On Saturday evening, at least 100 former Varner's patrons and their spouses gathered at American Legion Post 29 on Gresham Avenue in Marietta, to share old memories of the carhop days, catch up on the latest grandchild births and eat burgers for their second reunion.
"It was just like 'Happy Days,'" Jack Gaskin, 67, a developer and 1961 Marietta High School graduate, recalled of Varner's.
"They had good hamburgers and everyone you knew was there every Friday and Saturday night," remembered Rochelle Thacker, 70, of Woodstock, a 1957 Marietta graduate. "Everybody went to Varner's."
Whether it was after a Friday night football game or following a drive-in movie date, Varner's was where you were likely to find some of the most popular kids in school. More than a few Mariettans met their future spouses at the drive-in restaurant, such as Sandra and Ronald Howren of Marietta who celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary last October.
"It was basically a place for teenagers to hang out and it was more or less a way of life kind of," said Eddie Hunter, 68, a retired U.S. Postal Service employee and a 1960 Marietta graduate. "The popular set went there, so of course you wanted to be popular and tried to get in with them."
In 1952, when Freddie Williams, 73, of Smyrna was 16, he began working at Varner's as a carhop, delivering burgers and soda to teenagers in their cars. Today, he still works as a carhop, at The Varsity, when he's not working at Lockheed-Martin.
Williams attended Lemon Street High School, but remembered that the students from Marietta and Sprayberry high schools "talked about school, football, basketball and everything" when they got together to socialize. He said he recognized a few at the reunion.
Varner's was a family-owned business, first run by Roy Varner before he handed it over to his brother Paul Varner, patrons remembered. Paul Varner was remembered as a hard-working and caring business owner who operated Varner's for about 20 years.
"You could go out there broke, but you never left hungry," said Tommy Townsend, 72, of Kennesaw, a 1956 Marietta graduate and retired General Motors worker. "Paul Varner would make sure you got something to eat."
In around 1967, about the same time Interstate 75 cut through the same area of Marietta, Varner's closed up shop. It was the end of an era that many native Mariettans still remember fondly. The reunion, they said, gives them an opportunity to see old friends and relive their teenage years, if only for a few hours.
"It's wonderful because we've all aged and I think we're all just proud to be here and in good health," said Thacker, who retired from the custom drapery business. "That's a blessing."