My phone started ringing this morning after readers found a Quick Bite with a question about a former Elkhart drive-in.
Reader Karen Gorski asked about a drive-in in Dunlap in the mid-1960s that served great onion rings via an outside, walk-up window.
Readers responded quickly via email and phone.
I don’t know for sure that Gorski meant Checkley’s, but it was near the where U.S. 33 and the U.S. 20 Bypass intersect now. And it had a walk-up window. And it had great onion rings.
Diana Staley worked there for her high school years and after she got married. It was about where the current McDonald’s and Burger King are now on the west side of the U.S. highway.
The address was 3405 S. Main St., according to Elkhart City directories from that era. It was vacant in 1960, but by 1964 was Lick’n Chick’n Drive-In. In 1972 it was called Checkley’s and was gone by 1973.
I couldn’t find photos or newspaper clippings on Checkley’s in the Elkhart Truth’s archive, but Staley and others said the place had great onion rings and tenderloins. She and Peggy Fisher, who also used to work there, said the batter recipe was sold to the owners of Curly Cone on Beardsley Ave. It’s getting ready to reopen but I have no idea if the recipe is still with the business.
Glen and Frances Checkley owned the business. She made salads from scratch. “Checkley’s also had the best lemon custard around,” said reader Sue Glanders.
If the gravestone at Rice Cemetery is correct and is this couple, Glen died in 1996, but Frances is still living.
Ozzie’s was another story. Richard Osborne, who is pictured at the top of the blog, operated a drive-in at 3406 S. Main St. In 1960, it was called Chicken Koop Drive-In. By 1964, it was Ozzie’s Drive-In. The last year it’s listed in the city directory is 1975. A newspaper clipping in 1984 calling a reunion of the former “cooks, dopes, jerks and carhops” said the restaurant opened in 1950 and closed in 1974.
Donald Geiger stopped by the office this morning to talk about the place. He worked at Ozzie’s as a 14-year-old. It’s how he earned the money to buy his first car two years later.
That was between 1968 and 1970 and a woman named Helen came in at 4 a.m. to make the onion rings. She’s fry them to set the batter and he and others would pull them from tubs later and fry them again.
He adored the onion rings. And he never ate those at Checkley’s.
Joan Hurley called about another drive-in. She used to car-hop at the Triangle Drive-In near Franklin Avenue in Elkhart. “Those were the good old days,” she said.