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Skagit River Journal

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Covers from British Columbia to Puget Sound. Counties covered: Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan, Snohomish & BC. An evolving history dedicated to committing random acts of historical kindness
Noel V. Bourasaw, editor (bullet) 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
Home of the Tarheel Stomp (bullet) Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug

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1949 Dairy Queen now Hal's Drive-In
and a 2011 update

By Noel V. Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal, ©1999
      Journal ed. note: A reader recently asked what was the first drive-in the Sedro-Woolley and upper-Skagit river area. I wrote this story in July 1999 for the 50th anniversary of Hal's Drive-In in Sedro-Woolley. And a reader has supplied an update at the end.

(Original Dairy Queen)
The original Sedro-Woolley Dairy Queen, circa early 1960s?

      Hal's Drive-In, at 321 State Street in Sedro-Woolley, will celebrate its 50th Anniversary on July 10, 1999. Free ice cream cones and a special drawing for a new bicycle will be featured at both Hal's locations, including Hwy 20 in Concrete. Hal's opened on July 9, 1949, as Pyeatt's Dairy Queen, the first drive-in in Sedro-Woolley.
      The Badgley family ushered in the drive-in era with free ice cream cones and had to serve nearly 2,000 of them until midnight to help excited customers stave off 90-degree heat. Bob Anderson and Cheerie Carr, the current owners, will repeat the free ice-cream offer from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on July 10, courtesy of Riverside Distributors. They will also offer free Pepsi drinks with food purchase, courtesy of Walton Beverage. A bicycle will be the grand prize at a drawing at both locations, courtesy of Walton. The owners are asking longtime patrons to bring in their photos and memories of the drive-in to help prepare for the celebration.
      R.G. Badgley and his son John opened the drive-in in much smaller quarters, less than half the size of today's Hal's. John recalled in a 1994 interview that ice cream was the only item on the menu, in the revolutionary new soft style, described as being "as soft as velvet." Cones were sold for 15, 20, 25 and 30 cents for up to four curly decks and some hardy teenagers ordered custom cones with six stacks, which soon resembled the leaning tower of Pisa. Quarts were sold for 55 cents and sundaes were whipped up for 20 and 30 cents.

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      The Pyeatt family opened another Dairy Queen in Mount Vernon the same day. They owned the franchise for Skagit County and the Badgleys bought it from them within a year. (Ed. note: The original news article did not give the names of the Pyeatts and we hope a reader will know. The only family we know of were early pioneers of Whatcom County.) The original building was constructed of concrete blocks and measured 20 by 36 feet, with an all-glass front. Bob Parker, the property owner then, contracted the Hanson & Browne Co. to build it, as soon as they finished a chicken house on the Kimble farm west of town. The Clark house originally stood on the site, the home of Sedro-Woolley Mayor Spud Walley's mother and stepfather. The drive-in spot was once sandwiched between the McClellan house to the west and the historic Hammer mansion to the east.
      John Badgley recalled that they used a hand-cranked machine for the first couple of years. He operated it himself most of the time and soon built a ledge in the back that served as his cot for staying overnight. His father owned a grocery store in Bellingham and came down to help on Sundays. Mrs. Isabel (Isabelle) Hammer, who lived on the corner to the east, brought him cookies. And Dolores Renfro, who still lives across the alley, and her late father, Harold, often served him dinner. The Hammer mansion next door, on the southwest corner of Fourth street, was demolished in Dec. 30, 1966, and replaced by a bank.
      After John went into the service and then worked in Bellingham, the Badgleys sold the drive-in in 1956 to Zola Lipsey, who was always known as Mom. She changed the name to Sedro-Woolley Drive-In and she and her son Jerry expanded the first time to accommodate stoves. She added hamburgers and other food to the menu and also added a new automatic milk shake machine and two ice cream machines. She recalled in a 1994 interview that back then she used to buy whole cows from local farms and grinds the meat for hamburgers.
      She subsequently sold out on April 16, 1964, to Hal Carter, who renamed the place Hal's. Both Lipsey and Carter acted as mentors to their young workers and built up a staff that emphasized personalized customer service. That was a novel concept then but remains as Hal's most important service today. Dennis Carmen later owned Hal's for a short while and he subsequently sold out to Allen and Angie Fox.
      Anderson and Carr bought the drive-in on Jan. 1, 1993, and made substantial additions over the past five years, especially adding more space for inside dining. They hired a design consultant who helped them retain the look of the original historic drive-in and also add picnic dining outside in front. Business has grown so much in the past six years that they also doubled the cooking space and adding drive-up order windows, making service even faster.
      Hal's has successfully competed against the big fast-food chains with a combination of service and totally remodeling their kitchen. The owners installed a window onto the kitchen so that diners can see their food being prepared, and each order is custom-cooked to the customer's request. They are especially pleased that now the grandchildren of the original patrons are eating there in droves. A car even arrived recently with four generations of Hal's patrons. Hal's especially wants families to celebrate their anniversary with them on July 10. Please phone 855-0868 if you have memories or photos to share. And please copy or scan the same and share with us for a future update.

2011 update
      We opened up the mail this week to find a most welcome reader's update; we get up to a dozen of those a month sometimes. Dany Johnson is a far-flung, long-time reader who lives in Granada, Spain, and is a descendant of upriver families. He helped us sort out the Pyatt/Pyeatt/Pyatte genealogy.
      As he notes, "Adolphus Ulysses Clark, born North Carolina, (1869-1956) moved to Skagit county in 1904, died in Bellingham, WA in 1956. They made their home in Marblemount. A niece to Adolphus, Pettie (Clark) Pyatte (1883-1964), daughter of Columbus Warsaw Clark and Rebecca Burleson, moved to Concrete, Skagit county in the 1950's, having arrived from Avery county All of these people left descendents." And looking at Dany's family tree, we think Avery County may have been the base for the family that first owned the Dairy Queen here. We need, therefore, for a reader to recall what their names were.
      Dany explained more of his tree, but doubts that they are directly related to the DQ family. "There were at least two different Pyatt/Pyeatt/Pyatte families that were associated with Skagit county, those from Arkansas, and those from NC. To date, the connection between the two families, (if any) has not been established. I am from the NC Pyattes. My grandfather, Earl Detroy Pyatte (1906-1966) migrated to WA from Avery county, NC between 1935-1936. He eventually ended up in Darrington, and that's where our family got started. His brother, (Columbus) Warsaw Pyatte, (1910-1979) migrated out to WA (Skagit county) sometime before 1952, and eventually ended up living in Mount Vernon where he spent some 20 years living until he died. Their mother, Pettie (Clark) Pyatte moved to Rockport from NC sometime after her divorce in 1943. That is where she lived until she died." Thank you, Dany, for helping us and this will add to our Tarheel genealogical research, especially if others pipe in.
      One thing we have established is that Dany's family is a distinct wing apart from the family of the famous Henry J. Pyeatt, born in Arkansas in 1854, and who came to Ferndale in 1883 to work for his even more famous uncle, John Tennant. But we suspect that the early owners were from that Ferndale family because of their unique spelling, Pyeatt.
      Re: Hal's. I once chatted with the daughter of one of the former owners. She emphasized how the regular customers did not abide by change very well. They liked menu items just like they tasted in the '60s. She worked there part-time and her father decided to change the "goop," or the condiment spread on the burger buns. She said a revolt nearly broke out with some of the regulars. By the way, as an aside, did you ever taste a deluxe burger from the old Short Stop drive-in, on the eastern outskirts of Mount Vernon, on the road in from Big Lake, near to where the nursery stands today? Most divine burger I remember from Skagit County childhood, almost equal to my adult favorite, the Iceberg drive-in, in Walla Walla. And I still love the Hal's milk shakes. I have to chuckle whenever I or one of my friends complains about the high cost of drive-in food today, compared to the "good ole days" of the '50s and '60s. Folks sometimes wonder why there aren't any 15-cent hamburgers any more, like in 1950. Well, as Bob and Cheerie would point out, the wages paid back then (also to mainly beautiful high school girls) were 75 cents to a dollar an hour, while they pay ten times that now. And gas was often less than 25 cents a gallon. So, there you go.
      And finally, we add this personal note. I remember the opening very well from 1949, even though I was only a tyke, just a couple months shy of five. We lived out in the Utopia district, east of Sedro-Woolley, next to Francis "Punk" and Ella Atwell. We didn't buy ice cream at the store. Mom let me help her crank up a machine by hand, using rock salt and real cream and wonderful fruit, including blueberries, blackberries and boysenberries. We had never heard of such a thing as soft ice cream. My late brother, Jerry, was 14 at the time and known far and wide for his prodigious feats of chow-down, without gaining much weight. As a promotion at the grand opening, a kid could pay a nickel for a soft-ice cream cone and then could have as many soft swirl-piles added on, but you had to eat it all while standing there. I remember the waitress asked him how many he wanted. He said, I'll tell you when, and didn't stop her until there were six or seven stacks, almost enough to make it tumble over under its own weight. Jerry wolfed it all down and was congratulated by the owner. "Need anything else, son," the feller asked. "Yes," Jerry responded, "could I do that again with one of them chocolate-dipped cones?" You had to be there.

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