In their youth they were rivals at Grant, Southeast and Capitol Hill high schools, but years later, grayer but mostly wiser, a group of south Oklahoma City residents began to gather one Saturday a month to relive their memories and browse through old yearbooks.
Those get-togethers have continued since 2009. The gathering spot, every time, has been Coit's Drive-In at SW 25 and Western Avenue.
Opened in 1954 by the late Don Coit, the restaurant has survived the ravages of time that claimed other southside favorites such as The Spot, Spartan Drive-In and Shipman's.
But now the future of Coit's itself is in doubt as the three family-owned restaurants are up for sale with no intention of keeping the business going once the transactions are completed.
“It's where we cruised in high school,” said Don Munday, a longtime member of the monthly southside gatherings. “Our families would go there to get root beer all the time. Hot dogs and root beer — two of my favorite food groups. I don't want it to close. It's an icon.”
Jessie Coit has fond memories of her own. A photo displayed in the dining room of the Coit's Drive-In at NW 50 and Portland Avenue shows her son Bill at the counter, years ago, when her husband Don Coit was still running the show.
Don Coit ran the business until he died in 2005. He and his three brothers struggled with their widowed mother to make ends meet during his youth. She worked at the Stockyards, the boys delivered newspapers and helped pay for groceries and rent.
While serving overseas during World War II, Don Coit continued to work hard, and by the time he returned home, Jessie Coit said, they had $1,800 saved. Don Coit then went to work for his older brother Raymond at the Stockyards, where he evaluated measurements and sales prices for cattle.
“He was just born with a terrific mathematical brain,” Jessie Coit said. “He knew how hard it was to work and make money. His word was good.”
Don Coit, however, was not a farm boy and aspired to leave the Stockyards. When he learned of a lot for sale at SW 25 and Western Avenue, he borrowed money from his mother and jumped at the chance to open a Weber's root beer stand.
“He wanted to be his own boss, and this was the place where they sold used cars,” Jessie Coit said. “They didn't want too much; it wasn't big money.”
The operation started off meager — a root beer stand with no windows, just a shutter board that closed when the day's business was over. Winter business was dismal and Don Coit was looking for a way to survive the cold weather when an acquaintance at the fire department suggested he sell Christmas trees.
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