Sunday, May 8, 2011

Bearden's (1954)

One of the iconic images of 1950s Americana is the drive-in burger joint. When we have visited car shows I have pointed out to my children the trays that some of the cars feature, often original "Big Boys" trays, with a clip to secure it to the window, with the tray facing either into or out of the window. I help them imagine what it might be like to drive up to a restaurant, park, and not have to get out of the car, to have it brought to you.

Never having sat in a car with seats a comfortable nor as large and unrestrictive as a living room couch, I do not believe they actually think this would be an enjoyable experience. And the truth is, I am too young to have actually experienced this phenomenon myself. A drive-in move is as close as I get,

My parents would have visited the original Bearden's in Rocky River, 19985 Lake Road. Anyone who has been there knows about the model train, set up high on a ledge running around the entire dining room, which was a feature left over from its original owner, Charlie Jackson. Then the place was known when it first opened in 1934 as Jackson Limited because of that train (and Jackson.)

When Ross Bearden operated the place in 1948, and changed the name, he kept the train. It's a great gimmick, as a kid I always thrilled to visit the place with the train. You will notice the restaurant was not renamed in honor of Gene Bearden's performance as pitcher in the 1948 World Series anymore than the team was named after an actual Indian.

From the website:
The 1950s were the heyday of the drive-in restaurant theme and Bearden's was no exception. Staying open until 2 or 3 in the morning on Friday and Saturday nights and having police direct traffic and provide parking lot security was the norm. To this day, we still hear stories of high school romances, first dates and hot cars. The popularity of the drive-in theme waned in the early 1960s and soon "Curb Service" was a thing of the past.
The food itself wasn't legendary, a greasy burger wrapped in paper, a milkshake and a basket of onion rings, but aren't those things everybody wants, after all?

Three years of extensive construction on Lake Road combined with a flagging economy forced the present owner to close Bearden's doors in December 2010.

UPDATE: Following a brief closure, Bearden's reopened in Fall 2011 !!!

Bearden's Homepage

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