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 OldChesterPa.com: Bill Bruehl

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The Milkshake King is an apt title for Bill Bruehl of Ridley Township, who believes he sells more of them than any other stand in the county. But hamburgers, root beer and soup enter the picture, too. An intimate view of a typical roadside stand.


(Above) COUNT THEM, all ten of them - they that do such yeoman service in jiggling up 12,000 milk shakes a month - and marvel. When there's a full house and a run on the milk shakes, Arlene Schreffler must be kept stepping to satisfy the customers' thirsty demands. Bill started with two small shakers but when he lowered the tariff from 15 cents to 10 cents, the rushing business literally burned them up. Even now when anyone of the ten takes a beating, the shaker motor gets hot. Other liquid refreshments go over big too. Hot chocolate runs into 1000 cups a month and ordinary calculations couldn't rightly determine the number of coffees shoved over the counter. 

Gone is the day of the good old hot dog stand. If you don't believe us or won't take our word for it, just ask Bill Bruehl who says the coming thing in eateries is the drive-in sandwich shop where everything and anything from coffee to a platter dinner is on order. Out West the stands have mushroomed up by the dozens and people have been reputed to sink $50,000 or so in such ventures. Here in the East the idea has taken little hold as yet. but Bill feels it won't be long now before a brisk competition will be whipped up from coast to coast. While he was still caretaker at the Swarthmore Players' Club, Bill saw how the trend was going and in the spring of '39 set up business on the corner of Fairview Road and MacDade Boulevard. He's been drawing the customers ever since, and when he'll stop nobody knows.

"BIG BILL:' as he's affectionately called by his friends and patrons, slaps a hamburger together. Incidentally, the long time popularity of the Wimpie is giving way to the rising cry for chipped steak sandwiches. When it comes to soups; Bill lists chicken noodle, clam chowder and bean as top-ranking favorites while cream of mushroom gets the cellar spot.


(Above) HELEN STEVENS draws a root beer straight from the keg, which is an over-sized barrel camouflaging a complete soda fountain, good for five gallons of juice. By lifting up the lid you can see the two five quart drums of carbonated water being chilled by a hundred pounds of ice, atop the drums, and the root beer syrup container. When the barrel spigot is turned on one ounce of syrup and seven ounces of "fizzle" water are released from their containers simultaneously and are blended together in the mug.
The dial-faced box, by the beer barrel, is not a radio but a remote control for the "juke" box or nickelodeon. Bill notices more customers dial the hot numbers than the sweet swing. And when it comes to "platter" personalities, Mr. Bing Crosby gets the call every time; Tommy Dorsey's band leads all the rest; and tavern style novelty numbers are fast favorites.

THE FROSTED MUG of root beer is a specialty with Bill who puts empty glass mugs in the ice compartment to be brought out hazy with the cold into the air, where ice forms on both sides of the mug, giving an unexpected sparkle to the beverage. Bill, who prefers not to remember a venture in the antique business, has come a long way at his roadside stand. It's real work to keep the place going and maintain a high peak of efficiency. He doesn't open up until nine A. M. in the summer and about ten in the winter, but every night as long as there are customers at the counter, you can be sure Bill is behind it The curb service draws about a 60 per cent trade in the winter but that per cent zooms to 90 in the summer months. Most of the "We'll eat it in the car" crowd drive up with blinking lights or bawling horns after six p. m. which means it's usually the "dating" public. Bill depends more on repeat business than on transient trade and he gets to know his customers pretty well. He's seen the romances of eight different couples run true to form, and now the boys bring back their wives to learn cooking from him. One regular couple brings a new couple with them every time they stop at the stand. Bill says 90 per cent of the customers are between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-five but he's not worried about the draft.





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If you have any information and or pictures that you would like to contribute about any businesses in Chester, please forward it to john@oldchesterpa.com

2006 John A. Bullock III.

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This page last updated 02/24/06

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