Lund’s Drive In was the place be seen in 1950s Petaluma
Editor’s Note: This story first published in the Argus in 2007, and has been dusted off to remember the drive in culture for which Petaluma was once known.
Before coming to Petaluma, Milton “Milt” Lund never considered working in the restaurant business. However, his family’s name has given identity to no fewer than five eating establishments, several of which are memorable historical icons, serving three generations of Petalumans.
A Minnesota native, Lund arrived in Petaluma shortly after his military discharge in 1946. Unemployed, he accepted a job as a dishwasher at Quinley’s Drive-In at Third and I streets (now Bundesen Real Estate) and quickly advanced to cook and fountain service. When owners Al and Fay Quinley opened a Santa Rosa Drive-In, Lund was made manager of the Petaluma site, and his future in the restaurant business was set.
Quinley’s was sold to Hollie Heglin in 1948 and Lund transferred to Santa Rosa and then to Eureka, where he and his wife, Betty, stayed for a year before returning to Santa Rosa and purchasing a small, one-shopping-cart grocery, the Toot ‘n Tote.
In the mid-1950s he made a deal to take over Hollie’s and renamed it Lund’s. It was a mandatory socializing spot and pivotal location for car aficionados and teenagers who tooled town in their hot rods, custom cars, and mother’s sedans. Lunds would smile remembering the carloads of teenagers and their propensity to linger in the parking lot.
“We didn’t allow homesteaders or squatters rights,” he told the Argus-Courier in 2007, with a laugh. Lund died in 2010, at age 84.
Uniformed car hops waited on customers, serving them on trays that attached either to the driver’s side window, the steering wheel or inside on the passenger side. There were also comfortable booths for inside seating.
“We had a family-style menu. It wasn’t fast food, it was full meals served on china,” said Lund, who always wore his trademark white shirt and white bow tie. “All the ranchers came in with their kids. Fountain service was popular in those days.”
The drive-in also served as the unofficial headquarters for the Pacers car club. A longtime supporter of auto racing, Lund helped sponsor the Pacers’ dragster. He was the car owner for his brother, hardtop racing legend and Bay Cities Racing Association Hall of Fame driver Leroy Geving, and in 2005 was elected to the BCRA Hall Fame.
He and Betty opened Lund’s Coffee Shop in Rich Croci’s new Boulevard Bowl in 1959.
“We were not only husband and wife, but also partners. We worked together all our lives with no animosity. She loved people, and I was the cook,” Lund said of his late wife, who passed away in 2000.
In 1961, the family opened the Old Adobe Room at the Petaluma Inn and for a while ran both restaurants.
“It was a big switch going from a coffee shop to a dinner house and serving steaks instead of hamburgers,” Lund said.
A former partner, and bartender at the Old Adobe Room, Bob McGaughey, left in 1962 to open his own restaurant, Mister Magoo’s, which became its own Petaluma landmark.
Lund sold the Old Adobe Room to Dan O’Brien in 1975 and two years later took over the former Wayne’s Café on Kentucky Street. He worked with, and for, his sons Craig, who died in 2002, and Mark, at that spot until 1982. Mark took over the failed Ron’s Family Dinner’s site on Petaluma Boulevard North, (now Boulevard Café) and renamed it Lund’s, where he served breakfast, lunch and dinner there for nine years before selling.
“Someone once told me, ‘You’re going to run out of spots,’ and I did,” said Lund.