In 1943, a young Bill and Thelma Busch purchased what was known then as the Triple X Barrell Drive-In Restaurant, with parking for almost 300 vehicles and located on South Tacoma Way. Shortly thereafter, they remodeled the restaurant and renamed it Busch’s Drive-In.
In January 1951, Thelma Busch met with Ken Flora, the principal of Lincoln High School of Tacoma’s south side and told him that the restaurant would have some luncheon specials for the students and there would be special parking for them on Saturday evenings on the south side of the building. By the end of the summer in 1951, the students filled the entire south side of the restaurant and most of the most of the north side that was reserved for the adults. By 1955, Busch’s became known as the “Cruising Capital of the Pacific Northwest” and it remained that way until the early 1960s. In terms of parking, Busch’s was the largest restaurant of its kind north of San Francisco and was a second home for thousands of Tacoma’s youth (and some parents too).
As my dear friend Walk Kaplin put it, “That was then, this is now and Aug. 26, 2018 will be the last hurrah and the of an era – perhaps Tacoma’s finest.”
It is anticipated that the Griot’s Garage parking lot will be full of rare, classic, antique, dragsters, hot rods, rat rods, street rods and vintage vehicles valued at well over $10 million. Representatives of three of Tacoma’s most famous car clubs – the Toppers, Demons and the Kings Men – will be in attendance. Jack Butler and Denny Hall plan to bring two famous cars once owned by the late Dick Page and Denny Seaholm. Dick and Denny, both very good friends of Walt who is organizing the Busch’s reunion, were the first two inducted into the Washington State Hot Rod Hall of Fame, founded by Walt and his wife Joanie in 1986.
The morning will begin with the Canadian National Anthem followed by our National Anthem and, of course, special music heard at Busch’s during the 50s will be heard again for the last time. I plan to be there with Walt, conducting interviews and taking photos for a special edition of the 75th and last reunion. The special addition is scheduled for September publication, so stay tuned in, as it will be a collectible.
I know that has mixed emotions about this reunion. You see, Walt and Joanie realized five years ago, when they were planning this reunion, that it would be the last hurrah and the end of a glorious era. What Walt didn’t know was that his beloved wife of 54 years, four months and eight days would not be with him to say hello and goodbye to the many friends they have known inside and outside the car hobby. Joanie passed away from adrenal cancer in August 2015. Her many contributions to the hobby will forever be in the minds and hearts of those who loved her.
There will be a special 75th anniversary cake being made that should feed all who attend. The registration for this last hurrah is just $20 and is open to anyone who wishes to participate. Every participant will receive a special 4-inch by 6-inch crystal glass covered dash plaque and to DVD movies, “The Cool Hot Rod” (1953) and “Don’t Knock the Rock” (1956). There is no charge for the general public to attend, but you are encouraged to bring your camera, as this is the final Busch’s reunion. The was a song recorded by The Byrds in 1965 named “Turn, Turn, Turn,” but for this final event, I would rather it end by the The Spaniels, a 50s black r&b group who recorded the legendary song “Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight.”
See you Aug. 26 at Griots. Gates open at 7:30 p.m. and the reunion runs until 2 p.m.