Sunday, December 05, 2010

MAGPIE TALE: Concepcion's Legacy

Another contribution to the Magpie Tales.

The peaked tip of the porch light told you everything about whose home this was at 13014 Traverse Circle. This was the Baumgartner home. Everett Baumgartner made a name for himself in Fond du Lac, a city with a French name filled with German Americans and a fondness for fast food.

Baumgartner's father immigrated there in 1904 from Munich and opened a small doughnut and ale house at the corner of Jervis and Grande. It was the pine cone gnomes or elves that people most remembered and the tamales made by the house maid Concepcion. When Concepcion delivered a blue eyed, blond haired son named Hans, it was clear that Everett's stated devotion to Lotte was filled with protocol more than passion, and soon Concepcion became the official mistress of the house.

Theirs was a marriage of weaved a curious fabric of diverse cultures long before the word "fusion" entered the American psyche and vernacular. It was only fitting that little Hans would soon be playing the music of Reynaldo Hahn on his pink toy piano imported from Japan and resting on a Ecuadorian rug. Hans would go on to learn Hmong and follow the dictates of Tristan Tzara before moving to Tacoma where he became a respected sculptor.

It was in 1937 -- at least a decade before the founding of McDonald's in San Bernadino -- that Concepcion and Everett launched what they called "America's first automotive aggregated auto mat", later being shortened to "Drive Through". People would speak into a remote speaker and seconds later Concepcion would deliver them sauerkraut in a taco shell or bratwurst wedged into a bed of beans, kartoffelbrei and flour tortilla. During the holidays, Concepcion introduced Comidas Felizadad when a pine cone elf was put in the sack with the meals.

Speculating that they would soon be millionaires, Everett built his stone castle on Traverse Circle, its peaked turrets echoing the hats of his beloved pine cone elves. Rumors suggested that it cost somewhere between $500,000 and $800,000, a staggering sum in Depression era dollars.

By 1942, when America was far more pre-occupied with the war than German-Mexican meals, the fledgling franchise entered Eau Claire and Madison under its new name -- Taco Schnell. Its motto -- muchos kraut and beans in a hurry -- might have been catchy in less German-phobic times, but its potential was never realized.

Sadly, Everett died in 1943 and never fulfilled his empire's promise. Concepcion soldiered on, but mounting debt forced her to shut down the last franchise in 1948. She continued to make the pine cone elves and bratwurst fajitas well into the early 1960s. She died in 1971, found in her kitchen holding a forked spoon where seconds earlier she had been stirring a pot of black beans and sausage.

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At 6:28 AM, Blogger C.M. Jackson said...

magnificent!!! Now that's a story!! bratwurst fajitas;-) delightful magpie!

At 7:49 AM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

C.M. - I wonder if that franchise still might work?

At 10:18 AM, Blogger Tess Kincaid said...

I have some of these great pinecone elves! I also went to school with a girl named Phoebe Baumgartner.

At 11:21 AM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Tess - I think both are common among Midwesterners of Baby Boom generation. Our family had a set of the elves, but they went to my sister after my parents passed on. I was thrilled to acquire my own set earlier this year at the Alemany Flea Market -- perhaps my best purchase of the year.

At 5:42 AM, Blogger Sue J said...

This is a very interesting read. I enjoyed it.

At 9:16 AM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Sue - Thanks and glad you dropped by our blog.


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