Ask Me: Royale Drive In was a popular hangout

Special to The Fresno BeeSeptember 7, 2013 

Question: In the mid-1960s, the Royale Drive In was one of our favorite hangouts as teenagers. They made the best ham sandwiches in the world. What is the history of the Royale?

— Shannan McCollam, Fresno

Answer:

The Royale Drive In opened at 216 Blackstone Ave. in February 1947. According to a Fresno Bee story, the Royale offered "booth, tray and fountain service" and served "ice cream made on the premises."

The Royale was owned by Pete Giannopoulos, his sons Nick, George and Paul Giannopoulos and son-in-law Stavros Kuretsos.

Pete Giannopoulos came to America in 1922 and opened the Central Sweet Shop on Tulare Avenue in 1924. He later bought the Coney Island café, which he sold in 1936.

In 1937, Giannopoulos opened the Royale Sandwich Shop on Merced Street, which he sold about three years before he opened the drive-in on Blackstone.

In 1960, Giannopoulos and Kuretsos built a new Royale Drive In at 217 Abby. Giannopoulos' sons Nick and Paul also were involved in the business. The Blackstone property was leased for other purposes, the owners said.

The new drive-in had a 160-foot canopy covering 26 parking stalls for car service. The stalls featured Fresno's first "electronic eye," a Bee story said, "for patrons to turn in their orders as they drive into the stalls."

In 1972, the family opened the Royale Fountain and Coffee Shop at 3150 E. Shields Ave. at First Street.

In 1977, the Royale Drive In on Abby Street and the Blackstone property were sold to the Carl's Jr. corporation. The Shields Avenue restaurant closed in 1980.

Question: In 1947, my sister and I used to ride our bikes to a little country store on Thorne and Shaw avenues. It was dilapidated and rustic, but we loved to buy penny candy and ice cream on hot summer days. Mr. Biehle was always behind the counter. What is its history?

— Valerie Hill, Fresno

Answer:

The 1920 U.S. Census lists William J. Biehle as the owner of a grocery store at Shaw and Thorne avenues. The 1940 census shows William and Mary Biehle living near their store with their five children, William C., Robert, Elaine, Charles and Raymond. William C. Biehle later ran an upholstery business in Fresno for 35 years.

William J. Biehle died in August 1950. According to his obituary in The Fresno Bee, Biehle had a heart attack while driving and his car ran into a building at the southwest corner of Palm and Olive avenues. He was 66.

The obituary says Biehle and his wife ran the grocery store for more than 30 years, which puts the opening sometime before 1920.

Biehle also worked for the Fresno County Water District #1. He is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery.

Question: I would like to know the origins of the names for Mt. Tivy and Mt. Campbell, two foothill peaks east of Fresno.

— David Hendrickson, Fresno

Answer:

Mt. Tivy and Tivy Valley were named for Joseph Tivy, who was the first settler in the small valley on the south side of the Kings River, according to the book "Fresno County in the 20th Century." Tivy was a surveyor for the state of California and made the first maps of the area.

Mt. Campbell was named for William J. Campbell, according to two books, "California Geographic Place Names" and "The McCubbin Papers: an Early History of Reedley" by John C. McCubbin.

Campbell and his brother, Edward, were among the first settlers in the area in about 1850. They first operated a ferry, later operated by John Pool, across the Kings River near Centerville. The brothers opened a store near Pool's Ferry, perhaps as early as 1852.

William Campbell built a home in Scottsburg along the river, which was destroyed by flooding in about 1862.

One of the earliest listings of Mt. Campbell appears on an 1864 map.

Ask Me publishes on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. Paula Lloyd is a freelance writer. Send questions to askpaulalloyd@yahoo.com or by mail to Paula Lloyd, c/o The Fresno Bee Newsroom, 1626 E St., Fresno CA 93786. Please include your name, city of residence and a phone number.

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