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TIME TOUR: The local drive-ins

by Elizabeth Robbins | July 31, 2020 at 11:36 a.m.
Cook’s Ice Cream, located on Albert Pike until it closed in 1971, was one a numerous drive-ins around Hot Springs that each had their own loyal following a patrons. - Photo courtesy of the Garland County Historical Society

To a lot of people, growing up in Hot Springs wasn’t special because of our famous bath houses or historic buildings. It was special because, on crisp fall nights after the big game or on lazy summer afternoons, they found cold root beer, hot rock ‘n’ roll, and good friends at local drive-ins. So let’s go cruisin’ around town and back in time.

Up on Park Avenue, turn in at Phillips Willow Room and Drive-in, which some say had the first drive-through window in Hot Springs. From 1940 through the 1960s (when The Vapors was built on its site), Phillips was the cool place to be.

Just a little farther up Park Avenue, visit Butchie’s Drive-in. Built in 1952, its Art Modern style earned Butchie’s a place on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. In 1958, Butchie’s became the Polar Ice Cream Bar; from 1964-1976, the Beef Bar; from 1978-1984, Rocky’s Restaurant; and from 1988-today, Bailey’s Dairy Treat.

Now head south on Central and turn onto Broadway. At 414 Broadway, you could have stopped at King Kone from 1949-1971. From 1971 until today you’d find King Kone at 1505 Malvern. Also on Malvern, from 1955 to 1961, you could stop in at our first A&W (where’s Peter’s Flooring and Paint is today). Swing back to Central and, from 1957-1961, you could have some fries at Bob’s Drive-in (previously known as Clay’s) at 1927 Central.

Time to rev up the engine and check out the action in South Hot Springs. No way to go past Cook’s Ice Cream on Albert Pike (until it closed in 1971) without stopping for a shake or a sundae. Still hungry? Drive to Albert Pike and Richard Street and get a burger at McBride’s (from 1957-1966). From 1964-1984, you could go a little farther on Albert Pike and get a frosty mug of root beer at the relocated A&W.

It’s time to head back toward town and see who’s pulled into DQ. Since 1950, Dairy Queen at 708 W. Grand has served up burgers, ice cream and good times. Although the original DQ, which was very near the street, was replaced in 1978 by a more modern facility at the back of the lot, the good times have continued.

There were more drive-ins, of course, than we have time to visit today. Most were local businesses, not franchises, and each had a loyal following. Before email and texting and cell phones, meeting friends at a burger or ice cream place was an important way to stay connected. And somehow, of course, in the past, burgers were juicier, shakes were colder, and fries were tastier when we were laughing, gossiping, flirting, breaking up, or just hanging out with the gang at the drive-in.

Time Tour is a monthly history feature provided courtesy of the Garland County Historical Society. For more information, GCHS may be contacted by email at [email protected] or phone at 501-321-2159.

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