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Borgmeyer family worked together at A&W drive-in

Three A&W rootbeer mugs, representing the logos as they evolved over the years. Photo contributed by Glenda Borgmeyer Dixon.


Root beer, hamburgers and car-hop service were staples at the A&W Drive-in, located at the intersection of James Road and St. Mary’s Avenue, when it was operated by Alfred and Mary Borgmeyer from 1965 until 1970.

It was a family affair, to be sure. Glenda Borgmeyer Dixon, second oldest of the family’s eight children, was 12 when they moved from St. Charles to Hannibal, and she worked as a carhop at the A&W during her teen years. She took orders, then delivered the freshly prepared food and homemade root beer to customers waiting in their cars. “We didn’t have an intercom; we had to physically go to the cars and take the orders.”

The Borgmeyers didn’t have prior restaurant experience in 1965, but that didn’t stop them from giving the business their all.

The first few months after their arrival in Hannibal, Glenda said, they stayed at the Lori-Lynn Motel, 2309 Broadway, operated by Don and Joyce Kesner. “One room, seven kids, Mom and Dad and two dogs,” Glenda said. The Kesners and Borgmeyers subsequently became lasting friends.

After purchasing a home on North Locust Street, the Borgmeyers  settled into a routine. Their youngest daughter, Barbie, was born in 1966, and came to work with her parents.

“We had a bassinet set up in office for her; she’d go to work with us every day,” Glenda said. “We’d put her in the office and she would sleep in the bassinet. The first few years, she grew up down there.”

The children attended Catholic School, and Mary Borgmeyer worked out a special arrangement with the West Side Cab Company.

“At lunchtime they would send a cab to pick us up, and we’d help through the lunch hour, then go back to school. As young as we were,” Glenda said, the family felt safe with this arrangement. “The (cab company) owner said that it would not be a problem.

“Mom and Dad paid us 25 cents an hour to work there, and we thought we were rich,” Glenda said.

Glenda remembers a number of teens who worked at the drive-in during their high school years, including: Jane Breeding, Tim Hirner, Karen Crousore, Tim Craven. “I vividly remember them.” Joe Niemeyer. Mike Engle and Johnny Janes and a couple of others had a small band.

Leona Broemmer worked in the kitchen as a cook. “She could really do the hamburgers very quickly; she was an awesome lady to work with.”

“It was a fun place to work; a really good group of people worked for us,” Glenda said.

Her parents sometimes hosted events for the employees. “We used to have workers come to the house, and have parties at Christmas or barbecues in the summer. It was  a nice way to show how much we appreciated them.”

Customers were, of course, vital to the success of the business.

She said that Jimmy O’Donnell (1950-2003) was a frequent customer.  “He was still in high school. Sometimes he and his friends got a little rowdy. Dad would tell them to pipe down and take their party elsewhere.”

There was a wooded area around the parking lot. “The younger couples liked to park over there so they could make out while waiting for food,” Glenda said.

She remembers one instance when a male customer behaved inappropriately in front of the car hops. “I was one of them,” Glenda said. “It shocked me. I told Dad and he said ‘that ain’t happening’. (The man) was banned from the lot after police got involved.”

Another time, “We had a family a skunks that lived in the wooded area behind us; we were trying to keep them at bay until we could get the Humane Society to come move them.”

Nancy Borgmeyer Poterjoy shared a memory of working at the drive-in during 1969. Hannibal had an earthquake, and she was working in the kitchen. She said the frier baskets started shaking. Then the mugs in the chiller started clanging together. She said it was rather scary. 

Glenda remembers a woman who lived near the restaurant. “Her house was right behind our lot. She was a little lady, Bessie Allison. Sweet as could be. She would come to the fence and holler at one of us as we were working. We’d come over and she would order a couple of hamburgers and an order of fries.”

Bessie Allison died in July 1973, at the age pf 82. “It wasn't long after she died that the house was torn down,” Glenda said. Bessie’s address was 171 Garth.

The lot where the A&W was, is now the Hannibal Dental Group.

“It was a fun place to work, a really good group of people worked for us,” she said.

Bob Borgmeyer, Glenda’s brother, was too young to work at the drive-in when it was under family management, but he does have memories.

“There were two giant stainless steel containers,” he said, “we would mix our own root beer out of syrup and lots of sugar.”

Glenda remembers, “You stirred and stirred and stirred. The root beer was what we considered homemade.”

Bob said, “I recently  saw on social media about boys lost in hills in 1967. I was always told Mom and Dad supplied root beer and sandwiches to the workers.”

“Dad had been on the volunteer fire department in St. Charles; he was always ready to jump in and help whenever he could,” Glenda said.

“I see people my age now and they’ll remember,” Bob said, “Our parents talked about it.”

The A&W served Papa Burgers, a double hamburger; Mama burgers, single burgers; Teen burgers, maybe with lettuce and tomato; and Baby Burgers, which would now be called sliders.

They also served baby mugs of root beer.

A lot of the boys from St. Thomas Seminary came to the A&W, as did baseball teams after games. “We always had fun with them, young boys playing baseball, they were fun.”

Bob explained that that the Borgmeyers developed a number of long-term relationships that began during their years operating the A&W. “Jimmy O’Donnell; members of the police department; ‘the boys up on the hill’ at St. Thomas Seminary; priests from the Catholic Church. At the time, it was THE PLACE. If you catch the right people today, they remember.

“In a short five years, they had a lot of relationships born.”

“My father in law, David Mitchell, who owned Mitchell Disposal Service, was a police officer during that time,” Bob said,  “and he remembers how nice it was go get the food service right out in front; it was a great location.”

Glenda remembers the neighborhood well. “We had Drs. (Fisher and Buben and Roller across the street. Rick and Greg Skinner had their barber shop. Tom Horton had a gas station where the laundromat is now located. Tom Luck was down the street, we became friends with him.”

The Borgmeyer family, on the occasion of their parents’ 40th wedding anniversary. Pictured on the back row are, from left, Danny, Linda, Barb, Brenda, Bob, Glenda, Terri and Nancy. Photo contributed by Glenda Borgmeyer Dixon.

This photo of the Borgmeyer family was taken as an advertisement for Sunbeam bread. At the head of the table is Alfred Borgmeyer and to his right, standing, is his daughter, Glenda. Also pictured are Barbie in the high chair, Mary, Linda, Terri, Danny, Nancy, Brenda and Bob. Photo contributed by Glenda Borgmeyer Dixon.

The A&W, 2727 St. Mary’s Avenue, at the corner of James Road and St. Mary’s Avenue. Photo contributed by Glenda Borgmeyer Dixon.


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