Sunday, July 19, 2015

Hal’s Drive Inn

Hal's Drive-In - Early 1960's
Top left is Hal, Allis, Mark, Mick. Second
row is Wes, Ken, Judy and Harold (Harry)

Dad purchased a drive in restaurant (like A&W) in the late 1950's; he did this to keep us busy in the summer months and help teach us how to work. I’m not sure when it first opened, but it was in the 1960s and 70s when I worked there. The oldest picture we have (This one with all our family). I am the cub scout so would have been between 8 & 10, so that would have bee 1960-62. This was before the addition of the carport. All the family worked at “Hal’s Drive-In” as it was called. It was the only fast food restaurant in town. Of course our town only had two sit down restaurants to choose from if they didn’t want hamburgers and fries. The drive in was open only from March or April whenever it warmed up enough until about October, when it started to get cold.
There was no inside area for people to come sit down and eat, they either ate in their cars or sat at the tables outside. We used car hops to go out and take the orders and then to deliver their food to them After many years, we finally put in an electronic order system and added the cover. There was a menu and speaker at each place for the cars to pull up and push a button to order their food. We still had to bring the food out to them when it was ready. We had trays that we carried the food on and the tray would hang on the window of the car. All of the children got their chance to work everywhere at the drive in including car hopping. We did hire other car hops as well and had others that helped to cook and fix shakes, etc. Just about everyone worked there sometime or an other and I had a crush on most of the girls that worked there. By the time I was in Jr. High and High School, my friends would come to the drive in and make fun of me when I was taking my turn as a car hop. One time they left a hundred pennies for my tip or do something stupid to mess up the order or simply hassle me all the way in and out from their cars. But I guess dad felt it was a character building experience for us.
Hal's Drive-In with new Car Port & Ordering Stations

One time when Steve Wagner and I were working alone, Tim Beam ordered a 25 cent ice cream cone (which was a large cone) and so we decided to see how big we could make the cone before if fell over. By the time we had finished we had to take the drip tray off the machine because it was getting so big. It was so big that we couldn’t fit it through the front window and had to take it out the back door. The cone was about 2 ½ feet tall. Sometimes on summer nights when things go a little slow at the drive in, Steve and I would go to the grocery parking lot next door and throw a Frisbee around.  One night while we were out throwing the Frisbee, Barney (the town policeman) came on his nightly patrol to check to make sure the grocery store was locked up. When he came in the parking lot, Steve threw the Frisbee and it hit Barney’s car. He stopped the car and didn’t look too happy about what Steve had done. Steve ran over to the car and said: “I’m sorry Barney; I didn’t mean to do it”! I about died, Steve was so new to the town that he didn’t know that “Barney” was just a nick name. Well Barney, gave him a stern look and then sped off in his car. After he left, I told Steve that “Barney” was his nickname, and it he didn’t like being called that. Well we had a good laugh about that for a long time.

Delivery Station Wagon
We even were the first to deliver. This is our station wagon and we used to deliver ice cream sandwiches, pizza and other things. One of the things we like to do on hot days was to go and sit in the walk in freezer for a while. The freezer was quite large and had a large heavy door on it that we would lock before closing at night and going home. It really felt good to go in and sit for a couple of minutes to cool off. It was really hot in the back of the drive in where the grill and fryer was. Just being back there was enough to cause you to sweat like you just got out of the shower. So on particularly hot days when it was slow (which it often was a certain times), we would take turns sitting in the freezer to cool off. Once in a while to be mean or just to be silly we would lock the door so that whoever was in there would not be able to get out. We would finally unlock the door before anyone got dangerously cold, but it still was scary to be in there and not knowing if you would be able to get out. I think we all spent our share of times getting locked in the freezer.
Another fun stunt we would pull on each other unexpectedly was if you would touch the ice cream machine and the freezer that we kept the root beer mugs and frozen ice cream sandwiches and stuff in you would get a fairly good shock. However, if one person was touching the freezer and someone else would touch the ice cream machine and then touch the person that was touching the freezer, the person touching the freezer would get the shock, not the one touching the ice cream machine. This was a particularly fun thing to do if someone was not paying attention and was leaning on the freezer. You could come up and touch the ice cream machine and then touch the other person and they would get zapped. We all know it would happen but sometimes you would forget and be caught off guard and someone would come up and zap you’d get a good jolt and just go nuts with your whole body tingling all over.
I’m not sure if my dad was correct, but he said we were the first to make an ice cream sandwich (I think we called it the wagon wheel. It was two cookies with ice cream between them. He also said we were the first to make dipped chocolate bars on a popsicle stick. He was always coming up with new things to try.
I’m not sure if mom and dad made any money with the drive in, but it did teach us all to work. It helped us understand the value of work and what we had to do to make a business successful. Dad sold the drive-in after I was out of high school (it was called Eby’s for a while and if I remember correctly Bill Beam owned it for a while) so that ended the days and nights spent at Hal’s Drive-Inn. 
This is a picture of taken on July 4th, 2015 showing that it has closed probably to never open again. It is a sad day for Argos.
Picture of Beamer's (formerly Hal's Drive-In) now Closed

If you are part of the Potter (or Strong family from my mother’s side) family or grew up in Argos, Indiana or would come visit family there and have any memories of eating or working at Hal’s Drive-In I welcome your comments.

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