North High School  -  Columbus, Ohio

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How Did North Become Polar Bears?

Is there a Polar Bear that doesn’t have a passion for a White Castle? There must be a few that don’t love the little burgers, but we don’t know of any.


 We were raised on them! Many of us have parents that also went to North thus White Castles are truly in our blood. They are our heritage.


White Castle #4, one of the six originals in Columbus, was built on High Street, at the foot of Arcadia Avenue, in 1929. It immediately became North High student’s favorite sandwich and hang out. After all, they were not only very convenient but affordable at 5¢ each.

 Contrary to the belief of many, the White Castle chain was not founded in Columbus. In 1921, Waldo “Billy” Ingram and Walter Anderson, who remained partners for 13 years, borrowed $700 and opened a little hamburger stand in Wichita, Kansas. They named it White (to signify purity) Castle (to represent strength, permanence and stability.) The square burgers, which were steamed on a bed of onions and topped with pickles, were already very popular when the corporate headquarters was moved to Ohio’s capital city in 1934. White Castle had become the first fast-food chain in history.

The building design was modeled after the Chicago Water Tower, the lone survivor of the famous 1871 fire. The interior of the building was a hygienic white and stainless steel. The employees, called “the crew,” were immaculate in white uniforms.


At that time hamburger had the reputation of being unsafe meat. Ingram was determined to prove his product was healthy. In the early years, the burgers were not only cooked in full view of the customers, the high-grade beef was even ground in front of them. In 1931 they began to use frozen patties to assure high quality.


The ‘40’s were difficult for the company due to the rationing of not only the coffee that they had become so well known for, but also hamburger and Coke. White Castles were downsized and the price was raised to 7¢ and then 10¢. It was in 1949 that an employee discovered that if five holes were put in, the patties cooked faster, more evenly, and there was no need to turn them over. Thus they became the little burgers that we know today.


In the late 1950’s customers began calling them Slyders. It wasn’t until five years ago that the company officially adopted the name and began using it in their advertising.


By 1987, Slyders became so popular that people all over the country were clamoring for them. They had been flown from coast to coast. It was just natural to satisfy the country’s appetite by freezing them to sell at grocery stores.


Three different White Castle buildings have stood at 2725 N. High Street. The first one was there from 1929 until 1951. It’s replacement existed until 1986 when it was moved to Green’s Heritage Museum in Orient, Ohio and the current building opened. Although a number of the Columbus buildings have been replaced and updated in the last few years, at the moment, there are no plans to replace “our” building.


There have been many changes in the menu over the years. There are French fries (since 1945), onion chips, clam strips, mozzarella sticks, chicken rings, many different drinks in addition to coffee and Coke. Of course, since 1962 you have been able to have cheese put on your burger, but many of us still remain White Castle purists and order the original. There is nothing like a Snyder to satisfy your “crave.”

A new larger White Castle arrived  by truck to replace the restaurant at 2725  N. High St. in 1984. (Picture given by Katheleen O'Keefe Crawford  '73)


- Sadly, White castle #4 Closed on December 24, 2010


Polar Bear’s have fond memories of White Castle.


Dick Wilson ’59 – Dick, his twin brother Bob Wilson ‘59, and buddy Dave Althoff ’58 often met at White Castle after finishing their paper routes. One day they challenged each other to a burger-eating contest. Dick ate 30 and was the winner. However, he paid a huge price. He threw up and it took him two years to be able to enjoy another White Castle. Today it is one of his favorite places and he is the person who orders the 1,000 burgers that are eaten at North On The Fourth each year.


Jack Russell ’45 – There must be something about paperboys and White Castles.  Jack tells us that after his Sunday morning delivery he would clip the “5 for 25¢” coupon from the paper and that was Sunday morning breakfast.


Wally Palmer ’56 – One of the founders and past president of PBAA tells us, “ I perhaps have consumed more slyders than anyone who attended North. I lived on Arcadia from 1942 until 1950 and then moved only one block south to 81 E. Dodridge. I remember 5¢ Castles and when they raised the price people quit buying them. That’s when they put the “5 for 25¢” coupons in the Dispatch.”


Leeann Faust ’58 – Says that her mother, the late Alice Armbruster Faust ’33, remembered when the White Castle first opened on Arcadia. Her stepfather would load the family in the car and take them for a drive and the highlight was stopping at White Castle. She was very excited when she started North and it was just down the street. After she married and Leeann was born they continued the tradition of the White Castle family outing. Leeann rode the school bus from North and had 45 minutes to kill after school. There were two places to spend the time, Crosby’s Drug Store and White Castle. Food won out most of the time. She still MUST have White Castles occasionally.


Ruth Thomas Schreiner  ’42 – Ruth has quite a sense of humor. She and her friend, Pat Mantell ‘42, couldn’t really afford to eat too many White Castles when they were in school so they were always a big treat. Pat married John Martin ‘40 and moved to Arizona. When they visited Columbus they always had to stop and buy a sack of Slyders.  While they were on the phone one day, Pat told Ruth that she was very hungry for a White Castle.  So joker Ruth bought a burger, let it set out until it got a bit green and fuzzy. She then gift wrapped it and mailed it to Pat. Yes, she got quite a reaction!


Beth Phillips Hutchinson ’65 – I grew up on Kelso Road and spent countless Saturdays in the early  '60s walking with friends to the White Castle for lunch.  Sometimes it was a progressive affair as we topped off our hamburgers with dessert at Giantonio's Bakery and soft drinks from the soda fountain in the Olentangy Village Drugstore.  I had a boyfriend who made fun of the burgers, but he still ordered them, once asking for "four White Castles and a stomach pump."  I married and moved out of the Columbus area in 1972, never again living in a city with a White Castle, but that just makes the visit more enjoyable when I do go home.  Unfortunately, I no longer get to the restaurant at Arcadia and High.  Because my mother lives in North Columbus, I am a regular at the White Castle on Rt. 161 east of I-71.  I use the word regular loosely, as I indulge my craving no more than five or six times a year.  The restaurant is about 325 miles from my home in a suburb of Buffalo, NY.


Don Baur ‘58 – In 1957, I was on the Audio-Visual crew at North, which was a good excuse to get out of one study hall.  It was during second or third period.  The advisor of the AV crew, former Physics teacher Jerry Karshner, would sign a permission slip for me to go down to White Castle, buy him a cup of coffee, and take it to the boiler room where he and other teachers would have coffee and a smoke. 


Dave Dobson '48 - I remember standing at the White Castle bar dunking those awful stick donuts in hot chocolate watching semi trucks slide down Arcadia on cold, icy winter mornings wondering if they would wipe us out. This and other activities were mentioned in a Polaris column, which did well until principal read it!


Jackie Batt Wilson ’59 – My father was paid twice a month. On those evenings, he would have a steak for dinner. The rest of us wanted White Castles. He just couldn’t understand our choice and felt very guilty, while still savoring every bite of his wonderful dinner. We enjoyed our food every bit as much as he did his steak.


Ralph F. Russell, ’57Memories of the White Castle was just one “facet” of many good things about attending North. My memory of the White Castle at Arcadia and High was that they had a never ending supply of delicious “Hot Chocolate” for the raw and soar throat that I developed several times each year attending band practices in the early morning cold, and of coarse, after sitting in the bleachers with the band during the evenings at football games. We usually stopped in at the White Castle after each game. The hot chocolate was more soothing then the tonic I heard about later on the Walton’s TV Show.


Diane Smith Jones  '48 - I don't have a particular NHS memory of White Castles, but when I was in grade school, my parents were divorced and we had a hard time.  On payday (every other week, I think) my mother would stop and buy a bag of White Castles for supper for us four kids.  We would meet her at the streetcar stop. Oh, what a treat. My younger sister and I would play with the castle shaped boxes.