Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today’s post comes again from the magic box of photos from Tom Conroy, stored on my desk, and which I am now exploring more fully during these continued quarantine days. I chose this one because it made me think of the early drive-in’s of my childhood – a summer source of great delight, although not as old as this beauty.
Carpenter’s Sandwiches clearly had a vast menu. A close look shows that in addition to a myriad variety of bbq, they offered bean chili, burgers, beer and stein churned buttermilk. Located at 6285 West Sunset Boulevard, other photos of its unusual architecture are available online. An early automotive blogger has documented it with six publicity photos, those attributed to the libraries at USC. My photo seems to have come first from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce (at 5520 Sunset Boulevard – there’s an enormous Target there now) and then a movie still archive in Santa Fe, New Mexico – stamps from both are on the back.
My photo could have been taken at the same time, but appears to show another side of the building. Sandwiches ranged from the high end, sirloin at twenty-five cents, to the low end of fifteen cents. (That blog post, mentioned above, with six additional photos of Carpenter’s can be found here.) My side of the building seems to feature the desserts and coconut custard, french apple and berry pie were all on offer. I like the snappy uniforms of the carhop attendants. It had a sharp, come hither look at night as well.
While I cannot find the ultimate date of demise of Carpenter’s it is easily traced as far as the early 1940’s. Founded by Harry B. Carpenter and his brother Charles, they continued to build their venues with distinctive architecture and a later version is shown below.
My own memories of ancient drive-ins is fairly foggy. There was a Stewart’s in a neighboring town, Atlantic Highlands, which seemed to feature the root beer brand and, visited only occasionally, seemed exotic at the time. Although originally a west cost chain, a quick search says that thirty such ones still existed in New Jersey in 2019. I have better memories of an early Dairy Queen which served burgers. It was located in Long Branch, New Jersey and near my grandmother’s house so it was a more frequent stop. It merged in my mind with MacDonald’s which was a slightly later entry but eventually took over more or less entirely.
Diary Queen eventually became a mostly ice cream only franchise near us and the one in my hometown was the very frequent scene of post-dinner visits with dad. (You could easily talk him into it – visits usually resulted in a vanilla cone with chocolate sprinkles for me – although a rare chocolate dip, or rainbow sprinkles could sneak in and an even more rare vanilla sundae with strawberry glop would lure me in. Dad was generally a chocolate cone man, as was my sister Loren. Edward, I can’t remember what you or mom ordered. I think mom often took a pass.) There was a time when a job at Dairy Queen would have been a pinnacle of a certain kind of success for me. I never achieved it, sad to say. My job as a short order cook and sub sandwich assembler at a pizza establishment was as close as I came.
As we make our first cautious moves into post-quarantine life here in New York City we are embracing eating outside – spontaneous evening cocktail strolls seem to quietly have taken hold, and I find myself fighting hard to resist the siren beckon of the Mr. Softee truck (Pop-Goes-the-Weasel playing over and over) in our neighborhood, late in the evenings. A bit further out, a variety of new drive-ins are springing up – I have read about films in diner parking lots, old drive-ins taking on new life. (Perhaps a live jazz show in at a drive-in? Could happen.) For now, on the cusp of this particular summer, we are in the middle of our first phase of getting back to life, not as it was but as it will be.