Inside St. Louis

Goody Goody Diner

An original water color of Goody Goody by local artist Marilynne Bradley.











     When the trials, troubles and tribulations of the world in which we live get you down and you like to somehow go back, at least for a time, to the '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s or '70s… you can! Just point your "machine" as they used to say, in the direction of the Goody Goody Diner and get set to be immersed in a nostalgic journey to the good old days. Of course to be fair, there were bad old days too as they related to the Great Depression, the Draft, rationing, World War II, the threat of Communism, the Korean War, the worries over the A and H bombs, the Cold War, the Viet Nam War and the times of political and other protests. But for some strange and most welcome reason, when we think back to the time of our youth, or even if you didn't live in those times, to the way things were, we conjure up memories or visions of fun, freedom, happy times (just like the TV show) and a bright future. The Goody Goody typifies those thoughts.






     Visiting the Goody Goody Diner is like being in a time-travel machine that might well have been created by H. G. Wells. As soon as you see the place, the present starts to fade and by the time you go inside, it's almost like the movie "Back To the Future" and you’re instantly transported to a simpler, friendlier, more relaxed environment that will have you turning off your cell phone or Blackberry and forgetting about e-mails, computers, fax machines, the war and Wall Street. Doctors should, and maybe some do, prescribe a visit to the Goody Goody for their patients who are justifiably anxious, to say the least, about the topsy-turvy and difficult world in which we live. Here's a place of tranquility where young and old, black and white, male and female congregate in harmony as they escape the harsh realities of the economic meltdown, recession, global warming, the price of gas, terrorism, gangs and our country’s assets, like Anheuser-Busch, being gobbled up by foreign companies.









     I'm not exaggerating about the power of Goody Goody to lift your spirit, put a smile on your face, give you a new lease on life and to have you alive and kicking in minutes. They serve stick-to-your-ribs eats that are better than a Rexall Drugs Plenamin multi-vitamin, a dose of Hadacol or a session with a shrink. There, in the cozy, cheerfully bright confines of Goody Goody, our town's quintessential diner sans pretense, your mood will be altered for the better even before the smiling, friendly host or hostess takes your name and seats you. You can almost hear the stars and songs from 1948 when the Goody Goody got going. There was "Buttons and Bows" by Dinah Shore, Art Mooney’s "I'm Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover" and Vaughn Monroe doing "Dance, Ballerina, Dance." When the jukebox was just starting to rock in ‘51, one of the top tunes was Jimmy Forrest’s "Night Train," then in '55 Chuck Berry’s "Maybelline" and Bill Haley & The Comet's "Rock Around The Clock" took over with Elvis not far off. All of these songs fit the spirit of Goody Goody far better than say, hip-hop, rap or acid rock.






     The site of the one and only Goody Goody diner, now celebrating it’s 60th year was the location of an A&W root beer stand that opened as a walk-up facility in 1931 when the Model A, many of which were made at the old Ford plant over on Forest Park Boulevard and Sarah Street, ruled the road and Chevy's "Little Deuce Coupe" was just about to roll out of the Fisher Body plant down the street on Union Boulevard and Natural Bridge. The A&W and then the Goody Goody, were located in front, so to speak, of the Laclede Gas Light Company natural gas storage tanks, of which one is still there, but unused. That A&W product is gone from the Goody Goody spigots, having been replaced by, what else? Goody Goody root beer! The carhops of yore have faded into the mists of memories as have most of the neighboring businesses of decades past.







     Between '31 and '54, the year Herb and Viola Connelly took over what had become a drive-in, there had been a couple of ownership changes, including that of Clarence Thompson. But the Connelly's came to stay, and some 40 years ago their son Richard took over the operation. But before he did, he’d done every job in and around the place including being one of those carhops. Richard still recalls the day when his dad stopped him as he was riding his bike and told him he'd just bought the Goody Goody. At that point Richard, even though they didn't live that far west of the restaurant, had never noticed the drive-in, but with that announcement his life was forever changed as was that of his family. Today Richard and his wife, Laura, are in charge of the diner dynasty, and the place, though no longer a drive-in, is seemingly busier than ever as it attracts customers old and new, from the entire Metro St. Louis area and far beyond. You'll sit near businessmen and women, construction workers, clergy, families, travelers…like Rick’s in "Casablanca," everybody come to Goody Goody.








     Just inside the door at Goody Goody there’s a photo/mural, designed by Marilynne Bradley of Webster Groves, that's a real work of art creatively recreating the story of Goody Goody's long history. Plus much of this historical background is covered in their 12 page menu, which if it hasn't gotten a design award is certainly deserving of one. Tim Trunnell of Otter Graphics in Collinsville deserves accolades for the menu design and Goody Goody signage. Speaking of signs, that which promoted Elsie The Cow's Borden's ice-cream is long gone as is the landmark 18 foot tall "Big Chef" figure that welcomed customers to the diner between '75 and '88. The Good Goody flashing sign as it's one of only two such signs in the City. This type of signage is no longer allowed, but the Goody Goody’s is grandfathered in as it's been in operation for 51 years. Oh, by the way, when Goody Goody opened in '48 the drive-in promoted their specialty as being "Steak hamburgers from U.S. inspected whole steer rounds broiled on a greaseless grill and served on a toasted bun." They cost a quarter. Today they prepare their certified Angus beef burgers in the same manner and the price has gone up to $1.99. Which with inflation over the past 60 years isn't bad.






     You won't find a better, more congenial, or busier, breakfast or lunch spot than Goody Goody, any day, other than Sunday, when they get some well-deserved R & R. One of the more than 3 dozen breakfast items is the Hobo Breakfast Bowl which consists of pieces of sausage scrambled into two eggs, tomato and onion, then covered with hash-brown potatoes, layered with white gravy and topped with cheddar cheese and your choice of bread. It's very healthy. Another fast-breaker is the Chicken and Waffle Supreme, which is a belly-buster made up of 2 eggs, your choice of grits, rice or hash-browns served with fried chicken and a Belgian waffle, but, you have to wait 'til 8 to get it.






     At lunch we boldly suggest, for the light eater; salmon croquettes served on a Kaiser with tartar sauce, or maybe get the pork chop sandwich with 2 pork chops on a home-baked roll OR go for a BBQ double slawburger. For heartier fare, there’s home-made meat loaf, Salisbury steak or roast beef all served with lip-smackin' home-made brown gravy. Then, among a bunch of other goodies, there's Toastamales. That's a couple of hot-tamales covered with chili and shredded mozzarella cheese. There are soup and salads too with a star salad being the fried chicken chef salad.                      







     New items on the Goody Goody menu are the original St. Louis Slinger, chicken sausage and a Tex-Mex breakfast. The latter is tamales with chili, eggs and rice. I'd add some hot sauce to it and wash it down with Thomas coffee. I wonder if they have a Tums dispenser? Not new at the Goody Goody is the staff. This is a place where it's more likely than not that the employee who serves you or who's working in the kitchen or cleaning up, has been there a dozen or more years. Manager Chris Van Dyke's an 18 year veteran, Jan Hearschfeld a 19 year employee and Carol Ippolito has 20 years at Goody Goody. Incidentally Jan and Carol are sisters. Thelma Anderson worked there from 1948 to 1983. Richard Connelly's Uncle Ray was night manager from '55 to '68. And there are countless customers who've been coming in for years. I'd like to list them all, but it'd be like writing the telephone directory.






     The Connelly's would love to have a photograph of the original circa 1931 A&W root beer stand that was located at the spot now occupied by Goody Goody. They're even offering a truly generous reward. You know, if the Goody Goody itself could talk, and it almost seems as if it could, it would tell of the many, many neighborhood haunts that have come and gone in its area, such as several places between Hamilton and Goodfellow just to the east of Goody Goody. There was Hilbert Balsano's Shell service station with Hilbert's home, a small bungalow, behind the station; Bert Albert's restaurant and an eatery owned by John Zikos; Sam The Watermelon Man was in that block and in later years there was "Mad Man Muntz" used cars. The most memorable of these businesses is that legendary watermelon stand owned by Sam Swibelman. Even though we had many watermelon spots in those days of yore, none was better, or better known, than the one operated by Sam The Watermelon Man. His greatest claim to fame was that anytime Bob Hope was in town, such as staying at the Chase Hotel or starring in "Roberta" at The Muny, he always visited Sam's. Plus the gregarious Mr. Zwibelman would regularly send select watermelons to Hope's home in California. One of the last intact vestiges of years gone by in the neighborhood is the Southwestern Bell telephone, now AT&T building, just across Natural Bridge. The lower two floors of the building were put up in '39 with a third floor added in '53. 





     Amadeo Fiore's Melrose Italian restaurant, their third location, was a couple of doors west of Goody Goody. Fiore who became known as The Pizza King, was the first to actually sell pizza in a St. Louis restaurant. That happened on April 13th, 1945 with so many GIs coming back from service in Italy and Sicily with a taste for pizza. Fiore billed it as Neopolitan pizza-pie "From Napoli to You." Amadeo was known to sing songs such as "Il Gondolier" and "Signora Fortuna" while preparing and serving pizza as he had been an operatic tenor who had performed in Chicago and at the Muny. He was also featured on WEW Radio's Sunday morning "Italian Radio Hour" from 1938 'til he entered the pizza business. His first dining spot was called The Melrose, so named as it was located in the basement of the Melrose apartment building at 206 N. Sarah Street between W. Pine and Lindell Boulevards. When they moved from that location to 5026 Easton Avenue just west of N. Kingshighway Boulevard across from Sherman Park, the Sarah Street spot was taken over by Lou and Joe Parente who had started as bus-boys for Fiore. Later in the 1950s the Sarah address was home of the long-lived and loved Rossino's. They shut down just a couple of years ago and the Melrose building is now being converted into condominiums. From a short stay on Easton the Fiore's Melrose moved to a more elaborate facility at 5910 Natural Bridge Avenue, west of Goody Goody where it was operated by Mr. & Mrs. Firore, with their son Amedeo "Adam" Firore, Jr. and their daughter Tess and son-in-law James Roberson taking over in 1966. The elder Firores would move to Carlsbad-Oceanside, California where they opened, you guessed it, a pizza parlor. In the beginning, Amadeo used a scissors to cut the pizza.






     A bit more toward the county was a Ted Drewes Frozen Custard stand and at 5916 Natural Bridge a long time watering hole called the Green Pastures Tavern that had a unique log cabin motif facade. Another well-known spot just inside the St. Louis city limits at 6000 Natural Bridge was former pro-baseball star Terry Moore's bowling alley in a building that also housed one of our area's Ray Quinlan dance studios. At the northwest corner of Natural Bridge and Goodfellow there was Ed's White Front Bar-B-Q. That Ed's BBQ sauce is still available by going to Behind Goody Goody to the south was the Thunderbird drive-in theatre while a few blocks north on Goodfellow was the sprawling small arms plant.






     Pine Lawn, the community that starts when St. Louis ends, a block west of Goody Goody, was wall-to-wall businesses of which some of the better recalled were: the Studio movie show, a Star Service Station, A&P grocery store,  F.W. Woolworth 5 and dime, Pine Lawn Bank and Trust, Katz Drug Store, O’Donnell’s, drug store, Gartland's meat market and flower shop, Chris Christian Pontiac, Earl Scheib auto painting, Velvet Freeze, Peoples-905 liquor store, Glazier boats, Mizerany appliances and boats and a Steak & Shake. Behind the Katz store was Hodges Brothers Roller Rink on Kienlen Ave.






     Then headed east there were such well-recalled establishments as: Hill-Behan lumber, Mallory Buick, Casavely-Machens Ford, The Bardahl Co., Jack Kennedy Chevy, later owned by Gene Jantzen, the giant Fisher Body Co./Chevrolet plant and Uncle Dick Slack The Jolly Irishman's big furniture and appliance store at Union Boulevard. Sansone's restaurant and bar, noted for turtle chili, just a bit north on Union and E.B. Jones' Studebaker-Packard dealership east of Union.






     It's no exaggeration when I tell you that Richard Connelly's heart, soul and spirit are in the Goody Goody diner. It's his life and he loves sharing it with his beloved customers. It seems time has stopped at the Goody Goody, which is not part of a franchise or a chain but a one of a kind special place. It's personal, it's a community, it's a home away from home, it's like sitting in your family's kitchen…it's America the way it should be. The way it can be, if we could all just follow the philosophy of Rich and Laura Connelly's Goody Goody. Long may it live!




Written by: Ron (Johnny Rabbitt) Elz of KMOX and Channel  5’s Show Me St. Louis.

Click here to view several images from Goody Goody.

Click here for a historical timeline of the different faces of Goody Goody.


Contact Information

Goody Goody Diner

5900 Natural Bridge
St. Louis MO 63120
fax - 383-4329

Restaurant Hours

Monday-Friday 6 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Saturday 7 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Smoke Free  -  Easy Access

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