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To Be PC Or Not To Be

November 3, 2017

PC – To Be or not to be, that is the question.

I remember a wonderful pancake house / restaurant in Southern California called Sambo’s. The restaurant chain was started in 1957 by Sam Battistone, Sr. and Newell Bohnett. Though the name was taken from portions of the names of its founders, the chain soon found itself associated with the story of Little Black Sambo. It was one of the first “concept” food chains that centered around the book Little Black Sambo by Scottish author Helen Bannerman, first published by Grant Richards in October 1899. Sambo is a South Indian boy who lives with his father and mother, named Black Jumbo and Black Mumbo, respectively. While out walking, Sambo encounters four hungry tigers, and surrenders his colorful new clothes, shoes, and umbrella so they will not eat him. The tigers are vain and each thinks he is better dressed than the others. They chase each other around a tree until they are reduced to a pool of ghee (clarified butter). Sambo then recovers his clothes and collects the ghee, which his mother uses to make pancakes. Hence, this restaurant was decorated with themes from the book and even featured tiger butter for its pancakes. I especially remember those giant walls painted with colorful scenes from the book. It honestly seemed pretty tame for the time and the food was great.

However, the book would become an object of allegations of racism in the mid-20th century. By 1979, Sambo’s had 1,117 outlets in 47 American states. In the late 1970s, controversy over the chain’s name drew protests and lawsuits in communities that viewed the term Sambo as pejorative towards African-Americans, particularly in the Northeastern states. Several of the restaurants were opened as or renamed “The Jolly Tiger” in locations where the local community passed resolutions forbidding the use of the original name or refused to grant the chain permits. Lost in the PC shuffle of the times that followed, Sambo’s Restaurants were forced to close. Only one remains. It is the original location of the first Sambo’s and it is located in Santa Barbara, California. It is owned by Battistone’s grandson Chad Stevens.

If you are ever in Santa Barbara, pay this place a visit. I am sure you won’t find it offensive in the least. It’s just a neat little place to eat and ponder the question: To be PC or not to be?

Note: Here’s the address and phone. 216 W Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA 93101 Phone: (805) 965-3269 Tell them an oldtimer who’s not PC sent you!

(I have just been informed that they changed their name to Chad’s and removed their original logo.)

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6 Comments
  1. Nice little piece, Allen. I’m with you: PC is BS.

    Like

  2. Reblogged this on allenrizzi and commented:

    Saturday Thoughts…

    Like

  3. I enjoyed eating at the one in St. Paul. Sad to see it go.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The world we live in.

    Liked by 1 person

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