CHURUBUSCO, Indiana-- In this week's "Life's Better Here", Eric and Jason visit Churubusco and explore the community's love for Johnny Krieger and Magic Wand burgers and tenderloins.
CNN shot a news story in 1999 in Churubusco Indiana, featuring lifelong Churubusco resident Johnny Krieger, a Down Syndrome man who really could call the entire town family.
“He was very likable and friendly,” says local historian Chuck Mathieu. “He never met a stranger. He’d come up and start talking. I mean you couldn’t understand him a lot of times unless you got to know him and then you could understand what he was saying.”
Johnny Krieger was born in 1934, the son of a town police officer. All his life he walked or rode his bike around town, visiting people and doing odd jobs.
“He’d go down to the barber shop and sweep up,” says Mathieu. “He’d go to the restaurants, do dishes and buss tables.”
And Johnny made friends, everywhere he went. Folks in town watched over him, made sure he wasn’t picked on, made sure he got home each night. And Johnny was never above having a little fun.
“It’d be nothing at all for him to come up and pull a prank on you,” Mathieu says. “And he could make a siren sound that numerous cars pulled over. I mean he actually stopped cars in town.”
Johnny had his own police uniform, rode around on patrols…rode with town firefighters to fires. In 2000 the Indiana Senate passed a resolution recognizing Krieger as an exemplary citizen. And later the Churubusco town council declared his birthday, April 23rd, John Krieger Day. When Johnny died Christmas eve 2008, his coffin was carried to the Eel River cemetery on a fire truck, townspeople lining the route of the funeral procession to say goodbye. There’s a saying that a community can be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens. By that measure, Churubusco Indiana is a town with an immense heart.
After searching every corner of Churubusco, Jason still couldn't manage to find a bowl of turtle soup. Apparently, Oscar's hiding better than ever now. So instead, he checked in on a local favorite again, and even found a place to stay.
Last year, we visited McDonalds, Brevins, and the Magic Wand in Churubusco. Since then, nothing new has popped up, but the grill's still sizzling at the Magic Wand.
"I really like the customers we have. We got a lot of customers that are daily customers," David Hill, owner of the Magic Wand said. "We also have weekly and monthly customers even, and being here every day you kind of tell people have the same routine and some people you can even get their food on when they walk in the door."
David Hill owns this restaurant with his grandmother. He practically grew up here, coming to the restaurant when he was little. And even though they may be known for the Magic Burger, there's another hot item on the menu.
"I would say the breaded tenderloin and the magic burger. Those are our big items," Hill remarks. "The tenderloins we make here, and they're the size of a dinner plate, really. It's a really good sandwich."
But if you're looking for more than a bite to eat, if you need a place to stay for the night, the Frazier House Bed and Breakfast opens its doors to weary travelers. Suzanne Frazier's husband built the house in 2002, but after he died in 2007, she decided to welcome visitors into their home.
"The house was just so big for me, and I thought, 'What could I do to make use of it,' and so I decided to do the bed and breakfast," Suzanne Frazier said. "It's a nice part-time job, and I'm kind of semi-retired."
Most people staying at the house are visiting friends or attending weddings, but she still remembers her first guest four years ago.
"My first guest was from Spokane, WA. He was here for a week for his 50th class reunion," Frazier remembers. "He hadn't been back for years."
If you can't find a place to eat in Churubusco, you're obviously doing something wrong, and speaking of eating, Turtle Days begins today and lasts through Saturday. A whole 4 or 5 days worth of activities. It's one of the best celebrations around, and one of the best hometown festivals around for the Summer.
Whether you've lived in Churubusco all your life or you're just visiting, life's a little better here.
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