NEWS

Mrs. Gibble’s brings back memories with OHW menu

PAT FRIDGEN
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The Sonnyburger is back.

A journey to the past will take place during Old Home Week, when Mrs. Gibble's Restaurant revives favorite dishes from its lunch menu. The restaurant stopped serving lunch about seven years ago, but their customers haven't forgotten what they enjoyed most. Last March one of them mentioned he missed the Sonnyburger. That got owner Kim Eshleman to thinking.

She and her husband Rodney decided to do something special for OHW for the first time. "One thing led to another," she said, "and we decided to bring the lunch menu back, with a 50s theme."

The eatery and adjacent candy store are part of the long history for the area. Sitting along U.S. 11, the main thoroughfare before Interstate 81 was built, the former Dixie Tourist Court was a popular stop for travelers. The property had multiple motel rooms, a restaurant, outdoor swimming pool and go-cart track. Owner Orville Barnes hosted teen dances in a barn, and according to hearsay, some gambling also went on back there at times.

"People came here for vacations," Eshleman said. They could also fuel up at the gas station on the property frontage.

In 1976 the complex changed hands. Ray and Mary Gibble bought it, along with their daughter Vernice and her husband Charles "Sonny" Eshleman. Everything came in the package deal.

"Each table had jukeboxes," Eshleman recalled. "It would have been nice to keep them. Hindsight."

The barn, track and filling station are gone, the pool was filled in, and the motel was downsized, with the remaining units converted to permanent housing and short-term rentals. The Gibble clan created its own recipes and found its own following. Now they are going back to the past, eager to provide one more thing for OHW visitors to enjoy.

Good times

'Let the good times roll' is the theme for the revival. The restaurant will open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, Aug. 2-6, for the lunch crowd. Eshleman is convincing her staff to dress in 1950s attire, which could be the white serving dresses and aprons so common at the time, or a poodle skirt and matching pieces. Her daughter Aindrea Fouty scoured a resale shop for clothing to complement her poodle skirt and saddle shoes, both belonging to Eshleman's mother Carolyn Bingaman.

The Sonnyburger tops the menu. Toppings include cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, bacon and Sonnysauce, "a secret recipe that won't be disclosed." Vernie's Salad returns, a large chef salad made with ham, turkey and beef. Other big sellers from the past are a thin steak sandwich, tenderloin sandwich and cajun chicken salad. Entrees will also be available from Gibble's 2010 menu.

To add to the ambience, the 1957 Chevy of Ron Gipe will be on display all week.

And all visitors will get a free postcard, from a choice of four. The scenes from 1963 are of the Dixie Tourist Court and Hotel Greencastle, also owned by Barnes at the time.