Dorri Partain 
Assistant Editor 

Is the Big Boy a burger or a mascot?

America’s original double-decker cheeseburger dates to 1936, when Glendale, California restaurant owner Bob Wain created his special sandwich as a joke. 

His inspiration for naming this new menu offering came to him when a tyke entered his restaurant and Wain greeted him, saying “Hi, Big Boy!” Six-year-old Richard Woodruff became the model for his new mascot, as drawn by Warner Brothers animator Ben Washam, wearing checkered overalls and swooped hair-do. 

Wain changed the name of his restaurant from Bob’s Pantry to Bob’s Big Boy — opening additional restaurants and franchising his concept to other restaurateurs.

Frisch’s Big Boy was the first franchisee to modify the original Big Boy design, changing the checked overalls to striped, the hair from brown to blonde and from standing to running while holding a burger aloft. Known today as the “East Coast Big Boy,” Frisch’s 1951 update inspired the “West Coast Big Boy” update in 1955. 

Re-drawn by artist Manfred Bernhart, this new style inspired the addition of the iconic fiberglass statues at each restaurant location and the creation of a free comic book, “The Adventures of The Big Boy.” 

Issue No.1 debuted July 1956 and featured Big Boy, his girlfriend Dolly and dog, Nugget. 

Produced by Timely Comics, these storylines were written by Stan Lee until 1962, when Spiderman debuted. Two versions were produced monthly, featuring both styles of Big Boy, and distributed free in its respective area restaurants.

The West Coast Big Boy appears in this July 1976 issue, No. 231, which included an iron-on design of the cover artwork, Dear Big Boy advice column, an ad for Coca-Cola and the State of the Month: West Virginia.

From 1976 to 1988, there were 10 Shoney’s Big Boy restaurant locations in Missouri. 

Shoney’s dropped the Big Boy franchise and eventually closed all its Missouri restaurants. The Northeast location at 5920 Independence Ave., stood vacant until Taqueria Mexico II restaurant opened, offering authentic Mexican favorites.