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  • Writer's pictureNeal Spelce

Progress May Change Things, But It Can't Change Memories

For almost 100 years, well, since 1926 anyway, University of Texas students particularly and Austinites generally have enjoyed burgers, fries and shakes at Dirty Martin’s on the Drag at 2808 Guadalupe. Okay, Dirty Martin’s is not the real name. It is officially Martin’s Kumbak Place, but everybody calls it Dirty Martin’s or simply Dirty’s.

It doesn’t appear to have changed since we first set foot there as a UT freshman in 1952 (or even maybe changed since 1926, but that was before we were born). However, this may be all about to change if Capital Metro’s Project Connect carries its plans forward. The proposed light rail Orange Line map shows the rail project slicing through part of Dirty’s property. Progress.

Photo: Dirty Martin's

Now just because something is 96 years old doesn’t make it historic or worth keeping in the name of historical preservation. But, memories? C’mon. I know, nobody has ever put a plaque on a memory. But memories are precious to you as an individual. And you can preserve those as long as you are able.

Let me quickly share a Dirty’s newsmaking memory with you. One Sunday night in 1953 we were eating the Size Royal mexican food plate with a handful of fraternity brothers at the Night Hawk. Young, naïve, and mischievous that we late-teens were, we talked about how we could help the Texas football team beat the nation’s #3 team, Baylor, that was coming to town Saturday.

“I got it. Let’s start holding pep rallies tomorrow, Monday.” So we all agreed to meet at 7 am (pretty rare time for college kids!) and write on every classroom chalkboard “Beat Baylor. Pep Rally tonight at 10 at Dirty’s.” We rounded up a few stray members of the Longhorn Band and climbed atop Dirty’s overhang. And proceeded to make a lotta racket.

Photo: Dirty Martins. c. 1953 (that's me in the silly hat banging a snare drum)

We repeated that exercise every night at Dirty’s. Crowds grew. Traffic stopped. Car horns honked. “Beat the pee out of #3” echoed throughout the neighborhood. It got so big, and almost out of hand, that we moved downtown, closing Congress Avenue. We led the crowd in cheers and music from the streetside balcony of the Stephen F. Austin Hotel.

It didn’t stop there. We led the crowd into the Paramount Theater, interrupting a movie to lead cheers, from in front of the screen, to startled moviegoers. Ahh, youthful enthusiasm! Oh yeah, as we left the theater we led the mob to the Governor’s Mansion for a final rally.

Photo: Twitter

The crowd was electric at the UT/Baylor game. The student section stood the whole game. And, yes, the Texas Longhorns upset the favored Baylor Bears. And, it all started at Dirty Martin’s.

Don’t know at this writing if progress will impact Dirty’s. But even if Dirty’s changes as it nears its 100th anniversary, those of us who chowed down on cheeseburgers there over the generations will relish our cherished memories.

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