We have in our collection a blurry 1960
photograph of a tiny drive-in restaurant grandly named "King of the
French Fries." It stood at the northeast corner of West 139th
and Puritas, now the site of a small strip shopping center. We've
long wondered who opened an eatery with such a marvelous name so
long ago. Surely this forgotten entrepreneur deserves some credit.
Our initial research was frustrating,
with no references to King of the French Fries in the usual sources.
Eventually we discovered a custard stand was built on the site in
1947 by Henry A. Massman, a tool maker who emigrated from Germany in
1925 and lived nearby on West 139th. He died in 1975 but
his son, also named Henry, lives in Parma Heights. "My parents ran
the custard stand until 1955," he told us. "They called it Mellow
Whip but it was never King of the French Fries when my family owned
|The original custard
stand at the corner of set 139th and Puritas was built by Henry A. and
Katherina Massman. Their sone Henry poses at the construction
site in this 1947 photograph. Courtesy of the Henry A. Massman
|Construction of Mellow
Whip custard stand is nearly complete. It would later become home
to King of the French Fries. Courtesy of the Henry A. Massman
In 1956 the custard stand was sold to
Clara Bartow. She passed away in 1978 but we spoke with her
granddaughter, Dorthiea Preston, of Medina. "I worked with my
grandmother at the custard stand when I was about 12 years old,"
Dorthiea remembered. "We sold ice cream, hamburgers, and pop. At
that time, it was a Reed & Bell Root Beer franchise in a newer
building. I never heard of King of the French Fries."
In 1966 Clara Bartow sold the custard
stand to contractor Basilio Imbrigiotta who built the little
shopping center which stands on the site today. We had now traced
ownership of the restaurant from construction to demolition without
discovering any reference to King of the French Fries. We were
Click here to see the location at Google Maps
Then we happened across a post on the
internet from Jeff Rau, of Chesapeake, Virginia, who reminisced
about Slattery's Drive-in on Puritas Avenue. "They had a huge sign
across the top that said King of the French Fries," wrote Jeff.
"They had great hamburgers with diced onions on sesame seed buns."
Clearly Jeff was referring to the
eatery in our photo. Yet the only Slattery's we knew of was
Slattery's Delicatessen, a popular student hang-out near West Tech
High School over four miles away from the Puritas site. Famous for
its hamburgers, malts, and French fries, it was owned by the late
Frank I. Slattery. We contacted his son, Kevin Slattery, of Medina,
and finally solved the mystery.
at 9115 Willard Avenue opposite West Tech High School was also owned by
the Slattery family and far better known than the King of the French
Fries on Puritas Avenue.
"We also had a small shanty next to
West Tech field, up against the wrought-iron fence," Kevin
remembers. "We sold French fries and soda at the Saturday night
football games. We'd spent Friday night, and all day Saturday,
peeling potatoes. My brother Terry and I would compete to see who
could peel a 100-lb sack of potatoes first. We sold the fries in
bags, about 20 cents each, in servings of at least half-a-pound.
There would be long lines of people reaching through the fence to
get their fries. My father, Frank I. Slattery, began calling himself
"King of the French Fries.'"
The Slattery's owned several small
restaurants but, as we learned, only the branch at West 139th
and Puritas was specifically called King of the French Fries.
Surprisingly, it was never listed in old phone books or city
directories. We were able to uncover the story behind this
little-known diner only through a happy combination of research and