More Cowbell!

Not by any means was every artifact I unearthed from a box in my basement disposed of.  One of the survivors is a cowbell.  A real, honest-to-goodness cowbell.  I plan to offer it to a friend who actually has cows.


I came into possession of this cowbell from Mr. Hamburg, an early competitor of McDonald’s, with two convenient locations:  Route 9 in Framingham, and at the intersection of Route 30 and Speen St. in Natick.

I worked at the Natick location, starting as a cleaner of trash barrels and ending as…ummmm…(I think I’ll save the rest for the book I’ll never write).

As you no doubt deduced from the name, this was a fast-food hamburger joint.  But at one point, a hot ham sandwich was introduced to the menu.  It was called…THE HAMBO.  Everytime someone ordered a Hambo, you had to whack the hanging cowbell, and yell “HAMBO!!!”

I wanted to ask why a cowbell was used to attract attention to a product that came from a pig.  But when you’re making $1.60 an hour, it’s wiser to keep your mouth shut. 

($1.60 was minimum wage in 1968.  For the doubters, here’s a copy of my first pay stub. 

$13.50 after taxes!

Why did I save my first pay stub?  Maybe because it was my first.  Though I do seem to recall thinking to myself, “Hey, maybe in 42 years I can blog about this!”)

Pre-Hambo menu. (Clams big sellers on Friday.)

For better or worse, I was as easily annoyed then as I am now.  You can only yell “HAMBO!” and smack a cowbell so many times before you want to smack someonething else.  So the cowbell mysteriously disappeared.  Who took it?  No idea.  It just turned up in my possession.

If it’s true that you learn almost everything you need to know in kindergarten (and come to think of it, I didn’t go to kindergarten), I believe everything I ever needed to know about working for a living I learned in my first job.  Mr. Hamburg, where, as you can see, you really were in luck with a buck.

I learned so many lessons, and I still keep most of them to myself, though I’m sure the statute of limitations has expired. 

But one of the best was this one:  if you catch your married boss with a woman whose name isn’t Mrs. Boss, you can get away with…(I think I’ll save the rest for that book I’ll never write).


About Gerry

I've been covering Connecticut news and sports since 1974. I know, I don't look that old.
This entry was posted in It's all about me, Living in the Past and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to More Cowbell!

  1. Oh Gerry!!! You shock me by getting rid of a real honest to goodness Cowbell!! Be still my beating heart! That looked like it was in it’s prime too. I sure hope the cow who gets to wear it, understands just how precious it really is.

  2. Li'l Em-Kel says:

    You should write a book.

  3. hendu says:

    First: I think that needs to come to the station and be whaked everytime we have breaking news and of course yell “Hambo” Second: you are a class “a” packrat my friend.

    • Gerry says:

      Cracking up just thinking about your idea.
      And hey, I’m in the process of depackratting myself. Unpackratting? I’ll have to look it up.

  4. Pat says:

    Gerry, you should take the cowbell and break into your own rendition of Mississippi Queen or Don’t Fear The Reaper during the newscast.

  5. Bruce says:

    Hi Gerry: Nice blog. Reminds me of a short, sardonic piece I read in the Atlantic magazine back in the early/mid-70s. That piece was called “Yumbo,” and was written by, I think, Ward Just, who later became their editor . . . I think. The gist of it was how the writer was behind a dignified old guy at a Burger King counter. The old man ordered a ham sandwich and the guy behind the counter shot back, “You mean a Yumbo?” Long story short, the old man refused over and over to call the ham sandwich by its silly name, and the employee refused to serve it to him until he did. Finally, the old guy tipped his hat and walked out, quietly bidding the BK kid “Good day.”

  6. Linda says:

    Gerry, you definitely have to write a book. There are not many people out there that can tell a tale like you. You can make a reader become interested in the most mundane of topics. After all if Regis Philbin – who is a good storyteller – can write a book, you – who is a great storyteller – can too!

  7. Joan says:

    I 2nd that motion, Linda!

  8. Kathryn D. says:

    It would be a most fascinating read!

  9. #2 says:

    Oh…if they only knew, the truth is stranger than fiction, and in your case at Mr. Hamburg, could lead to (we now interrupt #2’s comment for reasons of national security.)

  10. Don Yovicsin says:

    I am desperately looking for photo(s) of Mr Hamburg rt 9 Framingham. Any help, leads would be greatly appreciated. I have run into dead ends at Framingham Library and Framingham Historical Society.

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