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Drive in hungry, drive out full

By Staff
PERSONAL DELIVERY Amy Wright, a carhop at the new Bumper's Drive-In on Frontage Road near downtown Meridian, delivers an order. The popularity of drive-in food has risen over the years since the first drive-in restaurant opened in Glendale, Calif., in 1936. PHOTO BY PAULA MERRITT / THE MERIDIAN STAR
By Penny Randall / staff writer
Sept. 10, 2003
Just the thought of a drive-in restaurant sparks memories of girls in poodle skirts and guys in white T-shirts with rolled-up sleeves.
Teenagers of the 1940s and 1950s flocked to the popular eateries, sat on the hoods of their cars, socialized with each other and enjoyed a hamburger and chocolate shake.
But much has changed in the last 60 years since the first drive-in restaurant opened in Glendale, Calif., in 1936 and even during the last 15 years that Ervin Jones has worked at drive-ins.
Today, Jones works as the area director of Bumper's Drive-In. He oversees company restaurants in Meridian, Quitman, Waynesboro and Philadelphia.
It's been a week since the newly constructed Bumper's Drive-In opened on North Frontage Road near downtown Meridian. And Jones said business is better than ever.
Drive-in history
Drive-in restaurants have evolved from the days when small hamburger and drink stands popped up along well-traveled roads, providing motorists a place to get a quick meal or a cold drink.
Today, the food selection is almost limitless.
The Philly Steak Sandwich is served on a hoagie bun topped with Swiss cheese, mayonnaise, bell peppers and onions. You can even add mushrooms and jalapeo peppers.
Other requested items include chicken and shrimp dinners, rib-eye steak sandwiches, chili cheese tater tots and Cajun fries.
At Meridian's North Hills Sonic Drive-In, the hamburger is still king.
Popular desserts
Dessert is also a big seller at Sonic.
Through the years, some drive-in restaurants grew into franchise operations. Others remained family-owned businesses, many of which still close on Sundays like the famous Mel's Drive-In.
Filmmaker George Lucas used the California eatery as the centerpiece for his 1973 film "American Graffiti."
The drive-in restaurant concept, in which patrons are served food in their vehicles, dates back to before World War II.
The popularity of drive-ins peaked in America during the 1950s, but today the restaurants are enjoying a comeback, fueled by nostalgia and drive-in convenience.