Washington DC

Vintage 1957 – A Tale of Two A&Ws

Hot Shoppe

The year 1957 was pivotal for two very different A&W franchisees.

A&W got its start when Roy Allen and Frank Wright (“A” and “W”) partnered in a Sacramento root beer stand in 1922. Allen bought out Wright and then began franchising the brand in 1925.

Two years later, in 1927, newlyweds J. Willard and Alice Marriott partnered with Hugh Colton to open Washington, DC’s first A&W. Hot summers in the capitol created demand for the signature “frosty mug” of root beer, along with the hot food items at the aptly-named “Hot Shoppe”. One year later, Willard and Alice open two more Hot Shoppes, one of which was DC’s first drive-in. Adding to their string of firsts in 1937, the Hot Shoppes expanded into catering by delivering box lunches to travelers at nearby Hoover Airport. In 1953, Hot Shoppes stock went public and sold out in two hours of trading.

Who was this savvy couple? Their business minds came up with an entirely new venture in 1957 – motor hotels. Arlington, Virginia was the first site of many to come, bearing the family name, Marriott. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Root Beer StandTwo other couples followed in the first steps of the Marriotts by franchising an A&W in 1957. Mick and Nancy Ridenour, along with Jim and Catherine Clark – Nancy’s parents – opened Sharonville, Ohio’s A&W Root Beer Stand on the outskirts of Cincinnati. Their location on one of the main north-south routes from Michigan to Florida guaranteed them a steady string of thirsty truckers and drivers, along with local residents. Since Mick was a school teacher, the stand was a summer-only operation. Catherine’s chili recipe led the hot offerings ferried to waiting customers by the black and white-clad car hops.

In 1982, the Ridenours and Clarks let go of their franchise identification. “The Root Beer Stand” remained a summer season favorite at the original, only slightly expanded location. In 1990, the Clarks had both passed away and the Ridenours were ready for retirement. Scott and Jackie Donley purchased the stand. Today, Cincinnati Magazine’s “best place to quaff a root beer” and number 12 on the list of “Top 100 Places in Cincinnati” is run pretty much as it always has by the Donley’s daughter Abby and her husband Eric. You’ll need to stop by soon – before the summer season is over – to sample their small-batch root beer with a side of Catherine’s chili.

World-wide domination versus small-town favorite. Either way, success can taste “frosty” and sweet.

Image Credits: Marriott International; The Root Beer Shop

July 11, 1957 – Texas Boy Scouts Arrive for the 1957 National Jamboree

Boy Scout Jamboree NPS

Scouts arriving at the Valley Forge State Park for the Jamboree

On July 11, 1957, the Texas and Pacific Special, with eleven passenger coaches, two baggage cars, and one baggage dormitory car, arrived at Valley Forge State Park with 576 Texan Boy Scouts and their leaders for the 1957 National Scout Jamboree.  The excited group joined Scouts from across the nation – 52,580 in all – along with 30,000 visitors.  Valley Forge was transformed into a 25,000-tent city with a theater carved out of a hillside the size of Yankee Stadium.

On the way, the “TP Special” had stopped in Washington, DC for tours of the White House, the Capitol Building, the Washington and Jefferson memorials, Arlington National Cemetery, and Mount Vernon.  While in Valley Forge, the Scouts heard from Vice President Richard Nixon, watched fireworks displays, learned the history of Valley Forge, and were treated to an aerial show by the US Air Force Thunderbirds.  One day trip took them to New York City to see the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, the Statue of Liberty, Radio City Music Hall, and the United Nations.  On another day they traveled to Philadelphia to see Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Carpenter Hall (where the first Continental Congress met in 1774), the home of Betsy Ross, and the World War II U-boat-fighting submarine, USS Hake.

On the final night of the Jamboree, the story of Scout founder Braden Powell was told.  The stadium lights were turned off, and over 52,000 candles illuminated the memorable scene.  The Texas Scouts boarded their train for home, first stopping at Niagara Falls, then travelling through Canada to Detroit.  The Ford Motor Company played host to the group, giving them an exciting look at a huge factory assembly line – and a shiny new car produced in just minutes.  For many boys, it was the trip of a lifetime.

Image Credit: National Park Service