Health Camp

In 1948, brothers-in-law Jack Schaevitz and Lou Stein opened a small mobile food cart at James Connally Air Force Base. The two became so successful selling burgers and frozen custard to military men that they opened a small restaurant on the Waco traffic circle the following summer. The two brothers fought fiercely over choosing a name for their new business but eventually settled upon “Health Camp,” the words stamped on the eggs bought from a local supplier in order to make their custard.

Initially, the restaurant on the circle consisted of just a small kitchen with a walk-up window from which customers could place their orders. Before business shifted further out into the suburbs, restaurants on the circle such as Health Camp were regular afternoon gathering places for Wacoans. Additionally, the restaurant’s location on the traffic circle ensured that it became a stopping point for travelers between Dallas and Austin.

Schaevitz took pride in associating his business with the local community. He attended the Baylor Homecoming Parade each year until his retirement in 1989, and subsequently lined the walls of his restaurant with pictures he took at the celebration. Although the construction of IH-35 in the early 1960s decreased the number of travellers passing through the Waco traffic circle and eating at the restaurant, Schaevitz found that business continued to thrive due to the patronage of Baylor students.

After working seven days a week for forty years, Jack Schaevitz retired at the age of 78 in 1989. He sold Health Camp to well-known restaurateur David Tinsley and his manager, Sammy Citrano. Tinsley also purchased the neighboring Elite Café.

Little has changed at Health Camp since its opening in the years following World War II. The restaurant continues to serve burgers, custard, and homemade onion rings on the restaurant’s original stainless steel countertops, and many still order their burgers at the walk-up window. A jukebox stands in the corner of the dining room, and photographs and newspapers displaying local history line the walls. Today, customers continue to dine at Health Camp in order to revisit old memories, enjoy the local community, and participate in a small part of Waco’s history.

Images

A Resounding Success

A Resounding Success

The success of the Health Camp mobile canteen at James Connally Air Force Base provided Schaevitz and Stein with the funds to lease a small building on the traffic circle from the owners of the Elite Cafe and open a permanent restaurant in 1949. | Source: Image courtesy of Health Camp View File Details Page

The Menu

The Menu

Schaevitz and Stein originally emphasized Health Camp's frozen custard at both the mobile stand and the permanent restaurant, but soon shifted the restaurant's focus to include food such as burgers, hot dogs, and homemade onion rings in order to bring in more revenue. | Source: Image courtesy of Health Camp View File Details Page

Managing the Business

Managing the Business

Brothers-in-law Lou Stein (left) and Jack Schaevitz (right) ran Health Camp as a family business for many years. While Stein focused on the managerial side of the business, Schaevitz concentrated on the restaurant's customer base. | Source: Image courtesy of Health Camp View File Details Page

Diner Atmosphere

Diner Atmosphere

Around a decade after the permanent restaurant opened on the circle, Stein convinced Schaevitz to replace the tables and chairs with booths, increasing the seating capacity and giving the restaurant more of a diner feel. | Source: Image courtesy of Health Camp View File Details Page

A Local Favorite

A Local Favorite

Originally the restaurant was just a kitchen and walk-up window. Despite its location outside of downtown, Health Camp served as a communal gathering point for many Wacoans. | Source: Image courtesy of Health Camp View File Details Page

An Iconic Restaurant

An Iconic Restaurant

Before the construction of IH-35, most travelers passed through the traffic circle. Health Camp became a favorite not only for locals, but also an iconic stop for commuters between Dallas and Austin. | Source: Image courtesy of Health Camp View File Details Page

Transitions

Transitions

Stein moved to Colorado with his family after many years with the business, leaving the operation to Schaevitz. Schaevitz retired in 1989 at the age of 78, leaving the business in the hands of well-known restaurateur David Tinsley. | Source: Image courtesy of Health Camp View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Amanda Sawyer, “Health Camp,” Waco History, accessed June 22, 2017, http://wacohistory.org/items/show/59.
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