Last bites for a teen hangout

This Aug. 31, 2012, photo shows an original Eatn Park vehicle tray with a Big Boy statue outside Eatn Park in Washington, Pa. The tray and the 1937 Ford are owned by Don Cunningham, who restored the car using all original parts. During the 1960s, area teens congregated at Eat'n Park on West Chestnut Street in Washington to show off their cars, drag race, meet up with friends and grab a Big Boy burger and fries. Dozens of those former teenagers gathered one last time Friday to take a trip down memory lane before the restaurant closed its doors Friday because of declining sales in recent years. (AP Photo/Observer-Reporter, Karen Mansfield)
This Aug. 31, 2012, photo shows an original Eatn Park vehicle tray with a Big Boy statue outside Eatn Park in Washington, Pa. The tray and the 1937 Ford are owned by Don Cunningham, who restored the car using all original parts. During the 1960s, area teens congregated at Eat'n Park on West Chestnut Street in Washington to show off their cars, drag race, meet up with friends and grab a Big Boy burger and fries. Dozens of those former teenagers gathered one last time Friday to take a trip down memory lane before the restaurant closed its doors Friday because of declining sales in recent years. (AP Photo/Observer-Reporter, Karen Mansfield) (AP)

It was like old times on the final night of a Pa. eatery.

Posted: September 04, 2012

WASHINGTON, Pa. - During the 1960s, teens congregated at Eat'n Park on West Chestnut Street in Washington to show off their cars, drag race, meet with friends, and grab a Big Boy burger and fries.

Dozens of those former teenagers gathered one last time Friday to take a trip down memory lane before the restaurant closed because of declining sales.

It was like old times, as Eat'n Park waitresses headed outside to take orders just as carhops did in the 1960s and '70s. Old friends stood in the parking lot, which was filled with beautifully restored classic cars, and reminisced.

For many, the restaurant was where they met their future spouses, took their dates, or got their first jobs.

Jack and Sherri Cole of Washington went to Eat'n Park on their first date in September 1964. They had been friends for a long time, Jack Cole said, before he decided to ask her out on a date. They still remember what they ordered: ham and cheese salad for him, and strawberry pie for her. The restaurant became a regular spot for the couple, who have been married for 46 years and have two children and three grandchildren.

"We came here at least once a week," Sherri Cole said. "Those really were the good old days. We grew up in the best of times. We had the best cars, the best music, the best dances, everything. We looked forward to [Friday night's] get-together all week. I wouldn't have missed this for anything."

David Dean met his first wife, the late Beverly Byrd McIntyre, at the restaurant, where she was a carhop. For a month and a half, he asked her out. She finally relented because she needed a ride home.

"I dropped her off and asked her for a real date, and she finally said yes," Dean said.

They were married for 13 years and then divorced.

The get-together was organized by Jess and Vicky Sumney of Washington, who frequented Eat'n Park as high school students. Vicky Sumney said they wanted to spend one last night at the hangout that was an important part of their youth.

"When we heard it was closing, we were bummed, so we decided to come out for old times' sake," she said.

To make the night more nostalgic, Eat'n Park general manager Jim Kyle sent waitresses outside to take orders and run food to customers. The restaurant even whipped up strawberry pies for the Coles, and for anyone else who wanted a slice.

"Our customers are here for nostalgic reasons, and we thought that re-creating the carhop experience would be fun. It's fun out there," Kyle said. "If we're going out, we're going out with a bang."

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