By Rachel Forrest
Hampton Union, Tuesday, August 2, 2005
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
[Photo by Andrew Moore]
Strolling down Ocean Boulevard in July 2005, it's hard to imagine life as it used to be at the seaside resort town of Hampton Beach. Tattoos, belly shirts, bikinis, ipods and rambunctious teens abound.
Not much remains of the simple life back when Hampton Beach first became a vacation spot before the turn of the 20th century, but back in 1899 there were band concerts and the original Casino was being built -- outdoor concerts and the Casino Ballroom are still around today.
On July 10 another bit of the past came back to Hampton Beach -- an old-fashioned hot dog stand built in the old Olympia Theater at 267 Ocean Blvd. celebrated its grand opening with nostalgic flair, complete with a ragtime band, 5-cent Cokes in the bottle, and an antique truck from 1926 called "Bucky."
Just a week after the famous Nathan's Hot Dog eating competition in another historic resort town, Coney Island, and right in the middle of National Hot Dog Month, Bob Mannino Jr. with his Bucky's Weenie Wagon introduced a little history to the throngs of tourists that cruise the strip looking for tasty treats. While the hot dog stand opened in mid-June, the big celebration was held on a hot Saturday afternoon in July.
"The hot dogs are boiled and the buns are steamed," says Mannino, a South Hampton resident. He hands out the day's special - the 5 cent Cokes - to kids who have never seen the soda in a bottle before.
Mannino spent 30 years in the graphic design business as an art director doing marketing communications and PR, but decided to start the nostalgic hot dog stand with wife, Christine.
"I think since I was a kid I wanted to do something in food service and I like hot dogs. So here we are!" says Mannino.
As The Dick Kaplan Band of Newburyport dons their straw hats and instruments, they climb aboard the 1926 truck, "Bucky," a former meat delivery wagon in Boston's Faneuil Hall Marketplace. The band begins to play songs like "Lulu's Back in Town" and a crowd gathers.
Some are drawn in by a collection of antique postcards displayed on the wall near the counter of Bucky's. The cards depict Hampton Beach from as early as the 1900s up to the 1950s.
"I like talking to people. The postcards start them off," says Mannino.
"People started bringing in postcards too, " says Christine. "There was one man who came with his wife and saw the "Night View" card and he said, 'Gladys, that's where I met you!'"
According to Mannino, the hot dog stand is built in the former Olympia Theater from 1900. The theater became the Surf Theater in the '50s.
"We still have the ticket booth in the back," says Mannino. "And the old marquee has our logo on it. It stands out."
The green and yellow sign calls in the curious, the wistful about the past, and of course, the hungry.
The couple developed an interesting menu of dogs with fun rhyming names that tickle passers-by and hot dog fans.
"Easy Weenies" come with standard toppings and cost a mere $2, but for the adventurous there are dogs like the "Creamie Weenie" with cheddar cheese, the "Steamie Weenie" with steamed sauerkraut and mustard, and the "Greenie Weenie" with guacamole and cool shredded lettuce. The dogs are the popular Old Neighborhood brand from Lynn, Mass.
The band strikes up with "Give My Regards to Broadway" as Mike Markham from Manchester digs into a "Meanie Weenie," with hot Bucky sauce and pepper jack cheese.
"It's damn good and it's hot enough for me," he says. "Last week I had the Greenie Weenie -- that's my second favorite."
Gary Robinson of Townsend, Mass., dives into a "Buckini" Weenie topped with a dark brown relish with onions and sweet tang, not unlike the relish from another famous hot dog stand, Flo's in Cape Neddick, Maine. As with Flo's, Mannino also recommends having this dog with mayo. Without a side-by-side taste test, it's impossible to determine exactly how close the Bucky sauce is to Flo's relish, but at first taste, it's pretty close.
"I got a chili cheddar dog with lettuce, Bucky sauce and hot peppers," says Eric Eskildsen of Boston. He made up his own concoction with gusto. He's also enthusiastic about Hampton Beach.
"Compared to this place, the Cape is lame!," Eskildsen says. "This is a real beach town!"
Mannino fires up Bucky for a ride around town. The band climbs on as the beachgoers watch, some lining up for a dog and a Coke or a Squamscott soda and a Cider Hill Farm doughnut.
Older couples peruse the postcard collection looking for reminders of a time gone by, as the younger crowd just seems to fill their bellies with a delicious hot dog. Bucky chugs down Ocean Boulevard with The Dick Kaplan Band in ragtime full swing.
"I hope some of this rubs off on these kids," says Chuck Jaffe of Hampton." I'm 75 years old, so I remember so many of these scenes here on the cards. We used to come here when I was a kid and now it's so different. But I remember the theater and hot dogs have been around since I think the 1900s or earlier, so this brings it all back."
Find Bucky's Weenie Wagon at 267 Ocean Blvd. next to the Surf Sweet Shop. It's open every day through the season from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and later on Wednesday fireworks nights.