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Category:  General History
Published:  September, 2007

The Mystery of the Curry Burger!

By Al Owens
Last week, there was a celebration heard ‘round the world. McDonald’s, as part of the 40th year celebration of the creation of the Big Mac, trumpeted the opening of The Big Mac Museum in North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. That’s 38 miles from Uniontown, the birthplace of the world’s most popular sandwich.

That leaves a bad taste in the mouth of some longtime Uniontown residents. “That would be like taking the pro football Hall of Fame out of Canton, or the baseball Hall of Fame out of Cooperstown,” says Dick Hoch. “It’s not right. It doesn’t seem fair,” Hoch adds.

The decision to put the museum in North Huntingdon instead of Uniontown, according to company spokesperson Kerry Ford, was one of logistics and access. “The North Huntingdon store was chosen because of the size of the property,” she says. And because of the proximity of the turnpike to that location, it could greatly increase the number of people who’d like to visit the museum.

Of course, you’d have to ask if they’d ever seen the movie Field of Dreams, and the voice Ray Kinsella kept hearing throughout that film. You know, “If you build it (in this case in Uniontown) they will come.”

The North Huntingdon location is one of many owned by the son of the father of the Big Mac, Jim Delligatti. A man who is said to have come to Uniontown with the idea for the Big Mac and developed it at the McDonald’s at the Uniontown Shopping Center. And then, as the story goes, he spent a couple of years trying to get the owners of the McDonald’s chain to market it nationwide. (Delligatti owned a number of McDonald’s stores in the Pittsburgh area. The one in Uniontown was among them.)

The rest, as they say, is history. Or maybe there’s a little more to the history than that!
All it took was for Uniontown to get overlooked as the site of the Big Mac Museum, and old rumors started to resurface. “If Barry Bonds hit his record breaking homerun in San Francisco,” asks Hoch, “than why would they put up a museum to it in Pittsburgh?” And besides, according to Hoch, Jim Delligatti really didn’t invent the Big Mac. It was his longtime friend and fellow Uniontown Police officer Ronald “Cuts” Curry who did.

“It kind of bothers you, that guy (Delligatti) taking credit for it,” complains Hoch. But he isn’t the only person who believes that the late Uniontown patrol officer was really at the center of the birth of the Big Mac.

And there’s a lot of local lore about how Curry’s hand (and his stomach) played a role in the process.

“Cuts” got his nickname, because he had a particular fondness for cold cuts. But he was also famous around town for his enormous appetite in general. He was a large man who wasn’t shy about his eating habits. And, they say, he took those eating habits to the McDonald’s in Uniontown – with staggering frequency.

Some ex-managers at that McDonald’s claim that Jim Delligatti told them that if a priest or a police officer walked into his restaurant to “Give them what they want.”

“Cuts” Curry worked the swing shift. That was tailor made for a stop at McDonald’s around eleven o’clock – when the workers either threw away any leftover food before closing – or they handed it out to Uniontown’s finest.

Lawrence Blair, before he became a magistrate, was a Uniontown police officer who remembers those days quite well. “A the end of the day, they’d have hamburgers and cookies and we’d all have enough to take home,” he says. “After awhile, we’d have so much we’d get bored with it.” Enter “Cuts” Curry!

According to his longtime partner and one of Curry’s best friends, Leonard Springer, “Ronnie Curry and I were there, and we were sitting back in the kitchen.” He said, ‘How ‘bout putting some more meat, cheese pickles on it - whatever you have.’

In fact, the array of creatively designed sandwiches seemed to please Curry so much, that Hoch claims he and Sabatini used to laughingly call them The Curry Burgers and The Big Daddies!

So eventually the multi-layered hamburger met with Curry’s complete satisfaction, so Springer claims after Curry took a bite or two, and history was made. “He said, ‘I want to tell you, this is a good sandwich. This is a real BIG MAC!’

Nick Sabatini, the swing shift manager won’t go so far as admitting it was Curry who really came up with the Big Mac idea. But he does attest to Curry’s appetite and creativity. “He used to pile four and five hamburgers and put about an inch thick of cheese.” In fact, Sabatini would even find humor in Curry’s persistence in getting the hottest of hot sauce on their sandwiches.

“I used see if I could make it so hot, I could make him cry. He never did,” he beams.

That hot sauce just may have sparked an idea that found its way into the finished Big Mac. Sabatini claims he can remember the day that Delligatti came to Uniontown and he sent people to the local Thorofare to buy the meat, tartar sauce, pickles, onions and curiously - chili sauce.

But, of course, the company stands by its story that it was really Jim Delligatti who built the Big Mac from the ground up. There is no denying that it was first cooked and then served in Uniontown.

Yet, there is a bit of irony about all of the Big Mac lore that is a little puzzling. If a Uniontown police officer named Ronald “Cuts” Curry really had nothing to do with the invention of a sandwich that has been sold around the world 14 billion times, then why would the character for it be called Officer Big Mac!