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Then and Now photos: Drive-in departs, restaurant remains

Mon., March 11, 2013

The invention of the automobile changed everyday life in small and large ways. Independent travel, instead of horses, buggies or trains, became the norm. Travelers needed gas, convenient food and drink, and places to spend the night. The drive-in restaurant appeared in the early 1920s, when drivers in Ford Model Ts would pull in and “tray boys” would hop on the running board and take orders to expedite service, allowing guests to eat in their cars. The “carhop” jobs went to young women during World War II, and restaurant owners found female servers sold more food. In the drive-in’s heyday of the 1950s and 1960s, carhops wore themed uniforms and sometimes delivered food on roller skates. Businessman Orville Cox owned the Panda restaurant chain in Spokane and was on the board of the statewide restaurant association. At the group’s convention in 1968, a fashion show displayed racy new outfits for female carhops. The Spokesman-Review wrote of the event: “More than 100 Washington drive-in restaurant operators watched bug-eyed Wednesday as they were given a preview of the ‘new look’ in fashion for girl carhops. ‘Some of the new outfits … would look great in a nightclub with a few sequins added,’ said Gracie Hansen, a Portland club operator, as she narrated a show of drive-in attire. ‘See the scoop neck on this one!’ she exclaimed. ‘Kris is wearing a micro-skirt,’ she said. ‘They’re a bit less than a mini-skirt.’ Everyone could see that. ‘And notice the side pockets,’ Miss Hansen continued. ‘All the girls must have side pockets for the money.’ No one had noticed that. But delegates agreed pockets would be handy.” –Jesse Tinsley

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