The Chicken Shack: A Memory Jogger of the 50’s Culture..

The Chicken Shack was an East End institituion back in the 1950s. I don’t remember much about the South Main location, nor did I know that the place was a Texas chain of some sorts back in the pre-big chain era of places to eat out. People mainly ate at home during the 1950s. Restaurants, cafes, drive ins, and other kinds of away-from home eateries were all special in their own rights, and some, like our East End Chicken Shack location at the corner of Telephone and Wayside were honestly downright held close to institutional status by their favorite local patrons.

The Chicken Shack was renowned for its “chicken fried chicken.” As opposed to “chicken fried steak,” “chicken fried chicken” had that sweet and greasy chickeny flavor that so many of us artery-clogging galoots of that era preferred with our french fries and creamy apple pies. Man! It’s a wonder that any of us survived our culture of misinformation on what was good for us.

Want some real fun? Go shirtless all summer in the sun! Want to stop those mosquito bites? Run behind that neighborhood DDT spray truck and rub that foggy smelling dew into your bodies! As you do, say goodbye to the little critters! Not sure if your shoes fit? Stick those little feet in the store’s foot x-ray machine! See for yourself how much room you have inside your current shoes for your toes! Want a healthy meal when you can’t get a good one at home because Mom is too sick to cook again tonight? Come on down to the Chicken Shack! Anything on the menu should fix you up just fine with that “stick-to-your-ribs” goodness people came to expect from one of their favorite away-from-home eating places.

Of course, we avoided certain unhealthy practices back then too. Whenever we practiced baseball or football in the early and late summer, we took salt tablets and drank no water. That made a lot of sense. Only babies and mama’s boys needed water at practice when they turned blood-red in the face and started vomiting in dry heaves on the smoldering summer grass! Those of us who were ready, made it through steady!

When we awoke to the biological messages of adolescence that seemed to overnight change and drive how we thought about the opposite sex, everything in general, and fun in particular, we simply put sex out of our minds in the consoling knowledge that we could always pick it up again one day, once we were actually married to someone really gorgeous and we were only yielding to that powerful new drive for the sake of having children.

We didn’t waste time talking with adults about what we wanted to do with our lives when we grew up, nor did we talk with our parents or counselors about what was important about love and relationships between men and women. We just played ball and drove around in our cars as we also knuckled down in school, as best we could, for the sake of getting the right answers and making good grades. If we really wanted to learn about love and relationships, we listened to the lyrics from songs sung on the radio by entertainers Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. Those guys were much more eloquent on the subjects of love and marriage than our parents ever dreamed of being.

We didn’t get lost in drugs either. We had beer and whisky to get us by legally without ever breaking the law. That is, as long as there was somebody around of legal age to do the actual buying for us, or we could find a merchant who could do a wink-purchase sale to honest, well-intentioned minors who were just trying to have a little fun.

We didn’t need adults to set up “self esteem building” experiences for us. We just assumed that it was up to each of us to either get something done or be written off as worthless. That seemed pretty fair to me as I look back on it now. The idea, or even the phrase “self esteem,” were neither topics nor words that even came up for discussion back in the day. It was up to each of us to either make something of our lives or else, fall by the wayside.

We must have done something right back then. Look how healthy and well adjusted so many us turned out to be.

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2 Responses to “The Chicken Shack: A Memory Jogger of the 50’s Culture..”

  1. Vito Schlabra Says:

    Bill I loved the article. It was my dad’s favorite place for fried greesy chicken. No Kentucky or Church’s back then. As Bob Hope would say ” Thanks for the Memories ”


  2. Paul Porcarello Says:

    great article. There was also a Chicken Shack on West Gray, just down the street from Mrs. Baird’s bakery. I haven’t thought of that place in years. Thanks for sending it.

    Paul Porcarello

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