Whataburger Builder

T.M. Moore: Part 3

(1950- ) Hard Work Pays Off

We left off in 1950 when our grandfather TM Moore met Whataburger founder Harmon Dobson in Corpus Christi, which changed his life. 

We know Dobson came to Moore’s Welding and asked him to build some hamburger joints, but confusion exists about exactly when this happened and what occurred shortly thereafter.  One version, in Whataburger’s Crew News (April 1979), says that in the restaurant’s founding year 1950, Dobson walked into Moore’s metal shop and said he had “a plan.” In this version, TM recalls, “He said he was going in the hamburger business and had some construction projects for me if I wanted them.”

1979 April Whataburger Crew News p.1

1979 April Whataburger Crew News p.6

But the book “Whataburger: The Tale of a Texas Icon,” by Greg Wooldridge (Dobson’s son-in-law), says an Aransas Pass welder built the first “few” hamburger stands before TM got involved. 

1950's Whataburger BOOK p.51

Well, ok, even if Daw didn’t build that first Whataburger pictured on the wall of every restaurant, he ended up building a ton of them, and was involved very early on.  But I remember the first story being told in my childhood.

1950's Whataburger BOOK p.50

Above:  TM in white hat. Photo from “Whataburger, Tale of a Texas Icon.”

Below:  One of the box units TM built at his shop, “#18 . . . moved to Pasadena, Tex.” (from our photos).

1956 Whataburger no 18 being built

While we were growing up, Mema also told us that Harmon showed up on Christmas Eve in a bundle of excitement, saying he wanted to make the restaurant bigger and more noticeable from the highway, at which point he and Daw “drew up the famous A-frame building with chalk on the floor of our garage” — with the broad orange and white stripes that could be seen from miles away.   

I always thought they “drew it up” right there, but the Whataburger book says that Harmon already had a scale model of it and went to ask TM to build it. 

Prior to the holiday meeting, Moore had gone back to supervising the construction of a refinery, partly due to the strain traveling had put on his family, and partly because Dobson was not building enough stores to keep him busy.  Welding oil field equipment was the work Moore had performed before meeting Dobson a decade earlier.

(from Tale of a Texas Icon):  “Harmon was a bold business man,” Moore remembers, “and he was willing to try everything. But he was cautious when it came to building stores and adding franchisees. He didn’t want people deviating from quality. He was very strict about that; if you forgot quality, you would destroy the product. It was the same with buildings. He wanted them to go up right the first time.”

“When Dobson pulled into the driveway of Moore’s home on Christmas Even of 1960, he wasn’t alone.

“There was a knock on the door and it was Harmon, with little Hugh in his arms,” Moore recalls.  “He wished us a Merry Christmas and told me to come by the office and see him the next afternoon, that he had something he wanted to talk about.”

That something was the A-frame, an entirely new construction challenge. When he returned from the meeting, Moore was a Whataburger man again.

Again, while the stories differ slightly, we know that in 1961 TM built the first A-frame in Odessa, and eventually many more.

1960's Whataburger BOOK p.92

Page 92 of Whataburger : The Tale of a Texas Icon

That Crew News article says TM Moore “had a hand” in construction of 84 units.  Here’s his log book in which he personally logs about 56 of them – probably the “new” stores that he supervised building.

We will pause here for today, but more is to come.  Life has turns and twists, and one was soon to come for the Dobson’s and the Moore’s.  To be continued…

Think of my grandfather, TM a/k/a “Daw” next time you stop by Whataburger!



Categories: Moore, T.M. Moore, Uncategorized | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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