Dear Folks at Whataburger,
Did you ever wonder what would happen if you advertised your delicious hamburgers consistently in a university’s publications since 1954? You’d get 186 occurrences of ads and other mentions of Whataburger throughout the Baylor University archives, and pardner, that’s just what we wanted to talk to you about!
Of course you’ll recognize the “flavor” (pardon the pun) of that opening line from one of your most memorable ad campaigns in recent memory, but it also serves as a nice intro to this open letter. Let us start by saying all of us in the Digital Projects Group are BIG fans of the hot, fresh, juicy goodness you serve up 24 hours a day, every day. We all cut our teeth on your burgers, fries, taquitos, milkshakes, you name it. And, lucky for us, there’s a location right across the highway from our beautiful campus here in Waco, so we’re never more than a few minutes away from getting our fix, day or night.
The recent Waco cold snap put some of us in a mind to grab some taquitos and sausage biscuits recently, which led me to thinking: what would happen if we searched our 250,000+ items in the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections for the word “Whataburger”? Well, it turns out you’ll find 186 items spread throughout our archival collections. That includes mentions in our campus newspaper, the Baylor Lariat, the annual yearbook (The Round Up) and other sources.
Below are a some of our favorites, starting with the earliest ad from the January 20, 1954 Lariat:
Within just four short years of your founding, you’re already in the empire mindset, with locations spanning as far afield as Kingsville, Alice and Waco. While the store at 17th and LaSalle is gone now, we’re proud to be home to five Waco-area locations today.
One year later, you’ve added some delightful artwork to help differentiate your burgers – all served on a very specific 5″ bun – from the competition. (Ad from the February 18, 1955 Lariat.)
In the 1970s, you really “upped” your game by flying the Whataburger balloon over the campus during Diadeloso, an annual spring celebration that sees classes cancelled and college students generally behaving like half-civilized young people. (From a Baylor University Press Release dated April 23, 1974.)
If there was ever an ad that screams, “I was made in the 80’s!” it’s this one. It’s got everything: a bold serif font headline, three-column text, inset photos, large image of whimsical person’s face, a chance-based game – it’s all too rad! (From the April 12, 1984 Lariat.)
Of course the samples don’t include the dozens of times you’re listed as sponsors for our athletics programs or other special events, and you’re included in items as recently as a couple of years ago, so we know you remain an active part of our students’ shared experience right up to today. In fact, I nearly tripped over an empty drive-thru bag on my way into my office in our main campus library the other morning, because nothing says, “I’m cramming for mid-terms” like a bag full of taquitos.
So keep making our state proud with your amazing burgers, and we’ll keep making it proud by maintaining a tradition of academic excellence, Christian ideals and athletic dominance. And if the guy that did the voiceover for those “Did you ever wonder” spots is still around, send him our way. I’ve been told my impression is pretty accurate, and I’d love to hear what he thinks!
All the best,
Your friends at the Baylor University Digital Projects Group
This post is part of a series of Open Letters to musicians, authors and others that we hope will connect our collections to prominent people in America. If you have someone to suggest, or if you’re the subject of this post and want to drop us a line, send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).