In the late 1950s and the ‘60s, drive-ins meant two things; a place where you could go eat (but mostly drive around and try to pick up girls), or a place where you could take in a movie (but mostly make out with your girlfriend).

A few short miles up the road from my neighborhood was a drive-in that served food and drink named Ameche's. It was a local franchise partially owned by the great Baltimore Colts player Alan Ameche. Their slogan was 'I'll Meetcha at Ameche's'. I remember that because I still have one of their ashtrays.

Ameche's had booths for inside eating, but, for the teenagers of the time, the preferred method of dining was outside in one of the drive-in slots. 

Most of the cruising car drivers would not pull into one of the many drive-up stalls for one simple reason. You had to purchase something once there. Ordering a soda wouldn't cut it. Food of some sort needed to be bought also. You had to make it worthwhile for the waitress to risk life and limb walking among the inattentive young drivers.

Once in the space, an irritable mechanized voice would demand your order. If you hadn't made up your mind, or just simply couldn't read the condiment splattered menu, you were out of luck. After a few short seconds, the robotic voice would assume you were broke and just parking to save gas. It would tell you in a loud shrill manner to immediately vacate the space or else. The threat was disturbing enough to send many a driver quickly out into the traffic flow without care of vehicle damage or bodily harm.

There was also the problem of tipping. The Northwooders could usually scrape together enough change for a burger and a drink, but we never had enough money just to give to someone for bringing us food. Most of the female servers accepted this fact and just took their time with our orders as our penance. But non-tippers did run the risk of further antagonizing an already hostile hostess. It was common knowledge that if a car hop offered to hand you your milkshake, there would be an unfortunate accident involving clothing and the car seat.

I have to point out right off the bat that the young ladies who worked at Ameche's, unlike their movie counterparts, did not wear roller skates. The fact of the matter was that they often spilled their food trays by simply walking with them. I imagine that if the servers were wearing roller skates, the food and drink loss alone would have been astronomical. Not to mention the money paid out for injury and property damage lawsuits.

Luckily, most of the teenagers that hung out there didn't do it for the food. Though, in all honesty, I rather enjoyed their 'Powerhouse' burger. Like most hangouts back then, the guys were there to meet girls, and the girls were there to meet guys.

The layout was such that, if you were fortunate enough to have a car (usually your parent's), you could spend hours cruising around the building and its adjoining drive-in area.

I remember that the unfortunate few without transportation would be relegated to a curb that separated Ameche's from a Ken's Big Boy restaurant. There, on that narrow strip between the two establishments, one would stand and watch the parade of cars pass by. Occasionally someone would spot a friend driving around and, if the driver had forgotten to lock his doors, hop in with him.

Keep in mind that this person didn't have to be a close friend or even a distant one. I recall that on at least one occasion I hopped into the car of a complete stranger. Desperation drives one to extremes.

I don't recall ever picking up a girl at Ameche's drive-in, which I guess defeated the purpose of going there to begin with. I think it was because when I did manage to secure a vehicle it usually was my father's light green 1958 Chevy station wagon. Not a real chick magnet. But I kind of think that even the guys driving mustangs weren't having much luck either. 

Ameche's went the way of most drive-ins of the 60's. It was still there when I joined the Army in July of 1966, but by the time I got out in 1969 it was gone. It is, as of this writing, a McDonalds. 


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