The Ironies Of Life In Postwar America

Aug 8, 2017

The summer of 1958 was significant in the story of Wichita and the nation. On May 31, young entrepreneurs Dan and Frank Carney opened their first Pizza Hut at Bluff and Kellogg. During the summer of that year, pizza’s popularity in Wichita took off.

Meanwhile, in downtown Wichita, another set of youth were making their mark. On July 19, ten African American students entered the Dockum drug store at Douglas and Broadway, sat down at the soda fountain, and when they refused to leave, caused the store to shut down the lunch counter.

It was the start of the Dockum Drug Store Sit-In, the first of a series of protests across the country challenging segregated lunch facilities. The sit-in ended in early August when the manager opened up the lunch counter to all races, finding that the event had cost him too much money. A few days earlier, the Carneys had placed an order for 100 pounds of mozzarella cheese, a sign that their venue was taking off.

These two events were not directly related to one another. Knowing that they took place at the same time, however, points to the ironies of life in postwar America. The development of fast food, often associated with the innocence of 1950s teen culture, took place in a country that was still segregated. The Carney brothers were just a few years older than Ron Walters and Carol Parks Hahn, two of the leaders of the sit-in, members a generation of Wichitans whose actions would allow African Americans as well as whites to sit down together and enjoy a slice of pizza. 

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