A reminder of the good ol’ days stands tall — about 8 feet tall — on Route 351 in Oglesby.
Painted in orange and brown clothing, a 300-pound hollow ceramic statue of a man serving a root beer in one hand and a hamburger in the other stands in front of The RootBeer Stand.
At the statue’s old home, Woody’s Drive-In in Streator, he was called Woody. Now some people call him Hamburger Hank, after Hank Moore, who opened the Oglesby restaurant. And some just call him Burger Boy.
He has no official name, but people love him no matter what you call him.
“It’s unbelievable. When I got this off of Mrs. Wood, in Streator, she said you’re not going to believe how many people take pictures of that guy out front. And I said, ‘Oh, not in Oglesby.’ But it’s unreal. It goes on all year long,” said Ron Moore, owner of the restaurant at 225 N. Columbia Ave.
Few can resist this photo op. He’s seen motorcycle riders, wedding parties, high school students on their way to a formal dance and families stop to take pictures with the smiling, bald man wearing a short brown tie.
“I think it just reminds (people) of the old days, you know what I mean? It’s like back in the ’60s when you’d see these things popping up,” he said of drive-in restaurants. “It’s the kind of place we are. We started back in the ’50s. You don’t see them anymore. That’s why it gets a lot of attention out there. I’m always surprised.”
Drive-ins started in the 1920s following the mass production of the Ford Model T. The first drive-in, called Kirby’s Pig Stand, opened in 1921 in Dallas, Texas. Drive-in restaurants hit their peak in the 1950s and ’60s.
Moore recalls at least six drive-ins once called Starved Rock Country home. Woody’s in Streator closed in 2005, but the family made sure their mascot, Woody, found a new home.
“She said, ‘listen, you guys are the only ones left. We’re closing the restaurant. If you want Woody, come on down and get him. You guys can carry on the tradition at your place.’ "
A friend of Moore’s operated a furniture store in Oglesby, so they took a furniture truck to Streator and loaded him up.
He’s called Oglesby home ever since. This symbol of a bygone era fits right in with Moore’s diner menu, homemade root beer and car hop waitresses.