Progress closes Mecca Drive-In

Dwight Williamson For The Logan Banner

February 9, 2014

In 1963 the great musical artist Bob Dylan sang “for the times they are a-changin,” — and indeed they have. Gone are the drive-in movie theaters once scattered across Logan County, immensely popular and purposeful in local pastimes. In fact, very few remain in the entire United States.

Such also is the case with drive-in restaurants. Although there are several chains of drive-in diners across the country, Logan County seems to have had the handle on such “home grown” eateries for a long time. Even today there are three such thriving locations in the county, all with the necessary “curb girls” which it takes to make the facilities complete. Sadly, we must report that until recently there existed four such locations.

Mecca-Drive-In opened and closed its doors for one final time October 5 of last year at its Stollings location. Though the familiar building still stands today like an old worn tombstone made of sand, it too is scheduled for demolition and will disappear more quickly than even the former Logan High School and Junior High School that once stood on Stratton Street in Logan.

Like the former school— once the proud home of first the Wildcats and then the Kittens— Mecca’s disappearance comes in the wake of what is known as progress.

It is written and even put to tune that “all things must pass.” Such passing leaves a host of memories for many. For some, those memories may be in the form of former teachers, classmates or even a library experience at the school. It could also be as simple as the greasy and great Mecca cheeseburger, always with a giant sized onion and plenty of mustard.

Devonah “Bonnie” Blevins operated Mecca for over 35 years. In the mid-1970s the popular restaurant was open 24 hours per day, a popular stop for many coal miners going to and from their jobs.

“I wish to thank all the many people for their years of support,” Miss Blevins said. “I’ve wanted to say thanks for a long time. I appreciate everybody.”

It is not known why Mecca was so named. However, according to courthouse records, W.O. (Omer) Avis opened the restaurant, purchasing the property in 1946 for $6,000. Mr. Avis resided until his death at 719 Stratton Street, Logan. Ironically, the West Virginia Department of Highways recently purchased the property from Avis’ daughter, Nancy Beach, a non-resident of West Virginia. The irony being that Mecca also has been bought by the Department of Highways. Both purchases are connected to the work on the new road from Logan to Man.

Former Stratton Street resident Mark Fragemeno remembers Mr. Avis well. “He drove a big and long Cadillac, and when us kids saw him coming home, we always knew we were getting candy and balloons.

An exit ramp from the new highway is proposed to the airport at Melville, thus the closing of Mecca Drive-In ending another chapter of our fair county’s history.

Today, many residents and others frequent Morrison’s, Parkway and the Park ‘n Eat drive-ins just like we always have. Former “hillbillies” now living in other areas still marvel for these places when visiting. However, there used to be other popular such places. Perhaps the older generation will recall the likes of The Green Top at Aracoma, Penny’s outside of Logan, the Nava-Jo near the Stollings underpass, The Junction at Man or The Patio at Chapmanville.

Good times… good friends… Could you bring me a little more ketchup, please?