For Scotia resident Lizzy Kenific, 11, opening day at Jumpin’ Jack’s Drive-In is a momentous occasion that demanded that her father, Dennis, bring her to the eatery early in the morning on Thursday so she could be first in line when customers were served at 11 a.m.
“I got stuck bringing her down at 8:30,” said Dennis Kenific. “I wouldn’t wait three hours for a hamburger.”
This immediately prompted Lizzy to chime in, “I would.”
And she did, with her and her brother, Alex, 15, emerging from their long wait with a tray of hamburgers, hot dogs and curly fries — “I love the curly fries,” said Alex.
Their order included a hamburger with bacon, which is a new addition to the nearly 60-year-old menu at Jumpin’ Jack’s. General Manager Mark Lansing Jr. said the decision to add bacon was something they had been contemplating for a couple of years, as they don’t like to make any hasty decisions about altering the menu that might change the experience they offer.
“The reason we have a line like this on opening day is because it’s the same thing every year,” Lansing said. He said the experience for people today is the same as what it was when they were kids. He should know— he’s worked there for 20 years.
The line for Jumpin’ Jack’s shortly before it opened was at least a hundred people long, all of them seemingly undeterred by the cold weather. The line gradually grew as the more traditional lunch hour approached.
Back near the end of the line shortly before noon was Jane Adams, a Scotia resident who proudly wore a Jumpin’ Jack’s T-shirt. She cited a family tradition of going there that has been going on for about 17 or 18 years, and she beamed as she introduced her 21-year-old son, Nathan, and his baby daughter, Sayruh.
Adams recounted how the staff of Jumpin’ Jack’s had been willing to accommodate a young Nathan with a special order on his first visit.
“They did a grilled cheese sandwich special for him,” she said. “They took the bun and just melted cheese on it.”
Nathan Adams didn’t remember this bit of history, but upon hearing his mother tell the story, he said they would have to get a grilled cheese for his daughter.
Jane remained committed to a cheeseburger with fried onions and curly fries.
Bill Barner, 56, of Ballston Spa, said he has been coming on opening day for at least the past decade and contended that the cold weather wouldn’t stop him from getting a Jack Burger and onion rings. He and two friends in line laughed off the idea that the chilly spring day could ruin this tradition.
“It’s warm this year,” said Barner. “We’ve been down here with snow. This is mild.”
Another potential obstacle that was easily overcome by many school-age students in line on Thursday was the fact that the opening was on a school day. This semi-unspoken tradition was casually remembered by Zachary Andi, a first-year student at Schenectady County Community College, who used to skip class when he went to Schenectady High School. He said that there was never any backlash from teachers, as they understood how significant the tradition was.
Andi said they were more understanding if “you brought them back something,” which he acknowledged was the case with some teachers he liked.
Even 11-year-old Lizzy acknowledged that she didn’t go to school Thursday.
If there are a lot of school closings today because of bad weather, Lansing said that Jumpin’ Jack’s will be closed so that people aren’t driving on dangerous roads.