Drive in and back to the ’50s

The Week, May 24: Paul's Motor Inn reopens drive-in, red cedar eaten by poachers

Fancy cars and smiling customers raced to Paul’s Motor Inn last weekend, as the hotel celebrated its 40th anniversary with the return of its historic drive-in restaurant.

Drive in and back to the ’50s

Nostalgic Victorians got a mouth full of memories this past weekend when Paul’s Motor Inn marked its 40th anniversary by bringing back the historic drive-in.

Hundreds of car and burger enthusiasts drove up to Paul’s new drive-in this weekend for a menu that includes all the traditional drive-in fare of a bygone era: hamburgers, chicken fingers, foot-long hotdogs, fries, sundaes, banana splits, sodas and more. It was exactly what people were asking for six decades ago when Paul’s ran its first drive-in from 1952 to about 1972; three of the original carhops from the ’50s even came out for a special appearance.

“Our opening weekend was a phenomenal success — so much so that we had to close down early because we ran out of food,” says Michael King who has been manager of Paul’s restaurant and hotel for a year and a half now. “Drive-ins are a thing of the past and it’s intended for fun. We wanted people to be able to come down and experience something that hasn’t been in Victoria for so long … all weekend I had people telling me, ‘I remember when’ and that’s exactly what we hoped for.”

Despite the Victoria favourite Beacon Hill Drive-In, Paul’s now marks the only spot on the Island where people drive up, flash their lights and have a carhop come to take their order.

While the attendants won’t be on roller skates due to insurance risks, nearly everything else is run as a throw-back from the ’50s. For those who have never experienced a traditional drive-in, King points out it’s nothing like a “drive-thru” — you order from a real person, not a robotic microphone, then stay and eat in your car, complete with a tray that fastens to your window. And while you’re situated in the privacy of your own vehicle, it’s a slow-food experience. But while Victoria fancies itself an environmentally conscious walking city, King says we are coming back to a car culture, this time with a new twist.

“Back in the ’50s, having a car used to be a big deal. Then we hit the ’70s and everyone had one, and it wasn’t special anymore,” says King. “Now, we’re coming back to the mind-set that, if you have a car in Victoria, it is a big deal again, and how you choose to use that car matters.”

King says opening weekend saw some incredible old cars roll out, but whether you drive a 1960s Barracuda or a 2012 Prius, you’ll still enjoy the experience.

“Being in a recession for the last two years, people aren’t going on vacations like they used to, but they are looking for something they can delight in again,” says King. “I want people to be able to remember that quirky little hotel on Douglas Street.”

The drive-in will run Fridays 4 to 11 p.m., Saturdays 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. until Sept. 30.

For those who want another snapshot of nostalgia, Paul’s team is hosting the “Retro For A Room” contest, which asks participants to take a photo of something that looks like it’s from the ’50s or ’60s using Instagram, then post it on Twitter with the hashtag #retroforaroom. Each month, one winner will score a two-night stay in the Inn’s newly redone retro suite. Full details at paulsmotorinn.com/contest.

Don’t Mess with Nana nature

Grim news for tree lovers, that poachers are back and slowly eating away at what remains of an 800-year-old red cedar that now lies in the parking area at Carmanah-Walbran Provincial Park up Island — and a reward is on the heads of those responsible.

Parks officials announced this past week that the poachers have returned to finish the job at their leisure, cutting up and hauling out much of the tree that, last year, poachers cut 80 per cent of the way through but were unsuccessful in felling. B.C. Parks staff had to cut the cedar down for safety reasons. Because of the park’s vast and remote location, monitoring the area is difficult.

However, the Wilderness Committee and the British Columbia Government Employees Union (BCGEU) announced this week a $5,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of those responsible for poaching the tree. More to come. M

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