Summer means drive-ins and Root Beer floats

A look back at drive-ins in 1959

Do you remember when summer nights meant it was time to take your Chevy to the local drive-in, hang out and eat a burger and some fries?

This week Craig Wirth takes a look back at some of the family owned drive-ins around the state. It’s all Wirth Watching.

There was Don Carlos Arctic Circle on 9th South and of course there were (and still are) Dee’s all over town.

Prices were a lot different back then. A&W had root beers for just 5 cents, and in North Salt Lake, at the one stop light, hamburgers were only 19 cents.

In 1959 at Hires Big H burgers were 30 cents. Don Hale started frying Big H. burgers on 4th South and 7th East. At that time 7th East was a two lane road and Hires was just a neighborhood beer and burger joint.


Back then carhops weren’t as rare. A waiter or waitress would bring the food out to you in your car. Carhops still exist at Hires downtown, but it’s a little different than it was back then.

Now the grandkids of those who used to go to the drive-in order from the carhop’s grandkids—and instead of sitting in an old Chevy, they’re in hybrid cars.

Greg Halterman used to work at Hires. He still comes back to order.

“Well in all honesty it's just kind of fun you know…you don't have to go inside and sit down, you can sit out here and talk with your buddy or listen to the radio…[It’s] just [convenient], different…it's fun,” he said.

Most people come for the Big H but don’t even know what the H stands for.

Don Hale’s son Mark Hale says the H could stand for lots of different things.

“It could stand for Hale or hamburger or Hires…Let's just say one [it’s] one of those so we never defined exactly where it comes from, but I think it was just you know--a great um a catchy name,” he said.

Mark says over the years they have gone through a million pounds of fries. And who eats fries without fry sauce? For many customers the fry sauce is the best part.

When asked what was the one thing he’d never like to see go off the menu Greg Halterman said it was the sauce.

Back in the day their specialty was the Root Beer Freeze.

“Most people, um have never heard of a Root Beer freeze”, Mark Hale said. “I think my dad actually created it. A Root Beer freeze is a Root Beer shake with Root Beer soda added to it so it gives it a little more zip. It's a really refreshing drink, certainly in the summer time.”

Well…it’s no longer the fifties, and inside Hires has been remodeled. It can now seat 100 people. A lot has changed, except for a good old frosty mug of Hires Root Beer.

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