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An auspicious date in Columbia's History: June 26, 1956

It was 69 years ago that a new 'big city' type of drive-in restaurant opened in Columbia, KY


Fifty-nine years ago this day - June 26, 1956 - Ruel and Runie Wooten opened the doors of the Circle R Drive-In Restaurant and brought a completely new dining experience to Columbia and added several words to the local lexicon, including carhop, curb service, and drive-in. Not since the grand opening of the Meadow Hill Inn in the spring of '47 had an Adair County eatery attracted such attention or generated such excitement.

The next day, an article in the Adair County News headlined "New 'Circle R' Drive-In Opens" spoke of the establishment's many wonders and the employees therein:

"A new 'big city' type of drive-in restaurant, the 'Circle R Drive-In' of Mr. W.R. Wooten opened Tuesday on the outskirts of Columbia. Under construction since early March, the new building is on the site formerly occupied by the Hilltop Cafe on Jamestown Street, just beyond the top of the hill.

"The restaurant, which features curb service, is under the management of Mr. and Mrs. Marshall Rowe of Columbia. Aiding the couple are outside 'carhops' Joyce Lee and Diana Thompson, inside waitresses Betty Hoover and Faye Pelston and Dietician Mrs. John Pendleton.

"With parking spaces for over 50 cars at one time the 'Circle R' has an outside covered wing to protect a number of them from either the sun or rain.

"The interior of the drive-in is a cool shade of green to match the knotty pine paneling and inlaid linoleum block floor. The entire building is air-conditioned. The kitchen, over which Mrs. Pendleton presides, is finished in white tile.

"Complete with outside loudspeaker for the record player, the new business should give tourists and new-comers to Columbia a good first impression of the town.

"In addition to curb service, short orders and sandwiches, Mr. Wooten's 'Circle R' will feature 'King Freeze' ice cream, shakes and malts."

Ohhhhhhhhhh, the culinary delights of the menu!

For a mere 95 cents, you could enjoy a Kingburger -- "Twice as big. Twice as good. lb. of freshly ground beef in two patties. Smooth melted cheese. Shredded lettuce with our own special tartar sauce and pickle" -- with french fries, cole slaw, a large Coca Cola, Richardson's Root Beer, or a cup of coffee, and an "extra large, extra thick" malt or milkshake -- your choice of chocolate, pineapple, strawberry, or butterscotch.

Other items from the extensive menu included the Hill-Billy Bacon and Tomato Sandwich with "Plenty of thick sliced bacon...A three-decker for the hungry person" for 40 cents; a deluxe cheeseburger, 30 cents; a Hot Pup (french fried hot dog) with relish or barbecue sauce, 20 cents; and breakfast (two eggs, bacon, biscuit or toast, jelly, & coffee), 60 cents. For an extra dime, you could get "cured ham (not country)" instead of bacon.


What's your favorite Circle R memory?

(Excerpted / adapted from "Swinging Wide the Doors: The Circle R Drive-In Opens, 1956." Used with permission.)

This story was posted on 2015-06-26 09:30:14
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