How Americans got fat. A story told (mostly) in pictures.


Americans.  We love our cars.  It’s partly why we’re fat.  Remember when we dressed up to go to dinner?  That began to change in the 20’s with Drive-In restaurants.

In 1921, America’s first drive-in restaurant, Kirby’s Pig Stand, opened in Dallas, Texas.

People could also go inside to eat, or sit themselves down at one of Kirby’s Pig Stand’s picnic tables.  (What a name!)

Sidebar:  Continuing the trend to cars: A patent for Drive-in movie theaters was rendered in New Jersey in 1932.  The most famous Drive-in was featured in song, called the “Plattsburgh Drive-In Blues.”  (Which is kind of odd considering Plattsburgh is only warm enough for the theater to have been open about four months out of the year.)

 The glory years:  When the Drive-in became hot, nationally.


Drive-in restaurants meant we never needed to get out of the car,

and Carhops delivered our meals on roller skates. They got quite a bit of exercise.

Carhops on skates

That lasted long enough for Mel’s Drive-in and, the seminal movie about the late 50’s and early 60s, American Graffiti.  Not exactly how we got fat.

But drive-in restaurants played a role, due to cars.

We got fat due to:  Car cup holders.

Automakers began to catch on; although initially, not with any degree of sophistication.cupholder-1950

Eventually automakers, still without seemingly much interest, added cup holders.

The design appeared to be

“Early after-thought.”

Nothing was gimbaled, but drivers could hit the road with a cool drink and not worry too much about spillage.

So, primitive….but trying.


It all went downhill, due to the accidental confluence between the State of Michigan, and Edward Shoemaker.  

Ed Shoemaker made a fortune realizing people really like to sit.

The invention of what became the Command Post for the Man of House.  As in, “Get out of your Father’s Chair” (and ironic tribute to armchair quarterbacking, sedentary life) cheekily delivered by none other than, Joe Namath!

Joe Namath - La-Z-BoyYes, the “La-z-boy” chair.  

All thanks due to Michigan farm boy and engineer Ed Shoemaker, who preferred tinkering with an idea of a reclining porch chair, to farming.  Once Ed figured it out, he took his design to the owner of a furniture store —who suggested adding padding so the chair would be comfortable for indoor use.

Ed agreed.

In 1961 sales were just over a million and a half.

(Ed initially built novelty furniture.  Ed’s, “The Gossiper” was a table for a phone —and a seat.  In World War II Ed built seats and seat backs for armored cars, gun turrets, torpedo boats and tanks. After the war he went right back into private manufacturing.)

In 1970 Ed added (among his 30 patents) a built-in foot rest.  Sales topped 50 million.

But remember – Michigan.  Ed’s country.  By now auto-manufactuers finally realized embedded cup holders were the cool way to go.  Attention was paid to placement and design.  Snazzy cup holders became important.


The beginning of the end.

And then automakers and furniture makers  married and Voilá!  Cup-holders became part of the furniture.  

cupholders-hometheaterIt was over soon after.  Cup holders began popping up everywhere.  Personally, I believe consumers were doomed after cup-holder mania hit grocery carts.

Shopping cart cupholders

That’s right.  There’s never a time one doesn’t have to be consuming a drink.  Including while grocery shopping.

So now it’s complete.  From shortly after birth,

cupholders - baby

to the car, to bed at night.

cupholders in bed

Oh yeah; and now, for — caskets! 

Casket cupholders

Last, if you read this —please let me know if you went for walk afterward.  🙂

If you would like to support independent journalism, my current campaign is geared to changing the way media reports on the presidency.



About bonnie russell

It's not about’s always about people.
This entry was posted in Food & Restaurants, Health and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to How Americans got fat. A story told (mostly) in pictures.

  1. Eva Cram says:

    GOOD ONE, Bonnie!! Those things didn’t make me fat since I seldom used them. The Internet & lots of carbs did a fine job of that!!!


    • Sadly, I can sooooo relate. 🙂


      • Kurt Roundy aka Maddy's daddy says:

        Absolutely brilliant! Not sure that’s why I got fat, but the good new is I’ve lost 54 lbs. since this spring. I celebrated passing my halfway point just a few days ago.

        Missing our visits! You always make me laugh!

        Tons of Love! Kurt


  2. Sally spelbring says:



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