And Now You Know: Zack’s – Drive In or Drive Around?

Published 12:21 pm Monday, August 13, 2018

By Mike Louviere

The Orange Leader

Zack Jacobs first foray into what is now called “fast food” was a walk up and order hamburger stand on the corner of Second and Cypress Streets in Orange.

Zack’s goal was to serve better food in larger portions than his competition. He made changes to his meat patty and worked with a baker to make a larger bun He developed his soon to be famous, at least in Orange, “Whop A Burger”. His business grew to be so successful that he decided to open a second location.

Orange was beginning to expand from the west end of Green Avenue across Adams Bayou along MacArthur Drive. Zack bought a parcel of land on the south side, in West Orange on the corner of Donnell and MacArthur.

In the center of the plot was the building where the cooking and processing of orders would take place. On the east and west sides were covered spaces for cars to park headed in toward the building. A driving lane went around the building. Between the driving lane and MacArthur Drive there were additional parking spaces for cars to park facing the building. All the service to the cars would be done by “car hops” – young ladies dressed in stylish uniforms. The orders were brought to the cars in trays that could be hooked onto the car window with two hooks for the window and a leg that braced against the side of the car door.

Zack’s timing was perfect. Teenagers in Orange were beginning to drive the family cars more than ever. There were even a few teenagers that were lucky enough to have their own car. Zack’s Drive In was beginning to be the center of night life for Orange teenagers. Circling Zack’s was “the thing to do.”

A normal routine on date night was for the boy to leave his home and drive around Zack’s to see who was there. He would drive to the home of his girlfriend and pick her up and then the two of them would drive to Zack’s to see who was there. After the end of the night’s activity they would drive back to Zack’s and maybe park a while to see who was driving around Zacks to see and be seen.

Those without a date may have just parked at Zack’s for hours on end to see who was driving around Zack’s. They may even drive around Zack’s a few (dozen) times themselves.

Part of the routine was to leave Zack’s and drive east on MacArthur to Green Avenue to the east end of Green Avenue, turn left on Simmons Drive and go to the turnaround at Elmer’s Drive In, retrace the route and go around the traffic circle and then drive around Drake’s Drive In to see who was there, back on MacArthur to Zack’s.

A cursory glance would be given to Jim’s Drive In located next to Zack’s. Jim’s did not have a drive around, so it was never as popular as the other drive ins.

The record for the number of times one drove around Zack’s was never recorded for posterity. There are many claims to the record, undocumented. It would not be surprising to find that there were those who made at least 100 trips around Zack’s in a night.

Zack Jacobs sold his Whop A Burger, fries, Cokes, and a lot of other things, like the “Pickle Coke.” (pickle juice and Coke) There were always cars circling waiting for a parking space to open. Friday and Saturday nights the place was always full. Once one of Zack’s friends remarked to him that he must be making a lot of money with all the customers he had. Zack replied that if he was lucky 20 percent of the cars were ordering and 90 percent of those were only ordering10 cent Cokes.

There was seldom any trouble at Zack’s and if there was, Zack was so well liked and respected that all he had to do was walk to the trouble spot and just say “Boys, I don’t want any trouble tonight.”

The crowd would disperse. There may be a fight later, but it would not be near Zack’s.

As things began to change, the drive in was no longer profitable and it was closed. For a few years a diner was on the site, M.J.’s Diner, but it closed also.

The last business on the site was the Payless Shoe Store.

After he closed his business and retired, Zack Jacobs moved to Houston to be near his daughter. He died at age 82 in 1991 and is buried in Emanuel Cemetery in Houston.

“And now you know”