Thursday, March 5, 2009

Bob's Big Boy

A few years ago, I could not find out anything about the original Bob's Big Boy. Now, I stumble across information all over the internet. Technology is wonderful, except when it's toxic.

This picture is of the original Bob's Pantry Restaurant, started in Glendale in 1936. Robert C. Wian, the original Bob, had two years of restaurant experience when he sold his car to pay for this 10-seat lunch counter (then abandoned) on Colorado Blvd.

After six months, some tipsy band members stopped by in the evening and wanted Bob to make them something "special." He split a bun in half the hard way and invented the double-decker burger.

The fancy burger got the name "Big Boy" a few weeks later when a pudgy kid came in. Bob almost said, "Hi there, fat boy," but changed it to "Hi there, big boy," and a lightbulb went on over his head.

In 1949, the Bob's Big Boy at 4211 Riverside Drive was built. Wayne McAllister designed it, and Bob Hope was a regular. That place is now the oldest Bob's Big Boy around, and it's made screen appearances in Heat and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. (this picture is from Wikipedia.)

Not that this matters so much to L.A. historians, but according to the FindaGrave website, Wian's fishing boat made it into the movies, too. It was featured in The Wackiest Ship in the Army, starring Jack Lemmon.

By the time Wian sold his chain of 600 restaurants to the Marriott Corporation in 1967 for $7 million dollars, he'd become notable for a few firsts: the first double burger, the first restaurateur to offer health insurance and profit sharing to his employees. In fact, when he incorporated Bob's Big Boy in 1946, he offered his employees stock in the company at $10/share. Some of them became millionaires.

Just for giggles, Wian was also elected Glendale's youngest mayor (age 34) in 1948.


Chris Nichols said...

Nice post on Bob's. You might enjoy my book on Bob's architect Wayne McAllister.


Vix said...

I would! I just looked up your book on Amazon and it's a bargain. I did not realize he designed the Sands in Las Vegas. The pictures (from what Amazon would let me see) are great.

Anonymous said...

I just found your site and wanted to drop you a quick note thanking for doing such an outstanding job of capturing my father's legendary service/humble origins...he put the Bob's in Bob's Big Boy. Nice Job - Julie Wian, Portland, Oregon

Vix said...

Thank you--I'm glad you liked it. Your father lived and incredibly productive life!

Anonymous said...

Were there any lawsuits vs. Frisch's, whose logo looks almost exactly like BOB? I read they began in 1939 in Cincinnati, and Big Boy was created in 1936. How is it possible that two such similar logos are allowed?
A Bob's Supporter!