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Kirk's was the place to be during the 1950's!


The 1950's was a GOLDEN AGE for those of us who were lucky enough to be teenagers; we couldn't have grown-up during a better time.  "THOSE WERE THE DAYS."  And, as those wonderful West Texas days, including time spent at "KIRK'S DRIVE IN," fade from our memories, so does OUR generation fade from the earth.

This website helps us remember a few of the many GOLDEN DAYS we treasure from long ago.


Mary Hopkins
 If you remember the words, sing along with the music

(If You can't hear the music, click here)

Once upon a time there was a tavern
Where we used to raise a glass or two
Remember how we laughed away the hours
Think of all the great things we would do

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.
La la la la...

Then the busy years went rushing by us
We lost our starry notions on the way
If by chance I'd see you in the tavern
We'd smile at one another and we'd say

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days
La la la la...

Just tonight I stood before the tavern
Nothing seemed the way it used to be
In the glass I saw a strange reflection
Was that lonely woman really me

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days
La la la la...

Through the door there came familiar laughter
I saw your face and heard you call my name
Oh my friend we're older but no wiser
For in our hearts the dreams are still the same

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days
La la la la...


Remember the summer nights at Kirk's?  Sometimes there would be a double row of cars all the way around it.  If someone on the first row wanted to leave (I can't imagine why anyone would want to give up that choice spot), they would have to ask the car behind to back out on the street so they could escape.  How many nights did Dock and I meet back up there, after taking our girlfriends home, and spend 2 or 3 hours solving the world's ills? (Now realize, our "world" was a circle that started at Lubbock, went to Meadow, Brownfield, Ropes, Sundown, Morton, Whiteface -- remember the Home Theatre? -- Muleshoe, Sudan and Littlefield then back to Lubbock), but I digress!  Boy, did Dock and I talk, and then the question would come up about 12, "How the heck did we get on that subject?", and then (I know you are not gonna believe it), we would spend the next hour backtracking our conversation.

God, wasn't West Texas great in the '50s, even with all its warts.

Your pal (with Kirk's Drive In comments)
Leighton Railsback - (deceased)

Was there EVER a place in Levelland like Kirk's Drive-In??  I remember the dusty parking lot, a wide variety of cars (many of which are no longer built--Kaisers, Nashes, Hudson Hornets, others), the smell of grilled onions and hamburgers that could be detected two blocks away, the wooden booths inside that had all the world's great literature carved onto the surface of the tables and benches, cigarette smoke that could be cut with a knife, and the din of people having fun visiting, playing the juke box, and making so much noise that you sometimes had to shout at the people sitting next to you.  Today's OSHA and EPA representatives would have died had they seen that place!

Mr. Kirk always seemed to be present, checking his help, walking around the room working the crowd, and overseeing his domain.  He was a distinguished looking gentleman whose good looks seemed slightly out of place in that environment, but obviously enjoyed what he did. Dick Bailey was right about the Kirk girls--they could spruce up the joint simply by walking through the door.  I felt sorry for their father when the new eatery he built on the Brownfield Highway did not succeed.  It apparently was too clean, too quiet, too polished, and too refined and the kids would not go there.  Kirk's Drive-In may be gone but it holds the status of legend for anyone who was a Levelland High School student during those years.  How could anyone forget even a single visit?

Regards to all,
Dwight Pounds

Unidentified man & Walter B. Kirk working on the Kirk's Drive In sign

Remember the HOT tacos?  A Mexican man, Blas, the night cook, gave Daddy the recipe.  To my knowledge, Kirk's was the first drive in to sell tacos and it was this recipe that was later introduced into Dairy Queen Stores. Some thought they were too pepper hot and would tell Daddy to 'cool' them down; his reply "you buy them, don't you" and he made no changes. One thing all should know, true taco meat is not fried, it is boiled with all the seasonings until most of the  water/juice is gone...

Sharon Kirk Wilson


Also, if you wanted a fight, just say a four-letter word in front of someone's girlfriend.  Or, if you wanted to drag race, you could always find someone at Kirk's who was ready to run.

Another memory about staying out late; Leighton would stay in town 'till about five minutes before his deadline then drive like crazy to get home on time.  When he got there his parents were always waiting-up for him.  When I went home, my parents weren't up, but my father would always clear his throat when I walked through the door to let me know he knew when I got there.

Dock Sewell

How well I remember Kirk's Drive in..........Woody and I were operating the skating rink at the time we were introduced to 'super dogs' at Kirk's.  That was our evening fare for a very long time.  We had never eaten anything like it.....and it was such a convenient thing to drive to Kirk's and enjoy our meal before opening the Rink for the evening........Mr. and Mrs. Kirk were such a handsome couple and ran their business in a dignified manner..........We were to eventually learn that they had beautiful children with the same dignity........Those were the days!  Wouldn't you just love to turn the clock back?

June Weaver

 Walter B. & Estelle Kirk (in their mid-30's) in front of Kirk's Drive In

Kirk's: Remember, also, what a melting pot it was.  Kids from Sundown, Brownfield, Littlefield and every town west of Lubbock (of course Lubbock had the Hi Di Ho with all those college kids, and who wanted to compete with them) got to know each other there.  Even with the fights, you made friends that you never would have known! (Anybody remember the infamous Phil Phillips fight? Phil, the fighter, you ask? Well he was one night) Here is the question? Who finished it after Phil "started" it?

Leighton Railsback - (deceased)

I could start now and type through the weekend and couldn't even begin to recall all the great memories I have of Kirk's Drive In.  Who, among us guys, could ever forget the classy car-hops.  I guess the Kirk sisters set the standard.  I can't remember any that weren't knock outs.  I use to order a soft drink, drive around the block, and pull back in at a different spot for an order of fries just for a second look at some of them.  And speaking of "fries", I can still taste them.  They cut 'um fresh...never frozen.  For a couple of years during the 80's I wrote, produced and put into syndication a series of five minute radio programs I called "Moments To Remember."  Each show recalled some nostalgia of the 50's and featured a song of that era.  Several of the shows included dialogue that spoke of Kirk's Dr. In, the Levelland Youth Center, the Wallace Theater and the ol' Lobo Drive In Theater. Both of my daughters today tell me how envious they are of me that I had the opportunity to experience my teenage years in the decade of the 50's.  I re-live those times quite often in my mind.  Sharon, I still have some of the 45 rpm records that our dads took off their jukeboxes when they were in the vending business together (wish I had some of the juke boxes).  Your parents were special to all of us.  The styles, the cars, the music, the friendships.  &nbs! p;  They were all so much a part of the fun.  It's good to know that so many of the friendships remain.  Didn't mean to ramble so long…just wanted to say "hi" to all of you.

Herb Harding

This ad first appeared in the 1952 El Lobo

Gosh this really brings back memories.  I even recall when the Kirk's bought the "Super Dog" stand and how hard the Kirk's worked to make a go of it; later enlarging to include a place to "sit down." I recall how "the place to hang out" changed to Kirk's Drive In from the Polka Dot on West Ave.

Some of us "really talented" took a class in radio speech and one of the assignments was to conduct a "man on the street" type interview that originated at Kirk's drive in and was broadcast on KLVT.  Jerry Sanders was manager of the station and had a lot of courage to allow "this bunch" to get hold of a microphone.  Some of the members of "this bunch" were: Clois & Glenn Corbin, Bobo Johnson, Perry Heard, Harold Phelan, Jimmy Spence and myself just to name a few of the infamous.  The Corbin bros. and Bobo actually went into the radio field and were very successful.  At that particular time the Garrisons, Joe, Bobby & Joan were "a mainstay" at the station.

Of course Mr. & Mrs. Kirk were also very brave to put up with all of us over the years.  I have nothing but the fondest memories of growing up in Levelland.

Gene Billingsley - (deceased)

I remember those interviews.  It would be so crowded in that little add on room at the drive in at lunch time, with Mother just trying to get everyone their burger.  It was one of those busiest of days when I was asked by the interviewer (wish I could remember who it was) what I liked best..."I don't like any of it"..boy, was Mother upset with me, after all, my comment was going over the airways and it was not good advertisement!  She scolded me severely.  It was all very good, I was just wanting to eat at home, not another burger or Super Dog!!!

Sharon Kirk Wilson

Ah, good old KLVT, 1230 on your radio dial.

After I left TTech the first time (with 5 F's and one B, TTech thought I was a little tired of school and should take a break - my father was a whole lot less than happy with me), I spent the time between January 1956 and May doing DJ work on KLVT.  Gil Patsche was the manager then and I will never forget the time I went in to ask for a raise in pay.  He just looked at me, then turned around to a wire recorder he had and played back me doing part of a show.  I turned around and left without saying another word.  It was painfully obvious even to me that I was not totally suited to a radio announcing career.  I did take a couple of weeks off to have an operation and then left for good to go for basic training at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.  One thing about basic training - you soon begin to think "I must have been out of my mind to do this!" And 23 years later I got out of the Army.

I have some good memories of Kirk's Drive-In, too.  My basic memory is of the huge (and hugely delicious) hamburgers and shakes.  I wish I knew somewhere to get something like them today.  And we all had fun without getting into (much) trouble.  I guess we just did not want Mr. Kirk to get angry with us.

Jim Black

Walter & Estelle Kirk

What a wonderful time I have had this evening reading everyone's memories of our teenage years and our "meeting place"..."Kirk's Drive-in".  Thank you all for the hours spent in putting this together so we could all share with each other.  Sorry I missed out on some of those dances at Sharon's house.  I don't think I ever dated a boy who knew how to dance!  And strangely enough, I married one too!  I made up for that in college though.
I never knew Jim Black was on the radio!  I would like to have heard him!  I remember singing a song on KLVT one time, and I enjoyed it so much that I told my stepdad I wanted to begin taking singing lessons, but apparently he was not as impressed with my talent as I thought he would be and told me we had a piano and I should learn to play that!

Thank you again for the fun reading.

I remember the Corbin brothers, only I remember them by their nicknames. "Sky" and "Slim".  Gayle Ewing and I sang in a band they put together.  We traveled to different places to sing.  There was a family that lived on the Levelland Highway that let us practice in their home.  I think 2 or 3 of their boys were in the band.  I can't remember for sure where we sang now, it seems like we did some things for high schools, but I went out on a date with "Slim", got in after my "curfew" and that was the end of my "band career" Stepdad was a stickler for getting in on time.  "Slim" married a girl named Betty, and they lived right across the street from the high school.  A really sweet couple.  I saw "Sky" at the last was fun talking about old times.

Those were wonderful days, weren't they?  Probably the last days when kids had a good time and didn't get into too much trouble.  We always went to that wonderful place for "400's" (chocolate milk on ice) and hamburgers.  It was "the" place to see everyone, and be seen!  I am so glad we had it ...even long before we had a youth center, or a swimming pool.

When we girls had a date, they always took us to Kirk's....and then when we didn't, we girls got together and went anyway!  If we didn't have a date we went around and around the square...and up and down the main streets...hunting for other teenagers...and always ended up at "Kirk's Drive-in".

Jimmie Lou Brown Walters

Strangest thing.  As I re-read all the "Kirk" messages it made me realize that in raising my 3 girls I had used Walter as a role model! I stayed (to this day) involved in the lives of all of them.  I included them in my business.  I accepted their friends.  Honestly, in hindsight, I never really saw, (in a day to day relationship), any other father "raise" his children as I (and we) did the Kirks.

What would I have done without them? Glad I will never know!

Leighton Railsback - (deceased)

Walter& Estelle Kirk not only watched over us at Kirk's Drive In, they also added a large room to their house (and furnished a record player) where teenagers would gather and dance at night.  At least one of them would always be there to supervise.  It was a no-nonsense, lot's of fun, place to be.  That's where I learned to "Put Your Little Foot."  My parents did not approve of dancing and wouldn't let me leave the house if they even suspected I was going to a dance.  Sadly, they never understood that "dancin' at Kirk's" was one of the safest and most innocent places I could have been.  I am so grateful that Walter & Estelle were two people who helped me grow-up in the best of times.  What would we have done if they had stayed in Littlefield?

If only we could re-live just one evening at Kirk's Drive In!  I doubt that Walter & Estelle Kirk had an inkling of what they did for the teenagers of Levelland.

Dock Sewell

Re:  Dancing at night

Those who didn't know probably thought it was a 'den of iniquity' but Daddy said he would "rather we danced instead of...", so we danced a lot! For all his misgivings, he instilled good values into/for all of us.  He wanted us to 'do as he said, not as he sometimes did.'

He wouldn't even let us go to town in shorts...said he knew the male mind. I used to think he was so mean and that nobody but him thought of such  things...WRONG! Chig tells me he was absolutely right.  Now I am appalled at what parents allow their teen girls to wear out of the house...again, what a great time to have been a teenager, the innocence of the '50s.

Sharon Kirk Wilson

Sharon Kirk Wilson, photo from the 1953 El Lobo, was a cheerleader

As I was re-reading some of the messages, i.e., the one about Kirk buying the Super Dog, it came to me that he purchased it from Mr. Watts for the staggering sum of around $6000-$6500 and a couple of years later when we purchased the adjoining property for the parking lot, Watts asked $15,000!  Do you think he wanted to be out of the food business in the beginning, then saw he had blundered?  He was a cranky old man (not really even that old).

Sharon Kirk Wilson

Dear friends.  Lots of memories about Kirk's Drive In. My earliest memories of the place come from junior high days when we used to walk over there for lunch.  The beautiful cook soon learned how I liked my burger, mayonaise instead of mustard, and would have it ready for me when I got there.  Estelle really made me feel special.  She continued to do so when she moved back to Levelland.  Yeah, and I, too remember the car-hops, but lets not go overboard on that.  They couldn't help how they looked.  It came natural. Remember their mother.  It is a pleasure to say that Carolyn, Sharon, and Donna are still gorgeous, inside and out, just like their mom.

Speaking of memories, I know you all remember Dr. Renegar.  His widow, Margaret, just went into the nursing home for rehab after fracturing her knee.  That generation is wearing out.  But they sure gave us a good life, didn't they.  God bless them all, and may God bless you.

I love each of you dearly.

Bill Billingsley

Recently we were driving down Houston Street in Levelland and as we went by the 'ol Kirk's Drive In, I said to Marynell, "There's where Kirk's Drive In was located when I was growing up."  Marynell said, "The Kirk's were dear people. Sharon and I were friends when they lived in Littlefield.  I remember spending some wonderful times in the Kirk home.  Sometimes I would spend the night with them.  They were a precious family.  I was so disappointed when they moved to Levelland."
How well do I remember the 'ol days when I could take a pocket full of quarters and eat all week at Kirk's Drive Inn!!!!  Y'all were so kind and good to me as I was growing up.  AND, how blessed I was to get to go to school with those two beautiful Kirk girls.
I remember an incident that happened after I graduated from LHS.  I attended Sul Ross College.  On one occasion, after being in Levelland for a visit, I was returning to college.  It was past noon when I got to Seminole.  I saw this neat little Drive In by the side of the road.  It didn't look too busy because it was after the normal noon rush hour. It looked like a quick place to get a snack.
I stopped, hoping to get an order "to go".  I went to the window to give my order.  I said to someone on the other side of the glass, "May I have a burger and fries to go?"  A quiet, sweet voice replied, "May I get you a drink with that, Curtis?"  I thought, "Man, who knows my name in Seminole, Texas?!!!"  Needless to say, I got a little closer to that window to see who was serving my food!!! IT WAS ESTELLE KIRK!!!!!!

Curtis Israel

Sharon, I never left Levelland. Lived here since 1948 [low profile and behind the scenes] Haha.  Janice moved back to Altus, Ok, finished high school & married a wop in the air force there.  They moved to R.I., had 3 kids & still live there.  Tony, her husband, is a great guy.  Just kidding about the wop part.  I married Virginia Smith; we kicked around everywhere for a few years, wound up back in Levelland, worked for Levelland Compress for 53 years, raised 3 beautiful daughters, have 8 grandkids, 2 great-great granddaughters [13 and 11], 1 g-grandson [4 mos], which by the way should put us close to the top of the list.  We retired in 2004, love life, love the Lord, and love all you guys from LHS.  Now how is that for a bio?  Loved your Dad and family and Kirk's Drive In, Raced his Chrysler once, but that's another story in itself.  Love to you and yours, Jack

Jack VanNess

Hi Dock..I just saw the great documentary about the Kirks...Super, and brings back lots of memories...even for my wife, Bille and myself.  In l952 when all of Levelland was at the state basketball tournament Billie was at the hospital across the alley starting in labor with our older daughter, Lynn.  Things were going slowly and I sneaked out to Kirk's to get a Coke. When I got back to the room, she was gone and I panicked..she had gone to delivery alone!  Then I heard a noise in the closet and she was packing up to go home..false alarm..had to wait two more weeks..AND I HAD MISSED THE TOURNAMENT!  Now..l955..Sept. 2nd..we're expecting second child..went to Kirk's for tacos.  As soon as we got home Billie  went into labor and Kelly was born at l a.m. Sept 3rd..a little sooner than we expected.  I think it was those HOT tacos that did it!

Sam Hollis - (deceased)
(Sam was a teacher at LHS & Andrews - Later, a photographer in Midland)

Carolyn Kirk Rush, "LHS Miss Personality for 1953," photo from the 1953 El Lobo

It is hard to believe soooo many years have gone by  since our wonderful growing up days in the fifties...I would rather be this old than to have missed that trip!!!  And, Kirk's Drive In would not have been the special place it was without all of you!

Sharon Kirk Wilson


 Donna Kirk Stephens, Estelle Kirk - (deceased) & Carolyn Kirk Rush 

 Walter C. Kirk - (deceased) with his wife Carol 
Walter C. Kirk died of cancer August 20, 2002, in Mena, Arkansas 

 Estelle Kirk - (deceased) and Sharon Kirk Wilson 
Estelle Kirk died March 8, 2004, in Lubbock, Texas 

 Donna, Carolyn & Sharon
The "Kirk Girls" - June, 2015


© 2003 dun by dock
Kerrville, Texas