Hillcrest Inn BBQ

I have so many photos of my own to wade through that I usually don’t publish ones by other folks, but I found this offering from Jeffry Boswell Hawk, Class of  ’61 too interesting to pass up. She writes about the Hilltop Inn, located on Kingshighway across from the StarVue Drive-in. I don’t recall ever seeing it, even though it’s just up the road from our house on Kingsway. I’ll let her and her brother, Wayne tell the story.

Family-run business

  Hillcrest was a family-run BBQ Drive-In with inside and curb-hop service. We sold BBQs, Hamburgers, Cheeseburgers, Deep-fried Chicken and Shrimp, French fries, cole slaw, soft drinks, shakes and Beer (*with 3.2 alcohol). *That is why we (my brother and sisters) were able to work there for our parents.

Daddy’s given name was Homer Franklin, but back when he was very young, and I suppose, also very mischievous, there was a very popular book called, Peck’s Bad Boy. Peck’s bad boy’s name was “Jeff”. So, He ALWAYS went with the H.F.”Jeff”Boswell name. And, yes, I’m named after my dad’s nickname. Mom’s name was Erma.

Mom did all the cooking- Daddy helped as needed and ran the operation. We kids, waited tables, curb-hopped, filled the soda and beer coolers, swept and mopped floors, washed windows and dishes, helped prepare the hamburger patties, peel potatoes for the fries and put them thru a hand-pulled slicer. Custodial work was also our job as well as mowing the grass. That’s where I learned to operate a riding mower.

Outdoor beer garden

Daddy, with the help of my older brother Wayne, built covered picnic tables and an outdoor walk-in cooler which was surrounded with a bar and stools.  The outdoor beer garden also had an archery range behind the building and horseshoe pits. There was also an outdoor jukebox in case someone wanted to hear their favorite music and dance.

Our indoor restaurant seated about 28 people in 7 booths that lined the walls; and probably about 10 tables with 4 chairs off the dance floor; with about 5-6 more tables on the dance floor. So probably about 80-to 90 people in tables and booths and a wrap-around bar with about 14-15 stools to allow for about 100 people. The food preparation went on inside the wrap-around bar.

Filled with dancing kids

Friday and Saturday nights, the dance floor was filled with high school seniors and college-aged kids from Cape and Jackson doing the jitterbug and slow-dancing. There was also a bumper pool table, pin-ball machine and a slide-bowling machine that were kept busy with players.

Sunday was usually family day for lunch and supper. Mom also made breakfast for some of the regulars from time to time. Several farmers would stop in for lunch.

Last business before Jackson

Hillcrest was the last business building on the right side of Kingshighway (61) with the StarVue Drive-In Movie until you got to Jackson.

Mom and Dad got a call about 8 am one Saturday morning telling them that Hillcrest was on fire. We lived out in Red Star with only Broadway straight thru to Kingshighway to get to Hillcrest, so by the time they got there, it was fully engulfed with flames. I still have a couple of burnt, melted dimes fused together as a memento- but many happy memories of our family working out there together!

(Daddy didn’t build another business there because he knew that the interstate would be built soon after and he thought that it would by-pass Cape and no one would be able to get off or drive ‘that far’ to the business.) If only we could have known what we know now!

– Jeffry Boswell Hawk ’61 – Jackson, MO

Across from StarVue Drive-in

I don’t know the exact date when we bought the Hillcrest, but it was sometime around 1955. We only owned the business, not the building. When the building burned down sometime in 1958, the land owner offered to sell us the 25 acres of land the building was on for $25,000. Unfortunately, our parents did not have enough money to buy the land at that time or money to rebuild the building and we lost our income when the building burned and our parents had to find another source of income. The land behind where the building was located, is currently occupied partly by a condominium complex.
– Wayne Boswell


12 Replies to “Hillcrest Inn BBQ”

  1. Thanks for sharing…and 3.2 beer I almost forgot about it. Must have been a very cool place. Like Ken I don’t remember it, but I was ten when it burned and anything that FAR out of town was probably off my radar screen anyway. Wish I could have gone there!

    1. Bob,I remember the old Dog n Suds. It was on Kingshighway south of the entrance to Arena Park and on the same side of the road (west side). Wimpy’s was further north on the other side of Kingshighway (east side). We didn’t go there but passed it many times on the way to Wimpy’s – the turn around spot. The route for teen-agers “driving around” was from Broadway to Kingshighway, to Wimpy’s and back again, endlessly. Gas didn’t cost much back then.

  2. 3.2 beer, was just talking about that the other day… Not sure what was up with that, we used to call it Sunday beer. Guess that was because of the blue law.

    And Starvue, wow… Got busted once sneaking in my girlfriend, in the back of my station wagon.

  3. The Hilcrest would make sense. There was a 9 hole sand green golf course named Hillcrest Country club on the Star Vue Drive in sight from about 1930 to 1942. It went out of business during WWII

  4. My CHS friends and I hungout there many times before 1956. I remember the jukebox and dance floor.It must have been an ideal set up for the Boswells.

  5. I remember the old Hillcrest well. My Dad and Mom were friends with Jeffry’s Mom and Dad and the whole family would go up there and eat outside in the warm weather. It was a nice family spot to go to. People back then didn’t go out to eat much and besides The Hillcrest, the only place I can remember going out to eat when I was young was The Colonial Tavern for a great shrimp salad. I remember Boswell’s BBQ’s were great. That was a blast from the past!

  6. Thanks for running this story, Ken. And thankyou for the additional comments. I didn’t think too many classmates from the 60’s would remember it, but I’m sure the classmates from the 50’s would. Seeing them (CHS classmates of the 50’s) at Hillcrest was how I got to know a lot of them besides knowing them through my sister, Jackie CHS’55, and brother, Wayne CHS’58. I also met a lot of people from Jackson who I later reconnected with in later life. All good people- especially Dale Myers, with whom I worked for and with for 18 years in the S&L and banking industry. One of the finest gentlemen that I have ever had the privilege of knowing. Loved working with and for him. And many of the local farmers became dear friends of my parents, such as Frank Nitsch who had a daughter by the name of Elsie. She and I are good friends now-a-days and we used to deliver travel-trailers with her son, Allen. . . who has become a good friend. So it seems, the old saying, “Don’t burn any bridges behind you” is played over and over in real life. But, thank God, I have always had WONDERFUL friends. And I have always lived by that old Girl Scout song, “Make new friends, but keep the old- One is silver and the other, gold.”

  7. What a nice surprise to see the story about Hillcrest featured in this week’s 50’s Newsletter! I hope other Centralites will add their stories and memories to it. I thought that several from the CHS’s ’55 and back would remember going out there.

    I also enjoy having a copy of the aerial photo you posted of the Red Star neighborhood. Now when I tell my grandchildren about where I grew up, how far I walked to school and different stories- they can see just how far it was to Grandma’s and how close the tornado of ’49 came to our house, etc.

    One day, I took my little sister, Johanna, with me to “explore” the pasture across Bend Road and we walked all the way to Sprigg Street. Went up to the Oliver’s “Gray Stone” home and knocked on the door to ask the kind lady if she would call our parents because WE WERE LOST and didn’t know how to get home!

    Another time, I took my little sister on an adventurous walk to play in the HUGE sandpiles when the sand company was located on Main Street across from the old Reynolds Mansion (that is no longer there). Mom and Dad didn’t know where we were and they told me “Flo”, the taxi-cab driver saw us playing there, knew who we were and called our mom and dad. I got the worse spanking that I ever got for going to the sandpiles to play. Thank goodness, we only played at the bottom of them and didn’t try to climb to the top where we might have sunk down and suffocated!

    You know- it really did “take a village” back then to raise kids! And our village couldn’t have been more full of WONDERFUL PEOPLE!

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