Bury’s burgers: ‘That was it – no slaw, no relish, no pickles’
First there was Pavlov’s dog and then Bury’s hamburgers.
Mention the word ‘hamburger’ to many York countians, and they’ll immediately think “Joe Bury” and then start salivating.
Take York Daily Record/Sunday News columnist Jim Hubley, for example:
In last week’s section of FlipSide in the Record, I began reading the Cheap-Eats column of the food fan, Nicki Lefever.
I read the first sentence and immediately did a flip of my own, which tosses me back about a half-century to when the vast majority of York city and county would have been sharing Nicki’s desire expressed in the opening of her column.
Her initial sentence caught not only my eye but also stomach. It follows, “On a recent weekday, I was hit with an intense craving for a hamburger.”
Veteran readers and veteran hamburg lovers will know what I am going to say next, and they will be correct.
I paused after that first sentence of Nicki’s and said to myself, with a wonderful feeling, “Joe Bury.”
All true Yorkers understand the name. Joe Bury was for many years, and still remains, synonymous with hamburg sandwiches.
Nicki found her 21st-century hamburg after a drive beyond Dallastown and Red Lion to a delightful drive-in at Collinsville.
Joe Bury was real. He was a veteran of World War I, popular as an individual and, like most local veterans, returned to York and a variety of jobs.
In 1927, Joe decided to go into the restaurant business and began by investing $32 and a lease in a very small building in the first block of East King Street.
In short order, he realized he needed help and requested it from his two brothers, Arthur, nicknamed “Oss,” and a younger brother, Gerald, with the nickname of Pete.
They joined Joe and worked very hard in a 24-hour business, seven days a week. Available for the hungry were such staples as sausage, baked beans, spaghetti, etc., plus, for the first time in York, Mrs. Smith’s pies.
However, for customers who just wanted a sandwich to tide them over between meals was the very appealing massive hamburger on an equally massive roll. That was it — no slaw, no relish, no pickles. Exceptions for those who requested it were a roll-size slice of Bermuda onion with either catsup or mustard, and frequently all three.
The price of one of those hamburgers, including, if wanted, onion, catsup and mustard, was 10 cents. The brothers worked steadily and the business grew, with no outsiders until Joe’s health began fading. Oss and Pete continued, but the business was growing faster than they could keep pace.
They began hiring and thinking of expanding. Within a few years, they had opened 12 more places around the city and took on the name of Bury Famous Hamburg.
Quite naturally, they opened a stand at the York Fair and spread beyond the lone spot. In short time, there were seven stands on the fairgrounds, surrounded with crowds virtually all day waiting to buy one or several of Bury’s Famous Hamburgs.
As time passed, more help was needed, and at least nine employees eventually worked a total of more than 300 years, their entire lives’ labors, preparing and serving Bury’s burgers.
Labor relations with employees were very successful. Managers of the increasing new restaurants were selected from the ranks. Vacation trips were awarded, including many amenities.
Eventually, when the Bury brothers and other relatives departed, those remaining decided not to expand or go beyond family control.
Today, there are no Bury Famous Hamburgs to be had.
As for Nicki, she found a 2-ounce hamburger for a dollar and a quarter-pound burger for $2.70 and a Big Joe special with special sauce, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and cheese for $3. She took her choice and was delighted with her hamburg treat.
I enjoyed her hamburg report, but nearly cried when I remembered long ago walking about 10 yards to a nearby Bury Hamburger place on West Market Street.
Then again, while working at the Gazette and Daily on East King Street, walking another short space for a Joe Bury hamburg at his original stand.
Nicki would have loved Joe Bury hamburgs, I am certain.
Posts on Bury’s Famous Hamburgers:
Yet another Bury’s hamburger drops into the cooker
Bury’s burgers: ‘You won’t get that recipe’
The quest for Bury’s secret hamburger recipe continues.
This Bury’s recipe comes from a can,
Reader reveals Bury’s secret recipe.
Is Bury’s secret sauce really secret?
Bury’s burgers: Nostalgia on a bun
Fair, Bury’s go together like tomato sauce, burgers
Bury’s burgers: ”That was it – no slaw, no relish, no pickles’
Playland plays nostalgic note for York countians
Bury’s burger memories far from buried
To read stroll back memory lane, see posts in Nostalgia and Memories category.