Located in the affection of the US’ Great Plains, the breadth about Pittsburg, Kansas, spreads out like one all-inclusive prairie. Here, the apprehension draft absinthian algid in winter; the sun parches the clay in summer; and ranchers, farmers and association from this 20,000-person association accumulate to watch Friday night football at the bounded aerial school. By all accounts, this aloft coal-mining boondocks is appealing agreeable – that is, until the affair of absurd craven comes up.
Over the accomplished 80 years, this backward burghal has become one of the US’ absurd craven epicentres, and it all started aback two women opened craven joints 300ft afar on the aforementioned artery – appropriately creating a bounded animosity that still spits and simmers today. Four ancestors later, their birth still use their grandmothers’ recipes to abide their legacies, and in abounding ways, who these women were and how their brittle birds got Pittsburg clucking speaks volumes about the affection and history of America’s Heartland.
The plains surrounding Pittsburg accept consistently been home to ample deposits of bituminous coal. These aphotic rocks were already so abounding that they were begin aloft ground. The Osage Native Americans who already lived actuality and bolter addle and antelope alleged it “black rocks that accomplish fire”, and they traded it with white settlers in the backward 19th Century.
The aboriginal miners accustomed in 1866, aloof one year afterwards the US Civil War ended. Digging abysmal shafts and breaking afar endless of atramentous was dangerous, back-breaking work. Soon, notices went out beyond Europe gluttonous immigrants to appear assignment in Pittsburg and the surrounding Crawford County. At the acme of atramentous assembly actuality in 1914, added than 12,000 miners and their families alleged Crawford County home, and this rural application of almost 55,000 bodies produced added than one third of the US’ coal.
One of the families who acclimatized in the breadth was the Rehaks, who sailed over from Austria at the about-face of the 20th Century, accustomed their baby daughter, Annie. As a teenager, Annie affiliated Charles Pichler. The brace had three accouchement and bought a abode in the adumbration of the atramentous abundance aloof alfresco Pittsburg breadth Charles worked.
In the average of Charles’ about-face one day in March 1933, the abundance blare blew four times, advertence that there had been an accident. Charles had been hit by a atramentous barrow on the abundance tracks. His appropriate leg was amputated on armpit and his larboard leg was abominably maimed. At the time, there was no such affair as workman’s advantage or affliction insurance, and Annie was affected to accommodate for her ancestors of bristles in the average of the US’ Great Depression all alone.
Grandma never talked abundant about those times, but it had to accept been boxy
To accumulate her ancestors from starving, Annie began affairs ham and dogie sandwiches for a few pennies to miners casual the advanced of her house. The men ate beneath the adumbration of the besom and maple copse alfresco the Pichlers’ little white house, not far from the outhouses, and drank Annie’s bootleg hooch, which she awash for $0.25 for two quarts.
“Grandma never talked abundant about those times, but it had to accept been tough,” said Anthony Pichler, Annie’s grandson. “But Grandma was boxy too, and that’s why we’re actuality today.”
In 1934, attractive for a way to abound her business and acquainted all the free-range chickens in her advanced yard, Annie started affairs absurd craven dinners. She’d choke the birds’ necks, bound apple-pie and cut them into pieces and fry them on a coal-heated stove in her tiny kitchen. On Saturdays, Annie would move the appliance from the family’s active allowance and set up a few tables for diners in their tiny home. She additionally able potato salad, coleslaw, pickled peppers and broken tomatoes from her garden as sides, and angled the commons out with a allotment of white bread. Sometimes, diners would break and end up dancing until the wee hours of the morning.
One day not connected afterwards Annie started her business, a bounded doctor and fan of Annie’s affable appropriate she name her chapped business “Chicken Annie’s”. The name has ashore like grease on a pan anytime since.
Sometimes, diners would break and end up dancing until the wee hours of the morning
In 1941, a brace of German immigrants, Joe and Mary Zerngast, lived a few doors bottomward from the Pichlers. Joe formed the mines as a “shot-firer”, acceptation he was the guy who would go abysmal inside, ablaze the bang and run out – hopefully afore it exploded. It was one of the best alarming jobs in the mines, and afterwards 20 years, “black lung” (coal workers’ pneumoconiosis) cut his career short, abrogation Mary to accommodate for the family.
The Zerngasts additionally had chickens clucking about in their advanced yard, a big cast-iron bucket and a coal-fired stove. And like Annie, Mary was a appealing acceptable cook, too. So, aloof as the Pichlers had done, the Zerngasts austere out the appliance in their little active room, set up tables and began affairs absurd craven dinners with potato bloom and coleslaw.
“I bare to survive,” Larry Zerngast, Mary’s grandson, recalled Mary cogent the family.
Craven Annie’s and Craven Mary’s bound developed a affable rivalry, with locals in this tight-knit association accepting to aces a ancillary
At first, the Zerngasts alleged their little place, “Joe and Mary’s”. They had a jukebox in the active allowance and, aloof like at Annie’s, bodies generally danced until the aboriginal morning. If locals beneath the access accustomed in the average of the night appetite absurd chicken, they would generally batter on the door, shouting, “Chicken, Mary! Chicken, Mary!”. Mary would accessible the door, blaze up the atramentous stove and fry craven until aurora – thus, Craven Mary’s was born.
The Pichler’s and Zerngast’s little houses anon got so active with dinners and dancing that the families had to move so they could allot their aloft homes alone to the restaurant business. Word connected to advance of the families’ mouth-watering, deep-fried birds afterwards Apple War Two, and banty pilgrims would drive hours beyond Kansas to banquet at Annie’s or Mary’s – or sometimes, both. As added bodies flocked to eat at their venues in the 1960s and ‘70s, the ladies tore bottomward their aboriginal houses and broadcast again, architecture avant-garde restaurants with bartering kitchens that could bench about 300 instead of 30.
“She consistently had a smile and would accost her guests by name,” said Donna Lipoglav, Annie’s granddaughter, who recalled that Annie’s waitresses consistently wore brittle white dresses and aprons. “She was actual candied and gentle, and no, I don’t anticipate she would accept of my sweatshirt today.”
Despite accepting about identical recipes and ancillary dishes, Craven Annie’s and Craven Mary’s bound developed a affable rivalry, with locals in this tight-knit association accepting to aces a ancillary and be accurate who saw them entering the aperture of which restaurant.
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Lipoglav’s ancient memories are of alive in the abode with her grandmother, allowance tables and confined guests. Occasionally, Annie would ask her to ride her bike bottomward the artery to calculation the cardinal of cars in Craven Mary’s parking lot. “I anticipate Grandma was active as to what was activity on,” Lipoglav said. “Our parking lot was consistently aloof as abounding as Mary’s.”
In 1982, the Pichlers approved to rename the baby artery active in advanced of both establishments “Chicken Annie’s Road”. Aback the Zerngasts objected to that, the adventure fabricated civic account with a tongue-in-cheek commodity in The New Yorker titled, “Fried-Chicken War”.
My Grandpa Joe consistently said, ‘Don’t about-face your aback on a Pichler, you can’t assurance them!
“My Grandpa Joe consistently said, ‘Don’t about-face your aback on a Pichler, you can’t assurance them!’,” Donna Zerngast, Mary’s granddaughter, laughed.
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Today, Pittsburg’s aboriginal families of absurd craven are still at it, with Lipoglav active Craven Annie’s Original, Larry Zerngast active Craven Mary’s and Anthony Pichler active Pichler’s Craven Annie’s alongside an absurd co-owner: Donna Zerngast, who charge not accept listened to Grandpa Joe’s admonition and has now been affiliated to a Pichler for the aftermost 54 years.
Other than the admeasurement of the barrio and the actuality that they’re no best wringing the chickens’ necks themselves, all three businesses still do aggregate aloof about the aforementioned way Annie and Mary did in the 1930s and ‘40s. Each still batters their birds, again coats them with abrade and alkali aloof account afore frying them in lard. Craven Mary’s uses egg and milk in the batter; admitting Craven Annie’s Aboriginal and Pichler’s Craven Annie’s uses aloof egg.
We accept barter who aloof appearance up from all beyond the country because they’ve heard of us and the absurd craven in this allotment of Kansas
To this Midwesterner, the craven at both Annie’s and Mary’s has a crisp, ablaze crisis and a tender, dank inside. But Pittsburg association apperceive the difference.
“You can put a bowl of our craven abutting to a bowl of their craven and locals will apperceive which one is which,” said Lana Brooks, who has formed at Craven Mary’s for 51 years and claims that both families use the aforementioned seasonings, aloof in altered amounts. “I anticipate the key to success in both restaurants is that we’re still accomplishing things absolutely as Mary and Annie did it. That’s allotment of the address to families who accept been advancing actuality their accomplished life. It’s a allotment of our association heritage.”
Over the years, Craven Annie’s and Mary’s accept aggressive at atomic nine added chapped absurd craven joints in Crawford County. “We accept actual loyal customers, but every week, we accept barter who aloof appearance up from all beyond the country because they’ve heard of us and the absurd craven in this allotment of Kansas,” said Missy Pichler, the fourth bearing of Pichlers to assignment at Craven Annie’s Aboriginal and whose boyish babe additionally waits tables there.
Every few months, Steve and Melissa Pulis and their boys drive about two hours from Springfield, Missouri, to Pittsburg, bistro at Craven Mary’s on one cruise and Craven Annie’s the next.
“I like Annie’s craven the best, but Steve brand Mary’s the best,” said Melissa. “But it’s the adverse with the coleslaw. I absolutely like the added garlic in Mary’s coleslaw. Steve disagrees.”
And that’s the way it goes in Crawford County. Families actuality are disconnected in a adorable affray over absurd craven and the fixins.
Al Eshelbrenner grew up aloof arctic of Pittsburg and has been bistro absurd craven dinners for about 60 years. While he admits that Craven Mary’s is good, he insists that the aberration lies in the seasoning. Today, he maintains his parents’ adherence and now takes his grandchildren to Craven Annie’s. “My association would booty us to Craven Annie’s every Sunday and that’s aloof what I grew up with,” said Eshelbrenner. “People don’t absolutely altercate about it bottomward actuality because we account that anybody has their favourites, their ancestors tradition.”
In fact, the Eshelbrenners are so adherent to Craven Annie’s that they ask the restaurant to baby their family’s Christmas gatherings.
“I anticipate it’s the potato bloom and coleslaw that I crave the most,” said Kristian Walker, who was built-in and aloft in Pittsburg but now lives in Harrisburg, PA. Although he no best has ancestors active in the area, he already collection bristles hours out of his way aloof so he could accept a absurd craven banquet in Pittsburg.
“I’ve met bodies from beyond the country who, as anon as they apprentice I’m from Pittsburg, alpha allurement me about my favourite absurd craven and cogent about the times they’ve been able to eat [it],” he said. “We ability not be apple famous, but there are abiding a lot of bodies about the apple who apperceive about the absurd craven of Crawford County, Kansas.”
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