This story from The Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, Pa., delves into the history of drive-throughs, which has squirreled its way into American life from drugstores to liquor stores to restaurants to banks to even funeral homes.
As for drive-through restaurants, it’s claimed that Red Chaney at the famous Red’s Giant Hamburg on Route 66 in Springfield, Mo., developed his drive-through window in 1947. Maid-Rite, a loose-meat sandwich chain that I admit fondness for, claims it developed the first drive-through in 1948.
If the dates are to be believed, Red’s wins the battle of the first drive-through.
Alas, Chaney retired in 1984 and the building was removed about a decade later. Chaney died in 1997, and his wife and longtime partner Julia died in 2006.
Strangely enough, the thing that best captures the atmosphere of Red’s Giant Hamburg turns out to be a music video. The Morells, a rock band based in Springfield, shot this musical tribute, “Red’s,” in 1982:
In-N-Out Burger, of which there are several locations on Route 66 in the Los Angeles region, also claims to have the first drive-through window in 1948. At the least, In-N-Out claims it perfected the model, by using a two-way speaker. Such speakers are still in use today.