Readers: Jimmy Williams is a Palm Beach High graduate and a longtime reader, and sometime contributor, to Post Time.
Recently he dropped off an original copy of The Saturday Evening Post from June 22, 1946. Of course, this is the edition with the lengthy feature story on, and iconic photograph of, the All-American drive-in known simply as “The Hut.” In its heyday, it was West Palm Beach’s premier teen hangout.
The magazine article stretches across five pages. Photographs show the interior and exterior; one of the restaurant’s outside signs called it “the Tropical Hut ” It even had a cheesecake/beefcake combo of “barbecue King” Mel Williams and his wife cavorting in the surf.
The Hall family opened the place in 1930 between Flagler Drive and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. Williams, a Lake Worth native, had started there as night manager and when the Halls decided to return to construction in 1937, he bought it from them for $5,700. The Halls returned briefly to help run the place when Williams served in the Navy during World War II.
At The Hut, kids in convertibles could drive right up and get curb service: hamburgers, barbecue, and Coney Island hot dogs loaded with cheese, along with milkshakes from the local Alfar Creamery and frosty root beer. The average World War II-era check was 40 cents.
“The Hut is where you went,” the legendary actor and Palm Beach High alumnus Burt Reynolds once recalled. “If you were lucky enough to have a friend with a car, you parked by some girls, your arm hanging out against the door so that it looked like you had a bicep.”
Reynolds recalled that The Hut was flanked by an asphalt apron accommodating up to 40 cars parked three-deep. For somebody up front to back out, he or she had to flash the lights and the cars immediately behind would back onto the two-laned Flagler. Perpetual musical parking was followed by musical car-hopping. Reynolds said seniors and football players got the front spots.
After the war, the Hall family opened Hall Hardware, which still active on Dixie Highway near Belvedere Road. The Hut went through a series of owners and finally made way for the Phillips Point office tower in the early 1980s.
To read the full Saturday Evening Post article on the Hut, go to www.historicpalmbeach.com.