And Now You Know: “Shep” Brings Fast Food to Orange

Published 12:24 am Saturday, January 29, 2022

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Mike Louviere
And Now You Know

William Levi Shepherd came to Orange sometime between 1910 and 1920. The date is not clear because the Buna born Shepherd moved around a lot when he was working for the Southern Pacific Railroad as the man in charge of baggage and mail handling in several locations.

He said once that on the trains going through the Oklahoma Territory, he saw places where the “Sooners” had settled during the land rush days and their white tents were so numerous that they looked like butterflies fluttering in the wind.

Once in Orange, he began to dream of owning a grocery store and having a horse drawn wagon to use to deliver groceries. After a while he left the railroad and became the owner of such a store.

He met and married Sara Cunningham, who was a teacher in a makeshift school on Ninth and John Streets. The young married couple bought the Stobart home located on Thirteenth and Elm Streets.

Shepherd opened his first grocery store in an old two-story building. He also bought a horse and wagon for delivery service. In later years, he bought a one-seat truck.

He branched out from the grocery store to opening his first ice cream parlor and hamburger stand at 304 Border Street. His next venture into fast food was on Division Street next to Hustmyre’s Wholesale Grocery. It was here that he invented the waffle sugar cone. He made a thin waffle and while it was still hot, he wrapped it around a small wooden cone. It was such a success that people drove into Orange from miles away just to buy the waffle cone filled with ice cream.

While working for Shepherd at this location, Check Williams developed the oyster sandwich.

The next venture for Shepherd was to open the first Buick agency in Orange. The building he opened the business in still stands today. It is the location of Farmer’s Mercantile.

Behind the Buick agency on Short Sixth Street, Shepherd built two stores, one served a short time as a restaurant.

The place remembered best by older Orangeites may be Shep’s on Green Avenue. It was across from Orange High School and was a place where kids went for lunch, to play the juke box, or to get a toasted soft hamburger, or a toasted hot dog with homemade chili and a soft drink for 20 cents.

Shep used only the best ingredients and taught his cooks to turn the burger only once and to never press the burger and squeeze the juice out.

He made his own ice cream and frozen malts. The favorite flavor was banana nut. The secret ingredient that he added to the mashed bananas was grape nut cereal.

In addition to walkup and dining in service, Shep’s also had a drive in area where people could eat in their cars.

In later years, he moved his store to his home at 711 Pine. He also had two other places, one at Fifth and Green, and during the World War II years, he opened a store on East Green Avenue to serve the shipyard workers and sailors in Orange with the Navy.

“Shep” once said: “Orange is a fast food—shift worker town. No fancy or high priced eating establishment will last long in Orange. If people want to dress up and go out to eat, they don’t want to go just a few blocks. They want to go out of town to Port Arthur, Beaumont or Lake Charles.”

“And now you know.”