Memories of Iconic Tampa and Gulfport Hangouts from the Past
When it comes to reminiscing about the past, sometimes it’s the small, local hangouts that hold the most nostalgic memories. From iconic diners to popular drive-ins, these gathering places were the go-to spots for high school students in Tampa and Gulfport during the mid-20th century. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and explore some of these beloved establishments.
One such gathering place was Goody-Goody, an eatery that catered to the taste buds of Tampa residents for over 70 years. Situated on North Florida Avenue, Goody-Goody was known for its delicious burgers topped with a secret tomato-based sauce, as well as their famous butterscotch and chocolate pies. It was a popular spot for high schoolers, especially during the rise of car culture in America. Unfortunately, Goody-Goody closed its doors in November 2005, and the location later became a parking lot. However, in 2014, the rights to the “Goody Goody” name were purchased by Richard Gonzmart, who opened a retro-inspired restaurant in Hyde Park in 2015. The Gulfport Goody-Goody also served as a gathering spot for Bogie high school students for almost two decades.
But Goody-Goody wasn’t the only hangout spot in town. Before fast-food franchises dominated the landscape, local diners and drive-ins were the place to be. These establishments filled the bellies of hungry students and provided a social space to meet before and after school. One such place was Charlie Market, a small grocery and meat store that later became Goody-Goody Sundries. Students living nearby often gathered there to enjoy sodas, shakes, fries, and a variety of sandwiches. Although Goody-Goody itself couldn’t accommodate many people due to its small size, it didn’t deter students from enjoying their meals and soaking up the nostalgic atmosphere.
Smoky interiors were also a common sight at Goody-Goody and other hangout spots, as cigarette smoking was prevalent during those times. Students from Gulfport often smoked outside the diner while coming and going from school, an activity that was much more acceptable in the past. Even the principal of Bogie, Richard “Dick” Jones, could be seen observing the smoke clouds from across the street but seemed to turn a blind eye to the habit.
For those looking for alternatives to Goody-Goody, other venues served as popular gathering places. Chick’s Drive-In on Central Avenue became a go-to destination for students, offering burgers, fries, and extra-heavy malts until it closed in the mid-1960s. Students from Bogie’s beach area flocked to the Pelican Diner in St. Pete Beach and the Cajun Diner in Madeira Beach, both of which opened their doors in 1952.
Triplett’s Drive-In became a favorite spot for Green Devils from St. Pete High. Located near the school, Triplett’s was perfectly situated on Fifth Avenue North, serving up delicious food and attracting students with its drive-ins and carhops. The drive-in regularly posted want ads for “curb boys” and “sandwich girls,” and it was a popular spot until its closure in the early 1980s.
Corner Shoppe, another St. Pete High hangout, was a soda fountain and burger joint located on Fifth Avenue. It was a hot spot for students, and one alumnus even had his perfect attendance record ruined while grabbing lunch there. Lunch breaks became a thrilling challenge as students would sprint out of the shop if they saw an assistant principal or dean approaching.
With the opening of Dixie Hollins High School in 1959, students in Kenneth City, western St. Pete, and Pinellas Park gained new gathering places. One such spot was the Circle R Drive-In on 66th Street, which became a go-to destination for students from 1964 to 1973. They indulged in hamburgers, shakes, and fries, enjoying the curbside service provided by the drive-in’s carhops.
Porky’s Pit Barbeque in Pinellas Park also garnered a loyal following from Hollins students. Known as a place “Where Barbeque is a Pleasure,” Porky’s remained a solid Hollins hangout even as other dining spots came and went. It provided a tasty alternative to the fast-food chains that were beginning to dominate the area.
As the years went by, fast-food franchises began to spring up all over lower Pinellas. Restaurants like McDonald’s and Sandy’s offered standardized menus, attracting students from various schools with their affordable prices and convenient locations. Sandy’s, similar to McDonald’s at the time, was situated just west of the Pinellas Trail overpass on Central Avenue. It became a popular spot for Bogie students, serving as a local competitor to the fast-food giant.
Biff Burger, another popular hangout, was located near Circle R on 66th Street. It attracted students from Boca Ciega and Dixie Hollins alike, offering them yet another choice for their burger cravings. Unfortunately, Biff Burger eventually closed its doors, and its last location on 49th Street North is now only a part of the area’s nostalgic history.
In addition to these well-known hangouts, numerous other small Mom and Pop places peppered the Tampa and Gulfport area. Frisch’s Big Boy opened in South Pasadena in the mid-1960s, providing a drive-in experience complete with carhops and an inviting atmosphere. Meanwhile, Gigi’s Italian Restaurant found success in South Pasadena and Treasure Island after opening in 1967, attracting locals with their delicious cuisine and charming atmosphere.
Over time, many of these beloved hangout spots disappeared, gradually giving way to new establishments or disappearing altogether. Goody-Goody closed its doors, Triplett’s transformed into Harry’s Red Hots before ultimately meeting the same fate, and even fast-food giants like Sandy’s and Biff Burger began to fade away.
Still, those who had the chance to experience these iconic hangouts hold fond memories of the past. Whether it was savoring a mouth-watering burger, enjoying a malted milkshake, or simply soaking in the atmosphere, these local spots captured a unique moment in time. Though they may no longer be around, the memories and stories of these unique gathering places live on in the hearts of those who frequented them.