When vintage diner The Chickenburger celebrated 50 years

It started as a simple roadside stand in 1940 and offered its signature sandwich for a dime. Fifty years later, the Chickenburger was still in business.

Bedford, N.S., drive-in restaurant was an 'institution' by 1990, and it's still in business in 2020

In 1990, the Chickenburger restaurant in Bedford celebrates its 50th anniversary. 2:33

It started as a simple roadside stand in 1940 and offered its signature sandwich for a dime. 

Fifty years later, the Chickenburger diner in Bedford, N.S., had become one of the province's "favourite institutions," according to the CBC's Knowlton Nash. 

As Kas Roussy reported for CBC's The National on Aug. 6, 1990, the Chickenburger was "a place stuck in time."

The jukebox still played the hits of the '50s on 45 RPM records and patrons in vintage cars to match turned up to reminisce under bright neon lights.

'Pilgrimage' by the faithful

Vintage car enthusiasts gathered at the Chickenburger to remember the 1950s and reminisce. (The National/CBC Archives)

One weekend a year, loyal fans gathered for a collective flashback.

"I don't come back to Nova Scotia without coming to the Chickenburger," said a man in a satin jacket behind the wheel of a convertible.

More period vehicles were seen driving into the diner's parking lot. 

"Owners of these vintage cars make the pilgrimage back in time to Bedford's own landmark," said Roussy.

And some of them had been eating at the Chickenburger for a long time, including a man who said he had gone regularly as a teenager after dances to "hang out" and get something to eat.

"It was a ritual. We did it every weekend, religiously," he said. 

Resisting change

Sharon McDonald had been operating the burger grill at the Chickenburger for ten years. (The National/CBC Archives)

Roussy said the diner had started as a "rickety little roadhouse," as old photographs of the diner were seen on screen.

By 1990, a McDonald's outlet had located nearby, along with other developments that had sprouted up all around it.

But owner Tom Innes said the Chickenburger would maintain its appeal as a throwback to the 1950s.

"People ... like to be able to identify with things that don't change," he said. 

And things still haven't changed: in 2020 the Chickenburger was still in business after 80 years. Its website notes that it is "reputed to be the oldest drive-in restaurant in Canada."

A patron of the Chickenburger diner described the restaurant as a "landmark" when it was celebrating its 50th anniversary in 1990. (The National/CBC Archives)