The "Fabulous" Kegs

Grand Forks, North Dakota

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If you don't remember the Kegs Drive-in then you must have been locked-upbt really strict parents.  I lived only four blocks from The Kegs and  visited it countless times during my youth and especially my high school years.  Each of us have our own memories of "dinning" at the Kegs.  For starters there were the 19 cent Sloppy Joes and the Lime Cokes and the French Fries. The hamburgers were great as was the  chicken if my memory serves me well.  Better stop for now..., as I am getting hungry.

Time for a little history just in case you don't know - The Kegs has a history of course and one I never knew until I did a little research surfing:

"In 1929 William "Harry" Muzzy of Crookston, Minnesota entered the world of curbside service by building a two-story root beer barrel in Great Falls, Montana. Over the next seven years, during the worst times of the Great Depression, he erected a string of wooden barrels across the Upper Midwest."

In 1928 James E. Clifford of Great Falls, MT suggested to Harry Muzzy that he join him in a partnership and obtain a franchise from the  Triple XXX Root Beer Company based in Texas.

"Harry Muzzy and James Clifford built a two-story, barrel-shaped business on the eastern outskirts of Great Falls in 1928, Clifford providing the investment for half of the net profit. Muzzy and his wife, Martha, whom he had married in Crookston in 1927, supplied the labor for the other half."

"Soon after the stock market crash in October 1929, the Barrel began to feel the strain of the depression. In 1930 prices were reduced to a nickel per serving for adults (children still got a smaller mug for free), but even that proved to be profitable. The only real limits appeared to be those of nature. Root beer stands are seasonal businesses, and the Great Falls Barrel had to close when temperatures plummeted. The Muzzys later used a slogan that put the rationale in a nutshell: 'Closed for the Season. Reason—Freezin'."

In 1931 and 1932 Harry and his wife built drive-ins, without a partner, in his hometown of Minot, ND and in Crookston, MN.

"Harry Muzzy followed his successes with another Barrel in Grand Forks, North Dakota, in 1935. This one, according to records in the city engineer's office, cost approximately $350 to build. In a yearly succession thereafter. Barrels sprang up in Detroit Lakes, Dilworth, and Wadena in Minnesota and in Devils Lake, North Dakota. Muzzy dropped the Triple XXX brand just after he built the Minot establishment, when he got a better price on concentrate from the Liquid Carbonic Company of Chicago. Instead of the old logo, new large-print five-cent signs now signaled the way to the Barrels."

"Since the Muzzys personally operated the Crookston stand, trustworthy workers had to be found to manage the other stands. Harry gave control of each establishment either to two women or a couple familiar with the business, allowing them a percentage of the net profits. The managers typically lived in the upper story of the Barrel. In 1936 waitresses were paid $1.25 per day plus free food and tips."

"After the war, as rationing disappeared, the Barrels' business again grew. Residents of the Fargo-Moorhead area resumed their practice of patronizing the stands on their return trip from "the lake" in Minnesota. The property owner in Wadena, however, decided his lot would be more valuable with a gas station on it. He terminated the Barrel's lease, and in about 1946 Ford Dickerson moved the building to Grand Forks, where twin Barrels could serve twice the number of customers as before the war Local patrons began calling the drive-in "The Kegs," which soon became its official name."

"Harry Muzzy's health began to fail in the 1940s, and he died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1948 at the age of 64. In nineteen years, he had established and tended a chain of eight Barrels; to have expanded to any greater extent would have involved selling franchises. . .Over the next decade, Martha Muzzy sold most of the Barrels to their local managers. She kept control of The Kegs until 1968 and continued to manage the Crookston Barrel herself."

"Patrons at the Grand Forks Kegs and the Crookston Barrel found their introduction to drive-in automation in 1957. The Servus-Phones equipment, purchased in Minneapolis, allowed faster service to customers and attracted patrons as a novelty of the Sputnik age."

"The Dilworth and Detroit Lakes drive-ins eventually fell into disrepair, were moved to different locations, and ultimately were destroyed. The Sioux Falls establishment flourished enough to outgrow two buildings by the mid-1950s. Eagan eventually rented his property to a Burger King franchisee. The Keg in Minot, damaged by a 1969 flood, suffered demolition in 1971. The Barrel in Devils Lake, vacant and deteriorating for three years, met its end by controlled burning in 1984."

"The very first Barrel in Great Falls did survive—as the rear portion of the Barrel Cafe and Lounge on a new site. In the 1990s, only The Kegs in Grand Forks remains as a drive-in restaurant. The twin barrels, painted red and covered with Hawaiian-style bamboo, continue to lure customers off North 5th Street. The original Servus-Phones still work. The Kegs has become an institution with deep customer loyalty, carrying on the tradition of carhops, barbecued-beef sandwiches, and burgers. It remains a harbinger of the seasons; as one local resident remarked, "I know it is spring when The Kegs opens up," and summer is over when the drive-in closes."

Excerpts in quotes taken from:

"The Barrel - Root Beer Stands of the Upper Midwest"  By Steven R. Hoffbeck
Copyright of Minnesota History and is the property of the Minnesota Historical Society
The complete article can be found at: