Memories of Growing Up with the Krystal

Friday, October 5, 2012 - by Harmon Jolley
Krystal advertised in the program for Chattanooga's 1965 sesquicentennial.
Krystal advertised in the program for Chattanooga's 1965 sesquicentennial.

 I had to read the recent headline at least twice.  “Krystal to Move Headquarters to Atlanta” – yes, that’s what it said. 

For the past eighty years since its founding in 1932, Krystal has had its home office in Chattanooga.  The news of the move triggered memories of growing up with Krystal.

Supporting Chattanooga Businesses

My father was a Chattanooga fireman.  He supported Chattanooga-based businesses as often as possible.  He would tell us that a strong local economy translated into more funds for government services.

   So, that meant that he bought products of Chattanooga Bakery, Double Cola, Hamilton Concrete Blocks, Jackson Water Heaters, Krystal, and others.

At the Krystal, my father’s favorite selection was a bowl of chili and two Krystals.

Krystal Architecture

Most Krystal restaurants had a familiar crystal ball over the doorway.   White panels with black trim were on the exterior, and black and white tiles were used on walls and floors.   Chrome added an art deco touch.  The side windows had a distinctive curve still found on some Krystals today.

A Krystal Geography Lesson

Krystal hamburgers are still packaged in cardboard boxes.  When I was growing up, the side panels listed the cities in which Krystals could be found.   So, by keeping an empty Krystal box in the glove compartment, one could use it as reference to find Krystals when traveling.

We often traveled to Birmingham to visit extended family.  Since one family lived downtown, we visited a downtown Krystal that had table service and china with “Krystal” inscribed.

Krystal Waffles

Krystal had a full breakfast menu that included great-tasting waffles.  Add eggs, grits, bacon, and you would be set for the day.

Krystal Drive-in at Brainerd and Germantown

I believe that drive-ins were rare in the Krystal chain, but Brainerd had one.  We visited it whenever we were east of the ridge.

“Take Along a Sack Full”

This was the motto of Krystal when I was growing up.  In the 1960’s, their advertising included a white kangaroo with purple polka-dots.   I guess that the kangaroo carried Krystals in her pouch.   Krystal sold inflatable kangaroos for a nominal price.   Ours leaked air, though, probably due to being used as a punching bag by my friends and me.

Krystal Comes to South Chattanooga

I grew up in St. Elmo.  For years, there were no major fast food restaurants.  One could find the Maypole, Mount Vernon, the Old South, and Pops Pig House but no national chain eateries.  In the late 1960’s, Krystal opened on South Broad next to the Old South.  The people of South Chattanooga as well as Lookout Mountain tourists responded favorably.

Krystal Fried Chicken

Soon after Kentucky Fried Chicken spread secret herbs and spices nationwide, Krystal ventured into fried chicken.  This required adding space to the existing restaurants.   If a family was divided between burgers and chicken, as mine was, it required splitting up and ordering from two separate counters.

The Krystal chicken venture was short-lived, and stores began expanding into the former chicken area to serve more burger customers.

The Polka-Dot “K” Era of the 1970’s

Krystal carried out a chain-wide remodeling in the early 1970’s.  Gone were the black, white, and chrome, which were replaced by red, white, and goldenrod.  I recall that when Krystal built a new Hixson restaurant following the opening of Northgate in 1972, the building had this new look.

The Krystal Kritters

Other fast food chains were adopting mascots, and Krystal joined the move with the costumed Krystal Kritters.   I believe that there were three, and that one was a monkey.  Can someone confirm, and tell me what the other two were?

Working Downtown and Lunch at the Site of the Original Krystal

I didn’t eat at the Krystal every day, but it was on my rotation.  I would sometimes think about my father telling that when he was a young working man, the Krystal was one place that had consistent quality at an affordable price.  Krystal fit my budget, too.

Many were disappointed to see the original Krystal location close.  Shortly before the closing, I was there the day that a mop caught fire in a back room.   That cleared everyone out in a hurry!

A Krystal Museum in Downtown Chattanooga?

The aforementioned article mentions a possible Krystal museum in downtown.  It would be nice to see this at the Seventh and Cherry site, or at least in the central city area that so badly needs a spark. 

A combined Krystal restaurant and museum could work, just like the KFC and Sanders Cafe museum in Corbin, KY.

Best wishes to Krystal on future business plans. 

If you have memories of Krystal, please send me an e-mail at








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