Dining With Denise Neil

An ode to the restaurant booth that was everything to me as a kid

Farewell, sweet Stagecoach Booth. You meant a lot to me.
Farewell, sweet Stagecoach Booth. You meant a lot to me.

This won’t mean much to you if you didn’t’ grow up in or visit Dodge City.

But it means so, so much to me.

I lived in Dodge City from just before I started kindergarten until I graduated from high school in 1991. Dodge City was a small town, I like to tell people, and we knew that for sure because it was a “One McDonald’s Town.” In the 1970s and 1980s, when I lived there, Dodge City had only one McDonald’s – on Wyatt Earp Blvd. It blew my mind when I grew up and moved to my first gazillion McDonald’s town. (I think Dodge City is a two McDonald’s town now.)

If you were a kid, that McDonald’s was extra special because it had something no other McDonald’s in the country had: A stagecoach in the center of the main dining room that was fitted with a booth inside. The special seat, a cowboy hat tip to Dodge City’s Boot Hill heritage, was one of those things that kids loves for reasons only kids understand, and it was urgently important to me that every time we went to McDonald’s, that stagecoach booth was vacant and available.

Even today, when I drive past that McDonald’s while passing through Dodge City, I always strain my neck to make sure that booth is still there, safe and sound.

Today, I read that it won’t be safe much longer.

According to a Facebook past from the McDonald’s on Wyatt Earp, that store is closing at 10 p.m. tonight for a “much-needed facelift.” The building actually will be demolished, the post said, and a shiny new McDonald’s will be built in its place.

When it reopens in about 90 days, the stagecoach won’t be there. The new owners, Jamie and Kelsey Kuehl, who took over the restaurant two years ago, say they are donating it to the Boot Hill Museum.

Though it makes me sad to know that such a symbol of my childhood will be displaced, it brought a tiny tear to my eye when I read that the owners truly understand what it has meant to people like me.

“Since moving here two years ago, we’ve enjoyed hearing all your memories about your iconic restaurant,” the post read. “We’ve watched as your children (and our own) have run to sit in the stagecoach. We’ve witnessed family bonding, first dates, spilt drinks and a ton of laughter take place here. We’ve heard the stories you’ve told about growing up in the stagecoach and restaurant with hopes that your children and grandchildren would be able to do the same. It might just be a building to some, but we know how much the stagecoach and this restaurant has meant to so many of you over the last 40+ years.”

If I get in the car and start driving now, think I could get one last ride?