Drive-in restaurants

This was posted recently on the “things that aren’t here anymore” thread, but let’s give it its own blog entry. Take it away, Judi Guizado:

“I was telling my mom, Jeanette (Acuna) Holsten, about this thread, and she was wondering if anyone remembers one of the first drive-in restaurants in the ’40s called Mona’s Drive-In, on Holt near Campus in Ontario. Two of her aunts worked there as car hops, wearing short skirts and serving food wearing roller skates. She remembers it was owned by a man named Price Barrett.”

Leaving aside the visual of “food wearing roller skates” — sorry, Judi, I couldn’t resist — we may as well talk about drive-in restaurants.

I hadn’t heard of Mona’s, but I’ve written about McDonald’s BBQ, a drive-in in Ontario on Holt at San Antonio in the 1940s. It was no relation to the McDonald brothers’ operation in San Bernardino. Then there was Mel’s at Holt and Palomares in Pomona, which opened in 1952, closed in 1995 and sold burgers initially for 18 cents. And let’s not forget A&W on Holt near Mountain in Ontario, which closed in 2006.

Anyone want to share memories of any of these places, or others?

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  • Jerry Lerma

    Didn’t Henry’s on Foothill and Garey have a drive-in? I seem to remember that the restaurant was divided into three sections: a dining room, a central kitchen/service core, and a car service area, all under John Lautner’s magnificent arcing wooden roof. It was like eating under a huge inverted canoe.

  • Scott in R.C.

    There was another A&W on Riverside Drive in Chino that changed to Andy’s Burgers #3 in the ’80s. The drive-up style parking lot is still in use but there are no car hops or food wearing roller skates. You need to walk up to the counter to place your order. I hear the food is pretty tasty but haven’t been there in quite a few years to check for myself.

    By the way, I was driving through Rowland Heights on Colima the other day and saw an old Taco Bell and an old Colonel Sanders (KFC) building about a block from one another. Different names on the buildings now, but the architecture on both was unmistakable.

  • JMac

    Gotta be Henrys for me. But the folks never liked to eat in the car, so we always ended up inside.

    Here is a classic pic of Henry’s. Gotta love the architecture of the place:

  • April Patterson

    I loved going to A & W in Ontario when I was growing up. So sad to see it close. My fave there were the taquitos. (I wasn’t a big root beer fan).

  • Joanne

    OK, in the early 1950s, Mel’s drive-in was known as just Mel’s according to hubbie.

    Another drive-in was the Townhouse on the NE corner of Holt and Towne during the late ’40s-early ’50s.

    Finally, there was the O&R drive-in at 607 W. Holt (NW corner of Holt and White), same time frame. Hubbie’s most vivid memory of the Townhouse was when his Model A’s oil-soaked battery caught fire in the parking lot!

  • Gene Harvey

    When you mention drive-ins, I’m with Jerry L and JMac (blogs above) in thinking first of Henry’s. And thanks, JMac for posting the photo link. Brings it all back!

    The big, round roof was later covered in glistening white gravel and sparkle when the whole place was converted to be the Tiffany nightclub. Does anyone besides me remember the many engagements in the early seventies at Tiffany’s of Donnie Brooks, the singer of some fame at the time (his first gold record was “Mission Bell”) who died just recently in 2007. After that, the disco craze hit and the Tiffany became the Odyssey Disco which prospered for quite awhile until the old wonderful building (which many of us still thought of as Henry’s) was torn down.

    These days you can get a Texas donut or a Wendy’s hamburger on the site. Ah, progress….

    [As a side-note, I passed by that intersection on Super Bowl Sunday and noticed Texas Donuts is gone, replaced by something called Donut Club. I’ll have to look into becoming a member. — DA]

  • Judi

    Hey now, David!

    How do you know for a fact that the food DIDN’T wear roller skates in the ’40s?! Were you there, huh? Were you? I’ll have you know that they made teeny-tiny sets for hot dogs, a little bigger ones for cheeseburgers, and…

    Okay, so I grammatically goofed. Of course, I meant “serving food WHILE wearing roller skates.” At least you didn’t correct it with a red pen and give me a grade.

    You have permission to correct my improper sentence structure, unless you hold even the slightest doubt about culinary modes of transportation from the mid-20th century.

    [I do fix most grammar and spelling before posting people’s comments. I considered changing the roller-skating food line. But, really, it was more fun to leave it! — DA]

  • Charles Bentley


    Because I cannot personally provide memories from the era, I rely on my father’s recollections in such instances. I spoke with him and he agrees with Judi’s story, but with a few alterations.

    In the 1940s it was Price’s Snappy Service and Drive-In that sat on the north side of Holt Blvd. just east of Monterey Ave. in Ontario. The Snappy Service was in reference to Price’s gasoline station, which was located on the NE corner of Holt and Monterey. Adjacent to it on the east was the drive-in, which did feature car hop service and good food.

    My dad remembers both Mel’s and Henry’s, but said that Price’s was well established before those two came on the scene.

    As for me, my early memories of local burger places include the All-State Frosty on Fourth St., the Burger Q on Mountain Ave. (I still love the name!) and the A&W on Holt Avenue (as well as the one on Foothill Blvd. in Upland).

    And I still remember my first visit to the McDonalds on Mountain Ave. There was no drive-thru and no indoor seating, but as kids we loved sitting by the window that looked in at employees cutting up real potatoes to make the french fries.

    Speaking of A&W, how many remember getting take-home containers of the root beer in those cardboard cones?

  • Jon Scott

    In the late ’60s I applied for a dishwasher job at Henry’s. I can’t remember why i didn’t get the job. But a few years later in the ’70s, I was playing in a band that played at Tiffany’s a number of times. I think i have an old poster somewhere.

    I can’t remember a lot about the place but inside was dark and full of smoke, red leather booths and chairs. And lots of girls. Ahh, the ’70s.

    Does anyone remember at Mel’s you ordered your hamburger and drinks at one window and fries at another? Now why do i remember that?

  • melanie

    i’d love to see that pic of Henry’s but the link leads to a Groups on Msn and I assume online needs a password?

    [Melanie, go to the Eateries Past category on this blog’s home page and scroll down. Plenty of Henry’s photos there. — DA]

  • barbara f

    Speaking of Pomona Drive-Ins restaurants in the late 50s, don’t forget Hillbilly Haven thrived there once. Their logos were gargoyle caricatures, cartoonish and grotesque hillbilly figures looking a bit like Little Abner but rougher around the edges, more of the belligerent lumberjack variety. The highly glossed figures adorned the signage and the white enameled wood outdoor menu board. One figure with a shock of layered hair and cowlick peeked over the top edge of a sign like the famed “Elmer was here” drawing of the 40s. Located somewhere on the northside on Holt …. Of course they served Hillbilly burgers, which I confess I did not find at all appetizing — hamburger meat served on rolls not hamburger buns.

    [Was that the barn-like building that later became Red Hill Pizza? It’s been replaced by a Walgreens. — DA]

  • barbara f

    Dave, I don’t recall a barn-like structure … the place was set in from the street to accommodate cars for drive-in service. I don’t even believe there was inside sit-down service.