Rise of Carhop Majorettes
In 1938, J.D. (1907-1986) and Louise Sivil (1918-2006) opened Sivil’s Drive-In Restaurant in Houston. To attract customers, they employed “pretty and firtatious” women 18-25 years old and dressed them in sexy majorette costumes. The uniforms varied in style but often included skirts, shorts, cropped tops, boots and plumed hats.
The carhop majorettes were Louise’s idea. I’ve heard her described as having a knack for running a roadside stand; however, in reality, she was a shrewd businesswoman who had a keen understanding of advertising strategies, particularly sex appeal. She used it to persuade people to buy their steaks and burgers, sodas and shakes. In addition, she used the majorette persona, bogarting it a way that impacted public opinion of the young and growing sport. After all, one of her sexy majorettes, Josephine Powell, ended up on the cover of LIFE in February 1940. At the time, it was one of the most popular magazine’s in the nation. In fact, it reached one-quarter (25 percent) of the population.
Josephine Powell, LIFE
We are searching for more information about Josephine Powell, who lived in Houston in 1940. Specifically, we’d like to know what became of her. Did she ever twirl baton or march with a band? Why was she the carhop chosen for the photo shoot?
Following the cover story in LIFE, Sivil’s expanded to Dallas where the drive-in enjoyed enormous popularity along with their now iconic carhop majorettes. Located in the Oak Cliff neighborhood, it became a huge part of the lives of local teens from the 1940s through the 1960s.
It’s one of those places that seems to have reached almost mythic proportions on the nostalgia scale.
McDonald’s Majorette Carhops
Speaking of fast-food, the first McDonald’s opened in San Bernardino, California, in May 1940. Three months after the Powell appeared on teh cover of LIFE, they hired women to dress up in majorette boots and costumes and serve customers. (Source: Vintage Everyday)
Scrapbook of Sivil’s Carhop Majorettes
A Flickr Pro User generously designated this amazing photo series of carhop majorettes with the Creative Commons License. They are from his grandmother’s personal scrapbook and document the days she worked at Sivil’s and Prince’s Drive-Ins from the 1940s-1960s. The images were actually postcards of the young women and were sold as souvenirs.
Required Attribution: Kevin Trotman, Grandmother’s Scrapbook. This material may not be used for commercial purposes. No derivatives may be made.
Katson’s Majorette Carhops
Robert Virgil Katson opened Katson’s Drive-In in May 1940. He also jumped on the majorette carhop bandwagon as you can see from this vintage Katson’s postcard. The drive-in was located in Albuqerque’s popular motel district and fronted Route 66.
According to Route 66 Postcards, this is “generally considered to be one of the most extraordinary, beautiful linen postcards made for an Old Route 66 business in New Mexico…The dusk slipping away into the night in 1939…”
If you’ve ever been down old Route 66 in New Mexico, we highly recommend it. The sky looks exactly like this.
Carhop Documentary, 1974
In 1974, a short documentary was made about Carhops. It features magnificent footage of carhop majorettes. It’s featured below in two parts. In addition, visit Texas Archive to see a short 35mm clip of Sivil’s carhops about about the 9 minute mark.
Finally, how do you think product marketing has impacted majorettes and the sport of baton twirling? For further exploration, read our post about majorettes in advertising for cigarettes, shirts, chewing gum and soda.
What is Ephemera
Baton twirling ephemera is collectible memorabilia that is often written or printed and used for a specific period of time. It includes things like programs, posters, patches, ticket stubs, score sheets, stickers, magazines and newsletters, etc. Do you have baton twirling ephemera to share?
We welcome pictures and scans of your vintage baton twirling memorabilia.
We’ll digitally preserve your memories in high-quality scans. Thank you so much for supporting this project.