Lifestyle » Vol. 4

Speedy’s – Great Burgers, but Better Memories

By Ellen O’Connor

Top left: Speedy's Drive-in; left: George Busada and his wife Marion with Bob Moscoffian; top right: Marion Busada waiting on a customer.

Top left: Speedy's Drive-in; left: George Busada and his wife Marion with Bob Moscoffian; top right: Marion Busada waiting on a customer.

It was always a family affair at Speedy’s Drive-In Restaurant, which stood about a half-century ago on Worcester’s Shrewsbury Street, and which was a home both to the Busada family and a large and extremely loyal family of customers.

There was George Busada and his wife Marion, who ran the place, along with George’s brother Harold Boosahda and George’s mother-in-law, Sarah Abdow. It was Sarah’s son Eli, who had founded the Abdow’s chain, who came up with the idea that a drive-in fast-food place modeled on his brainchild would take off on Shrewsbury Street. He was very right.
George, who had worked in sales prior to getting into the restaurant business, recently did some reminiscing about life at the city’s first drive-in fast-food restaurant, where you could tool up in your 1957 Chevy (tricked out or not), your motorcycle, or even your horse to order a 55-cent Speedy burger with its secret special sauce, a 10-cent Coke, and 20 cents worth of fries – all delivered vehicle-side in about the same amount of time as it took to place your order.

“Less than five minutes,” said George.

It was fast service, but what else would one expect at a place called Speedy’s?

Top left: motorcycles parked at Speedy’s;

Top left: motorcycles parked at Speedy’s; top right: the Speedy menu; bottom: ordering Speedy Burgers on horseback.

“Ted Kennedy came in one day with six of his entourage,” recalled George, a congenial gentleman who was more than happy to share stories about a time long gone by. Soon-to-be Senator Kennedy was in a rush that day, in the midst of a 1960 senate campaign swing and “He wanted some grilled cheese sandwiches in a hurry.” It just so happened that seven grilled cheese sandwiches had just been made and were waiting there on Speedy’s grill for just this occasion. In a matter of minutes, George’s wife Marion took the sandwiches out to Kennedy and his group, where she was told by the amazed and appreciative politician, “That is the fastest grilled cheese I’ve ever had anywhere.”

Waitresses on roller skates certainly helped cut down the dead time. So did a switchboard that handled calls from 56 outdoor speakers and which the family eventually donated to the Worcester Historical Museum. And there were three shifts of 36 employees — preparing the food, cooking the food, serving the food, and cleaning up after the food had been eaten. It was hard work with long, long hours, as many as 125 a week, but George enjoyed it. He spent some time proudly showing off his extensive collection of photographs and other memorabilia that chronicle the brief but memorable history of his and Marion’s special restaurant.

Speedy’s, which had its time in the sun from March 12, 1959 to July 4, 1967, was, simply put, the destination for people from all over Worcester and Worcester County. It was the place where the boys in their souped-up cars gathered for camaraderie, a good burger, and the chance to impress the young ladies. It was also where families stopped in for a quick, tasty, and inexpensive meal. The city was so ready for Speedy’s, customers came out for its opening day – in the middle of an unexpected blizzard. That turn-out set the tone. The place was hopping pretty much all of the time, with George and his wife and the rest often not knocking off until the wee hours of the morning. They’d go home, shower, have a snack and turn in for only a few hours sleep. They’d be back at it early in the morning.
Even when some Shrewsbury Street businesses were largely inaccessible due to construction designed to prevent street flooding, Speedy’s customers came out. The kids, who definitely didn’t want Speedy’s to close, placed long and wide wooden planks over the water and mud so customers could get into the lot. The stop-gap measure kept the place in business for the more than two-year construction project.

Speedy’s also was a place where bonds were formed – for life. Evidence of that are the Speedy’s reunions, organized and hosted most recently by Mike and Margaretann O’Connor, which were always well-attended by the former Speedy’s regulars. In fact, every Tuesday morning 25 or so ex-customers meet on Shrewsbury Street for some breakfast and some talk about their cars and their Harleys, just like they used to do 45 years ago over their Speedy burgers.

A July 4, 1967 fire put an end to the iconic place. Speedy’s never reopened and the Busadas moved on to other endeavors. But it was a time that has not been forgotten. Just ask George Busada.

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