A landmark lost: Reflecting on Parkette Drive-In’s long history in Lexington
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - A Lexington staple is now closed for good. After just over 70 years, Parkette served its last poor boy.
Since 1951 the drive-in restaurant has served countless burgers, onion rings and precious family memories.
The iconic sign, the food, and the atmosphere are all things people said they think of when they think of the Parkette.
Now, they’re all just memories. The parking and drive-up spots were empty Wednesday evening after seven decades of filling bellies and hearts.
“This was the real thing. It was the real American graffiti with places people would drive to when there weren’t even roads in the beginning. It was a dirt road, it wasn’t paved. New Circle Road was called ‘the belt line.’ When they put this in out there, there was nothing else out there. He was really innovative to think someday there will be,” said Janet Patton, a reporter at the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Joe Smiley opened the Parkette on November 11, 1951, selling an estimated 19.2 million of the famous poor boys in their first 40 years.
But perhaps it’s another well-known brand Smiley is credited for using first.
“Joe Smiley told the most amazing story about how he had actually coined the term, ‘Kentucky Fried Chicken.’ I had heard that before, I always wondered if it was a rumor. But apparently it’s true and KFC sued, and he proved he had used it first,” Patton said.
Patton reports on the food and restaurant beat for the Herald-Leader. She said the concept of a drive-in was new and unique when the Parkette opened, and what we know now with drive-thrus does not have the same specialty.
“We think now of fast food as something we’re just getting through. It was a destination. People drove all the way out there, just to eat at the Parkette,” Patton said.
Now, the welcoming, neon sign won’t light again and menus are a reminder of what was the good times.
“It will be sad that we’ve lost this landmark on our skyline now,” Patton said.
Janet said if there is a restaurant you love, and can’t imagine not having around, she encourages you to support it if you can.
Right now, there are no plans have been set on what will happen with the property.
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