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Thoughts of a teenager of the "Sixties" 

 

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When I reminisce about the good old days of the 1960's it's hard not to remember the drive-in restaurants that were famous in Cherryville. I was fortunate to have worked at two of them as a curb-hop. I started working at Blackwoods Bar-B-Que when I was at the ripe old age of 14.


Mike Jones as a teenager

I sometimes think that this was the greatest job that I ever had. I was able to work at the location that everybody wanted to be seen at and I was getting paid for it. Wages were good for a fourteen-year-old; I was paid 50 cents an hour and all I could eat. Fortunately for Harold and Blanche Blackwood they kept me pretty busy hopping curb because their food was the best. They had a young cook named Ken "Mouse" Chapman and he was fast becoming one of the best cooks in town.

Blackwoods epitomized the drive-in restaurant of the sixties, from its tin roof car shed and loud music from the jukebox to its circle drive. Teenagers would start congregating early on the weekends to show off their wheels to everyone else. Some would spend most of the night just hanging around Blackwoods. One can only speculate what great ideas (and other things) were conceived in the parking lot at Blackwoods.

Harold and Blanche Blackwood were the perfect couple to have started an establishment such as this. Their son Mike was one year older than me and he was able to hang out at the best place which his parents owned.

Blackwoods tried some inventive ways to entertain teenagers during this time. On Thursday nights during the summer months they would have a local rock and roll band play either on top of the building or directly in front of the building. If my memory is right the local band called the Shakers, led by Click Dellinger, Stan Ballard, Rick Heavner, Arnold Davis, Gerald Howell, Warren Scism, Mike Black and Joel Beam was the first band to play at Blackwoods during one of those hot summer nights. Other good local bands followed over the next few summers. Some of the bands' names are forgotten but the memory of the times will live on forever in this man's mind.

Other good drive-in restaurants are still around to this day. Black's Grill is still run by Dave Black's daughter Barbara Hastings who has been able to maintain the great taste those burgers have had for fifty years. The building they use is pretty much the same size it was when I worked there in the sixties. As I was telling you earlier in the story I had the great fortune to be able to work at two good drive-in restaurants as a teenager. I worked at Blackwoods on Tuesday and Thursday and on Saturday night I worked at Black's Grill. I continued this pace until I was sixteen and then those Saturday nights had to go. To this day I will have to thank both owners of these great establishments for the training they gave to a young teenager in Cherryville.

Black's Grill during the sixties catered to an older crowd than did Blackwoods. Their customers were probably in their twenties, thirties and older. I will say that the tipping was much better at Black's probably because these customers were more likely to have full time employment.

The Triple H Restaurant was the place to go late at night. They were usually the last restaurant to close in town. On weekends they used to stay open all night which was rare in those days when the normal situation for the restaurants was to close about midnight. If you were a teenager in those days it was rare that you would be able to hang late at the Triple H because most of us were home by 11:00.

The Shake Shop located on the west side of Cherryville has long been a tradition for great food. To this day people drive from all over to delight their tastebuds on one of the south's better cheeseburgers. In the sixties the Shake Shop was also noted for a place to be seen on the west side of town. It was a normal trip to drive your car from the Shake Shop to Blackwoods several times a night. With gasoline selling at thirty cents a gallon and cheeseburgers selling for thirty-five cents times were not too bad.

Like all good things, the passing of the drive-in restaurants with their curb-hops, fast cars, and innocent times when beer was the strongest drug of the day, are only a memory of those of us who had the opportunity to experience them. Gone are the days when the best radio station in the area was WAYS, an AM powerhouse from Charlotte. Gone are the days of the eight-track tape player, which we thought at the time was the best thing that had happened to music. Gone are the days when all that could be seen on TV were three channels - ABC, NBC and CBS. Yes these were the good old days of the sixties and I guess the best place to keep them is in my mind because I don't think that my fifty-six  year old body would fair as well today without my modern conveniences.

Michael S. Jones