FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000

Drive-thru

While fast-food restaurants had been around since the 1920s, drive-thru dining came of age in car-crazy California in the 1950s.  By the 1970s, major fast-food franchises nationwide began to install drive-thru windows. With more divorces, single-parent households, after-school activities, and women working outside the home, fast food that you could order and pick up without leaving your car became commonplace.

Lap mat, 1976

At the first In-N-Out Burger drive-thru, which opened in California in 1948, customers received sheets of butcher paper to protect their laps while eating in their cars. Soon, printed “lap mats” were a regular feature of the chain. Gift of In-N-Out Burger.

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Lap mat, 1988

Gift of In-N-Out Burger

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Speaker-box panel, early 1960s

Jack in the Box restaurants, opened in 1951, had no inside seating.  Customers in their cars ordered using a two-way speaker. The concept was so new that customers had to be warned that a disembodied voice would speak to them. Gift of Brian A. Luscomb.

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Menu board, early 1960s

Gift of Brian A. Luscomb

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Drive thru, about 1960

Drive thru, about 1960

A giant clown and signage directed customers to the two-way speaker where they placed their orders at a Jack in the Box in Southern California. Courtesy of Jack in the Box.

Drive thru and walk up, about 1970

Drive thru and walk up, about 1970

Courtesy of Jack in the Box