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Thursday, Sept. 25, 2003 02:20 pm

He’s got a million of ’em

Ernie Edwards serves up some stories from the Road

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Ernie Edwards, longtime proprietor of the Pig Hip Restaurant in Broadwell, is one of Route 66's most gifted and proficient storytellers. With 54 years in business and a dozen years of retirement, he's certainly had plenty of practice. The end of a story is never enough for this Murphysboro native. A tale may end on a matter-of-fact note, but look Ernie in the eye and you'll always see a hint or invitation to another. To facilitate his storytelling, Ernie and the Route 66 Association of Illinois converted his former restaurant into the Pig Hip Museum. Stop by and hear these stories, plus many others:

Taking care of the competition

"The Pig Hip was a fresh ham sandwich made from the left hip of the pig. The reason for that is when a hog has an itch, he has a tendency to raise the right leg and scratch. And that made it tough. So we used only the left hip and let Dixie Truckers Home have the rest."

Modern communication

"Years back, we had the Blue Bird bus stop, our little cafe, the garage, and a service station. And in the back we had outhouses. One day I had to go to town to get supplies. This young fellow who waited on us quite a bit said, 'I got a new gadget in you oughtta have--a loud speaker system. You can put a speaker in the restaurant, one in the service station, one in the garage, and one in the outhouse. When a bus gets ready to come in or leave, you can announce it.'

"Now that sounded pretty good, so we bought it. The fellow hooked up one in the restaurant. We tried it. It worked fine. Then he hooked up others in the garage and service station and restroom.

"And it was a nice restroom. It was . . . an outhouse, but it was all white, you know. We had a white picket fence going out to it and a nice gravel lane and a big tree that could give you shade. It was real nice and we kept it clean.

"So anyway, here come in the bus and this great big lady. Of course she made a beeline for the outhouse and went in. The door was a little narrow for her, but she squeezed through. About the time she turned around and got squatted, the young fellow got on the microphone. He said, 'Madam, could you get over in the other booth? I'm painting down here.'

"And that door flopped open. We never did find it. It knocked all the bark off that big tree, put a hole in the fence. And we haven't seen that lady since."

Feeding Colonel Sanders

"One day this '35 Plymouth coupe pulled in. The driver came in and had a cup of coffee. He said his name was Harlan Sanders. We got to talking. He wanted to sell me a franchise on how to fry chicken. He told me about his secret herbs and spices. I listened. Of course, I was selling franchises on the Pig Hip and I rebutted by trying to sell him a franchise.

"About 4:30, 5 o'clock, he said, 'Boy, you go get a chicken, I'll go get my pot, and I'll show you how to fry chicken.' Well OK, I said. I went and got a chicken out. He went and got his herbs and his pans. Then he went back in the kitchen and fried it up. He came out with a platter of chicken and we sat there and ate it. And boy, it was delicious.

"We sat and talked a little longer. Pretty soon, he says, 'Boy, I got to get going.' And so he left. Then I got to thinking after he was gone, 'You know, that sucker was hungry. That was his supper. He ate my chicken!' "

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