How do young people meet these days? Kids don’t have weekend dances. There are there no more drive-in movies and there are no drive-in restaurants – no place to circle the parking lot looking for girls, or boys, as the case may be. Boomers look back nostalgically at the days when a young lady called a carhop would take your order for a frosted mug of root beer and an order of fries. You’d give her two quarters and get change.
The term carhop originated when cars in the 30’s and 40’s had running boards and the waiters would frequently “hop on” the cars and ride to the selected parking spot. They would take the order and sometimes hop on another available running board for a ride back to the kitchen. Later, attractive young ladies would lace up roller skates and speed from car to car on that form of transportation. Mostly, carhops just walked from car to car, taking orders, and a pile of grief from teenage boys.
Drive-in restaurants really began in the 1930’s as the American society began to mobilize behind the affordable automobile designs of Henry Ford. But drive ins were perfected in the 1950’s and 60’s when young people gathered en masse to show off their new Pontiac GTO’s or Chevy Impalas. And, what better place to meet up with the opposite sex than at the drive-in?
Many small and mid-size towns had several drive-ins, usually a few miles apart. A typical, dateless Friday evening for young men included multiple trips to each drive in to see if any new “chicks” had arrived. After any spare change had been spent at a given drive-in, the young Boomers were suddenly without funds, and ordered water, which the carhops hated.
A typical car would have anywhere from 4 to 6 teenagers of the same sex packed in. A problem arose if one car had five boys while the other car held, for example, four unattached young ladies. But such problems were generally worked out with an intense game of rock, paper, scissors. Maybe the US Congress ought to try that solution at the next budget crisis?
In the 1950’s and 60’s, there was no such thing as fast food. Sure, there were burgers and dogs and scads of French fries, but the service was anything but fast. A half-hour wait was normal, but no one cared because as soon as you ate, you were out of money for the rest of the evening. But money went a lot farther back then. With two bucks, you could buy a couple gallons of gas for the weekend, with enough money left over for a ticket to the movies and a meal at the drive in. Add another buck if you had a date.
Milkshakes – hand made – were a popular item at the old drive ins. Other choice sections included ice cream sodas and cherry or vanilla Cokes. In those days, local drive ins didn’t have pizzas. The spicy pies would gain significant momentum in the late 60’s and early 70’s.
Boomers recall that each and every car at the drive in had the radio on full blast. Even at maximum volume, the old radios lacked a lot of oomph. The systems were monaural with just two dials: On-off-volume and a tuner to change channels.
But there was always good music on the air, as the record spinners played the Top 40 over and over and over again. Sometimes they would play a new release over and over and over again.
If you had a decent antenna, you could generally pick up Wolfman Jack. The Wolfman was the voice and personification of the Boomer Era.
From 1958 through 1966, the Wolfman howled over the airways on XERF, a 250,000-watt station located just north of Del Rio, Texas. The songs he played were often a little strange, but if they were good enough for the Wolfman, they were all right by young Boomers, who remember songs like “Short Fat Fanny”, with these unusual lyrics: Short Fat Fanny she’s my heart’s desire/Short Fat Fanny set my soul on fire/Short Fat Fanny, yes I love her so/I’ll never let Short Fat Fanny go.
A few bucks in your pocket, an ironed pair of pegged pants, the Wolfman on the radio and a drive in restaurant? What Boomer can ever forget those days?