Most of the new downtown business owners missed Laurel’s heyday during the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. We only remember the “sheds” of the 80’s, or the ghost town that was left when they came down. Since opening Guild and Gentry, we’ve heard so many stories about “Old Laurel” and the businesses that came before us, it makes us nostalgic for a time we never got to experience.
However, many of the stories we’ve been told have revolved around a business slightly outside the downtown footprint — one that’s weathered the ups and downs of Laurel’s shifting economic base and the ebb and flow of her population. Phillip’s Drive In, affectionately known as PDI’s, has been around for decades, serving up milkshakes, onion rings, and chili-cheese burgers to generations of Laurel residents.
A TASTE OF LOCAL INDEPENDENCE
My grandmother was the oldest of six children and a talented athlete, playing basketball throughout her high school education at Calhoun. Her father, my “Papaw”, was a strict disciplinarian, but with six children, he couldn’t have eyes everywhere. On Friday nights, my grandmother and my great-aunt, very close in age, would leave their basketball game — without permission from their parents — and high-tail it to to town to grab a burger at PDI’s. They’d “cruise” through the drive-through, visit (and flirt, I’m sure) with students from other local high schools, get their fill of fries during a few minutes of stolen independence, and then get back home to my great-grandparents, who were none the wiser.
Growing up, stories like these added a taste of freedom to the burgers and fries my friends and I downed at PDI’s. Phillips Drive In retained its aura of “cool”, even as the era of the “Great American Drive In” faded across the country. Opened in 1948 as a Dairy Queen and rebranded as Phillips Drive In during the 1960s, PDI’s has been a Laurel staple for nearly seventy years. This Saturday is the PDI’s Reunion, a celebration of our hometown drive-in and the generations of memories it’s helped to create.
The PDI Reunion was founded in 2011 by a group of Laurel natives looking to share their fond memories of time spent under the PDI’s awning. Six years later, the event has grown exponentially, boasting a lineup of local bands (The Classix and Davis County are performing this year) and a large vintage car show. The organizers ask attendees to bring their fond memories, old photos, and their dancing shoes.
We’ll see you there.
Saturday, October 14
4PM – UNTIL
6:00 – 7:30PM – The Classix
8:00 – UNTIL – Davis County