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White Castle is introducing the Cravers Hall of Fame as a means of recognizing their customers and the role they have played in the success of the company as it celebrates its 80th anniversary. It is a way to honor all those customers who are dedicated to White Castle and who go the extra mile in order to celebrate their crave for the unique, steam-grilled taste of the little square hamburgers.
The uniqueness of the White Castle experience has allowed the company to reach many customers on an emotional level, rather than serving just as a place to fill their stomachs. Many customers have acknowledged the impact White Castle has had on their lives. There is a loyal following of people who consider White Castle to be a defining part of their person (some more literally than others), or as a backdrop for defining moments in their lives.
The ten finalists for the Hall of Fame honor were specially chosen from more than 1100 nominees. The 1187 entries were read and narrowed down to 19 very worthy entries. The final 10 were painstakingly chosen from those 19.
"The response we received was overwhelming. We read many great stories from people of all over the country. It was difficult to narrow it down to only ten inductees for 2001,'' said
Jamie Richardson, White Castle Director of Marketing. "We're thrilled to celebrate these dedicated individuals—they are the creme de la creme of Cravers.''
Queen City White Castle Queen
Debbie Gardner of Cincinnati, Ohio, is the very proud winner of the 2000 White Castle Crave Time Cook-off, the annual recipe contest that encourages cravers to submit recipes using 10 White Castle hamburgers. Gardner takes her reign very seriously and is the self-proclaimed "Queen of White Castle.'' She has prepared the winning recipe on several local news programs and has personally distributed more than 200 copies of it.
Gardner also celebrated Christmas the White Castle way. She and her family got into the spirit by reproducing the White Castle logo frame as well as the word "crave'' in Christmas lights on their house. They also made gift packages creating Santas out of hamburger boxes and filling them with White Castle gift certificates. The boxes also made appearances in the garland and tree decorations.
Gardner sums up her dedication to the crave in the following way, "White Castle is not just a restaurant. It's more. It's an 'experience.' For a tiny bit of money, customers can come in as they are, be helped by delightful people, quench their crave, and create yet another heartfelt memory of fun and good times in a spotless environment.''
Interior Decorating You Crave
Michele Purcell of Mt. Pulaski, Illinois, is another craver that has made White Castle a daily part of her life. And she doesn't even live near a location. When Purcell can't cajole one of her traveling co-workers to pick up some hamburgers for her, she has her own way of creating the White Castle experience; she goes home. Her kitchen motif is all White Castle. She created a stencil and made a border around the room featuring the profile of a White Castle building. Her cabinets are stocked with memorabilia, including cups, toys, and anything else White Castle she can get her hands on. Her latest investment is a stained glass window from a White Castle built in 1929, which she purchased off eBay.
If all this isn't enough, Purcell has a tattoo of the White Castle building profile on her ankle.
A New Kind of Castle in Scotland
Purcell isn't the only one who doesn't let geography interfere with "the crave.'' Colleen Kish of Warren, Michigan, wouldn't let the Atlantic Ocean get in the way of helping her brother, Dan Mack, enjoy White Castle hamburgers. When she visited him at his US Navy station in Holy Loch, Scotland, she brought 25 cheeseburgers with her. He brought some burgers aboard the USS Simon Lake the next day, and the aroma wafted through the ship. Many aboard stopped by to comment that his shop smelled like White Castle. A few lucky ones received a cheeseburger, the rest were told it was just wishful thinking.
Over the River and Through the Woods to White Castle We Will Go
David Silvian never realized how much he loved the taste of White Castle hamburgers while he was growing up in Cincinnati. He had some idea when he moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, and would regularly order 200-300 hamburgers for the crew at the TV station where he worked. But now that he lives in Bogart, Georgia, there is no doubt. At least once a month, Silvian makes a trip to the location closest to him—near Nashville, Tennessee, a 5 hour drive each way, just to quell his crave. "Over the past 10 years, I have made 290 trips just for a White Castle,'' says Silvian.
Trans Craver Airlines
John Shelly of Miami helped others satisfy "the crave.'' When he began working the late shift for TWA airlines in St. Louis in 1962, he and his co-workers often ordered their meal from White Castle—all 75 of them. It took a few times before the staff would believe that their request for several hundred hamburgers was legitimate.
Over the years many in the group were transferred to other parts of the country—areas without White Castles. "During the day, we would take calls from all over the (TWA) system requesting us to send them a certain amount of White Castles on the next flight.'' On one occasion they sent 500 White Castle hamburgers to an agent in the western U.S. A flight attendant kept them warm on the flight. "We heard from the management on that one, because this flight was not a meal flight, but the passengers could smell the burgers heating up in the oven.''
Gera-Lind Kolarik and her coworkers at a Chicago TV news program cured their crave in a unique way in 1984. They had just completed a full day of work when they boarded a helicopter and set out for southern Illinois to cover breaking news. They knew there would be no chance to get food at the scene, and were lamenting this fact when they flew over Kolarik's hometown of Berwyn. She saw the familiar White Castle restaurant and an empty field nearby. She instructed the pilot to land there. "I then ran the two blocks and ordered 25 White Castles, and some shakes and onion rings. I dashed back to the helicopter and we were off again. We ate as we hovered over the scene and also during the live shots.''
For others, White Castle has set the scene for some fond memories.
In 1966, Debbie Martin of Indianapolis began dating Lloyd, who worked the late shift. The only economical place to go after he got off work was White Castle. Unfortunately they broke up, but she continued to go to White Castle on paydays when she would treat her mother and six younger siblings to dinner when her father was working out of town. On one such occasion, Lloyd just happened to be in line behind them. Debbie and Lloyd decided to sit together and talk. The romance was rekindled and they were married April 26, 1969. And after 32 years of marriage they still share their affection for each other—and White Castle.
Extra Mustard Virtuoso
Gerald Benson, 70, of New Hope, Minn., began visiting White Castle as a young boy with his family in St. Paul, Minnesota. He liked the hamburgers so much that the only way his mother could convince him to go to his violin lessons was to give him and his brother a dime so they could stop at White Castle and each get a hamburger. "We were such Saturday regulars, the waitress would see us coming and would regularly have our two White Castles (with extra mustard) waiting when we opened the door.''
He credits White Castle with keeping him nourished through college when he would pick up some burgers after class and eat them on his way to work. Benson is still a regular at White Castle where still eats the burgers with extra mustard. And he still plays the violin.
A Family Tradition
Ami Kane, of Avon, Indiana, is carrying on the three-generation love affair her family has had with White Castle. The tradition began in 1932 when her grandfather, Charles, was 14. He would hoard the money he earned peddling newspapers during the Great Depression until he could afford to buy a sack of Slyders. These he would promptly devour in one sitting. Her grandfather passed on his love of White Castles to his son (her father), Scott, by frequently taking him to a nearby location. In turn, her father began taking her and her brother to White Castle himself. "I can remember even as a small child anticipating the occasions when we would go to the drive-through. My brother and I would be handed the warm, steaming, white and blue paper bags—the perfect heater on a cold, winter day. It was one of the most inviting and delicious smells that I can recall.''
After she placed third in the state in a marching band competition, her parents allowed her to pick anywhere she wanted to eat. "Where did I go? You guessed it! That magical palace, White Castle.''
On Christmas Eve 1998, William, Christina and Joshua Thomason of Dearborn, Michigan, had a crisis: They were on their way home when they realized that they had no cookies to leave for Santa. This was much to the dismay of 3 year-old Joshua who thought Santa would be offended by the slight and not leave any presents. They looked around for an open store at which to buy cookies, but nothing was open—until they saw the White Castle. They stopped and picked up some hamburgers. They left the hamburgers out on the cookie plate with a beer. They have carried on the tradition since, and now if you ask Joshua, now 5-1/2, what Santa likes best, he replies "Two White Castle burgers and a beer!''
The 10 inductees will receive a commemorative plaque in a special ceremony. Another plaque will remain on display at the White Castle home office. Finalist for the contest were chosen from entries submitted to the White Castle website and mailed to the home office in Columbus, Ohio. White Castle will continue to honor new inductees to the Cravers Hall of Fame every May, which is National Hamburger Month.
White Castle is privately owned and operates 250 locations in 12 states. The company was founded in Wichita, Kansas, in 1921.