Today in Seattle history: Dick's Drive-In begins serving Seattle hamburgers in 1954

Today in Seattle history: Dick's Drive-In begins serving Seattle hamburgers in 1954

Dick's Drive-In opened in Seattle in 1954. The Wallingford location at 111 N.E. 45th Street was the first.

SEATTLE — Each year at the end of January Seattlelites celebrate the birthday of the famous Dicks Drive-In fast-food restaurant chain. The first Dick's Drive-In opened in Wallingford on January 28, 1954, but since then has expanded to seven locations across the Pacific Northwest.

A new Dick’s Drive-In opened in Kent in late 2018, not far from Sea-Tac International Airport.

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In addition to serving famous burgers and fries, the franchise is well regarded for its employee benefits and was even voted "the most life-changing burger joint in America" in a 2012 Esquire.com poll.

On the 65th anniversary of Dick's Drive-In's opening, KIRO 7 looked into the history of the franchise's success in the Pacific Northwest.

The following is a recap of the grand opening of Dick's Drive-In in Wallingford in a HistoryLink.org essay by Priscilla Long

On January 28, 1954, Dick's Drive-In opens to begin serving hamburgers, french fries, and milkshakes on NE 45th Street in Seattle's Wallingford neighborhood.

Dick's comes to represent the quintessential 1950s, a cross between fast food and the automobile, quite the place to hang out with your friends with Rock 'n Roll blaring from the car radio -- at least by 1955 when Bill Haley and His Comets hit the charts with "We're Gonna Rock Around the Clock," moving on to 1956 when Elvis comes on the scene with "Don't Be Cruel," "Hound Dog," "Love Me Tender," and "Heartbreak Hotel." Dick's Drive-in is started by Dick Spady (1923-2016) and two partners, Warren Ghormley and Dr. "Tom" Thomas, whom Spady will eventually buy out.

Related: The following KIRO 7 story on Dick's Drive-In Dick Spady aired on Jan.28, 1994. The home movie footage was taken in 1954, the year Dick's opened in Wallingford. The home movie footage is courtesy of the Spady family:

A Different Kind of Business

In 1955, Broadway Dick's opened on Capitol Hill. Holman Road Dick's opened in 1960, the Lake City Dick's in 1963, and the Queen Anne Dick's in 1974. Dick's Drive-in in Edmonds opened in 2011.

Dick Spady was born in Portland, Oregon on October 15, 1923. He served in the Navy in World War II and attended Oregon State University on the G.I. Bill. He served in the Korean War as a commissary officer, where he learned a great deal about running a restaurant.

He was an entrepreneur of burgers, fries, and shakes with a difference. He offered his employees the highest pay in the industry, well above minimum wage. He provided 100 percent paid health-insurance coverage, including to part-time employees. He gave to his employees more than a million dollars in scholarship funds. Spady also gave generous and unremitting support to homeless and community causes, as well as to disaster relief, and public-engagement efforts including sponsoring an initiative that led to the Community Forums Network.

In 2012 a Seattle mayoral proclamation declared a "Dick's Drive-In Day." Dick Spady died on January 10, 2016, at the age of 92.

Dick's Drive-In continues to serve up hamburgers, French fries, and milkshakes. It has remained a local business owned by the Spady family. Jim Spady, one of the sons of Jim and Ina Lou Spady, serves as president.

Click here to read the essay from Priscilla Long on HistoryLink.org.

Sources: "Dick's Drive-in History,"(http://www.ddir.com/Dicks_Drive_In_Restaurants/History.html); "#1 Songs of 1930-1990," Lyrics World Website (http://www.summer.com.br/~pfilho/html/top1/index.html); Bethany Jean Clement, "Co-founder of Dick's Drive-in Gave us Famed Burgers -- and so Much More," The Seattle Times, January 13, 2016, p. A-1; David Gering, "Nostalgia to Go -- Dick's Has Been Seattle's Taste in Burgers for Nearly 35 Years, Ibid., April 24, 1988, p. K-1.
Note: This essay was updated on January 21, 2016.