Photos: One night at Johnie’s drive-in on the Speedway in 1969 | Retro tucson

Cruising the speedway on weekends was a thing for 30 years or more. Speedway had a reputation for being one of the ugliest streets in America. It was littered with bars and billboards, but that was definitely part of the taste.

Teens get an appetite when they’re in their cars, and Johnie’s Fat Boy on Tucson Speedway and Johnie’s Drive-in on Craycroft Speedway did the math. They served burgers, fries and coke 24 hours a day. (Search ads for cooks and waitresses appeared almost every day in the Star and Citizen.)

In 1957, George Carl Wright and Mary Louise Wright moved from Illinois to Tucson, where their family owned motels and restaurants. Carl has established himself in the business as a dishwasher at his father’s rest stop.

Carl (aged 22) and Mary Louise bought Johnie’s franchise from Frank Johnson. They operated four Johnie’s restaurants by the late 1960s.

The drive-in at Craycroft Speedway opened in 1962. It offered phone orders straight to the kitchen and indoor seating for 200 customers. Underage drinking and brawls became a nuisance, and the Wrights tore down drive-thru alleys and returned to all-indoor dining.

A Walgreen’s is now where the popular cruiser hangout once stood.

Sources: Arizona Daily Star and Tucson Citizen newspaper archives.


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