There Was a Time Before McDonalds

McDonalds seem to be practically everywhere – though not in Tramore …yet.

I guess there are some kids who think that there was never a time when Big Macs and McFlurries didn’t exist but there was and I was part of that time.

I think it’s probably fairly true to say that a love of chips or French fries has been around for thousands of years in some shape or form.

My introduction to chips came in the early 1960s when we moved to a small town, Castleblayney, in Co. Monghan. It is just three miles from the border with Northern Ireland and a world away from Tramore which is way down south.

Castleblayney had a chip shop called The Bambi and, even though, I was only about seven, I became part of the place and it became part of me.

Main Street, Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan in the 1960s. Photo: Frank Tubridy

I don’t understand why but Mother let me go across the road on my own for chips pretty much as often as I wanted and that grew into pretty much every night.

The people who owned The Bambi treated me like a human being, not a little kid who was new in town. Their chips were made from real potatoes that they chopped up in front of my very eyes and fired into the big shiny stainless steel deep fat fryer. The chips were shovelled into sort of greaseproof Β bags, salted and vinegared to taste and then wrapped in newspaper that steamed deliciously.

I became such a regular that I ended up hanging around inside the counter and before I knew it, I was shaking the big baskets of half cooked chips to help them on their way and then tossing them into the cabuche for the cooked chips.

As customers came in, I would hover around, listening to the chat, bagging up chips and wrapping them as best I could in big sheets of newspaper.

I was in heaven for that hour or so in the Bambi and, of course, I got to eat as many chips as I wanted.

I’d run home when I was full and this was just how things were for a year or two.

When Dad was transferred to Drogheda, I was devastated and one of the toughest goodbyes was to the gang in The Bambi. I thought I would see them all again, that was the only way I could cope, but I never did.

As it happened there was a Wimpy Bar across the road from us in Drogheda. The chips were good and I loved the little booths where you could sit and eat your fare with the jukebox available and well-used in the corner.

But nowhere was ever going to be like The Bambi. It was part of just one place and I’d give a lot to be able to linger there for another hour or so now. Health and Safety be damned!


Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and I love to write both non-fiction and poetry.

42 thoughts on “There Was a Time Before McDonalds”

  1. I really cannot believe this but I was friends with a girl when I was a little girl and I swear to you that truthfully her mum and dad owned a fish and chip shop! I too spent many happy hours there helping out just like you did ! We ate an awful lot of crispy batter that fell off of the fish!!
    I also remember the Wimpy Bar so much more fun than MacDonalds!! xxxx

  2. What a wonderful memory of fries! McDonald’s came around sometime when I was a bit older as a child, but I never entered a McDonald’s until I was in college. My mom would never let us near them. 😳

  3. I remember the first time I heard the term “chips” used for fries–It was my first visit to San Francisco in 1972, and we went to get ‘fish and chips’ from a little stand. I was astonished to learn that not only were chips actually fries, but that you put vinegar on them…and the fish! In Texas, you put ketchup on fried fish and fried potatoes. However, I fell in love with a new taste, and began an adventure of learning what the world of food beyond West Texas had to offer…and believe me, it is a lot! I was introduced to Wimpy’s in South Africa, and it is definitely above the grade of McDonald’s, although on the rare occasion I had to eat Micky D’s in South Africa, it was far from how it tasted here in the States. I am not a big Mickey fan anyway–it is just expedient when traveling. πŸ™‚

  4. Oh, it sounds delicious. I think maybe the reason that French fries aren’t that big a favorite of mine (although in general I am the BIGGEST fan of other forms of oil and potatoes) is that they need the vinegar. Chips are far superior to FF.

  5. Wow. I fell in love with Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips when I was in college. The time my best friend asked what I really wanted for my birthday I said, ATF&C.” She drove all the way to Galveston just so I could have fried cod and the best chips ever. Not much beats good fried potatoes. And, no, not all potatoes are fried potato potatoes!

    Thanks for a lovely memory. God bless old Arthur for introducing fish and chips to America.

  6. Nice story. Fish ‘n chips has survived for 150 years now which is remarkable considering the social changes in that time. I’ve always wondered how it crossed the Irish Sea as a ‘chipper’ when we know it as a ‘chippy’ πŸ™‚

  7. I grew up before McDonalds too Jean – fish and chips was part of our heritage since I grew up near the coast and the fish quay – Wimpy was my first introduction to fast food too – there was a lone Wimpy in Newcastle so I didn’t get to go very often!

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