Leroy and Pauline Curtiss - 2008
HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES 2008
Back in the 1940’s Leroy worked at Martin Oil Company, 401 Ladd St. (corner of Rt. 116 and Ladd St. or Rt. 66) where you
would receive premium gifts, various pieces of glassware, which drew customers to this location from near and far. There were a total of 7 pumps in 2 rows supplying regular ethyl white gas (10 cents a gallon). They pumped their motor oil into glass tubes and supplied kerosene. You could purchase a pack of cigarettes for 10 cents with a gasoline purchase.
Leroy was drafted into the U.S. Navy but didn’t complete his term because the war ended. When he returned he went back
to lease and operate a Sinclair Gas Station at 1005 Ladd St. directly across the street from the first “District 6 State Police
Headquarters” in Pontiac. He serviced many vehicles with the traffic heavy at the intersection of Route 66 and 23. Gasoline sold for 15 cents a gallon.
In 1949 Leroy and Pauline were ready to start a new venture, “Curtiss Drive-In” at 826 Ladd St. just a block away. Pauline started work at 5:00 a.m. and worked until 1:00 p.m. and then reported to a 2nd job and worked to 1:00 a.m. in the morning.
This was their first drive-in. They had 3 carhops and served hamburgers at 25 cents, foot long hot dogs at 25 cents coffee at 5 cents and sodas at 25 cents. They made homemade root beer in 2 large wooden barrels that stood in the center of the restaurant with a choice of 5 cent or 10 cent frosted mug root beer. Pauline was very dedicated working the six hours before delivering her first daughter. They sold the business in 1955.
In September 1958, they advanced to bigger and better things. They purchased Fred’s Drive-In, 301 Ladd St. This was only a summer time business because of no heating system. They made improvements by building a 16-car steel frame and aluminum roof canopy, which was ready the following summer. Leroy and Pauline’s motto was “Come as you are and eat in the car”. Pauline worked as noontime carhop when young carhop girls were in school.
The root beer was homemade and the onion rings would melt in your mouth. Tubs of hamburger was purchased daily from the local Buehler’s Meat Market and patties were scooped out with ice cream dippers. They made cole slaw, peeled potatoes, cleaned shrimp and chicken daily. Everything was served on adjustable trays to fit your car door/window and was top-quality food. The Dagwood Burger was renowned. Jack Vietti would take his noon break at Leroy’s Drive-In by answering the telephone on busy days. They sold out in 1963 and Leroy went to work for the State Highway department for a period of time.
In 1969, the Curtiss’ purchased property and built “Pauline’s Chicken Villa”, right across the street from their previous drive-in. This was a 17 member operation as both mothers, 2 daughters, a sister, 5 cousins and of course Leroy and Pauline worked as the crew. They were very well known for chicken and Italian beef. They sold out in 1975.
In 1986 during the opening night of “Hang Loose, Let the Good Times Roll” weekend in Pontiac, Leroy was crowned as King of Drive-Ins with a fake onion ring and Pauline received her crown as Queen of Drive-Ins presented by Jack Vietti.
Both continue to reminisce the old stories of the highway. They have been married for 69 wonderful years.
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