12 second audio clip from the
Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives feature on the Beacon
The Beacon Drive-In in
Spartanburg SC is one of those great old family places, so
entrenched in its community and so interwoven into the lives
of the generations of folks that have been going there, it
has become an institution, almost a historical landmark, a
Mecca to the culinary indulgences of the masses.
food at a good price, and a-plenty of it.
There is no real direct
connection between wrestling and the Beacon that I know of,
except that countless wrestling fans no doubt had a burger
or bar-b-que hash there before or after the weekly wrestling
events at the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium over the many
decades they were held there.
The Auditorium was built in
1951, and the Beacon first opened Thanksgiving Day 1946
(photo seen below), so it’s
reasonable to expect and easy to believe that there are
folks in the Spartanburg area in their 60s who might have
spent almost four decades visiting both places every
Now that’s what I call livin’
My father and mother, who were
born and grew up in Spartanburg, spent lots of early
evenings at the original Beacon location while dating in
high school. Owner John White’s business was so good, he
needed to expand beyond the confines of the small lot where
the Beacon was originally located on West Main Street, so he
moved his restaurant to the current location on the corner
of Daniel Morgan Avenue and Reidville Road, now John B.
White Boulevard, named for the man who started it all and
ran the business himself for over 50 years.
I grew up in East Tennessee,
but we visited my grandparents in Spartanburg regularly on
holidays and other occasions. As a kid, I was always hopeful
that those visits would include an excursion to the Beacon.
Sadly, it wound up being only on a rare occasion that we did
actually make it to the Beacon, but those visits, perhaps
only a half dozen or so over my childhood and teen years,
were very special times and wonderful memories for me.
one personal wrestling connection I make with the Beacon
came in the late 70s, I must have been about 17 years old
and we were on one of those family visits to Spartanburg and
I was delighted when my Dad told us he was taking us all to
the Beacon for lunch. But there was one major hesitation on
my part, excited as I was to be headed to the Beacon; we
would be leaving just before one o’clock, and 1:00 PM was
the time Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling came on channel
4 every Saturday. I never missed wrestling if I could help
it, and momentarily thought of giving up the Beacon so that
I didn’t miss the show. But that really wasn’t an option, my
Dad wouldn’t have gone for that, and so I tried to focus my
attention away from Bob Caudle and David Crockett and began
looking forward to a huge cheeseburger-a-plenty.
We arrived at the Beacon,
and I’m awfully anxious because I have this internal
mechanism that used to make me miserable if wrestling was on
and I wasn’t able to watch it. We parked and walked into the
side entrance. And there it was: in the first dining area
adjacent to where J.C. calls out your order to the cooks and
order-preparers in the Beacon, a 17” black and white RCA
television mounted to the wall, and on the screen was
Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. It was a tag team
match, and I don’t remember all the participants, but Dick
Murdoch was in the ring with “Crusher” Jerry Blackwell when
my eyes first saw that television set.
Boy, did that ever make my day!
Lunch at the Beacon and Mid-Atlantic Wrestling; could it get
much better than that?
Needless to say, I chose where
we sat. Even though the sound was turned down, I still got
to enjoy a little wrestling as well as a great burger buried
under lot of fries and rings. And I really couldn't tell you
which I enjoyed more.
* * * * *
The Beacon features great
burgers and BBQ, but the best way to order it is in the
style of something the Beacon calls “a-plenty”.
Ham-and-cheese-a-plenty. That designation means that your
sandwich comes smothered in a huge pile of fries and onion
when I say smothered, I mean heaped up and piled
high, almost completely covering your sandwich. You just
sort of trust the right thing is under that mess!
burgers or BBQ aren’t what you’re looking for, they also
serve a little bit of almost everything else, including
fried chicken, sliced turkey, country ham, fried fish,
hamburger steak - -you name it, the Beacon will serve it to
you fresh, hot, and a-plenty!
Your first trip to the Beacon
can be a bit intimidating, because there is a system. When
you walk in, there are stacks of menus printed on paper
(that make great souvenirs as well as a good source of
information for preparation) to review while you are in
line, but when you get to J.C., be ready to “call it.”
J.C at the ready. Caaaawl
(Flickr Photo by The Travlin'
J.C. Strobel has worked at the
Beacon for over 50 years. He is a Spartanburg legend. When
it’s time to place your order, he’ll say “Caaawl it!” and
then he shouts your order to the back. You move down the
line and suddenly moments later, your order appears before
you. It’s amazing! And make sure not to just stand there in
stunned amazement at what’s going on around you; you’ll be
told to “keep walkin’” – they have to keep that line moving
at the Beacon. They call it “Talk and Walk.”
call out an order at the Beacon:
12 second audio clip from the
Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives feature on the Beacon (seen
"I need a hash a-plenty! That's a barbeque hash sandwich
surrounded by french fried potatoes and union rings. Uh,
The Beacon is also famous for
their very sweet iced-tea.
Open at 6:30 AM six days a week,
52 weeks a year. Closed Sundays. When anywhere near
Spartanburg, SC, don’t miss the Beacon Drive-In.