Give me fries and a plastic sword with that

Published 12:52 am Wednesday, May 25, 2011

While planning a vacation trip to Savannah, Ga., I began wondering about a certain restaurant in that city where I ate at several times in the mid-1960s when my father was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

That’s Beaufort, S.C., just up the road from Savannah. By the way, The Beaufort in South Carolina is pronounced “bew-fort.” The Beaufort (town or county) in North Carolina is pronounced “bo-fort.”

I surfed the Internet to find out if The Pirate’s House is still serving food. To my delight, it is doing just that. In fact, it’s been doing that since 1753. I didn’t eat there in 1753, but I did eat there in 1964 and 1965.

If my memory serves me correctly, I ate the same thing each time the family ate at The Pirate’s House — the cheeseburger basket. Was there something remarkable about that cheeseburger in the cheeseburger basket? You betcha!

When the cheeseburger basket was served to me, I always made sure the main ingredient — as far as I was concerned — was there. That main ingredient was … a 3-inch-long plastic sword serving as a toothpick and thrust into the cheeseburger. I would play with the sword, usually black, red, purple or gold in color. What else would a boy do with it?

That course of action would elicit this advice from my mother: “Stop playing with that sword and eat.”

Believe it or not, I could do both — eat and play with that miniature sword. I began collecting the little swords, hoarding them in a drawer in my desk in my room at home. Woe to the little sister (I have two of them) who dared seek my “buried treasure” so one of those Ken dolls could fight dragons to impress one of those Barbie dolls.

So when I eat at The Pirate’s House (more than once, I am sure) while on vacation in July, I am counting on the waiter or waitress bringing me a cheeseburger impaled with a little, plastic sword. And I will play with that sword. And I’m sure I will hear a voice, somewhere in my memory, telling me to stop playing with the sword and eat.

Eventually, I will do just that, but not before pretending I’m a pirate — Graybeard, of course — dueling with the captain of a French merchant vessel on the deck of his three-masted ship. I win the duel, of course.

These days, a cheeseburger basket at The Pirate’s House costs $7.75. The cost of those little, plastic swords must have increased since the mid-1960s. Back then, $7.75 would have provided me with four cheeseburger baskets and four miniature swords.

When I show up at The Pirate’s House, the management there should charge me $2 for my cheeseburger basket. Why the $2 charge? Well, since I’m a buccaneer at heart, I’m willing to pay a “buck an ear” for that cheeseburger basket.

Now that I think about it, my palate is more refined than it was 45 or so years ago. Instead of ordering a cheeseburger basket when I dine at The Pirate’s House in July, I’ll order a filet mignon, but only if it comes with a 3-inch-long plastic sword thrust into its center.

Mike Voss covers the city of Washington for the Washington Daily News. He used to collect miniature Confederate battle flags that came stuck in cheeseburgers ordered from a drive-in restaurant he frequented in his elementary-school days. He would play with them, pretending to be Gen. Robert E. Lee.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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