This page was originally on my old blog. I wanted to keep something posted so that people who had any information could get in touch with me.
I have been trying to find information about my Great Uncle Bill and on a whim I jumped on my motorbike and made a day-trip to Waco. William Mitchell Wood left Aberdeen as a teen and after landing in New York and working in a restaurant he ended up in Waco sometime in the early 1920′s. He married Jody (Judy) Jewel Allen in Dallas in 1925. He owned the Tam O’Shanter Hotel Courts, a motel very close to what is now I-35 at the infamous Waco Circle – one of Texas’ few roundabouts!
The spare ribs sold at Bill Wood’s Famous Foods were fabulous enough to be included in a Ford Motor Almanac with recipes from restaurants all over America. Maybe I’ll make them one of these days.
The Elite Circle Grill was a contemporary restaurant of Bill’s situated exactly opposite his on The Circle. There was an old aerial photograph of the Elite on the wall and you can see the Tam O’Shanter quite clearly.
While I was in Waco I stopped for lunch at The Elite – the chili was very good. I had read about the grill and because it has been around from the 20′s I assumed it might have some old diner type waitresses. Sadly not – it was renovated a couple of years ago and is now a typical ‘American’ grill with very young staff. Not a beehive in sight.
As I was leaving I saw an elderly couple walking to their car so I asked them if they remembered the Tam O’Shanter across the road. It turned out that the woman had spent the night before her wedding there with her sister and other pals. They both enjoyed eating at his restaurant but did not remember him.
A few minutes south of The Circle is Waco Memorial Park where Bill & Judy are buried. A very friendly employee at the park looked in the records and personally took me to the grave site. Thank God he did – over 30,000 people are buried there “and more each day” I was cheerily told!
I was just three years old when Uncle Bill died, but I remember my Nana getting a check every month from Waco which only stopped when she died. Apparently he visited Aberdeen once and promenaded down the road in a linen suit and a cowboy hat and boots. He was well known in Waco for being one of the founding members of the Baylor Bears booster club. They used to put on a rodeo to raise money and he would be all dolled up as a cowboy, hootin’ and hollerin’ with his Aberdeen accent!
We did not have the Internet in 1984 when I emigrated to America otherwise I maybe would have tried to find Bill & Judy, I certainly was aware of them. His obituary has no mention of children. However somebody has been placing flowers on the grave. I suppose I have some distant relatives down there and would love to meet them. Maybe somebody will Google their names and find this.
Uncle Bill also owned at least two Triple XXX Root Beer franchises. I was told one was at 15th and Maple so I headed over there and found a building that I imagined at some time could have been a drive-up. It is now a charismatic church. On the wall is printed “Where everybody is somebody.”
For a teenager from the Highlands of Scotland Great Uncle Bill surely realised the American Dream and made a somebody of himself. I would have loved to meet him.
November 14th, 2009
Here are two comments I have received.
03/24/2010 at 01:08
I’ve just googled your Uncle Bill’s restaurant which was at the circle in Waco. My mother worked there as a waitress sometime between 1946 and 1953. I found this postcard on sale at Ebay. As a little girl the keg on top seemed so large. But as you can see from the photo here, it’s not so huge at all. Oh yes, it was across the street from the Tam O’Shanter Hotel Courts. I remember one year Mr. Woods went to Scotland for a vacation and when he returned he gave my mother and the other waitresses pincushions he had bought while he was there. It had the Highland Thistle on it.
In case you’ve never seen the photo hope you enjoy it. Perhaps you could add it to this blog for others to see.
& All the Best,
From someone who has great memories of Waco, Texas
03/28/2010 at 22:22
I was thrilled to find your blog on the Tam O’Shanter and Bill Woods Famous Foods. We stayed/ate there perhaps a half dozen times in the mid to late ’50s. My father had played football at OU and we had 50 yard line seats for the OU-Texas game during fair week.
Driving up from Corpus in the pre-interstate days meant Waco was about a full days drive for mother, dad and four boys in the un-airconditioned cars of the era.We would then go on to Big D in the morning to arrive in time to do some of the midway stuff, have lunch and get settled in for kickoff.
The first year I remember (about age 7) we stayed at the downtown Roosevelt hotel, but in each of the following years we stayed at the Tam O’Shanter and they are some of the best memories I have as we did very little other traveling. After a hard days drive, counting every cow from Corpus to Conroe, finding every red car, etc. arriving at the Tam O’Shanter meant about 30 seconds until all four of us boys were in the pool and the folks got a break from the 8 or 10 hours of continuous “are we there yets”? After a cooling swim, it was on to the adjacent restaurant.
I had honestly forgotten the name, but upon seeing your postcard, I remembered that somewhere in my long filed away in the attic stuff, I have exactly that same card! That triggered the memories of the meals at Bill Woods Famous Foods.
It was THE favorite of all dining establishments visited by the Poynor clan. We would eat there on arrival on Friday evening and upon our return from the game on Saturday. I remember the steaks, especially along with crisp, cold salads. I have the impression that my father may have known Bill as I recall someone identified (to us kids) only as the “owner” always came over and chatted for a good while with my parents. As I recall those conversations from 50 odd years later, I remember them being much more involved than the courtesy “how was your meal” conversation that one would encounter at a nice restaurant.
Finally, I remember one much more animated conversation when my father asked for ketchup for his steak and the chief came storming out of the kitchen fuming about the imbecile that wanted ketchup for his steak and the owner diplomatically interceding and calming both parties down and quietly taking the ketchup away from the table! If the person that was identified to me as the owner was indeed Bill Wood, then you can take this as a first hand account of his proprietorship of the restaurant.
I found your blog because I am in Waco tonight on a lengthy trip about Texas and was curious if any of that still existed. Finding nothing in the yellow pages, and becoming discouraged as too much has changed to find the street(s)where it was, I googled Tam O’Shanter +Waco and found your blog. Pleasant memories from more than half a century ago came flooding back and your clue about the Elite Grill and “the Circle” has lead me to find that on a map.
First thing in the morning, I am off to the Circle to see what I will see – the Dr. Pepper Museum can wait!
Thanks for a very unexpected, but highly enjoyable march down memory lane!
In October 1956, Elvis played in Waco. Here is a snippet I found online…
Cotten wrote that, following the show, Elvis and his entourage ate midnight snacks at the home of Eddie Fadal, 2807 Laskar Avenue. Later, Elvis spent what was left of the evening at the Tam O’Shanter Hotel Courts, a motel very close to what is now I-35 at the Waco Circle – one of Texas’ few rotaries (roundabouts).