Garst’s and Eddie’s Drive-In was on the corner of Broadway Boulevard and Ohio Avenue in Sedalia for 75 years, serving burgers and soda to thousands of loyal customers. The building was demolished last week to make way for a new Sedalia business, but memories and a few pieces of the Sedalia landmark still remain.
A tangible memory
Several months ago, Myrna Ragar, of Ragar Banners in Sedalia, asked Jorge Guevara, of Guesa USA, the company responsible for the upcoming urgent care clinic, if he would sell her the cream-colored glass tiles that lined the building’s exterior. He told her she could have them in exchange for one of the final products: a drawing by Ragar of the drive-in printed on the tile.
Ragar had made a drawing of Garst’s/Eddie’s for longtime Eddie’s manager George Goetz. When it was announced the building would come down this year, Tom Knight suggested to Ragar to obtain the tiles and find somewhere to print her drawing on the tiles.
“Garst’s was near and dear to my heart as well as all the kids in my class and beyond,” Ragar said.
Guevara said the clinic will be open in September, providing health care seven days a week, 365 days a year. Don Garst, grandson of the original Garst’s owners, and his wife, Becky both said they are happy to see the land will be used for something “that will benefit the whole community.”
“We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from the community regarding tearing down Eddie’s, but the truth is, just like the previous owners acknowledged, Eddie’s took down (Maywood Hospital) to build Eddie’s, so it’s interesting to see that square go back into a clinic,” Guevara said.
“… This tile commemorates the history of it, which it’s important to remember the roots, but it’s also important to adapt and move forward.”
Don Garst said he was “pleased” with how the tiles turned out.
“I think it’s wonderful, I think it’s a great idea,” he said of the tiles. “It preserves the history of the drive-in and gives people who lived here during that time a chance to have a piece of that history too.”
According to the history of Garst’s Drive-In, written by Don Garst, after J.D. Garst died in 1932 at the age of 50, his wife Fanny and her two sons moved to Springfield, Illinois, to be near her two sisters, Nelle and Kitty Winstead, who had recently opened a drive-in root beer stand.
A year later, they decided to expand by building a drive-in restaurant, an innovative idea as there weren’t any drive-ins in the Midwest at the time.
The Winsteads had lived in Smithton and were familiar with the “flourishing” town of Sedalia, so they bought a block of property at Broadway and Ohio, making it the first drive-in west of the Mississippi River. Garst’s Drive-In opened July 13, 1937, serving steakburgers, malts, milkshakes, root beer and Fanny’s famous pies.
Eighteen months later, the sisters opened their second site, Winstead’s, on the Plaza in Kansas City, which is still a landmark and now has multiple KC area locations.
After Fanny died in 1947, it was decided that her daughters, Gladys Woodall and Marjorie (Toots) Houk, her son, Bud Garst, and a longtime employee, Eddie Boysel, would continue to operate the drive-in. After Bud’s death in 1970, the name was changed to Eddie’s Drive-In.
A few years later, Woodall and Houk retired and Boysel died in 1989. The business was then sold to three Sedalia businessmen and George Goetz was the manager until it closed in 2012.
Don and Becky Garst now live in Marshall after spending most of their lives in Sedalia, but their name still holds memories for many Sedalians they encounter.
“We live out of town but when we come back to town, if somebody sees or hears our last name, they want to know if we were affiliated with the drive-in, and when we say ‘yes, that’s my husband’s family,’ always, always they have a story to tell and it’s always a great story — they met their husband there, they worked there, they were there every day at least once a day or twice a day for a hamburger and french fries,” Becky said.
“… A lot of people that worked there made lifelong friends there. We always enjoy hearing all the stories and appreciate the patronage over the course of all those years the drive-in was open.”
Don and Becky surprisingly didn’t meet at Garst’s, but as true Sedalians, they met while working at the Missouri State Fair. At age 15, Don was parking cars and Becky worked in a restaurant.
Don recalled his days working at the beloved drive-in, doing a multitude of jobs over the years.
“They always butchered their meat. We got hind quarters of beef and I’d go up there in the mornings and cut the meat up and grind it into fresh hamburger. It was fresh every day,” he said. “I was a fry cook, did that when I got out of the service and was going to college. Most of the kids in the family worked there — most of our sisters, my cousins all worked there frying or in the back or the fountains or waiting on cars.”
The pair reminisced Wednesday morning about all the stories they had been told over the years, as well as their own memories from Garst’s.
“There was a banker in town and he had a big Saint Bernard (named Gus) and it wandered the whole downtown,” Becky recalled while laughing. “He had his stops and he knew that hind quarter of beef had a great big bone in it and he made a daily trip to the drive-in and sat outside til he got that bone. My folks had a bakery and he’d stop there on the back side and my daddy would give him sweet rolls.”
Don said their busiest times were during the State Fair and the Ozark Music Festival, as well as lake traffic each summer weekend. Many families stopped by Garst’s for hamburgers before finishing their travels to the Lake of the Ozarks. They also had plenty of young customers each day, as Smith-Cotton High School had open lunch and many students would choose to eat at Garst’s.
“It was a place where kids growing up in Sedalia in the ’40s and ’50s and ’60s, and even in the ’70s, they all had a place to go,” Don said. “They say kids don’t have a place to go now, well they did then. They’d drive laps around the drive-in, then go to Wheel-In and drive around there, then go down (U.S. Highway) 65 to Dog ‘n Suds. … They had a full-time policeman on Friday and Saturday nights just to direct traffic.”
“That’s how we spent many, many nights,” Becky said. “That was the loop they drove. … Everyone has a story like that, everyone has a crazy story about something they did.”
Tiles are 7-inches by 12-inches and cost $97.50. A framed tile costs $125. Shipping and handling is $18. Tiles are available at Ragar Banners, 148 S. Limit Ave., the Katy Depot Store, 600 E. Third St., and the Sedalia School District Foundation, 3615 W. Broadway Blvd. For more information, call Ragar Banners at 660-826-9357.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.