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One last Kow's fling
"Morning rain didn't keep the Whidbey Cruzers from bringing classic cars, leather jackets and poodle skirts to Kow Korner for a Happy Days farewell.The Cruzers have been meeting weekly at Kow's for about two years, filling the lot with cars ranging from a 1922 T-Bucket to a 1972 Camaro. Members of the club have been eating at Kow's for much longer.About 250 people made their way to Kow Korner on Sunday for a walk down memory lane and to say goodbye to a local landmark.Kow's, a local hangout since owner Herb Williams opened in 1959, will be torn down soon - probably in July - to make way for a new Alaska Federal Credit Union. But Sunday, patrons weren't dwelling on the future of Kow's, but reflecting on the past. Cruzer member Don Tabach remembers when Kow's first opened.My parents waited until the second week for things to slow down, he said. Things never really slowed down.That's when five burgers were only a dollar. Tabach was 13 years old when he first tasted a Kow burger. He said he took dates there as he grew up, then his kids. It's been a 40-year tradition, he said.Cruzers members Clarice and Jim Rairigh said they were sad to see Kow's close, but understood the reasons.Herb's tired, Clarice Rairigh said. He's ready to retire.As for keeping the building as a drive-in, Jim Rairigh said it'd have to be someone's hobby.Steve Meininger's favorite for 32 years has been a double cheeseburger and fries with two sides of tartar sauce.Don't forget the large cherry Pepsi, he said. In 1968, a large cherry Pepsi cost only 19 cents. Today, it's 95 cents - and it's still made with old-fashioned cherry syrup.We used to cruise from Kow's, down Midway to the Arctic Circle and back, Meininger said. This is where we hung out, back when you could fill up the car, have dinner and cruise all night for $5.He said he's sad to see it close.It's the best burger in town, he said.In fact, not a single person in the lot was excited about the closure.Michael Vega and his family arrived in Oak Harbor only five months ago. This was their second visit to Kow's. He said the burgers were great.With '50s music, award-winning cars and old-time food, it was hard for some not to get a little misty-eyed with nostalgia.The owners of the Exxon on Midway, Jim and Joann Woessner, have been patrons of the Korner for many years.Herb automatically puts tartar sauce on the cheeseburger when he hears Jim's voice at the window, Joann Woessner said. Herb's never kicked the kids out of the parking lot, even after he'd closed down for the night, she said. Woessner said she remembers one Sunday about a year ago when the Korner was closed.We thought something had happened to (Williams) - he's always open, she explained. Turns out he just needed a day off. The Bonzai Cruisers, a younger crowd with newer cars, joined the Whidbey Cruzers in its tribute to Williams and Kow Korner. Corey Jamison, president of the Bonzai Cruisers, said he thinks of the Whidbey Cruzers to be a brother club. He said it's been tradition for all the Whidbey Island cruisers to meet at the Korner. I'm sure we'll meet someplace else, but it won't be the same as the old-fashioned drive-through, he said. Island Cruzer member Lyla Lillis wiped raindrops from her '55 Chevy, which hasn't traveled beyond Skagit County.Lillis has been eating at Kow's for 22 years and said she will miss it. She said the club hasn't talked to any other business owners about possible meeting sites.I don't think the bank would like us meeting in their parking lot, she said with a smile.Many of the Cruzers are concerned about losing their hangout. There are some other places we've been thinking about meeting, but the problem is the parking lots have steep dips, said Cruzers member Alice Martin. We'd scratch up the cars.As for Williams, he said he'll have plenty of things to keep him busy after retirement.I live in the middle of 10 acres of land - there's a lot of work to be done, he said. There are old cars in the barn I plan on restoring. "