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The smell of charbroiled burgers in the air

Can you remember driving down Carolina Avenue as a teenager and smelling the aroma of charbroiled hamburgers? There was only one fast food restaurant at that time in Washington. In fact, Carolina Avenue only had King Chicken, motels and the fairground on it then. The mall and Wal-Mart did not exist. In an open lot, now filled with U-Haul vehicles, was the site of our first and only Hardee’s.

Hardee’s was a welcomed site selling 150cent hamburgers and 10-cent French fries! This was the perfect price for us to use our allowance or tobacco money to impress our dates. Today, the asphalt drive surrounding Hardee’s remains intact, and if it could talk, could share many stories we rather not have told.

You could not walk in: rather, you had to order at the window and wait briefly while your burger was prepared. Once it was prepared, the food was wrapped and placed in a bag along with mustard and ketchup to be added. There was no chili on top unless you ordered it special along with the onions that were chopped up.

During the Junior-Senior week at school, this might be the site of juniors trying to act like seniors. Tommy Langley, Lee Drake, Phil Edwards and Billy Darrow would ride by in Tommy’s Edsel and make it backfire, scaring everyone as a reminder that we were only juniors. Also, it was the site of benches trying to be stolen from each class as a prize to the younger class. Benches were painted and had class members’ names on them and were definitely a prize! My class still has our bench, but I cannot say after 50 years where it is, because someone from the class behind ours may still be interested in taking it. I do know however, where it is, but it is not at my house.

Another tradition that might have started at Hardee’s was sneaking in to see what the Junior-Senior prom theme was that year. We had classmates standing guard and some might have even had eggs to throw at seniors trying to sneak a peak before prom night. That was a big no! I do remember my senior year climbing on top of the cafeteria with another female classmate and trying to peak into the gym. Will not mention any names but if she reads this, she will know.

Do not get me wrong, we had not forgotten Mrs. Carver’s! Carver’s was our daytime hangout but was not open at night. We never forgot Charlie Bell’s or the Radio View Grill, but after taking our date home, we gathered at Hardee’s to tell about our dating experience that night. Most of the stories were embellished to impress our peers.

Hardee’s soon became McDonald’s but the smell of charbroiled burgers still filled the air. I can smell those burgers and taste the French fries as I write. I miss that smell on a good summer night, as Carolina Avenue is now full of fast food chains and motels and is even four-laned for the volume of traffic it has. Still, I can remember buying five hamburgers and a French fry for a dollar and where else could you do this growing up?

The best of times with the best of friends and in the best of places, Washington, NC!

— Harold Jr.

PS: Wishing a Merry Christmas and a safe New Year to everyone!