Several hundred Big Boy restaurants still operate, but the Shoney's I went to throughout my high school days will always remain a particularly sweet memory. Uploaded by ron-and-iris.geefamily.net.
No matter where you live in the U.S., you probably had a franchise of Big Boy near you. Where I grew up it was Shoney’s Big Boy, lots of places had Bob’s Big Boy, and there were a couple of dozen other franchises authorized to place the fat kid out front.
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The original Big Boy restaurant came to Glendale, California in 1936. Started by a man named Bob Wian, the restaurant’s iconic image is said to be based on a local kid named Richard Woodruff. The restaurant was just known as Bob’s Pantry then, but as the owner was trying to name his new hamburger, Woodruff came in and Wian said, “Hey, big boy.” Well, that’s the story, and I suppose it makes as much sense as any other explanation.
McDonald’s would never admit to stealing the Bic Mac from Big Boy, but the truth is the two sandwiches are a lot alike. The Big Boy didn’t have onions, and that’s about the only difference. Other delicious items on the Big Boy menu included the Slim Jim, Brawny Lad, strawberry pie, and hot fudge cake.
I had lots of good times hanging out at the Shoney’s Big Boy in the Warwick area of Newport News, Virginia. Seems like we were there every weekend during my high school days. Like lots of other parts of my youth, Shoney’s is just a memory, but it’s one I hold with a special fondness…
The Boy Scouts of America celebrate 100 years of instilling values such as individualism, patriotism, courtesy, and respect. uploaded by scccbsa.org.
I was a Cub Scout back in my hometown of Newport News, Va., and Mrs. Ranny Leake was my den mother. My memories of scouting are sketchy; we had that (what seemed then) cool uniform that we were allowed to wear to school one day a week…and we had to do things to earn merit badges. And I learned to be friendly, courteous, kind, cheerful, and brave. More or less.
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The Boy Scouts of America was incorporated on this date exactly one hundred years ago – February 8, 1910. America’s large cities were filled with boys who’d never experienced the great outdoors, the first street kids the country had known. The values that the Boy Scouts stand for – individualism, patriotism, discipline, and respect for authority – were missing. Some concerned men chose to emulate what England’s Lord Robert Baden-Powell had just created, which came to be called the Scouting movement. Lord Powell said its goal “is to develop among boys a power of sympathizing with others, and a spirit of self-sacrifice and patriotism.”
For a century now, boys have come to internalize those values through the program of the Boy Scouts. Scouts share responsibilities and apply skills learned at meetings. From the littlest Cub Scout to the mature Eagle Scout, they learn positive values in a society in which values are somehow outdated.
But are the Scouts as relevant in today’s world as they were during more innocent times? Peter Applebome, and editor of the New York Times, participated in the Boy Scouts with his son. Of the experience he said, “Scouting’s core values … are wonderful building blocks for a movement and a life. Scouting’s genuinely egalitarian goals and instincts are more important now than they’ve ever been. It’s one of the only things that kids do that’s genuinely cooperative, not competitive.”
And the Boy Scouts are still relevant in the inner cities as well. Writer Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute visited a Scout meeting in New York City, and wrote: “At the conclusion of the Troop 409 meeting in Bedford-Stuyvesant, the boys thank me in unison for coming. Two fawn-like boys at a meeting on the Lower East Side politely introduce themselves, offering their hands. When I ask one of them, Ian, where he got his good manners, he clutches his handbook to his chest and says, ‘I’ve practically memorized my Boy Scout book.’ The handbook says nothing about introducing yourself to adults; apparently its civilizing influence is wider than its literal words.”
What would you call the most popular female jazz singer over a period of 50 years? Who won 13 Grammys and sold more than 40 million albums? You could only be talking about Miss Ella, and you’d call her “The First Lady of Song.”
Ella and I have something in common, besides our golden voices. We were both born in Newport News, Virginia. But Ella endured a difficult early life – a father who left early, a mother who died when Ella was 15, a brief time in a reformatory after being orphaned. Only one thing got her through, and that was singing.
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An appearance at an amateur night at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem gave her the confidence to know that performing is where she felt truly at home. She mastered the art of scat singing as no one has before or since. She finally had her first million seller, “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” at the ripe old age of 21.
Ella was greatly admired by her fellow musicians and those who wrote her songs. “I never knew how good our songs were until I heard Ella Fitzgerald sing them,” was how Ira Gershwin put it. The “Great American Songbook” was her text, and she was a master interpreter.
“I know I’m no glamour girl,” Ella said, “and it’s not easy for me to get up in front of a crowd of people. It used to bother me a lot, but now I’ve got it figured out that God gave me this talent to use, so I just stand there and sing.”
Copyright 2009-2011, Robin G. Chalkley. All material on these pages, and the listing of items as Great American Things, is copyrighted. The exceptions are the photographs and videos, which remain the property of their respective owners.
Header photo used courtesy of Flickr photographer too melo.