CORDELL, OKLAHOMA — Turning back the clock is impossible in every place but this one, in the shadow of the big courthouse clock, where Ron Putman has hardly had a chance to look up from his grill over the past month.
“Maybe there really is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” jokes Ron as he wraps another fried onion burger in wax paper. “So we thought we’d try just one more time.”
Of all the customers who’ve come back since this diner re-opened, none is more important than Arletta Fink, who’s father was the original Shorty.
Describing how the place looked when it was open, she points, “There was a wall here and then my Daddy had a grill here.”
Albert Bauman opened his cafe in 1938.
He called it Bauman’s but everybody in town knew it by his nickname ‘Shorty’.
Arletta was born in the back of the first restaurant.
A waitress showed her off to customers within minutes of her birth.
“I made my entrance into the cafe world very early,” she laughs.
Shorty and Arletta ran the cafe together.
The original burned in the early 60’s.
Shorty rebuilt right next to the old structure and lived out his days running the restaurant.
Arletta moved away and raised a family of her own.
The old diner had been closed for years when Ron and his wife Cheryl saw it.
“This building sat vacant,” says Arletta. “It was so ugly.”
The Putmans placed a call. They wanted to open a restaurant in Cordell.
They sold Shorty’s only child on the idea of a new cafe with the same old name.
Ron says, “It had the bar stools. It had the counter. But it didn’t have the other things we needed to open up.”
It took a lot of doing but Arletta and the Putmans fixed up Shorty’s.
They saved a section of his original countertop.
They found some old pop stored under a counter. No one can drink it but they keep the old bottles around anyway.
They even brought back Shorty’s secret hamburger sauce.
Arletta thought she’d never see her father’s restaurant open again. So she’s really happy now.
Standing in front of the grill she jumps up and down shouting, “My Daddy would be so pleased!”
On Saturday nights and after school, customers used to line up for one of Shorty’s burgers.
One former customer from the 1950’s recalls getting, “an onion burger, Brownie potato chips, and an RC Cola for a quarter.”
They’re lining up these days too, coming in for a taste of something they thought was lost, but wasn’t really.
It turns out the fastest way back in time is the ‘Shorty’s’ route.
Shorty Bauman’s re-opened cafe is located just east of the Washita County Courthouse on Main Street.
They’re open every day but Monday.