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Vintage 1940s Tichnor Brothers postcard of Sivils.
Vintage 1940s Tichnor Brothers postcard of Sivils.

Sivils Drive In [1940-1967] (Gone)

Field review by the editors.

Dallas, Texas

People nowadays associate drive-in restaurants and carhops with the 1950s and California, but they actually began decades earlier, in Texas. The most spectacular of these in-your-vehicle eateries was Sivils Drive In, in the Dallas suburb of Oak Cliff.

Sivils opened in June 1940. Owners J.D. and Louise Sivils had pioneered the concept of girl carhops two years earlier in Houston, but the Oak Cliff drive-in took the concept to a scale not seen before or since. A staff of 105 carhops and and three scooter-riding cigarette girls served up to 500 cars on three acres of parking, and the menu included beer. A uniformed "general" stood in a tower atop the building, kept track of cars as they pulled into the lot, and directed the carhops through a PA system.

All of the outdoor staff wore outfits modeled on high school band uniforms, but the carhops were known for their notably abbreviated shorts (postcards touted "Nationally Famous as the Originators of 'Shorts' for their Glamorous Girls"). Applicants were personally selected by Louise Sivils for their appearance and outgoing personality. At the end of each shift, according to a Life magazine article, the "curb girls" lined up and marched into the restaurant (they did not wear roller skates) while a new crew paraded out to await inspection, all to inspiring music played over the drive-in's loudspeakers.

Oak Cliff outlawed the sale of alcohol in the 1950s. This, plus the emergence of low-cost competitors such as McDonald's, outweighed the appeal of the carhops, and Sivils Drive In closed in 1967. The spot where it stood is now a gas station.

Sivils Drive In [1940-1967]


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