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  • SOUTHERN UTAH MEMORIES: Drive-ins Bring Back Nostalgic Look into St. George’s Past
    by Loren Webb
    Published - 06/21/13 - 10:12 AM | 1 1 comments | 363 363 recommendations | email to a friend | print
    Larsen's Frostop drive-in has been open in St. George since 1965. It is one of the few drive-ins remaining in the area that still provide car hop service to patrons. (Photo by Loren Webb)
    Larsen's Frostop drive-in has been open in St. George since 1965. It is one of the few drive-ins remaining in the area that still provide car hop service to patrons. (Photo by Loren Webb)
    slideshow
    (ST. GEORGE, Utah) - When I think of the drive-ins I used to patronize in St. George as a teenager and young adult, three drive-ins come to mind: the A & W Drive-in, the Polar Bear Drive-in, and Larsen’s Frostop.

    In the evenings, before I got my driver’s license at age 16, I used to walk or ride my bicycle up the street and up the hill past the City Cemetery to the Polar Bear Drive-in at the corner of 100 North (St. George Blvd.) and 600 East.

    I remember Nancy Staheli was one of the employees who waited on me. She was always nice and I loved the Root Beer Freezes and the hamburgers they used to make there. After we were served, we would sit down on the blacktop and watch all the cars go by on the Boulevard. It was mesmerizing.

    I didn’t get over to the A&W Drive-in as much because it was located clear across town at 140 West and 100 North (St. George Boulevard) but when my family went there, it was fun. You pulled into the parking lot, and spoke your order into the speakers hanging up under the shaded canopy. I loved the A&W mugs of root beer. They were icy cold with lots of foam on top.

    Perhaps the place I frequented the most, was Larsen’s Frostop Drive-in, 858 East St. George Boulevard. I knew the owners Gale and Darlene Larsen, so it made it even more special to go there.

    According to the Washington County Historical Society web page on Larsen’s Frostop, the Larsens had been farmers in the Uintah Basin. “Gale supplemented his farm income by driving a Wonder Bread delivery route. One of his customers was a Frostop franchisee in Duchesne, Utah. That business seemed to be doing well so the Larsens decided to give that business a try.”

    They moved to St. George in 1965 and opened Larsen’s Frostop at its current location. At the time of its opening, Frostop was a nationwide chain of franchised root beer stands, with about 350 businesses in the United States in the 1960s. The Frostop chain went out of business in the early 1980s.

    When the Frostop franchise discontinued , Larsen’s Frostop continued as a privately owned store, according to the WCHS webpage. Gale and Darlene sold the business to Nathan McCleery in 2002. Then in June 2008, Kim and Andra Garrett bought the store.

    I used to go to Frostop a lot with my good friend, Bruce Sullivan in his gold-colored Chevrolet Impala. He went there even more than I did, and he had a talent for winning games on the pinball machine while waiting for his food to be served.

    One of my most vivid memories of the Frostop was in the fall of 1970. Delta High School had come down to play a football game with my school, Dixie High School, in the Dixie Sun Bowl. The Delta High Rabbits beat the Dixie Flyers by a score of 40 to 13.

    After the game, I went with several of my Dixie High School friends to get a shake at the Frostop. While we were there, a Millard County School District bus pulled into the Frostop parking lot and in came about 30 plus Delta High School students, most of which were girls. On the jukebox inside the Frostop, they began playing the song, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” as a way of letting us know they had beaten the Dixie Flyers.

    Funny thing was, they kept playing that song over and over throughout the night. We had quite a laugh over it, and some friendly rival high school talk. And everyone left knowing it was just a game – that we could be friends, even with high school sports rivals.

    Several of my high school friends also have vivid memories of these drive-ins during their coming of age years.

    Jaylene Topham said of the Frostop, “I ate there many times after a movie or dance while on a date with old boyfriends. They had good taste. I still love to eat there today and get a cheese burger, fries and a root beer float.”

    Sue Asay Gowen said, “When I was pregnant with my first baby, I craved the greesy tacos from the Frostop, so every day we had those for dinner. My daughter even bought me a shirt from Frostop that I still wear.

    Sterling Norton remembers his Uncle Milton Larsen (Gale and Darlene’s son) ran the Frostop for many years with his Aunt Natalie Larsen. He remembers “Lots of great memories going in as a kid and getting the family treatment!”

    Ken Young remembers working at Frostop as a cook for a year and a half in the mid 1970s where he learned some important life skills “ such as food fights, girl teasing and the joy of dragging the boulevard (main) doing Chinese stoplights, etc. late night after work. Aaah memories.”

    Kay Jean Lewis Mathews Hales, worked at The Frostop for two years in 1972-73.

    “It (the Frostop) was a hang out spot for high school kids because it had fast food and it had the pin ball machines and the atmosphere of the owners was just great,” Hales said.

    “Everybody cared about each other,” she said. “We cared about the people coming in. We wanted to make sure they had a good time. “

    She also remembers that when Darlene Larsen, the co-owner of Frostop, came to work during the noon lunch hour, she would bring her baby in and place the baby in an empty card board box (usually a paper towel box) place toys and a blanket in the box with the baby. The baby was placed in a safe spot where Darlene could watch the baby and still work, Hales said. “And that was about one to two hours a day. I don’t think you could do that now a days.”

    “We always made good tips and the summers were horrendously busy,” Hales said. “You would work your six hours and it was constantly walking.”

    Kay Jean also met her first husband., Omar Mathews while working at the Frostop. He and Ramon Mathews, Omar’s brother, “came in and always ordered a small drink, a pronto pup and a small fry.”

    One day they came in and just after Kay Jean had delivered their food, she tripped over the front tire of Ramon’s old Ford jalopy.

    Omar came in two or three weeks later and asked Kay Jean out on a date. They were married 27 years. He died in 2000.

    Kay Jean remembers working with Terry Jones Lister, LuAnn Jones, Chris Horlacher and Scott Mortensen.

    As for Lisa Provstgaard, she has great memories of several of the drive-ins.

    “Who can forget the A&W parking stalls with speakers to order your meal? The girls inside would leave the speakers on so they could hear what was being said in the car after you ordered your Papa or Mama burger! Those on a date would need to be careful of what was said! And who didn't enjoy the lemon/lime slush at the Polar Bear to tame the hot summer heat? And when I think of the Frostop, all I see in my mind is Chris Horlacher bringing the order to our car with a big smile! Queen burger was the best. What about the Dairy Freeze? Good french fries and milk shakes!”

    A year ago on my birthday in September, my good friend Bruce Sullivan called me up and said, “For your birthday, I’m inviting you and your wife to eat with me at the Frostop.”

    So my wife and I went back again to the Frostop and there with Bruce Sullivan, we reminisced about all the good times we had of growing up, and we all agreed that a fun part of our lives was sharing stories while sipping on a banana shake at the local drive-in.

    Comments
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    Spendlove Peterson
    |
    June 23, 2013
    I have lots of good memories about the Frostop. I worked at there for all of my high school years. It was a great place to work and I was probably one of the girls that Ken Young learned to tease (sneaky snake?). On summer nights when he and I worked together, we would often go see what was playing at the drive in and sneak in the exit to see the last of the movie.

    Before the St George Temple was rededicated they held an open house and I remember the Frostop being CRAZY busy on the Saturday of the open house. There was an accident (as I remember a plane flew into a power line) that caused the power to go out all over town for several hours. We couldn't serve any hot food, but we did our best to serve what we could to those hungry visitors. Once it got dark we had to close down.

    I also remember (when I was just little) Shirley Jones' dad loading us all in their vw bus and going to the Frostop after church on Sunday to get a twin twirl. I think they went through more ice cream on Sunday than any other day of the week!
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