Ollie's Last Stand

by Max Highbaugh

(The following interview was conducted in February of 2007 and appeared in the following March issue of the Jeffersontown Sun)

3rd & Kentucky Line

"Ollie's Last Stand"
(Photo taken day of interview)

    You know, those that know me well will tell you that I wax nostalgic every now and then. Okay, I do all the time. So much so that I am accused of living in the past, which I do sometimes...okay, pretty much all the time. Nothing makes my heart warm like a good old 'remember when' memory...memories of Old Louisville, WAKY and WKLO, Blue Boar Cafeteria, Santa at Dixie Manor, Presto the Clown, Randy Atcher and Ollie's Trolley. I never ate at Ollie's, but I rode by many of them. I did, however, have my first Ollieburger a few years back and just last week I had the privilege of interviewing Juanita Potter, owner of the last trolley at 3rd & Kentucky.

   Actually, I went in with the original intent of getting her on tape for an on the spot 'remote' to be run on WAKYOnline, as well as for this article. She declined to be put on tape, but said she would be happy to chat with me nevertheless.  During our prior phone call in setting up the interview, Juanita informed me that the big paper had done a piece on Ollie's just weeks prior, so I had pretty much written that idea off and focused on the 'on air' interview. When I found out that was not to be, I decided to at least make the trip up I-65 worth it and, grabbing pen and paper we were off and running.
   She told me the chain had been started by former Kentucky Governor John Y. Brown in the mid-70's, with her Kentucky Line opening in 1974. Prior to purchasing the stand with her sister in 1984, Juanita had, in fact, worked for the Brown Administration, serving as financial director. When asked how many Louisville trolleys there had been, she was unsure of the count, but began to rattle off each of the locations:
  • 5th & Main
  • 5th &  Muhammad Ali
  • 5th & Broadway
  • 3rd & Kentucky
  • Preston Hwy & the Fairgrounds
  • Taylor Blvd.
  • Auburndale
  • Middletown
  • Preston & Bardstown (Poplar Level)
  • 18th St. (West End)
She also mentioned two trolleys in Lexington and that there had been one in Elizabethtown, although I confessed to her I didn't remember that one.
   In a culture where fast food restaurants are forever reinventing themselves and expanding their menus, Ollie's has stuck to the original menu. While some sources suggest Juanita's trolley prepares a facsimile, she insists they offer the Real McCoy. Not only that, the trolley at 3rd & Kentucky is the only one that still uses the original sauce. When asked about the other trolleys at Cincinnati and D.C. she says, "they claim to be Ollie's, but they don't have the sauce". In addition, they offer expanded menus. While I never pried as to what goes into the secret sauce, she did relate that all the ingredients were local, with the sauce itself being shipped in from out of town. She also personally mixes the sauce and ingredients, so she knows exactly what she's talking about.
   As we began to close our conversation, and after I sucked in my gut for the 7th time to make room for an employee to pass me in the tiny confines, Juanita let me know that they began shutting down the trolleys in 1977, with the last one at 5th & Main, closing in 1979. She assured me, however, that her trolley has no plans to roll out of town, and this was good news indeed. Their hours are 10AM to 4:30 (weekdays only) and in case you're wondering, you can get a Ollieburger, fries & Coke all for less than 5 bucks (a little free advertising). Seeing how this was all I had in my pocket, this was both a deal AND a treat!
   As I headed home, I got the feeling that I had tapped into a piece of Louisville history-a glimpse of the 'way we were' that still exists. For a guy who waxes nostalgic sometimes...okay most of the time, the trip turned out to be well worth it!