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A Taste of the ’50s

By Cathy Frisinger
Parker County Today, June 2008

In 1958 – precisely 50 years ago – “At the Hop” by Danny and the Juniors and “Sweet Little Sixteen” by Chuck Berry were rockin’ Parker County juke boxes.

Lake Weatherford, which had been formed by a dam built on the Clear Fork of the Trinity River in 1956 and ’57 and filled by an unexpected downpour from the heavens, was the hot spot for teenagers and families with young children to hang out.

That same year, Gary Williams was a 14-year-old high school freshman with a driver’s license (they let kids drive younger in those days), and he liked to tool out to Lake Weatherford in his 1941 blue Chevy pickup with the black fenders when he had free time.

Mildred Lewis, whose daughter, Linda, was in Williams’ high school class, didn’t have a lot of time to spend at the lake because she was busy taking care of a family and working in the cafeteria at a Weatherford elementary school, but she always had time for a quick dance if something fun like “Rockin’ Robin” was playing.

And also in 1958, three miles from downtown Weatherford, near the intersection of Farm Road 730 and Fort Worth Highway, a restaurant was being built on property owned by the Morris family. It was one of those new drive-in hamburger places, and it was meant to serve the stream of traffic heading east from Weatherford to the new Lake Weatherford. Williams watched the progress of the new restaurant as he made his way back and forth on frequent trips from town to lake, lake to town.  When it finally opened, the pink-and-chrome restaurant was called the Malt Shop.

A lot has changed in 50 years.

TVs have gone from clunky boxes that had to “warm up” before they displayed a few grainy black-and-white programs to high-definition flat-screen TVs on which you can see every pore of the players on more than 100 programs.

Teenagers still like music, but today they listen to tunes they’ve down-loaded onto their ipods instead of records played on juke boxes.

If you’re planning on driving from downtown Weatherford to Lake Weatherford this Saturday, the gas you put in your Accord or Prius will cost you somewhere around $3.48 a gallon instead of the 30 cents a gallon Williams paid to fill his Chevy pickup 50 years ago.

But if you get the idea to stop halfway on your drive and enjoy a burger and a malt at the the Malt Shop-well, that hasn’t changed. Oh, sure, the prices have gone up, but the decor is still pink and silvery metal, the burgers are still grilled to order, the ice cream for the malts is still made on the premises, and you can still tap your toes to the sounds of Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill” or Danny and the Juniors’ ‘At the Hop” as you place your order at a walk-up window.

That time-capsule quality is what makes the Malt Shop the hopping place it is today.