A & W Root Beer

Anyone who grew up in the Kanawha Valley in the 50s and 60s, grew up with A&W Root Beer. The main locations were Vine St at Central Ave on the West Side (#1),  MacCorkle Ave in St Albans (#2) and Morris Street on the East Side (#3),  They also had a walk-in shop at the Arcade.  I spent many an evening at the Central Ave A&W with my mom.  Later, as a teenager, I lived within a block of the Morris St. A&W.  There I met Calvin Stover, one of the owners.  Calvin was a great guy who watched me grow up, and along the way (at least as a teenager) I sometimes gave Cal a run for his money as we all did.  A&W was another one of those places that we didnt miss much.. until it was gone.  Now, we'd give anything to have an original A&W.


A&W Charleston WV

Vine Street & Central Ave A&W circa 1964     (Copyright)

"Back in the day" you didnt need a Playland, or "Happy Meal"  or old junk on the walls to have a great place to eat. All you needed was a little block building with a plywood front, painted a gaudy orange.  But from those humble surroundings came forth the best hot dogs, fried bologna sandwiches,  and other treats that money could buy.  The star attraction of course was the root beer,  served up in big mugs that had been frozen in advance.  If you wanted your root beer to go,  you ordered a quart megaphone of the wonderful stuff.  That's right, your root beer would be sealed in a megaphone that you could actually use by cutting the bottom out.  Not only that, but you didnt even have to get out of your car.  The photo above is interesting because it's obviously winter, and yet the kids have the top down on the car. Why? Because this was an Ad for the Stonewall Jackson High School yearbook.  We think the tall Blond in the photo is Lynn Richardson Lorentz, along with Sandy Patton and Barbara Wood.

A&W root beer with SJHS majoretts

This photo shows the Stonewall Jackson High School Majorettes in front of the A&W in 1963. They are:  Judy Greybill & Marty Bostic; Back: Sue Holt, Barbara Cummings, Thelma Thompson, Kay Coffman, Sherrie Christie, Janice Carpenter, Betty Arthur, Judy Thaxton.

One Year Later...

A&W Root Beer Charleston WV

By now they have remodeled the place, adding a brick front.


A&W Root Beer Ad          A&W     


A&W Root Beer  was started in 1919 by Roy Allen.  In 1922, Allen partnered with Frank Wright. They combined their initials to create the brand "A&W" and inspired a restaurant chain which was founded 1922.  Shortly after Allen had bought out Wright's portion of the business, he began franchising the product. His profits came from a small franchise fee and sales of concentrate. There was no standard food menu for franchises until 1978.  By 1960 the number of A&W restaurants had swelled to more than 2,000. In 1963, the A&W Root Beer Company was sold to the J. Hungerford Smith Company, the firm which had manufactured Allen’s concentrate since 1921. Later that year,  the company was sold to the United Fruit Company. 

Meanwhile, here locally....

Calvin Stover and Wink Litton started the local A&Ws.  Since there was no standard food menu requirements from A&W at the time,  the guys simply decided what people here would like to eat.  Naturally, back then hot dogs and fried bologna were the biggies, so that's what they ran with.  To this day, people rave about the food served at the local A&Ws.

After A&W closed, the guys took-on a third partner and opened up a new hot dog place called 
"Bowincal's".  Bo(Beauford Jividen)Winc(Winc Litton)Cal (Calvin Stover). Spells Bowincal.  They served the same hot dogs as the old A&W,  but without the root beer.  Many stores opened, and  years later closed for all the standard reasons that we're so familiar with....




Photos from the Stonewall Jackson yearbook courtesy of Nancy Williams


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