. . . A trip down memory lane
It was a victim of changing economic times. Greenbriar Shopping Mall in Atlanta now has no anchor tenants and has experienced many gun fights, robberies and passion murders in recent years. Originally, the first restaurant was a “cubby hole,” which prepared Chick-fil-a sandwiches and french fries. Customers sat at tables in a food court. The restaurant soon expanded to take in several cubby holes. Age wise, the expanded restaurant is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, but preservation would be impossible in a large shopping mall that seems doomed.
This is a news stories that brings back many happy memories from my youth. Prior to the opening of the first Chick-Fil-A restaurant, my friends and I ate many a meal at the Dwarf House Diner, where the Chick-Fil-A sandwich was invented. I wrote the teen column for the Atlanta Suburban Reporter, so Truett Cathy, the owner, invited me to the grand opening of his first “modern” restaurant at Greenbriar Mall. It was a big thrill with Truett introduced me to the glamorous TV news reporters! You can see how minuscule the first Chick-fil-A originally was . . . but for us it was a big deal . . . a local place for teens to hang out, turning into a fast food franchise.
My sister worked at Chick-fil-A while in school. Several cousins went to work for them after college, when the company was just beginning to expand beyond Metro Atlanta. Chick-fil-A’ ‘s massive corporate headquarters complex is very close to where I lived in high school.
by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner
The first Eat Mor Chikin sign on Interstate 75 in Atlanta
Now having 2,938 restaurants in the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada, Chick-fil-A has become the most popular “chicken” restaurant and is poised to expand dramatically in the international market. It’s not just the number of restaurants, but the dramatic sales in most of those individual restaurants. Whereas many fast food restaurants are experiencing diminishing sales, Chick-fil-A restaurants continually show increased profitability . . . despite being closed on Sundays. LOL
Chick-Fil-A, Inc. is becoming somewhat of an empire, which is investing those profits into other activities. It has sponsored the Peach Football Bowl since 1997. The two sons of the company’s founder, Truitt Cathy, are now majority owners of one of the world’s large film studio complexes in Fayette County, GA. Most of the Marvel Comics and Disney projects are filmed there . . . as are several top tier TV series. Their profits have also been funneled through the WinShape Foundation into many foundations, healthcare facilities and schools.
The company executives are saying very little about the closing of their first restaurant, so I thought readers might enjoy a trip into the past to learn about the origins of Chick-fil-A and what it was like to live in those times.
In 1946, after returning home from serving in World War II, Truett and Ben Cathy bought a small house near the Atlanta Airport and converted it into a 24 hour a day grill. They called it the Dwarf Grill, because the house was small. Ben Cathy and their brother, Horace, died in a plane crash near Dalton, GA in 1949. Under the management of Truitt and his wife, Cathy, the diner’s clientele steadily grew along with the Atlanta Airport.
By the time, I was in high school, the Dwarf Grill had evolved into the Dwarf House Restaurant. That building looked like a restaurant and was decorated on the walls with dwarfs. There were also statues of dwarfs outside. By that time, also, the restaurant was featuring chicken filet sandwiches.
The Dwarf Houses was very popular with teenagers. A couple on a date could eat for about $2-$3 total. Peggy and Truett were really nice to the teenagers. It felt like eating with family members. If you ate there enough, they would know your name and which high school that you went to.
When Chick-fil-A was incorporated as a separate entity than the Dwarf House, it initially located in shopping mall food courts. This made it even more popular with teenagers. My girlfriend, Linda Sue Rex, was a Lakeshore High School cheerleader . . . with me being an allstar on an undefeated football team . . . that made us an “it” couple. The truth was that we were both middle class with limited funds. On a typical date, we would eat at the Greenbriar Chik-fil-A then watch a movie at the Greenbriar Theater then head to nearby “Blue Lights” to make out. This was the uncompleted end of the Campbellton Freeway over which one passenger jet after another would pass over at night.
The new Chick-fil-A Restaurant near my home had to almost immediately add a second lane for drive through customers. Its parking lot is over twice the size of any other fast food restaurant in the region, yet typically stays packed during meal times.
Once Chick-fil-A shifted to primarily constructing restaurants on suburban or small town streets, it acquired a reputation as a “family restaurant”. For one thing, the tables were much closer together in the free-standing restaurants than in the food courts. Teens and college students didn’t want their romantic chit-chat being overheard. LOL
Through the years, Chick-fil-A has received a lot of ridicule from TV Talk shows and comedians, because their restaurants are closed on Sundays. Knowing the Cathy’s back then when they were regular folks, not billionaires, I can confidently say that Truett wanted all of his employees to have a day of rest. That was literally his business. However, it has turned out to be, unintentionally, a clever marketing ploy. The same people, who believe that Donald Trump is the Messiah, believe that they will go to heaven, if they only eat at Chick-fil-A restaurants.
When young men and women liked each other
Where have the years gone? At virtually the same time that the first Chick-fil-A opened, our high school annual paired these two photos together. It was a time, when young men and women liked each other and at least in my high school, most of those in dating relationships treated each other with fondness and respect.
There has been an enormous change in the relationships between men and women in the years, since that first Chick-fil-A opened. If you were in a long term dating relationship when I was in high school and college, your guy or your gal was your best friend and you treated them that way. In the years since then, I have run into former girlfriends from high school and college. We joke about “being too nice” back then. Think of all the fun we could have had, if less concerned about what people thought of us. You know what I mean. However, I think that even if we had been less inhibited, we still would have been very kind to the man or woman at our side.
Our high school was rated as the number one academic public school in the state, but we were all from middle class families. Very few students owned cars. Nobody used drugs or drank alcohol at parties. No one could afford to go on a Spring Break trip to the Caribbean. Few could to even go to Florida! Their parents needed their cars to commute to work. LOL
Having to drive your parents’ car on a date tended make one quite conservative in those areas. Thus, we had to find ways to have fun that didn’t cost much money . . . like going to sock hops in the gym, hiking up Stone Mountain, eating the Chick-fil-A combo at the Dwarf House and the the strawberry pie at Shoney’s Big Boy . . . or making out as the jets flew over our heads.
Despite not doing wild or crazy things like teens in the Hollywood movies, we had much stronger libidos. A big difference back then is that young men and women constantly showed public affection. I never see any couple where I live now kiss in public or even holding hands or hugging. It’s a fact that my generation of males carried over twice the level of male hormones as today’s young men in the United States. However, both guys and gals were terrified of becoming teen parents, so became masters at playtime with activities that could not possibly make a girl pregnant.
What I have observed in the years of being single again is that most of the men and women are at war with each other. Women blame men for all their frustrations and unhappiness. Men sulk because they feel powerless then exhibit behavior like a pre-adolescent. Virtually all the women in my Singles Sunday School class in Roswell, GA except Susan . . . who no one knew was my secret lover from Virginia . . . viewed men as milk cows, whose primary value was turning over all of the income that he made to his new step-family. Far too many men viewed their potential girlfriends or wives as status symbols like an expensive house or sports car. A commodity to be bought.
Still today, Lakeshore High School is surrounded by woods. It was like attending high school in a national forest . . . with passenger jets flying 500 feet above you every few minutes. LOL You can see the green grass behind the stadium that is described in the song below.
Life is stranger than fiction
I have nothing, but positive things to say about “Sexy Rexy.” Under different circumstances we could have possibly wed and been very happy, However, she was a year younger than me. Her senior year, she became captain of the cheerleaders, while I was working night and day at Georgia Tech.
I had no car. For me to even have a date with her, required one of my parents to drive to Downtown Atlanta then drive me back home then on Sunday afternoon drive me back to Georgia Tech. We did do that for Homecoming and had a wonderful time, but soon she had all the activities of her senior year at Lakeshore High School and I was a slave to Georgia Tech.
Bob Holbrook was a friend of mine, during the period age 8 to age 12, when my family lived in Gainesville, GA. He was also a fraternity brother at Lambda Chi Alpha at Georgia Tech. About two years after that date with Linda Sue at Tech’s homecoming, he came up to me and asked what ever happened to that cute girl who was with me at that Homecoming. I told him that I did not know, but would call her parents. I still didn’t have a car, but Bob did. She was available.
The short story is that they met, fell in love and then married after he graduated. I have not seen either one of them since then, but I hope that they have had a wonderful life together . . . wherever they are.
This popular rock tune from 1967 was Linda Sue’s and Richard’s theme song way back then. Yes, indeed, as the song goes, we did go behind the stadium after football games. That’s a perk of being a football player and a cheerleader! This song is dedicated to Sexy Rexy, my companion at the grand opening of the first Chick-fil-A.