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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region.

ORAL HISTORY

Regina "Sissy" Nix


C.F. Penn Hamburgers

Regina “Sissy” Nix (“Sissy” is what everyone calls her, a nickname originating because her brother couldn’t say “Regina.”) was born and raised in Decatur, Alabama, the youngest of three children, and the only girl.

Ms. Nix remembers riding bicycles with her two older brothers to get hamburgers at C.F. Penn’s. She also remembers her mother making the filler-style hamburgers at home to make the meat stretch further: beef, bread, and eggs in the mixture, she describes it like a meatloaf mix.

CFPenn--WrappedBurgers

She worked in restaurants prior to working for C.F. Penn Hamburgers. In 2002, she was eating lunch at Penn’s when a new hired didn’t show up for work; Ms. Nix got the job. She speaks fondly of the long-standing employees who worked for decades before her, and who welcomed her like family: “Mama” Dale Johnson, who Ms. Nix replaced when she retired in 2002; Lillian Coggins, who worked for Penn’s for more than forty years before retiring in 2014. Ms. Nix became great friends with Ms. Coggins, and talks about how Ms. Coggins could pat out the hamburgers perfectly, keeping count of how many she made while multitasking, something that Ms. Nix admits she’s never managed to do.

Penn’s celebrates a long tradition of women working behind the counter. Women who know exactly what regular customers want before they sit down to order, and who know exactly how they want their hamburger, whether it be burned, crunchy, or a little soft in the middle. Ms. Nix is part of this legacy.

Date of interview:
2016-01-13

Interviewer:
Sara Wood

Photographer:
Sara Wood

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