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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

‘Footlongs’ were around long before Subway started selling them


Contact Vince Staten at or via mail in care of this newspaper. Voicemail may be left at 723-1483. His blog can be found at

Subway, the sandwich shop, is now claiming a trademark for the name “footlong,” as in their ubiquitous “$5 footlong” commercials.
It would be laughable if it weren’t serious. The company has already sent out cease-and-desist letters to an undisclosed number of restaurants and food stores, telling them to stop using “footlong.”

What? The term “footlong” was around long before Subway discovered Jared. What will they do next, go after all the underground transit systems in America for calling themselves subways?

If Subway wins its trademark case then every mom-and-pop grocery, deli and burger stand in the country would have to change the name of its foot-long hot dog or sub sandwich to 12-Inch-Long Dog or, go the way the soft drink industry went with 2-liter bottles and call it a three-decimeter dog.

Try selling that at the drive through at Pal’s. “You want mustard on that threedecimeter dog?”

Funny that the news should surface this week. Calvin Sneed has just posted a story on his Douglass High School Alumni Web site about the first foot-long hot dogs in Kingsport.

They were sold in the 1950s at the old Dairy Mart in Riverview, which was owned and operated by Nora Mae Taylor and her husband, Jason.

Nora Mae, who is now 91, told Calvin, “The foot-long hot dog in Kingsport was born at our restaurant. We were the first restaurant, black or white, in Kingsport that had foot-long hot dogs. This was six or seven years before Pal’s.”

The Dairy Mart bought their foot-long wieners at Valleydale in Bristol.

Nora Mae told Calvin, “They told us nobody else from Kingsport ever ordered foot-longs but us. I come up with the idea; I don’t know why I come up with it. They were 25 cents apiece, and the little hot dogs were 10 cents. ... People started coming to Riverview to get them foot-longs. The children would come up and the foot-longs were so big, they’d have to share. We had hamburgers and ice cream stuff, but we sold more foot-longs than anything else.”

The Dairy Mart is no longer in business, but Nora Mae’s story could be Deposition No. 1 for the defense for any store that gets a cease-and-desist letter from Subway.

You can read the full story about Dairy Mart and its foot-long hot dog at http://

The Dairy Mart closed in the early 1960s. Subway didn’t open its first store until 1965.

Incidentally, Subway is already using the trademark symbol next to footlong on its Web site.

I think they are going to have a tough row to hoe on this one. And they’ll be getting no sympathy from me. Footlongs existed long before Subway. I did a quick archive search and found: McCrory’s in Indiana, Pa., advertised a foot-long hot dog in 1938. The Silver Coat Café in Emporia, Kan., advertised a foot-long sandwich in 1951. And Nina’s Spaghetteria in Van Nuys, Calif., advertised a “foot long submarine sandwich” in 1955. Good luck on this one, Subway. But not r e a l l y.


If you lived through the Cold War, then you remember that the Russian Communist Party newspaper was named Pravda, which means “The Truth” in Russian. We all laughed when we found that out.

In a recent New York Times story, I learned that the current Cuban Communist Party newspaper is called Granma. That’s right, Granma. I ran the word through an online Spanish to English translator and got “We’re sorry, we could not find your phrase in the dictionary.”

A serious, important Communist organization is named for my grandmother?

Upon further review (I found an entry in that most impeccable of sources, Wikipedia) I discovered the source of the name. Granma was the name of the boat used to bring Cuban Revolution fighters from Mexico to Cuba in 1956.

There’s an English language version of Granma online at www.

I think we should sic Subway’s lawyers on this case. If we allow the Cuban Communist Party to use the name Granma, what’s next? Venezuela’s Communist Party organ will be named Papaw?