INFO from Google " from the Jim Crow Museum "The History of Coon Chicken Inn Curator's Notes: The Coon Chicken Inn was a highly successful restaurant chain from the late 1920s through the 1950s. A grinning, grotesque head of a bald Black man with a porter's cap and winking eye formed a restaurant's entryway. The door was through the middle of his mouth. The restaurants sold southern fried Coon Chicken sandwiches, chicken pie, livers -- and hamburgers, seafood, chili, cakes, and assorted sandwiches. When possible, Blacks were used as waiters, waitresses, and cooks. The grandson of its founder wrote a brief history of the Coon Chicken Inn chain. We thank him for allowing us to print his account.
I am a descendant of the original founders of the Coon Chicken Inn. I preface this essay by saying that I do not condone the "Jim Crow" attitudes of the past. I and ALL of my siblings believe in full equality for all races, creeds, and skin colors. My grandparents were entrepreneurs engaging in what were normal business practices. They left behind artifacts, popularly called "Black Memorabilia," that serve as reminders that this particular part of history must never, and will never, be repeated. The following is a brief history of the Coon Chicken Inn restaurant chain.
The Coon Chicken Inn was founded by Maxon Lester Graham. To understand the history of the Coon Chicken Inn you first have to understand my grandfather. He was born on June 17, 1897, and almost immediately demonstrated a flair for business. We have read numerous accounts from his mother's diary of what a young entrepreneur he was. He sold lemonade and popcorn, and picked strawberries in the Salt Lake City area to save money for some kind of business. In 1913, at the age of 16, he answered an advertisement for the Metz Automobile Company. They were looking for agents that could pay for a carload of six Metz cars. Maxon, with the financial backing of a local bank, was awarded a distributorship for Utah, Idaho, Nevada, and Wyoming. He named his business the M.L. Graham Company. Maxon was the youngest car dealership owner in the country.
From 1923 to 1924, Maxon's car distribution expanded to include the Carter, Dort, Moon, Elcar, and Gray models. In 1924 the M.L. Graham Company had a promising year -- records show paper profits of $75,000. The company worked under a $90,000 bank loan. Grandpa's company financed the cars for his customers. They paid him; he paid the bank. The bank notes were for 90 days, and for years they were paid as they came due. One fall many of his customers, who were sheep and cattle men, ran into trouble. Maxon had to repossess many cars -- this money was used to pay the bank. About that time a new bank president was elected, and he would not renew the notes. The bank repossessed all 40 of the cars on the lot and put them up for auction at one lump sum. Maxon went to a friend who operated a small store and borrowed $2,000 to buy back the cars. His friend approached the bank, they jumped at the chance and Maxon and his friend sold the cars for a $2,000 profit.
This brings us to the Coon Chicken Inn. By this time Maxon had married Adelaide Burt, and they were looking for a new business venture. On Sundays they frequently drove to a small town, south of Salt Lake City, to a small restaurant that served excellent chicken. The recipe was easy to prepare and my grandparents believed the chicken would do well in Salt Lake City. At the time t were no fast-food stands outside the city. They decided to build a restaurant in Sugar House, a Salt Lake City suburb. They found a location on Highland Drive near the West Side High School. For $50 they purchased a small buildin...