The Parkmoor was founded by William L. McGinley
in 1931. In the early 1920s, McGinley invented an aluminum tray that attach to car
doors. The viability of McKinley's TraCo tray was dependant on the
viability of the fledgling curb service business. So McKinley and his wife
Ellen, with a few belongings and a trunk full of dreams, set out
from their Texas home and traveled the country by car, determined to sell his trays and the idea
of drive-in restaurants.
McGinley was a charming and successful salesperson, and enthusiasm for his Traco trays began to build. His cross-country trek eventually led him to St. Louis. While drive-in restaurants and curb service were embraced in many states, Missouri had yet to catch on. When the restaurants of St. Louis resisted curb service, McGinley decided to open a curb service restaurant of his own.
McGinley's drive-in concept proved to be an
instant hit. The original Parkmoor on Clayton Road at Big Bend, with its distinctive Tudor-style
architecture, opened on July 15, 1931, and Clayton police had to be
summoned to direct the carloads of customers who turned out. Carhops
in bright orange jackets and white hats weaved in and out, serving
16-cent sandwiches and 5-cent Cokes on McGinley's aluminum trays.
took off, as McGinley opened drive-ins throughout the
metropolitan area. A second location was opened on North Kingshighway at Cote Brilliante
in 1932, across the street from McBride High School. It had a larger
lot that stretched a full city block. The parking ran
from Warwick to Cote Brilliante, and was the largest of the Parkmoor
lots — or any St. Louis drive-in.
A third Parkmoor was opened in 1932 on South Kingshighway at Chippewa.
While this location was smaller than the other Parkmoors, its
profits were anything but small.
Employees from the
first three Parkmoors gathered in 1934 for a group photo to
celebrate the company's third anniversary. Many Parkmoor employees were
from small towns in Missouri and Illinois. When they'd go home for
holiday visits, they often brought back friends and family to work
at the Parkmoor. This worked out well, with the restaurants seldom
needing to advertise for help.
In 1936 a Parkmoor was opened on DeBaliviere
between Waterman and Pershing. It was built in a former nightclub
(The Car Lane). There was a party room upstairs which could be
rented for $10, if $10 in food was purchased.
The Parkmoor on South Kingshighway drew the
teenage crowd from Southwest High School, while the one on
DeBaliviere attracted the kids from Soldan High. The North Kingshighway
Parkmoor got the boys from McBride together with the girls from
As Parkmoors popped up around town, food
logistics became a problem. There was a need for quantity while
still maintaining quality. McGinley solved this in 1938 with a
commissary — a two-story building to the right of The Parkmoor in
Clayton, preparing food for all of the restaurants from a central location.
Parkmoor menu favorites included the
double-decker King Burger, the spicy barbecue Chickburger,
crispy fried chicken, Louie's Chili, barbecue pig sandwiches and the
Premium Frank, a hotdog on a toasted bun, topped with
melted cheese, mustard, relish and bacon. French fries and golden
onion rings were popular sides, and the Concrete All-Cream Ice Cream
Shake and root beer float were favorite drinks. A favorite dessert
was angel food cake topped with vanilla ice cream and mounds of
J. Hungerford Smith hot fudge.
In 1950, McGinley opened a Parkmoor on Chippewa, near Watson. It was a small restaurant, offering only counter seating. A high-tech first, speakers were located besides the cars for customers to place their orders.
The Parkmoor at Lindbergh and Manchester opened
in 1956; it was the last Parkmoor location. It was large and very
busy, with 80 drive-in ordering speakers, an indoor
dining room for more than 100, counter service and take-out service.
By the late 1960s, the heyday of restaurant drive-in was over. The Parkmoor on South Kingshighway had closed in 1956. The North Kingshighway location closed in 1967, the DeBaliviere and Chippewa locations in 1969, and the Lindbergh and Manchester location in 1970. In 1969, curb service was eliminated altogether when the Tudor-style brick building at Clayton and Big Bend was razed to build a glass-and-stone Parkmoor that seated 165 people.
The new Parkmoor opened in the summer of 1969.
It was designed as a California style coffee shop, with the color
orange dominating the décor and a classic diner counter with swivel
stools the standout fixture. Other notable design touches
included Polynesian-style handles on the doors and yards of
imitation wood-grain tabletops.
William McGinley moved back to Dallas in 1945 with his wife and 10 year old daughter Lou Ellen to tend to his TraCo tray business. With strategic trips to St. Louis, McGinley successfully managed The Parkmoor from his Texas home.
In 1977, McGinley suffered a crippling stroke. He died on January 30, 1980 at the age of 81 in a Dallas nursing home.
Lou Ellen took over the business from her
ailing father in 1977. Juggling duties as a mother of two and wrangler of a
large cattle ranch, she traveled from Texas to St. Louis once a
month for 23 years to help operate the Parkmoor.
As time went on, the Parkmoor found it difficult to compete with the big chains. The restaurant continued to draw crowds, especially for breakfast on weekends, but only broke even. On Sunday, October 31, 1999 the Parkmoor closed its doors for the final time.
In 2004, the Parkmoor building was demolished
to make way for a new Walgreen's. Spirtas Wrecking Company began
tearing down the landmark restaurant at 8 am on March 31. By the next
afternoon, it was rubble.
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