It's Friday night. Mom had a rough day with us kids and fell asleep in the bedroom. Dad has just walked
in hungry, after putting in a full day Lou's Milan Shell. There's nothing happening in the kitchen. What
Happen's next? We wake up mom and everybody gets into dads Pontiac and heads for the A&W Drive-In! At
one time in the Quad Cities, We had roughly 7 A&W Root Beer stands in operation. Moline's 7th street
and 19th avenue (now a Subway) and the one on 23rd avenue in Moline (Zeglin's) were our favorites. They
both had the most delicious Root Beer in the world! McDonalds were a rarity as were many of the other
chains that have become such a commonplace today. We always enjoyed going out to eat at the A&W. Man,
I miss those burgers, the Mama burger, Papa burger, and the Baby burger. You could order the food right
from your car, and the car hop would bring it out and hang the tray on your window! The burgers were
the best, and you had that heavenly A&W Root Beer to wash it down with. Remember the fried cheese curds?
They were like todays cheese sticks. In 1978, A&W became officially known as a restaurant, not a drive-in.
Carhop service began to fade. The two locations I mentioned are just a fading memory.. But there is the
Long John Silvers/A&W by Southpark Mall. They still have on tap that unique mead brewed Root Beer with
the secret recipe. But I doubt they will carry it to your car. The drive-in of yesterday is hard to find.
But the memories of my childhood are as clear as if we had been there just yesterday.
Don't Cook Tonight Call Chicken Delight!
Don't Cook Tonight, Call Chicken Delight!. The company was founded in 1952 in Rock Island, Illinois
by a young entrepeneur named Al Tunik. Today the former Pizza Delight company headquarters house Alfano's
Pizza on 11th street in Rock Island. Tunik was said to be the man who invented the modern day franchise.
Tunik purchased some deep fryers from a local restaurant that was going out of business. He installed
the fryers and got them functional. He experimented with different deep fried foods, looking for something
to go along with French Fries. At that time, chicken was pan fried, roasted or steamed, and all of that
took a long time, making them a poor fast food item. Al Tunik made a spicy breading and coated the chicken,
and dropped it in to the hot oil. The chicken cooked very fast, and the deep frying sealed the juices
Chicken Delight was born.
Al decided to market the Chicken Delights through
small take out and delivery locations. Remember, this was at the end of the Korean war, and a lot of
women were taking jobs outside of the home. The slogan "Dont Cook Tonight...Call Chicken Delight, became
known throughout North America. During the 1960's Tunik grew the chain to over 1000 locations across
the U.S. Al Tunik sold the chain to Consolidated Foods (now Sara Lee) in 1964. By the late 1960's the
chain was facing stiff competition from the new chains of McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken. By 1971
most of the Chicken Delight chains were gone. In 1979 Chicken Delight Canada bought the remaining American
operations, and there are still a few operating in the U.S. today. If you take ever stop in at Alfanos
Pizza in Rock Island, take a look around. This is where Al Tunik, inventor of the modern day franchise
business model, started it all.
UNCLE SAMS DISCO Davenport, Iowa
Uncle Sams (Davenport, Iowa) Remember the days of platform shoes, bell bottom pants and disco balls?
During the 1970's, Davenport, Iowa was home to one of the grooviest disco clubs around. Uncle Sams was
strictly a disco, it was very large, and held roughly 500 patrons. It featured a lighted dance floor
with several video screens.(Super 8 movies). One of the regular opening songs each night was "Ridin'
the Storm Out". Uncle Sam's would take video's of the customers having a good time and play them back
on the large video screens. There was a huge disco ball hung above the center of the dance floor. The
DJ's spun records from the ceiling hung DJ booth. The number one song in 1978 was "Night Fever" by the
Bee Gees, #2 "Shadow Dancing" by Andy Gibb, and #3 was "Stayin Alive" by the Bee Gees. #4 was "Kiss you
all over" by Exile (local jock Jack Carey lost his job for refusing to play this song on the air) but
that's another story. Ladies Night was on Tuesdays, Dime nights were on Wednesdays, On Wednesdays,
it was $2.50 to get in the door, and the drinks were 10 cents until midnight. The special house drink
was a "Firecracker", it sold for $3.50. You could keep the glass after you finished the drink. After
the movie Saturday Night Fever came out, it was next to impossible to get in to Uncle Sams. Disco Fever
was at an all time high. I started going there in 1977 (I was a senior in high school) back than drinking
age was 18. After a night of socializing and dancing, we would head across the parking lot to Perkins
for breakfast. I turned 50 in June-2009, and I gotta say, some of the best times of my life were spent
at Uncle Sams in Davenport. Aaahhh the memories.
Take another look at ZAYRE
Zayre will forever hold a special place in my heart. In 1972 I began attending Edison Jr. High in Rock
Island, Il. I was in the seventh grade.I would start my daily ritual at the Mister Donut, located on
the southeast corner of the Rock Island Zayre parking lot. A cup of Hot Chocalate, and a donut for breakfast,
and it was off to school. After school, I would wait for a ride from my mom while hanging out at ZAYRE.
In 1972 Zayre was celebrating its 16th year in business, 180 stores strong, and growing at a nice speed.
Rock Island's Zayre was one of 50 stores in the chain with a gas station, located on the south side of
the property. Gas was 35 cents a gallon, and five bucks would get you close to a full tank. Zayre had
a television department, and I would hang out there for a while after school, and watch The Beverly Hillbillies,
Green Acres, Mayberry R.F.D. , Family Affair and Hogans Heroes. Once in a while I would even catch "Love
American Style". It was like watching "That 70's Show" in real time. Flowered shirts, super wide bell
bottom pants, and mini skirts- (We will talk about Bill and his platform shoes when we get to 1976).
Zayre had a hardware department, clothing and shoe department, and stocked records, tapes, fabric and
yarn. And don't forget the toy department. Things were going well, but by 1975 the future was beginning
to look bleak for any store without a "K" in its name. Zayre soon launched the "Take another look at
Zayre" promotion. Years later, our beloved Zayre would close, along with Kings Food Host and Mister Donut.
What was once a very busy section of Rock Islands 11th street, would soon become just another fading
memory, Little did I know how prophetic Archie and Edith were as they sang "Those were the days"!
Remember that wonderful Sambo's Restaurant in Rock Island on 31st avenue and 11th street? I remember
stopping in for a bite to eat after a full night of cruising the ones and the avenue. My favorite dish
was their mouth watering pancakes with "Tiger butter" and bacon and eggs. They also had great chicken
and burgers. The chain was started in 1957 by Sam Battisone and Newell Bohnett. The name was taken from
portions of the owners names. The restaurant was an instant sucess, due to its family friendly sit down
dining environment, and very low prices. By 1978, Sambo's had 1200 outlets in the US. Rock Island's
location was one of the first 100 stores to open. The logo shown above was an indian boy and a tiger.
As the story goes, Sambo, an indian boy went into the jungle and lost his clothes to bullying tigers.
But the tigers began chase each other around and eventually melt into butter, which Sambo puts on his
pancakes and eats. The restaurant was themed around the childs story, and pancakes became their signature
dish. Sambo's also used wooden nickels as part of their promotion for selling coffee;one could exchange
a wooden nickel for a cup of coffee, and you could buy the nickels in bundles(ie., ten for a dollar).
By 1979, The chain began to fall on hard financial times. The Rock Island Sambo's closed in the 80's.
Denny's restaurant chain purchased roughly 800 of the remaining Sambo's and rechristened them as Denny's.
By 1989 only the origininal Sambo's in Santa Barbara remained. You can purchase a vintage 8x10 color
print of the Rock Island Sambo's online from Santa Barbara photographer Tim Putz. Alas, all great
things must come to an end. The good food and service of the Rock Island Sambo's is but a fading memory.
But when I stop at 31st avenue and 11th street Rock Island, I see ghosts. Ghosts of the way things
used to be. Keep on cruisin! Shane
Redstone Theaters MEMRI, SEMRI, OASIS,CORRAL and Bel Air
Semri Drive-In Silvis, Il. from Bob Enlow Milan, Il
This is the license plate cover given out at the MEMRI at their grand opening. There were 200 given
away. courtesy of Bob Enlow.
The MEMRI Drive-In in Milan, Il Located on Route 67 and Airport road where HyVee sits today
Drive-In theatre hat from Bob Enlow in Milan, Il. Bob worked at the Memri Drive-In from 1969-1972
Oasis Drive-In North Brady street Davenport, Ia. courtesy David Johnson
7-27-08 Times change. People change. What was once a hot fad becomes yesterdays news. The Memri
drive-in is gone. The place has been flattened long ago by a wrecking ball. HyVee is now where one
of the greatest drive-in's ever built once stood. I grew up in the city of Rock Island. My home drive-in
was the Memri. The Quad Cities was fortunate enough to have 5 drive-ins at one time. The Memri in Milan,
(it stood for Milan-East Moline-Rock Island), the Semri in Silvis, the Corral in Coal Valley, The Bel-Air,
next to the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport and the Oasis on Davenport's North Brady street.
But the Memri was my theater. They showed great trailers before the show, and they had a great concession
stand. They would take a 10 minute intermission between shows. The intermission trailer I remember most
was the alien who stopped in for a bite to eat. At the end of the trailer, the concessionair said "They
come from miles to enjoy our intermission"! I have a video below of the trailer, you just have to take
time to watch it. The Memri opened in 1948, the first drive-in theatre to open in the Quad Cities, with
the film "Abilene Town". The theatre could accomodate about 700 cars and was located next to route 67
in Milan. I remember mom and dad popping up paper grocery sacks full of popcorn to take to the movies,
to save money. Car load night was a promotion when you could get a whole car full of people in for $6
bucks. And who could forget trying to sneak people in to the movies in the trunk of your car? How about
parking in the back row with your favorite girl. There are a lot of great websites to visit too, for
drive-in history. Roadside Peek and WaterWinterWonderland are rich in information. The Memri drive-in
continued to operate until 1986. I was there for the final seasons last double feature, "Aliens" and
"Big Trouble in Little China". Nothing can last forever. Marando's is gone. So is Deb's Drive-in.
(I loved their DelMonaco steak sandwich). The Memri was demolished in 1986 to make room for more parking
at the Showcase Cinemas in Milan. That 11screen complex closed in 2002 due to increased competition from
nearby multiplexes. The Memri will forever hold a special place in my mind. There was nothing like
seing a movie, under the stars, on that really big screen. Never will that old Memri magic rise again.