It’s not often that a bona fide piece of local history offers you a smile, a handshake, a slice of birthday cake — and an autographed paper hat.
But that’s what dozens of people got at the Wallingford Dick’s Drive-In at midafternoon Tuesday, as Dick Spady, co-founder of the iconic burger chain, celebrated his 90th birthday thanking his customers, his workers, his family and just about everyone he could think of.
“It’s been a good life. I’m very fortunate,” said Spady, who uses a walker and is slowing down these days but still manages a couple of visits a week to a Dick’s Drive-In for a burger and a milkshake.
As he sat on a folding chair signing autographs and greeting well-wishers, Spady said he doesn’t plan many more public appearances, because his stamina is waning.
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The company, now run by his sons, has six locations. Their latest, opened in Edmonds in 2011, was the chain’s first new location in 37 years.
It was at the Wallingford drive-in on Northeast 45th Street that on Jan. 28, 1954, Spady and two partners — whom he later bought out and have since passed away — started what for many in the Seattle area has become a fast-food tradition.
“I’ve been coming to Dick’s for 30 years,” said Jim Endres, of Kent, who happened by Tuesday’s event. “You always know what you’re going to get — good burgers, good fries and good shakes — and the service is quick.”
A North Bend couple in their 70s, Carl and Nadine Lind, posed for photos with Spady after telling him they met at that very site — the Wallingford Dick’s — in 1955 and were married the next year.
Nadine Lind said she was over from Yakima with a sister and a friend when they saw a handsome young man at the wheel of a Lincoln Capri convertible, and he waved for them to follow him to the drive-in.
“He had a red jacket like James Dean,” she said of the man who would become her husband. “He was a handsome guy — still is.”
The Linds often stop by a Dick’s when they’re in town.
Among the family members with Spady Tuesday was his wife of 58 years, Ina Lou. The couple live in a South Lake Union retirement home.
The burger chain’s patriarch has also had an active civic life. A few years ago, Spady’s interest in community action led to his founding of the Community Forums Network (communityforumsnetwork.org) which helps people become effective participants in public-policy decisions.
In a prepared “birthday message” Tuesday, Spady thanked his family — the couple has five children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren — and all those connected with the restaurant.
“And, finally,” he said, “I would like to say thank you to all the people who share this beautiful place we call home. We are all blessed to be able to live here, for as much time as God allows.”
Jack Broom: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-2222