By Ruth A. Ringelstetter
We’ve mentioned before that, growing up, our “going out to eat” usually involved burgers at the local A & W and occasionally, takeout from the Kentucky Fried Chicken in Watertown, Wisconsin. The rest of the time we ate meals at home.
There was an American Legion hamburger stand on the square in Lake Mills and they sold “sliders” on Fridays. I only remember having sliders once with a friend’s family. One Friday night her dad told us to go downtown and get “a bag of sliders.” I had no idea what that meant, but off we went.
Until now, I didn’t know the history behind that little stand. The Veterans have been selling hamburgers in Lake Mills since 1926: first from a cart in the park across the street, and later from this little building that was built in 1950.
When I spent time with my friend’s family, the little burger stand we went to most often was in Jefferson, Wisconsin and it was called Becker’s at the time. We would run there for a bag of burgers, which usually meant three or four burgers for my friend’s dad and two each for the rest of the family and me. Even though us kids had often shopped in Jefferson with Mom, we hadn’t heard of this little burger stand.
At that time, the building behind the burger stand was a neighborhood grocery store, called “Becker’s Superette.” Becker’s had bought the business in 1949, and after 39 years, sold it to Armstrong’s in 1974. I know my friend’s family kept calling them Becker burgers after Armstrong’s took over. Since the recipe was passed along with the business, the burgers still tasted the same. It is so nice when a business changes hands and the old recipes are handed down and kept for the community.
In 2002, Armstrong’s sold the business to Wedl’s and they continue the hamburger tradition, although the Superette has become an ice cream parlor. Since neighborhood grocers can’t make a living in this day and age, it’s nice to see the old building continue on with a new purpose. The hamburger stand outside of the old store has been around since 1916 and just this summer celebrated their 100th anniversary.
We’ve passed other hamburger stands in our travels, and you probably have too. Sometimes we’re not sure if they are or were a hamburger stand, like the one below in Misouri. It has a cone on the door so we aren’t sure what the building is.
With everyone trying to eat healthier these days, it’s still good to give that up for one meal every now and then and eat at these small businesses. It takes you back to a simpler time, and you can always go back to your kale and quinoa the next day!