Home served as drive-in meals/ice-cream enterprise in late Sixties

As a younger lady rising up on a farm close to Olean, the previous Reta Bond aimed to persuade herself that she would transfer to St. Louis after graduating highschool and by no means once more “milk one other cow or hoe potatoes.”

To an extent, she made good on her promise, assembly Jack Casten on a blind date whereas dwelling in St. Louis. Nonetheless, after the couple married in 1957, she quickly ended up again within the nation, the place they later toiled to run a small drive-in enterprise.

“We finally bought a house in Eldon,” Reta stated. “Jack and I had mentioned opening a drive-in, and it simply so occurred {that a} household who owned a gasoline station close to the junction of Freeway 54 and 17 stated they’d construct us a constructing to lease, if we might run it.”

They accepted the supply, and the primary iteration of Casten’s Dari Freeze was up and working within the early Sixties. Their household saved the house in Eldon however moved a small trailer behind the drive-in so they might keep close by whereas working the enterprise through the peak spring and summer season months.

In highschool, Reta had labored part-time at a drive-in Eldon and as a waitress at Randall’s Restaurant. On the restaurant, she wore a white uniform with a black apron. At house, her household had no working water, so she washed her uniform by hand and hung it out the window to dry whereas driving to work.

“Years later, I all the time wore a white uniform whereas working at our personal drive-in as a result of I simply thought it regarded extra skilled, however by then we had working water,” she chuckled.

“Jack had a full-time job so I ran the drive-in through the day, and he helped within the evenings and weekends. He got here house at some point and stated he had purchased an previous home in Russellville; the constructing regarded simply terrible and was falling in,” she added.

Reta recalled her husband maintained the home might be rebuilt and used as their house and a brand new drive-in. Promoting their home in Eldon, they moved to Russellville in 1965 and spent the following a number of months busy with transforming.

When the drive-in opened, the biggest a part of their enterprise got here from visitors alongside Route C touring to and from the Lake of the Ozarks. Casten’s Dari Freeze rapidly grew to become a well-liked vacation spot for tenderloins, foot-long sizzling canines, chili, ice cream, milkshakes, fries, and different tasty meals and treats.

“The drive-in was positioned proper on the freeway throughout from Trinity Lutheran Church, and most of our enterprise got here from out of city,” she stated.

“We did have some locals who would cease and eat daily, although,” she added. “It had a walk-up window, patio seating, tables and barstools on the within together with a pinball machine and jukebox.”

Just like their earlier drive-in enterprise, Jack labored a full-time job through the day whereas Reta, who was elevating a younger son and two daughters, ran the drive-in. She had assist from Betty Payne and Ruby Shikles, two older native ladies, who helped her prepare dinner, waitress and, sometimes, babysit.

“They had been an incredible assist and did no matter wanted to be carried out,” she stated. “It labored out nice for everybody as a result of I wanted the help, they usually loved simply getting out and seeing folks.”

There have been additionally a lot of native highschool college students who labored their first job on the drive-in, the place they obtained recommendation from Reta “to make the client really feel essential and all the time look busy.”

One night, Reta stated, she and her husband had been working contained in the drive-in and heard a automotive pull up exterior, honking the horn. Once they peered out the serving window, they had been shocked by the odd sight that greeted them.

“Elmer Enloe, certainly one of our common clients, was sitting in his automotive together with a couple of dozen pigs of assorted sizes,” she sid, laughing. “They had been on his lap, on the sprint, within the again seat and the passenger seat.

“He had been on the sale barn in Olean and bought the pigs. He was on his technique to his farm in Enon to drop them off, however stopped by the drive-in to get a tenderloin sandwich, fries and a soda.”

In 1970, Jack was employed by the railroad, so the couple made the choice to shut the drive-in after working the Russellville location for 5 years. Reta later labored the native MFA Alternate after which grew to become a postmaster aid clerk at Russellville, Olean, Lohman and Centertown.

Jack died in 2001 and was laid to relaxation in Enloe Cemetery. The drive-in has lengthy since been stripped of its promoting, the walk-in window enclosed and the rest of the inside transformed into a traditional house, the place Rita continues to reside.

The youthful era has no reminiscence of Casten’s Dari Freeze whereas many older residents vaguely recall its existence alongside Route C. However for Reta, it stays an essential, if solely temporary, aspect of the native enterprise historical past of the group.

“We had been busy and did nicely alongside the freeway, however we actually by no means bought wealthy from it,” she stated. “We had been working the drive-in again in arduous instances, however everybody was in the identical boat again then.”

“However the one reminiscence that stands out for me is that everybody was pleasant and supportive of us … and that was appreciated. It actually was a detailed neighborhood that I nonetheless name my house,” she concluded.

Jeremy P. Ämick is writing a collection of articles highlighting the historical past of the Russellville space.