What do cup holders have in common with glove compartment trays? Philosophically speaking, the transition from glove compartment trays to cup holders represents an example of how our culture has changed over the last 50 or so years. The use of cup holders reflect how we consume beverages in our cars and trucks today, as opposed to how we consumed our meals in our vehicles during the decades of the ’50s and ’60s.
Picture a balmy summer evening in the early 1960’s. A couple in their late teens are out on their first date. Robert, aged 17, asked his dad to borrow the family’s ’52 Olds 88 four-door sedan for the evening. After the movie they decide to go for something to eat at the local drive-in restaurant. They park their car at the curb beside a two-tone yellow and black ’56 Chevrolet Bel-Air 2-door hardtop. The young couple in the Bel-Air are snuggled up to each other like two kittens on a rug. Meanwhile, across from them, in a red and white ’58 Plymouth Sport Suburban station wagon, dad and mom are playing referee trying to restrain their three kids from killing each other in the back seat.
Bob turns the headlights on and a pretty car hop emerges from the small building. She smiles and takes down their order. macally adjustable automobile cup holder for mobile devices Minutes later she returns with a tray stacked with two foil-wrapped burgers, a basket of hot fries with ketchup and a couple of tall frothy root beers. Robert rolls up the driver’s window halfway and the server hangs the tray on the side window. Valerie opens the glove compartment door and Robert passes her the two cold root beers to place on the tray. As they consume their meal they engage in lively conversation about the important things in their lives…the upcoming chemistry exam, personal conflicts with teachers and the big geography project that has to be handed in before school the school year ends. By the time their discussion turned to the senior boys basketball team, now second in regional standings, they had finished their meal. Bob pulled out the light switch once again and within a minute the same blonde car hop reappeared to pick up the tray, pausing to ask how everything was. Before driving off, Robert and Valerie noticed their friends Mark and Rhonda, just cruising in Mark’s burgundy ’48 Ford Two-door coach. They chatted before leaving to cruise the down town streets…
This scene, repeated over and over across North America, typically friday or Saturday night during that carefree innocent era, as immortalized by the movie “American Graffiti.” Those of us who vividly recall that period in history, while we were in our teens and early twenties will no doubt claim that it was the best time in our lives. That may be right. Although, we are more apt to retain the memories of the good times and banish the bad ones to the darkest recesses of our brains.
The idea of drive-in restaurants di not begin in the 1950’s as some believe, however, they reached their apex in popularity during that decade. While it is true that in Canada, A&W established their first franchise with operators, Dick Bolte and Orval Helwege in 1956 on Portage Avenue in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the original company began in Lodi California in 1919. Although not the first drive-in (the first drive-in restaurant in North America opened in 1911), Roy Allen and Frank Wright opened a sidewalk stand offering a creamy beverage called A&W Root Beer. Capitalizing on the popularity of the automobile, they introduced their first “drive-in service,” inviting customers to pull off the road, park and enjoy their delicious new drink. As a result, sales soared and the fast food business was born.
Other franchise drive-in restaurants like “Tastee-Freeze” and “Dog ‘n Suds” were also getting in on this new phenomenon. Mom and pop operations were typical in most large towns or cities in North America, and were popular hangouts.
The “Baby Boomers,” those born between 1946 and 1964, forming the largest single demographic segment in our total population, have had a profound influence on marketing everything from pre-formulated baby food, toys like the hula hoop to muscle cars. This group was now beginning to exercise their purchasing power! Fast food was quickly becoming the teen’s staple diet.