Dr. Know: Queen City Burger Kings, a 60 Minutes Mystery, and How Pendleton Got Its Name


Are Cincinnati’s Burger Kings dying out? I thought the Pleasant Ridge one was just remodeling, but it’s been over a year and weeds are growing around it. Now the same thing is happening in Kenwood. Does this town not support Burger King anymore? —NOT HAVING IT MY WAY

Illustration by Lars Leetaru

Dear My Way:
The Doctor could find no Burger King business office in Cincinnati, and was afraid to contact world headquarters in Miami after discovering that they have an officer listed as “President of North America.” Too intimidating. Instead, he found an experienced owner of another local fast-food franchise—this person requested anonymity—who provided some perspective:

The fast food biz works in mysterious ways, its Whoppers to perform. Usually, franchisers build eateries on local properties where they pay rent. If the franchiser’s parent company has financial difficulties and is forced to downsize, its most profitable assets may have to be sold off first. That means there’s a chance your beloved Burger Kings closed because their business was actually quite healthy (the only context where “healthy” might apply to fast food). The moral: support your favorite restaurants by staying away.

I vaguely remember that Andy Rooney, the long-gone curmudgeon from TV’s 60 Minutes, once delivered a scathing rant against Cincinnati. I don’t see it among his many YouTube videos, and I don’t remember what got him so upset. Can you find it? —BELATED EDITION

Dear Belated:
You ever notice when professionals write about Andy Rooney, they all start with, “You ever notice?” You ever notice that all these talentless hacks think they’re being clever? Thank you for being unprofessional.

The Doctor found no video, but did locate the October 29, 1979, transcript of Mr. Rooney’s 60 Minutes commentary. In his typical acerbic style, he made fun of a Sunday Cincinnati Enquirer. But he was not specifically picking on it, or us. In fact, he pointed out that it was a “paper with a great tradition, good town.” His complaint was more about how bloated America’s Sunday newspapers had become (“This is 582 pages. I can hardly lift it.”). As he hand-separated newsworthy pages from other sections (“Here’s something called Gold Circle.”), he ultimately found scant relevant material within the giant Rumpke-destined pile.

Mr. Rooney concluded, “I like newspapers, but I worry about them. If they keep going this way, critics are going to start laughing.” As we now know, newspapers did not keep going that way. Some critics laugh, others weep.

How did Pendleton, the neighborhood near Over-the-Rhine, get itself called Pendleton? Cincinnati already had a Pendleton in the East End, as far back as the 1850s. It’s on old maps, in address books, and was still a common name when I was an East End kid. What happened? —THERE’S NO PLACE

Dear No Place:
You’re right. The village of Pendleton once stretched from today’s Torrence Parkway and Taft Road out to Delta Avenue along the river. Cincinnati annexed it in 1870, but everyone still called the neighborhood by that name into the 20th century. Tiny remnants survive, such as the Pendleton Heritage Center on Riverside Drive, a former office building of the railroad that served the area.

The Pendletons were among Cincinnati’s most wealthy and prominent 19th century families. Their lineage is hard to follow, because they did that annoying thing that rich families sometimes do: give identical names to all their children. Must be tough when Mom calls your name, and your dad and uncle and cousins all answer. Rather than make a chart showing the dizzying array of Juniors and The Thirds, let’s just say that the East End Railroad Pendletons were related to the Over-the-Rhine Politics Pendletons.

The Railroad Pendletons may have been first to name a whole village after themselves, but the Politics Pendletons seem to have won the long-term victory, just by putting their name on a short street near Liberty Hill. As railroads faded from the East End, memories of that family branch apparently did also. Then, a concerted effort to have the other Pendleton designated as an official neighborhood succeeded in 1987. The moral? It doesn’t take a village, it takes a street. Stadium naming rights could be next; the Brown family should stay alert.

Facebook Comments