Tuesday, May 26, 2009

1964 Downers Grove, Illinois Drive In Restaurant History

By early 1964 the City of Downers Grove, Illinois had its fill of rowdy teenagers at the local drive in restaurants. Fed up with the seeming lack of response by some of the drive in operators, councilman John Behnke, with the assistance of the Illinois State Highway Department, took it upon himself to conduct a study of the behavior at one local drive in.

His study was conducted on a Friday night between the hours of 9:00 pm - 1:30 am. On that single evening, Mr. Behnke counted an amazing 654 cars "looping" through the lot of this drive in! Interestingly, not one of those cars made a single purchase. He also noted that some of these cars were from as far away as Chicago and Aurora. The reason behind this huge volume of traffic was that every other drive in closed at midnight on Friday night while this one stayed open until 2:00 am.

The next city council meeting found Mr. Behnke presenting his findings to the rest of the council including the Mayor. It was decided that the following city council meeting would result in a city ordinance to limit the closing hours of all drive ins.

Fearing that their restaurants would be affected by the behavior of one business, the next meeting was heavily attended by local drive in owners. The owners proposed a set of rules that they would personally enforce (without the need for a city ordinance). The city agreed, and on September 30th, 1964 the "Code of Conduct" was adopted by all drive in restaurants located in the city of Downers Grove. While the new rules were suitable to both the city and the owners, it still took 3 or 4 weeks for the patrons to realize the rules were going to be seriously enforced. Those first few weeks resulted in numerous arrests for "peeling, speeding, reckless driving, loud mufflers, etc.".

Below are those 12 rules.


1) Prohibit any continuous looping or circling of our parking lots.

2) Not permit patrons to congregate outside their cars.

3) Not serve teenagers under the age of 18 after curfew hours. 11:00 pm Sunday through Thursday 12:00 am Friday and Saturday.

4) Have cars left unattended towed away at car owner's expense.

5) Request that patrons enter and leave the premises as quietly as possible. Racking of pipes, peeling of tires and unnecessary use of horn will be prohibited.

6) Cooperate fully with police on duty at our establishments, whether hired by us or on city duty.

7) Prescribe a reasonable time limit for eating for the purpose of discouraging loitering.

8) Prohibit alcohol on the premises anywhere and at any time.

9) Prohibit cars to exceed 10 mph on the premises.

10) Make every effort to avoid the scattering of refuse onto other people's premises, and will police our own lots and neighboring grounds to control littering.

11) Make every effort to obtain license numbers of patrons who have caused problems to the public as well as to the operator.

12) Ask disorderly groups to leave the premises.

We hope you enjoyed this look back at the rowdy side of drive in history!

Jeff & Kelly
Vintage Roadside


Atomic Lola said...

I really enjoyed this! Downers Grove happens to be a nearby town to where I live. I didn't know this story and I just love learning about little bits o history from the area (and other places too!)
Thanks for sharing this!

forrestina vintage said...

Does anyone even go inside a fast food restaurant anymore? Fun facts!

Vintage Roadside said...

Atomic Lola - I'm so glad you found the article! We love this kind of history too. It's always fun to learn something about where you're from.

Vintage Roadside said...

forrestina vintage - I'm still a big fan of the "walk up" type places. Like the Dairy Queen on SE Division:-)

Anonymous said...

I used to live near Downer's Grove. But I didn't know anything about this...thanks for the history lesson...

Vintage Roadside said...

TheRandomTraveler - I'm glad you enjoyed the history! Thanks for finding us.

Anonymous said...

Tops Big Boy was the place to go on the weekend. I drove through there countless times with my 69 Z-28. They finally put up a gate at the exit to stop the endless trips around the building. You had to purchase food to get a "TOKEN" or deposit a quarter at the gate to leave. It was the meeting place even after the gate was installed. We all had some great times there in the 60's and 70's

Anonymous said...

There was always Skip's & Tops in Berwynn

Chris said...

This is fantastic!

Anonymous said...

Top's Big Boy was OK, but the McDonalds in south LaGrange had bigger crowds (more chicks)!