DECATUR, Mich. — Anyone that’s been around long enough to remember radio and television comedy and ventriloquism in the early days will most likely know the name Edgar Bergen. He was famous with dummies like Mortimer Snerd and Charlie McCarthy. He had the ability to characterize and throw his voice, not to mention the spontaneous humor in almost any situation.
Bergen originally hailed from West Michigan in Van Buren County in the village of Decatur. The Hard Times Family Restaurant (also located in Decatur) has walls and shelves of Edgar Bergen memorabilia. Everything from replicas of his famous dummies Mortimer and Charlie, to books, family photos, and newspaper clippings.
Barney Ives was the police chief in 1976 in Decatur when Bergen last visited before his passing in 1978. He played chauffeur and host for Bergen and has fond memories and unique stories to tell. “He was always smiling. He was happy. Of course, he was always cracking jokes. That’s the type of guy he was” says Ives.
The Hard Times Family Restaurant is located in downtown Decatur and also has an Edgar Bergen Burger on the menu. Click here for their Facebook page. Owner Debra Tuka says people donate items to the restaurant, and other pieces are found at estate sales, flea markets, and obtained from auctions. “I try to change it up and I try to do the whole restaurant that way” says Tuka.
By the way, if the Bergen name sounds familiar, it should. Edgar’s daughter Candice would also become famous as a television and movie star. She went on to star in her own show, Murphy Brown, as well as appear in other tv shows and movies. You’ll find a few early pictures of her with the family from years gone by.
Click here for a map to the restaurant and don’t forget to arrive hungry. All of their food is made from scratch, is delicious, and reasonably priced. And while there is no entertainment, you’ll spend quite a bit of time enjoying the Edgar Bergen items and memorabilia. Have fun and tell them FOX 17 sent you!