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Jock's Lunch remembrances

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In 1949, Austin (Jocko) Timberlake opened Jock's Lunch in Corydon, Indiana, the same year my father started his optometry practice there. For most of my life, Jocko's has been downtown on the corner, opening in the wee hours of the morning to serve breakfast to hunters and other early risers, and closing late. When I was in high school, it was assumed that everyone would meet there after the basketball game. It was also assumed that if you were grown up, you drank coffee. Regular coffee; tall skinny mocha cappuccinos were unknown. It was a rite of passage, made tolerable with lots of cream and sugar. Years later, I used to stop there for breakfast after the all-night poker games my wife hated so much. If you got there before they were all gone, you could get Jocko's famous fried potatoes with your eggs.

Prior to the arrival of the interstate highway, the Dog & Suds was the sole fast food place in town, but Jock's was the favorite place to eat for lunch. We thought, "If only we could get a Macdonald's, we'd be civilized." Now we have two of them. In addition, while the Dog & Suds has long since faded into oblivion, nearly every fast-food place known to man has plopped down a franchise north of town by the interchange.

I don't remember much about the original Jocko. In 1972 his son Paul (Jocko II) took over the business when Austin became ill. In 1983, Austin's grandsons Forrest Jr. and Steve bought the business from Paul. In 1990 they sold it back to Paul because both Forrest and Steve had families started and other sturdy jobs that were taking off.

Jocko (II) always laughed about the new fast food places; he said his business seemed to get better every time a new one was opened. He ruled at lunchtime in his white apron, smacking hamburger patties on the grill and taking occasional puffs from a Pall Mall sitting in an ashtray on the counter.

The fare didn't vary much. Hamburgers and chili and hot plate lunches. No salad, except for slaw, and if you wanted tomatoes on your burger, you had to come in during tomato season in the summer. Otherwise, it was pickles or onions. The plate lunches were cheap and reliable -- Friday was fish day, Saturday, tenderloin, Wednesday, fried chicken, and so on. It was the only place in town you could get breaded tomatoes.

Paul died in 1996, and his son Paul, Jr., became the third Jocko to manage Jock's Lunch. But fewer and fewer customers chose to come downtown, and the regulars got older. When one died, there were no new Jocko fans waiting to take his place. There was the occasional exception, like the young waitress from the flashy new restaurant next door who showed up one day to feed her Jocko's hamburger addiction. "I crave this food," she sighed. But she's an exception. Most people these days prefer Big Macs. Jocko (III) and his wife Donna tried to keep up with the times. They added low-fat entrees, soup and salad. They shortened their hours. Apparently that didn't work.

On August 10, 2000, on a Thursday, (sausage patties in milk gravy day), Jock's Lunch quietly closed its doors for good. The local paper barely noticed its passing, and in the following week's edition, they ran a full page of pictures on a new restaurant at the Caesar's gambling boat. No full-page story on Jocko's or on Donahue's, another Corydon tradition that closed the same month.

Pity.

There's no place left in Corydon to gather in the morning to drink coffee and tell tall tales, or to stop after a basketball game for a good cheeseburger, other than Macdonald's or Hardee's or such. And no more breaded tomatoes.

As Jocko's granddaughter Bridget Eiler says, "That corner of Corydon has been a constant our whole lives...we've never known anything to be on that corner but Jocko's. It's hard to go past that corner now."

Thus this web site, a small remembrance of a Corydon institution. I'm sorry that I don't have any pictures of Donahue's. But I do have these pictures of Jocko's. I think Jocko (II) would have liked it. He had his own web site before most people had any idea of what the Internet was.

   --Bryan Moss