The dream started during a conversation between Harold (Bud) Cooper and John (Pappy) Newcomer sometime in 1946… The Red Arrow! Later, known as the Arrowhead! This establishment first opened its doors in 1947 when business booming and weeks seemed to be eight days long.
A little about Bud: Bud was serving our country in the Army Air Corp during World War II and had trained as a fighter pilot for a P-38. There were a series of surrenders but it was not until September 2, 1945 when Japan signed the surrender documents aboard the deck of the American Battleship, USS Missouri that officially ended World War II. Some troops were home soon after the war had ended and others stayed until the end of 1947. Bud arrived back in Milton, Pennsylvania in the summer of 1946, just after the May flooding that crested slightly over 29 feet.
A little about Pappy: Pappy was married to Sarah May (known to all as Nannie) and they had lived at 615 Lincoln Street in Milton. They were raising their three children Edna, Carrie and John Jr. Pappy was working to support his family but he was not pleased with his job.
The first conversation: During a picnic outing in celebration of Bud’s return home, Bud was prepping french fries like he observed and enjoyed when stationed in Europe.
French Fries: Bud was stationed in France (or Belgium, depending on whom you ask) during World War II. Bud was the incubator for the famous French Fries we have all grown to love from the beginning of the Arrowhead when it was called The Red Arrow.
French fries were born to be fast food all over America. Deep frying foods in large vats of (expensive) fat, is a smelly and messy task that was impossible for most people to carry out in their humble kitchens. At the beginning of their popularity, one’s only chance to obtain the delectable treat was at a restaurant, whose cooking facilities were better equipped to handle such a procedure. It was then that a perfect imitation of what Bud experienced from street vendors in Paris and Brussels could be had in Milton.
Given the difficulty of preparing the perfect fry, it is truly a marvel that our little restaurant quickly developed their recipe that was advertised as “French Fries Specialty”. When most of America was searching for the best method of frying spuds, bud already knew that potatoes which were cut and waiting for longer period of time would cook-up better than those that went immediately into the fryer. Curing potatoes prior to frying was standard practice for the Red Arrow. This allowed for enough sugars to be converted into starches. But more about that a little later…
Pappy’s Burgers and Dogs: Pappy was manning the grill during the celebration of Bud’s return. He was making hot dogs and hamburgers, using his technique to keep the juice in the burgers for flavor and toasting the buns. When Bud was placing his french fries on the plates alongside Pappy’s burgers and hot dogs the first conversation began, more as a joke, but those few words were soon to be real adventure for the both of them.
And so it was: At that picnic with the mixture of hot dogs, burgers, french fries and guests who were sipping down cold bottle of Red Rock Cola and Ginger Ale that Pappy Newcomer and Bud Cooper began their dream…
It was not until early September of 1946 that Pappy and Bud made the commitment to open a little hamburger stand, just on the edge of town. If all went well a stand could be up and running by spring of 1947. The property they had in mind was just flooded in May that year (1946) and along the main drag (Route 405) so the price should be negotiable for purchase. A plus for their adventure was the location of ACF; both believe that the establishment would be a hit with the workers at lunchtime.
In the meantime: Just across town on Broadway there was another happening… Ivan Hackenberg (The paint foreman at ACF) and his wife Pearl were planning to have a second child; little did they know at the time, one day early in September that their child was conceived. This child, a joy in their lives, would eventually cross paths with the business that we have all grown to know and love. “The Arrowhead Drive Inn” Restaurant.
As the plans unfold: The first building for the Arrowhead, then called the Red Arrow, was built out of wood. The building was small with no energy source or running water. They did not have a dining room, but when Bud pounded the last nail, it was ready. The two were anxious to open and all the details were in place for business by the last week of April in 1947. That year it was rainy and the temperatures were below normal, rain was in the forecast just about every day. Saturday, May 31st looked promising so Bud and Pappy decided to open up on Sunday, June 1st to see how things would pan out.Within the first week business was a hit. The remainder of June was cooler than normal and still quite a bit of rain. The unseasonable weather did not damper the enthusiasm of these two men as they pushed forward in their new adventure.
In the meantime: It was late Saturday night, May 31st, when Ivan drove Pearl down to the hospital, but it was not until 11 am on Sunday, June 1st, that a baby girl was born to Ivan and Pearl Hackenberg. As they gazed at their new child, they could not imagine the life of this little girl or how it would unfold. It would not be very long until that little girl would begin the adventures that would lead her becoming the future proprietor of the Arrowhead Drive Inn Restaurant.
How it was in 1947: The Red Arrow was a hit from the very beginning even though there was no electricity or running water. Pappy and Nannie would spend many hours preparing the potatoes and other items in the basement of Lincoln Street for the next day’s business.
They has a potato peeler but had to eye out the potatoes and slice them for their French Fries Specialty. Water had to be drawn into stainless milk containers for transportation to the Red Arrow. There was also the preparation of Pappy’s first specialty sandwich, the Baked Hamburger.
Anyone who was brave enough to visit the Newcomers at home would find themselves in the basement helping with preparation. Preparation would run late into the night and early into the morning hours. At times the sun would rise and shine in the window at home before everything was ready to be served at the windows of the Red Arrow. Yes even the children-Edna, Carrie and John Jr.- had to help with the business from the moment it sold the first hamburger and french fries.
When the flooding began: The restaurant was closed over the winter months due to not having electricity, heat or running water, but as soon as the weather warmed the business would open. Business would be hopping as soon as Pappy and Bud threw up the windows. Everyone knew that spring had sprung when the smell of hot dogs came from the kitchen. It seemed as if all of Milton would stop by for a hot dog or baked hamburger with french fries and a Red Rock Cola at the Red Arrow.
April of 1948 was the first major flood for the restaurant. The water rose 21.7 feet. The Red Arrow sat so low that the business was ruined by the flood waters. Business delayed due to being rebuilt after experiencing its first flood.
In 1950, the Red Arrow was hit two more times with flood waters in March and November. Sales for the business were slashed severely and Bud was discouraged. He wanted to move to drier grounds and Pappy wanted to stay where they were. The partnership was cut, but never their friendship. That is when the Red Arrow was renamed as the Arrowhead Restaurant.
What happened to Bud? He still has a passion for running a restaurant. He bought a little place along Route 15 in White Deer and stayed with it until 1952. He was offered a job in Lewisburg Penitentiary, so he sold his eatery and began a new career.
What about the Pig-In-The-Blanket? It’s an interesting story how the Pig-In-The-Blanket sandwich began. It’s been told that Pappy had a slab of fresh pork in the kitchen in which he sliced some off, tenderized the pieces, and dipped them in a liquid and breaded the pork. After deep frying, he took the new invention out to a couple of guys at the bar to try. They loved it at first bite. From that day on Pappy and Nannie had to prepare not only french fries and baked hamburgers but also the Pig-In-The-Blanket’s in the basement on Lincoln Street.
Word traveled fast: It was not long before Hector Boiardi (Famous Chef Boyardee) was at the Arrowhead to try the new sandwich, Hector was so pleased with the taste that he was willing to purchase the recipe to mass produce it for all of American’s to enjoy, However, Pappy was unwilling to sell. Mass production would possibly change the recipe and flavor. The The “Pig-In-The-Blanket’ was born and here to stay in Milton, Pennsylvania.
More flooding: The flooding’s were both a curse as well as a blessing. After each flood there were improvements to the Arrowhead. After the 1960 flood the first indoor dining area was built, just four bar stools, a jukebox, and a pool table.
A memorable visit: Patty (daughter of Ivan and Pearl Hackenberg) was about 14 years old when she and her mother stopped at the Arrowhead (many still called it the Red Arrow at this time). Patty recalls her mother putting a coin or two in the jukebox and the danced to Patsy Kline’s song “Crazy”. Those were the “Good-Ol-Days”…
In 1963: One year after Pappy passed away, Jim and Edna Schell became the new owners of the Arrowhead. Pappy and Nannie’s daughter Edna was the only one who shared her father’s passion to keep the business running and add some of her own dreams.
It was Saturday, June 1st, 1963: Although it was sprinkling a little in the morning the sun came out shortly after 8 am. Patty could not wait, as she stood in the back yard twirling her keys waiting for her father to come out of the back door and taker her to get her driver’s license. She had spent years practicing for that moment. It was many summer days that Patty would go to work with her mother and spend the day at the hospital just to have a chance to drive. It was not legal (even way back then) but it sure was fun to get behind the wheel of her mother’s car.
It was no surprise that Patty aced her driving test and she could not wait to drive herself somewhere, anywhere for that fact. It was only minutes after arriving home that Patty asked to take the car for a spin. Patty’s father resisted a bit and questioned “Where are you going to drive to?” Patty thought quickly and said, “The Arrowhead.” Ivan gave her the keys and said, “Well, alright then.” So Patty took her dad’s car out all by herself. She went up to the counter of the Arrowhead and ordered a baked hamburger. That first bite was the best ever. And so it was that Patty had her freedom. It was a regular treat for Patty to drive herself to the Arrowhead.
One early September morning: That same year Patty was sitting at the bar sipping a soda when Edna Schell asked her what she was doing. Patty’s response was, “Nothing, I’m bored”. Edna replied by saying, “I bet you can’t go back there and wash those dishes.” Patty answered the challenge by saying, “I bet I can, if I ask my mother.” Yes, the dishwasher called off and Edna needed someone in a hurry. Patty was eager to learn all she could form the moment she washed that first dish.
It was then that Patty and the Arrowhead began to share the same path in life. Many remember the days when fights had to be broken up, or they had to calm down, quiet down or stop spinning their tires. Yes, Patty took care of business for as long as many can remember. Some say she was there since 1947. It is a standard joke that she was born under the table and started working by mopping the floors as she learned how to crawl.
1993: After 30 years and many long hours of hard work and managing the business, Patty was welcomed in as an equal partner with Jim and Edna. There were many wonderful years before the passing of both Edna and Jim. Patty became the sole proprietor of the restaurant. When we asked Patty what is it that kept her going, she always answered, “It’s the customers.” And when we asked the customers what keeps them coming back, it is unanimous that it is more than just the great food.
Friday, October 23, 2015: At the age of 68, Patty Hackenberg entered eternal life. It is safe to say that Patty was one of the greatest women you could have ever come across. Always happy, her smile could brighten up anyone’s day. Her generous and giving soul was one loved by her family, friends, and customers. One of many guardian angels to the Arrowhead Restaurant, her legacy will long live.
So what is it? Do you know? When you stop in for a bite to eat or a hot cup of coffee, just ask the customers sitting at the table to your left and your right. You can walk across the dining room and ask or stop at the serving window outside and ask the customers standing there. Because the truth is, if you are not sure what it is that keeps customers standing there then you just haven’t come around enough. So come back, and make it real soon. We’ll be seeing you!