Ephemera Road Trip: Writing on Hot Dog Buns
At Tony Packo’s in Toledo, Ohio, they’ve come up with a writing surface previously unknown to man: the hot dog bun. Packo’s is a Hungarian place with a black stamped-tin ceiling and city themed memorabilia that’s been around for 77 years, but it was “discovered” in the 1970’s when Jamie Farr’s cross-dressing Klinger character mentioned it repeatedly on the TV show MASH as his favorite hometown restaurant.
It happens that Packo’s serves up frankfurters and “hamburgs” as well as the more typical stuffed cabbage and chicken paprikash. The hot dog bun writing started with Burt Reynolds, the celebrity idol of Tony’s wife Patty. Reynolds came in one night, Patty begged for an autograph, no paper could be found, and so voila, a bun was produced, to which the star affixed his John Hancock. It became a tradition for celebrities to frequent Packo’s and to sign the buns.
And now all over the walls of the restaurant in Toledo’s Hungarian neighborhood, the buns sit, signed, under glass, with tiny bronze plaques identifying them. The signatures of figures as diverse as Robert Kennedy, Jr., and Carrot Top are here, as well as the whole cast of characters from MASH. (Mike Farrell’s and Alan Alda’s are below.)
So how does one sign what is essentially a porous, kind of soft fat piece of bread? And how does the management keep them so fresh in their frames, year after year? It turns out one doesn’t, and neither does Tony Packo’s.
“The first one was real,” says Caleb Weber, manager of the restaurant, “but the rest aren’t. They’re made of polyurethane, and they are really hard; they could break a windshield. In fact, I always carry one with me in case I’m locked out of my car.” See tonypackos.com for more on the history of the restaurant.
A correction to yesterday’s post re: Cherry Bombs muffler company: The slogan is “Disturbing the Peace Since 1968.”
All photos by Diana Lurio.