THE CONTEST OF THE CENTURY

The Parkette

The Parkette Drive In, before the name was changed to Shoney's.



In 1947, 
Alex Schoenbaum opened the Parkette restaurant in Charleston on Kanawha Blvd West near Patrick Street.  Soon, the Parkette grew to include Big Boy restaurant franchises, and in 1954 the Parkette was renamed Shoney's.

Never in the history of WV did a contest have such impact as the one that took place in the Spring of 1954.  It was then that Alex Schoenbaum decided that his popular new restaurants needed a new name.  His "Parkette Drive Ins" were becoming very well known locally, but the name was too generic and other drive-ins across the country were starting to use that name also.  Remember, this was the start of the Drive-In craze.  In the early 50s,  almost   anything you could drive into was tried,  including drive-in churches and even drive-in funerals.  So Alex needed a new name for his fast growing business.  The plan was to run a contest and have the public come up with ideas.  This was wildly popular, as the first prize was a brand new car.  People had NO idea of the ramifications of that contest.  They had NO idea that this little group of local restaurants would go on to become one of the largest chains in the history of food.  After all, the Parkette Drive Ins were similar to other drive ins,  like Bob Phillips for instance.  I was a little too young to know anything about the contest,  but just a couple of years later I would enjoy the results in my moms car parked at the newly named "Shoneys" on Kanawha Blvd E. (where Captain D's is today).  Growing up,  I had heard about the contest for most of my life,  and the people who mentioned it were usually finalists in it.  So I wondered... exactly who WERE the finalists?  Who won?  So now for the first time....


 

This was a typical ad for the Parkette Drive-In.

 

 

BUT THEN.... THE CONTEST

This ad ran in May of 1954.  Alex has teamed-up with the Big Boy name but he doesn't look anything like he would later.  Notice that at this time, there were already Parkette's on the Blvd near the bowling ally, 35th and MacCorkle, 3rd Ave in South Charleston,  Summers Street across from the Kearse, and 5th Ave in Huntington.

 

 

THE SIMI FINIALISTS

 

The contest was unbelievably popular...

 

 

THE FINIALISTS

 

 

WOW!  WHO WON?

 

 

 

 

THE WINNERS

 

 

 

 

SOME OLD GUY

Just kidding.  But it would have been really cool if some early Rock & Roller,  you know... with the greased back Ducktail and leather jacket would have won.  Or an early Hot-Rodder!  These are the one's that made the the early business right?  But that's OK,  Shoney's went on to become a huge force in West Virginia's economy. and that is still being felt to this very day.

The winner decided to sell the car.

Now we have Shoney's

Shoneys 
Alex Schoenbaum standing in front of his newly named drive-in.

For some time after the contest, the business was referred to as "Shoney's Parkette" just to get people used to the new name. 


 Shoneys Drive In

Shoneys #1 on Partick Street in the early 60s.


FINALLY.....

 

I was really surprised to find this ad from 1955.  This Shoney's was right across the street from Charleston High School, and yet, I cant recall even one person ever talking about this location.  In 1965, I would actually live right behind it,  but by then,  this Shoney's was long gone.  I have to assume that it only lasted a couple of years.  I also believe that it was later turned into the "Coffee Shop", a place that I visited often.

 

The "Big Boy" as we would come to know it.

 

Newspaper ads from the Charleston Gazette and Daily Mail.  Shoneys photo from SJHS yearbook via Nancy Williams

 

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