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By Voda Beth Gradine
The Post Dispatch
Holly’s Drive-In has been and is still one of a kind with carhops serving customers since June 28, 1971, when Lewis and Mary Nell took the drive-in over.
The first carhop at Holly’s was Lewis’ youngest sister Brenda Holly Angerer. She never wrote an order down. She visited with the customer, got their order, and went inside and told the cook.
“It seemed to work better for me that way,” said Brenda. Mary Nell said she never got a complaint for sending out the wrong food. The orders were carried out on metal trays that fit on the car window. Brenda remembers if the carhops got a tip, it would be left on the tray. The tip was usually a quarter or fifty cents. If they ever got a dollar, she thought she was rich.
Some of the first customers that Brenda remembers were the Jackson brothers, Jim and Bo, David and Nellie Tyler and Barbara Palmer (Sammy’s mother). Brenda said, “I thought Barbara was so little and cute.”
There was a group of coffee drinkers that was a daily thing in the dining room. They were Ed Sawyers, Smokey Mithell, Jerry Riedel as well as Lewis, Bubba and Troy Holly. Brenda can remember all the wild tells that each tried to top the others.
In 1974 Diana Pruitt Poe was sitting in her car at Holly’s. Lewis saw her and walked out and said, “Pruitt get out of the car and let’s go to work”. Lewis always called Diana and Anita the Pruitt girls. She needed a job, so she went to work, six months pregnant. She carhopped until she got too large and moved to the fountain. When she couldn’t reach the counter she went to cooking until she had trouble reaching the stove. Lewis said the entire time she was having twins, but Dr. Wilson assured her there was only one. Lewis was right, there were two little girls.
Diana worked for the Holly’s three different times. She said, “Lewis was the best man she ever met even if he drove me crazy”. She also said, “Mary Nell is the best person God ever created”.
Virginia Fuentes Bevers began working as a carhop when she was a freshman. She said, “Before the highway was widen cars would be three cars deep at the drive-in. We had to remember where the orders went. This is where I learned to have a good memory.”
She was one of several girls that found a husband while working at Holly’s. She started dating Sonny Bevers while she was carhopping. Sonny tells everyone after 43 years of marriage, “The carhop hopped in my car and never hopped out.”
Dana McWhorter Holly started carhopping when she was 16 years old. Today, some forty plus years later she is still taking your orders and carrying your food to you. She is also working inside before and after she carhops.
Dana replied, “I come to work every day and work hard to get through the day”. She enjoys the customers and loves being outside even today. Dana always greets you with a smile and a warm welcome at the counter inside or in your car outside.
Whitney Williams, a granddaughter of Mary Nell’s is proud to be carrying on the family tradition as the third-generation carhop. She started when she was 13 years old. “The customer is always right” is what Whitney was taught early in her employment. She now works the counter more than carhop.
Lisa Morrow joined the crew in 1994. She has done just about everything there is to do at the drive-in. She did some carhopping but mostly works inside. She remembers how Lewis always stood up for his employees. “He had a hot temper but was a great guy. I remember once a customer threw a pen at me. Lewis kicked him out of the place.” Lisa now cooks and helps Mary Nell with the whatever needs to be done at the drive-in.
There have been many other carhops through the years adding to the success of Holly’s Drive-In. Travelers still stop just because there is a friendly face walking to their cars when they pull in front of the drive-in.