through trend. And Frisch’s responded with its own drive-through lane.

I was in college when Frisch’s opened. Seeking part-time work, I applied at the new restaurant, but at the time they wanted full-time workers. Times have changed these days with part-time employees generally welcomed at fast-food facilities everywhere.

So instead of working there, I ate there. Between the original Frisch’s and the one opened soon after that at Ninth and Meridian, I couldn’t count the number of times in essence my friends and I “closed up” the two locations sipping a Coke long after our food had been consumed.

The Big Boy may or may not have been the first double-decker hamburger in Anderson. But 50 years later I still believe it is the best one. I’d hate to think the number of times I went in and ordered two Big Boys, obviously at the expense of my waistline. But at an original price of 50 cents (those days are gone forever) it was a filling and inexpensive meal.   Bonnie learned to love onion rings at Frisch’s, and now we can’t eat there without her getting an order.

Landmarks come and go. But Broadway and Grand Avenue wouldn’t be the same without the Frisch’s Big Boy sitting in front of the building on the northeast corner. Thank goodness immediate thoughts of making a change, possibly prompted by today’s economic uncertainty, have been put off for another day.

 

 

 

The Legend of Frisch's Banana Nose

An Anderson Herald Bulletin article by Rodney Richey     Published July 17, 2009

Back when cruising was popular at Frisch’s on Broadway, owner Ed Todtenbier was forced to hire a police officer to control the traffic that would clog the lot and surrounding streets on weekends. The man he hired was Anderson Police Officer Jim Hanna, who, because of his large nose, was soon nicknamed “Banana Nose.”

“(My dad) worked for 23 years for the police department, but he’s better known for the 14 years he was a guard at Frisch’s,” said his son, Sam Hanna, who is a deputy with the Madison County Sheriff’s Department. Sam Hanna said his father was the traffic guard there from 1959 to 1973.

Jim Hanna became famous for his demeanor with the young patrons, kidding around with them, occasionally convincing them to pour out beverages that they didn’t buy at Frisch’s, or were too young to drink.

He was also known for his 1964 white Ford Fairlane, so much so, his son says, that if he took an occasional weekend night off, Todtenbier would ask him to leave the Fairlane on the lot, so cruisers would think he was still there.

James E Hanna passed away Dec. 31, 2009

Herald Bulletin articles reprinted here with the permission of editor Scott Underwood