Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Way Back WhensDay: Burger Chef

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

When I was a kid in the 70's and early 80's, we didn't have a whole lot of choices in terms of restaurants, especially in the area I grew up.  The area is now overflowing with grocery stores, fast food restaurants, and sit down places.  But back then, we had to drive several miles just to go to grab a hamburger.

That being said, one of my favorite places to eat as a kid was Burger Chef.  I loved the taste of their burgers, but I think what I remember even more fondly is the company's mascots and the toys that came with the children's meals.  Don't get me wrong, I loved Ronald McDonald and his cast of characters, but Burger Chef and his sidekick Jeff hold a place in my memory too.

The record
I vaguely remember this dynamic duo from the TV commercials, but I have a very vivid memory of their voices on the colorful plastic records that came with the meals.  We'd have to tape a penny to one side of the record to help keep it balanced on the record player.  If you don't know what a record player is, click the video below.  Someone actually uploaded a video of one of the classic records.

Each record was a few minutes in length and told a story featuring Chef and Jeff and their friends.  Those records provided hours of entertainment for my brother and I, as this was an era before we were really into video games, cable TV, and of course smart phones.

Chef & Jeff
I think I was in the third or fourth grade when the local Burger Chef became Hardee's.  I was disappointed when it happened because Hardee's didn't have any kitschy mascots or fun kids meals.  But I do remember very vividly the introduction of Smurf drinking glasses.  (That's a future blog)

That transition must have been about 1983 or so in the St. Louis area.  You can imagine my happiness when I arrived to college at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau and discovered a Burger Chef in the mall.  I think it stayed open for the first couple years I was there, so I got to enjoy those burgers and fries all over again.

What I wouldn't give for one more found with Burger Chef and Jeff and to listen to those old records.  Now, thanks to YouTube, I can.

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