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  • Dale C. Maley

Remembering Hap's Drive-In

Many Fairbury residents fondly remember Harold's Drive-In, which later became Hap's Drive-In on the northeast corner of Eighth Street and Route 24.

The story of these drive-ins goes back to a previous location at the southwest corner of Walnut and Fourth Streets, where the medical clinic is now located.

This location was where Fairbury's first hotel was built. After the hotel burned down, the Fairbury Tabernacle temporary building was constructed in 1914 for religious revival meetings. In the 1940s and 1950s, Andy Rapp and his wife operated an ice cream stand at that location. It was first called Andy's Ice Cream Parlor and later renamed Andy's Dairy Mart. Harvey Baer bought the ice cream stand from Andy Rapp.


In 1961, a new medical center building was constructed at the southwest corner of Walnut and Fourth Streets. Harvey Baer relocated his custard stand to the northeast corner of Eighth Street and Route 24 to make space for the new medical building.


Harvey Baer was born in Cropsey in 1927. He was the son of Henry Baer (1895-1928) and Julia Rieger (1898-1980). Unfortunately, Henry Baer died at the age of 33 when his son Harvey was just one year old. Henry had been ill for three months before his death. Henry's widow married Jacob John Aberle (1896-1961). Jacob and Julia Aberle had two sons, Richard Lloyd Aberle and Robert Aberle. Harvey Baer grew up with his two half-brothers, Richard and Robert Aberle.


Harvey Baer served in the U.S. Navy in World War II. In 1950, Harvey married Betty Darlene Foster in Pontiac. Harvey and Betty Baer had three daughters. In 1961, he moved his custard stand to the northeast corner of Eighth Street and Route 24. The same year, Harvey Baer sold it to Harold Hish.


In the 1960s, Harvey Baer owned and operated the IGA store in Fairbury. He then began selling insurance for the Equitable Life Insurance Company. He eventually bought out the Bloomington agency and operated it for many years. Harvey Baer died in 2004 at the age of 77.


Harold Hish operated Harold's Drive-In from 1961 until 1972 when he sold it to Hap DeFries. Harold Hish was the son of Luther Embry Hish (1896-1970) and Hatta Pauline Buchner (1895-1983). Harold graduated from Fairbury Township High School in 1948. Harold married Jeanne Ethleen Poshard in 1948 at Cropsey. Harold and Jeanne Hish had three daughters.


In 1972, after operating Harold's Drive-In for 11 years, Harold Hish sold the restaurant to Hap DeFries. Harold Hish was a business entrepreneur. After selling his Fairbury drive-in, he owned businesses in Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, and Missouri. Late in life, he moved to Charlevoix, Michigan, to be closer to family. Harold Hish died in 2019 in Michigan at the age of 89.


Norton E. "Hap" DeFries was born in 1928 in Streator. He was the son of Henry DeFries and Margaret Norton. Hap DeFries married Barbara J. Steidinger in 1946. Hap and Barbara DeFries had three boys and one girl.


The father of N. E. "Hap" DeFries was Henry DeFries (1894-1958). In 1951, the Blade reported that Henry DeFries had resigned as the Fairbury Railway Express agent because of ill health. Henry DeFries started in the express business in 1928 in Minonk. On June 20, 1929, Henry DeFries came to Fairbury to replace James Goodrich. When Henry got to Fairbury, the express wagon was pulled by a horse. One month later, a motor-driven express wagon replaced the horse-drawn wagon.


Henry DeFries, also commonly called "Happy" or "Hap" DeFries, married Margaret Norton (1901-1991). Norton Edgar DeFries likely got his first name from his mother's maiden name.


Hap DeFries had many different occupations during his working career in Fairbury. He operated Hap's Drive-In from 1972 until around 1982. The address for the business was 600 E. Oak Street, and the phone number was 692-3125.


In 1974, Hugh Hefner's Playboy Magazine was trendy. As a marketing gimmick, Hap DeFries developed a "Plateboy" menu, a spoof on Playboy Magazine. He advertised that Plateboy was a chain of one restaurant, otherwise known as Hap's Drive-Inn. He advertised that the Plateboy menu had something for every family member.


In 1976, Hap placed an advertisement in the Pontiac Daily Leader for his hamburger basket. For 95 cents, the customer received a hamburger, French fries, and cole slaw. In today's dollars, the price of 95 cents would equal $5.17.


In December 1982, the Blade reported that Hap DeFries was an employee of Pittsburgh-International, a division of Pittsburgh Tube Company in Fairbury. Hap DeFries died in 2011 at the age of 82.


Initially, the drive-in had a kitchen room at the north end. The south end had only a roof, so cars could pull in and park under it. At some point, the roofed parking area was walled off and enclosed. The building still stands at the northeast corner of Eighth Street and Oak Street (Route 24).


Many Fairbury area residents fondly remember eating at Harold's Drive-In or Hap's Drive-In. These two establishments served Fairbury customers for just over twenty years.

(Dale Maley's weekly history article on Fairbury News is sponsored by Dr. Charlene Aaron and Antiques & Uniques of Fairbury)



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