By Samantha Johnson
If you’ve ever attended a state or county fair, chances are you’ve probably sampled one of the staples of fair fare: the corn dog on a stick. But did you know this tasty treat’s origin has an Illinois connection?
Corn dogs on a stick can be traced back to 1941, when a young man named Ed Waldmire was at Knox College in Galesburg. Ed mentioned to fellow student Don Strand that at a roadside diner he had ordered a sandwich called a corn dog, a hot dog baked in cornbread, but that it took half an hour to cook.
Strand’s father was a baker, so Waldmire thought he might be able to figure out a more timely solution.
A few years passed, and sure enough, Strand invented a batter that stuck to the hot dog while frying. He mailed the mix to Waldmire, who experimented with putting the corn dogs on a stick in a USO kitchen in Amarillo, Texas, where he was stationed in the Air Force. His creation, which he called “crusty curs,” became immediately popular. Waldmire originally had plans to include a pickle in the middle, but according to his daughter-in-law, Sue Waldmire, this idea was later abandoned.
Though it took a little time to perfect the mounted rack that allows the hot dogs to be battered and fried vertically, the batter recipe has remained unchanged since 1946. By that year, Ed Waldmire was selling his creation at the Lake Springfield Beach House, as well as promoting it at county and state fairs. The dog-on-a-stick concept debuted at the Illinois State Fair that year. At his wife’s encouragement, Waldmire changed the product’s name from “crusty curs” to “cozy dogs,” and soon Waldmire was the proprietor of two Dog House establishments where the cozy dogs were sold.
“The current Cozy Dog Drive-In was constructed in 1949,” Sue Waldmire says.
Today, she operates the Cozy Dog Drive-In – located on old Route 66 in Springfield – with the assistance of Ed’s grandsons, Josh, Eddie, Tony and Nick. The sign out front proudly proclaims “Home of the Famous Hot Dog on a Stick,” and the cozy dog is appropriately the most popular item on the menu.
“When the Cozy Dog Drive-In first started, it was cafeteria-style dining with more dinner-style menu items, such as fried chicken dinners, salads, jellos,” she says. “We now focus on the cozy dog as our main menu item, but still offer daily specials for the needs of our customers.”
The popular location on Route 66 has proven beneficial.
“Route 66 has helped the business to show people what dining was like ‘back when,’ ” Waldmire says. “It gives them a chance to experience a family-owned business rather than the corporation chains that have populated the world.”
“We are very proud to have continued this business,” she continues. “We know in our hearts [that] Ed would be very proud to see how well the business is continuing to grow.”
If You Go …
Stop by for a cozy dog – which costs just $1.85 – or bring the entire family and order a family basket of four cozy dogs and large fries for less than $10. The Cozy Dog Drive-In is located at 2935 S. Sixth St. (old Route 66) in Springfield and is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday. It’s closed on Sundays and major holidays.
To learn more, call (217) 525-1992 or visit www.cozydogdrivein.com.