I recently received an email that forwarded a photo of the old Wright Spot drive-in and restaurant, a mid-20th century favorite. I don’t know the origin of the photo but it has been making the email rounds of local retired law enforcement officers. One of their members forwarded it to me.
Think of the TV program “Happy Days,” and that’s what the drive-in genre of the 1940s, ’50’s and ’60’s was like. In a circa-1958 photo, the Wright Spot actually has the appearance of the Happy Days hangout. With a little imagination, you can almost see Richie Cunningham and The Fonz standing near one of the cars in the packed parking lot.
The Wright Spot was just one of the local drive-ins in Napa. It was on the south end of town in a location now occupied by Jimmy Vasser Chevrolet. To the far north, across Jefferson Street from Napa High, was the Knotty Pine, later to become Chic’s Burgers. In between was Kenny’s Drive-in on the corner of Jefferson and H Streets, now a copy place, and Lily’s Drive-in on First Street, corner of Silverado Trail. All of the drive-ins had carhop waitresses.
Also attached to the email was a 1954 reproduction of a 1934 Wright Spot menu printed to celebrate their 20 years in business. As part of the celebration, prices for one day in 1954 were to be the same as the prices in 1934.
On that day, hamburgers were a dime, a rib steak was 50 cents and a dime would buy you a piece of pie or two scoops of ice cream. Those really low prices reflect the fact that, in 1934, the country was almost five years into what would become a 12-year depression.
By the time my family moved to Napa in 1942, Rome (Roa-my) Wright had been in business for eight years. His original tiny little restaurant on Third Street was already a hometown favorite. As the menu said, his hamburgers were “our specialty”.
Rome Wright was a real character, and every person that walked through the front door was his friend. There are tales of his pranks and hijinks still floating around within the ranks of some of my seasoned citizen friends who were around during the Wright Spot days.
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The Wright Spot of then was near the north end of Soscol Avenue at Third Street. (The Soscol bridge was to come several decades later.)
About 1950, Wright built his drive-in restaurant and a trailer court on property he owned on Soscol Avenue next to Blaufuss Cider Works.
About the time Wright was opening his new eatery, Ross Berglund moved his tractor business from downtown into a brand new building across the street from Wright’s restaurant. That building is now the new home of Napa Ford.
The Wright Spot operated as a drive-in restaurant well into the 1960s.
I was in Napa during the early stages of the drive-in era and the Wright Spot was one of the places that we young active males checked out when we were looking for something to do (read: looking for girls).
I left Napa in 1952 for a career in the military, so I was not around to see the demise of the drive-ins but I, and all surviving seasoned citizens of that time, still remember those days — not a whole lot more — but we do remember those days.
Email Jim Ford at firstname.lastname@example.org.