Monday, October 13, 2008

The Ken Kream is Gone. . .

Oh my goodness. . . . I learned today that the local eatery in my little-bitty-hometown in Texas is no longer there.

This was not a Dairy Queen or Burger King or any other chain. This was the Ken-Kream in Kenedy Texas. It had been there since the 1940s and survived into the 21st century.

During the mid-60s, my younger brother and I would always get a Kiddie-Burger that contained only “meat-n-mustard”. The Kiddie-Burger was about 30 cents and we’d each get a little basket of tater-tots with it with lots of ketchup (never French fries).

We got so used to that burger with only “meat-n-mustard” that we continued to order burgers that way for years. Only, as teenagers, we’d order two of them with fries. “Just meat-n-mustard”.

The Ken-Kream also featured a unique item all their own called a Frito-lada; sort of a bastardization of enchiladas; a variation on a Frito pie theme.

They’d pile Fritos corn chips onto an oven-proof plate, pour chili con carne over it, top it with Longhorn cheddar cheese and onions, then blast it under the broiler. My dad usually got a Frito-lada and it cost a whopping 95 cents.

Years later, I’d sing Iron Butterfly‘s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida and change the words to “Gimme-A- Frito-Lada”.
- - - - - Hey, it was what I grew up with.

My mom often ordered a “Sissy-Burger” at the Ken Kream. The Sissy-Burger was a regular burger with only mayo, lettuce and tomatoes; that is, no pickles, mustard or onions. Thus, a “sissy” burger.

Sometimes, we’d go to the other lesser-known hamburger place out on the highway called the Kree-Mee. Even though the Sissy-Burger was a Ken-Kream item, if you ordered a sissy-burger at the Kree-Mee, they’d know not to put pickles, mustard or onions on it.

If my brother and I were good during dinner (which we always were) we were given a nickel for a small ice cream cone afterward.

We’d plop our nickel on the counter (sometimes it would be a buffalo nickel dated in the 1930s and I remember those not being unique enough to collect – but just barely common enough to spend) and we’d watch them draw-and-swirl our little ice cream cone.
Man! Those were good.

The ice cream cones came in several sizes (soft-serve custard): 5 cents, 10 cents, 15 cents 20 cents and 25 cents. We always got a 5-cent cone. That was automatic.

For special occasions, or if we’d pitch in our own extra nickel, we’d get a 10-cent cone. Wow! That was double the size.

I don’t ever remember ever seeing a 15, 20 or 25 cent cone. Only the big high-school kids ever ordered those. To this day, I cannot even imagine how big a 25-cent ice cream cone at the Ken-Kream would have been. That’s just unimaginable.

I remember going there soon after the Kennedy assassination. Our town was spelled ‘Kenedy’ while the assassinated president had two n’s in the middle of his name instead of one. I was just learning to spell and thought that it was really strange that he spelled his name incorrectly with two n’s.

Forty years later, I stopped by the Ken-Kream back in ‘05. I don’t think they’d changed the speckled Formica on the tables in the past 50 years.

They still had the Frito-lada on the menu board. I think it was an unimaginable $4.95 by then. I forget how much the ice cream cones were. One could still get a Sissy-Burger as well.

Not surprisingly, there was a big Wal-Mart close by. . . .

So, the Ken-Kream is gone now, just like so many other privately-owned businesses.

I think I might make a Frito-Lada for dinner tonight, in honor of Ken Kream’s demise. It this day and age of financial uncertainty and penny-pinching, the Frito-lada might even be the order of the day:


Tump some Fritos Corn Chips onto an oven-proof plate

Top with chili con carne (Wolf Brand from a can is fine)

Top with shredded cheese (whatever you’ve got is fine)

Top with chopped onions. Place in a hot oven until bubbly.

Add jalapenos or salsa if you’ve got it.

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At 3:50 PM , Blogger Lorraine said...

That's a sad story. Not the meat-n-mustard followed by a 5 cent cone. That was awesome. But I'm sad the place has closed, even though I never went there.

At 3:58 PM , Blogger Kimberly Ann said...

Thank you for sharing this story. I hope you won't mind if I link it in my blog. And I'll be making one of these pies myself, just because.

At 4:48 PM , Blogger Buck said...

Lorraine: I'm sad too. It really was exactly the same, forty years later.

Kimberly: Sure, link away. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

At 9:22 PM , Blogger Miss Healthypants said...

You poor pup!


At 9:05 AM , Anonymous Bro said...

Bummer. Remember the ketchup bottles? They had a picture of a waitress with one of the ketchup bottles held high on a tray. Of course, that little one on the tray also had a picture of a waitress with one of the ketchup bottles on a tray...and so on infanitum. That was, perhaps, my first little 4 year old experience with the concept of infinity. The place will be missed.

At 10:06 AM , Blogger Buck said...

Bro: I DO remember the ketchup bottles and being wow'd by the concept of infinity.

I wonder if those might be available on eBay. . .


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