The History of Eagan's Big Tom Drive Ins

by Robert K. Eagan


In 1947, the Eagan family, Russell and Mildred, the parents, and Jim, Bob, and Tom, the kids, lived in Olympia, having moved from Tacoma after World War II. The family owned and operated what was known then as The Capitol Auto Court. The Auto Court is located directly across State Street from the Eastside Big Tom. Today it is hidden behind a wall that shields the old auto court buildings that are now apartments. The Eagan family lived in the office building of the Auto Court.

In 1947, I remember the family loading into our black 1940 Plymouth sedan and driving to Seattle. Of course there were no freeways yet so the main highway was Highway 99 that came up Fourth Ave in Olympia, out through Lacey, through Fort Lewis, South Tacoma, Tacoma, Fife, and to Seattle. Our destination was Manca's In-and-Out.

Manca's In-and-Out was located south of Boeing Field on the west side of Highway 99. It was a spotless white concrete block building with a sweeping drive and lawn and flowers. Manca's In-and-Out was a very clean place and served excellent food. I'm not sure but my guess is that they served some kind of special sauce on the burger that my Mom used as the idea for what came to be known as "goop". In 1947 we ate a lot of hamburgers at home while Mom tested different meats, buns, pickles and perfected the combination of ingredients in "goop."

In the meantime, the Russell and Mildred Eagan were putting together the necessary items needed in starting a new business. They scouted locations, suppliers, buildings, kinds of paper supplies, etc. They finally secured a lease on a little piece of land across the street from the Capitol Auto Court but it had no usable building.

They found an empty building out on South Bay Road, which had been a barbershop. It was small but movable. That first building was about 8 by fifteen feet. The building was moved to the property at 2024 East Forth Avenue and in a few weeks converted into the Eastside In and Out.

Eastside In and Out opened in 1948, most likely in the spring. The first telephone number was 4852, the same number it has today. It was an immediate success. Over the years the old building was enlarged once or twice, and eventually replaced in the '70's.

Westside Eagan's in Olympia on Harrison Avenue was built in 1949 by my dad, Russell L. Eagan. It also was an immediate success. In those years all the traffic going to and from the ocean beaches passed through Olympia and up Harrison Avenue. Business was great during those years! As far as I know, the original building is still being used and still in business by a new owner.

The Southgate Eagan's Big Tom was built in 1949 by my grandfather, Arthur L. Dale. Over the years Mr. Dale, Oscar Hettick, Mildred Eagan Henline, Jim Eagan, Bob Eagan, and Dennis Gard operated it. Bob Eagan extensively remodeled the old building in 1967. Sometime in the 1990's the property was sold to a bank and Southgate Big Tom was no more.

My dad, Russell L. Eagan, built Tumwater Big Tom at 303 Cleveland Ave in Tumwater around 1960. My brother, Tom Eagan, the real "Big Tom", operated it from '65 or '66 or so until a bank finally replaced it in the late 1990's.

The first Regular Hamburger/cheeseburger was the same as it is today, with "goop" and pickles and onions. Lettuce and tomatoes weren't added until the late 1960's. For decades we had hand dipped milk shakes, and bottle Pepsi, root beer, orange, and Seven Up, coffee, milk, and water to drink. I built some strong wrists and forearms hand dipping shakes in my early years. We didn't add french fries until the '60's.

In the late 1960's we had a total of 9 fast food businesses under the Eagan and Eagan's Big Tom names. They were located in Buckley, Tacoma, Lacey, Olympia, Tumwater, and Chehalis.

Today, March 9, 2012, of the nine, only two remain in business, The one on the west side of Olympia, and the original on East 4th Avenue in Olympia, Eastside Big Tom. South Tumwater has a Big Tom operated by my nephew, Tim Eagan, son of "Big Tom" Eagan.