by Pete Zizka


It goes without saying that the coronavirus has changed the way America lives and it has forced us to make adaptations to almost every activity with which we are familiar. Curiously, one of the adaptations has simply brought us back to a popular concept from former times, the drive-in restaurant. It is widely believed that the first drive-in restaurant was opened in 1921 in Texas. At many, carhops would bring food to the cars waiting in the lot..  At others, such as those that will be mentioned in today’s article, patrons went inside or to a window, picked up an order and then ate in their cars. (Looking back, that was early “social distancing”.) For people in our area, it becomes apparent that drive-ins’ popularity was not due just to the quality of food served by them, but also by their atmosphere and the personalities of their owners. Kerman’s was probably this area’s first drive-in. It was run for just over 30 years by Kerman Lavigne and was located on West Main Street between Trapella Road and Brown Ave. One contributor to a thread on drive-ins said, ‘(He had) the best burgers and hot dogs around. I think he was the first drive in in the willi area”. Another remembered, “My brother Charlie took me there when I was 8 years old. I ordered a burger with mayo, lettuce and tomato. This embarrassed (my brother) and he said “Nobody has it that way. You should have it with ketchup and relish.” Kerman said “leave the kid alone, It’s called a California burger” I got what I wanted. Several others mentioned that Kerman was a “nice man” and one who was associated with many local organizations. Someone else said that in high school, he was president of the WHS Dramatic Society”.


Raymond’s Drive-In, located on Main Street and run by Ray Ducharme, was known for its cheeseburgers, and vanilla shakes and remembered as a teenage place to gather. It was, “(The) place to go after the Capitol let out. I watched the pretty WHS upper classmen girls and wished I were older.”” Known for malts and burgers”. “On Friday and Saturday nights the lot was always packed and standing room only inside.” A former worker at Raymond’s said, “ Having worked at Raymond's Drive In, which became the Chamber of Commerce Building at the corner of Bridge and Main, I recall the best selling "foot long" hot dog that was deep fried in lard and served on a toasted bun with grilled peppers and onions at 35 cents. Lot of stuff used to go on in that parking lot after dark.” A response to that was, “ Well I guess I would probably know you since I was in Ray's a lot in those days alright. After basketball games at WHS -- we used to head down there and get burgers and shakes (vanilla the best)...we all raised lots of commotion in Ray's lot.” Ray’s was probably best summed up by this reader, “ Ray's was a good place alright. We were just out of Korea then and America was invincible.....Ike was in and Elvis too.”


Playmore Park generated many memories. It was run by Rosario “Lefty” Desjarlais. One person wrote,”I remember Lefty, who made great hot dogs and burgers and who would also rent clubs and golf balls to play his driving range course in back of the drive-in. The course was taken up when Coleman Bros. circus came to town each May and set up there.” Lefty’s grinders were a huge hit, generating comments such as, “Lefty made the best cheeseburg grinders”; “Steak grinders! In the early 70’s we would go there after second shift at Brand-Rex. “Do you remember the meat sauce he put on the grinders was terrific?” “Can't believe no one remembers The salami grinders. The salami was sliced the long way so when he put it on the roll it fit perfect. He used to advertise this on WILI.” “Lefty” himself was fondly recalled by many. Evidently he was a believer in UFOS and shared his stories with many folks. One reader said, “Lefty was my first learning of anti-gravity and now we create it in the lab with superconductors. Lefty was way ahead of his time!” Another said,”Lefty met seven of the Venusians in Connecticut. When we asked how he could tell Venusians from regular folks, he said, ‘Make them take off their sunglasses. The don't have pupils in their eyes.’" He also told us, "they don't leave fingerprints on items they touch”. We’ll take more looks at eating places and the people who owned them in future articles.






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