Vintage Snapshots: 1956 Studebakers At South Bend’s Bonnie Doon

I believe this photo highlights a case of South Bend supporting South Bend, with a group of company men from South Bend’s Bonnie Doon Ice Cream nicely posing with a bunch of ’56 Studebaker/Packard products. The men in this photo are -from left- Lee J. Muldoon, Elmer Faller, Howard J. Muldoon, Paul Muldoon, and Foster J. Muldoon.

With so many Muldoons mentioned, you probably figured they have something to do with the ‘Doon’ in Bonnie Doon. You would be right. Back in 1938, the Muldoon family set up the fledging ice cream company in Indiana. From all available evidence, business was rosy and the company quickly blossomed.

In short order, Bonnie Doon expanded with three restaurants opening around South Bend and two in nearby Mishawaka. Being the ’40s and ’50s, the restaurant locations exuded mid-century splendor in their layout and attractions. Besides the standard dining-in facilities, drive-in service was also available, with ‘car hop’ attendants providing service.

The ’56 Studebakers in this post were shot in 1955 in the Bonnie Doon at 3030 Lincoln Way W. in South Bend. Curiously, the photo captures the transition taking place during the Studebaker and Packard merger, with a Packard taking center stage in the shot. Maybe the Muldoon’s patriarch vehicle?

The shot also showcases a good deal of rare 1956 Studebakers. Not the more common Champions or Commanders, but instead, the rather rare 2-door wagons. It makes sense though, as it sounds the Muldoons were busy folk and had stuff to haul around.

Regardless, one can sense that local businesses made an effort to support the local economy.

There’s no need to repeat here the sad fate of Studebaker-Packard, as it’s been told elsewhere in these pages. Regarding Bonnie Doon, like a lot of midsize enterprises, it eventually lost ground against larger and better-funded conglomerates. After some decades of prosperity, by the 2000s, most of its locations had ceased operations.

Still, online sources mention that one Boonie Doon exists to this day in Mishawaka, opening only during the summer. Like a lot of mid-century attractions fallen in hard times, in my Google browsing, the location doesn’t look quite so vibrant nowadays. But I would think that’s no deterrent to those who still wish to experience the old Boonie Doon days.


Further reading:

Automotive History: The Studebaker Sedan’s Last Decade Of Styling – Magic With Leftovers

Curbside Classic: 1957 Studebaker Commander – Eureka!