Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Return of the Drive-In Restaurant

Sonic Corp. has recently expanded operations from the southern states into the frozen north. The company has opened drive-in restaurants in Southgate, Flint and Mount Clemens in the past few months, recalling for us the days before “drive-in” morphed into “drive-through” in fast food service. The drive-in restaurant was a popular meeting place in the decades of the 1950s through the 1970s, allowing teens to gather and socialize, show off their cars, and play their music. In Avon Township (now Rochester Hills), the Brookland Drive-In on the south side of Auburn Road near Dequindre was an occasional treat for my family. During her high school years, Mom had worked there as a car hop; when we stopped there to visit her former employers, the owners would invariably treat my sister and me to the huge lollipops they sold there. After the Brookland Drive-In was gone, we patronized the A&W drive-in on South Hill near Avon Rd., where the Dunkin' Donuts shop is today. The Tuesday special was a coney dog and root beer in a real frosted mug for 75 cents. Even today's dollar menus can't beat that!
For a time in the 1960s, there was also drive-in service available at the Big Boy restaurant on North Main near Romeo, now the location of the Bangkok Cuisine eatery. That deep parking lot behind the building had speakers on posts where customers could park and order food from their cars, and waitstaff would bring their orders out to them. The car-side service was eliminated, however, long before Big Boy closed the location.

Photo: Mom on the job at the Brookland Drive-In about 1958.


  1. Great Photo! I remember seeing that drive-in but by the time I came along it was closed up and sat empty for a while--if I remember correctly. I do however, remember the A&W on the South Hill. We used to drive over there during lunch from Rochester High. I graduated from there in 1973 so it was still active up until that time. The McDonald's was not there at the time. Sometime kids would sneak over to the closest McDonald's on Perry Street in Pontiac. Also the Big Boy in town was still using their outside service until the late 70's. Thanks for the memories of those places.

  2. I had my license a week and drove through the Big Boy on 8 mile road, not knowing that there was a local law against driving through without stopping to get a meal. I lost my license, and had to pay a $90 ticket. That was more money than a full weeks wages at GM at the time. I think my buddy told I would get a ticket if I went through, but I thought he was joking.....he wasn't.