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OPINION: Sonic’s storied history deserves to be told better than a misleading sign

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Sonic Drive-In

The sign outside of the Sonic Drive-in on Main Street claims it to be the first of the chain, but this claim may be disputed.

What if I told you one of Stillwater’s claims to fame isn’t what it seems? 

That’s right, the Sonic on Main Street is a fraud. 

You heard me right, a fraud. 

The big red sign that says “America’s First” doesn’t tell the full story of the history of Sonic. 

Now I could just tell you to Google it, but that wouldn’t tell the story either, it would skip over important history of the franchise, much like the sign in Stillwater. 

To begin we have to go all the way back to 1953 when Troy Smith Sr. and a business partner started Top Hat, a walk-up root beer stand in a log cabin on a five acre-plot of land in Shawnee, Oklahoma. 

The second Top Hat location would certainly be in Stillwater, right? 

Wrong, the second franchise was in Woodward, Oklahoma in 1956. 

In 1958, Enid, Oklahoma and Stillwater each got their own Top Hat franchise. There was only one issue with the business, the name Top Hat was already trademarked, so Smith had to change it.

That’s when Sonic started. 

The first franchise to receive a new sign was Stillwater. That’s the reason the sign is placed outside of the Main Street location, but don’t let that fool you, the first Sonic was in Shawnee. 

That’s easy to prove. Googling ‘where is the first sonic’ gives you the answer of Shawnee, Oklahoma. The only claim to Sonic Stillwater is that it was the first franchise to receive the sign under the new name of Sonic.

The sign reading “America’s First” should come with asterisks because of the misleading nature of the claim. With the main Oklahoma State campus in Stillwater the town should pride itself on academics and teaching, so instead of just having the sign, which is misleading, it should teach the history of the chain. 

Stillwater already has Eskimo Joes and Hideaway as restaurants to claim and not even to mention the home of the Wrestling Hall of Fame. Why do they need to claim a sign? Let Shawnee have this one.