HoJos

Lets be honest, I’m being lazy today and letting others write my blog! Thanks Facebook Friends!

So, this morning I posted this picture of an old Howard Johnson’s magazine ad on Facebook, and commented,

“Who’s old enough to remember when these were everywhere across America? A HoJo was the turnaround point for many of our Sunday drives as a kid in NYC. We’d drive out of the city to the “country,” and stop at HoJos. The funny thing was that the city was our apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens, and the country was the more suburban Queens. The Howard Johnson that we often stopped at was on Northern Blvd. in Little Neck, which was really just down the road when my folks moved to Bayside! Oh what flavor ice cream do I want today???”

From the likes (and loves) and the comments, I was not the only one of my Facebook friends who had fond memories of HoJos in their childhood!

Our non-Baby Boomer Ocean City neighbor Laura Dawson said, “Surprisingly I am, as a grew up in North/Central Jersey where there were lots of them!”

My friend Bob Acampora from way back in high school at Garden School said, “I used to love to go to Howard Johnson’s! Fried Clams were a favorite, and of course the ice cream.”

My WPLJ Alumni friend Naomi DiClimente Salvatore said, “Was a favorite of the fam as a kid – I remember their chocolate chip ice cream with the nice flecks of chocolate instead of big wax chunks like you get now, and my Mom liked the fried clam strips”

                  Bob Acampora replied to Naomi, “Yes, the chocolate chip was one of
my favorite flavors! Nice flecks of chocolate!”

                 Naomi continued their exchange with, “Funny right! Can’t find that
in anyone’s chocolate chip ice cream today!”

Johnny Donovan, of WABC fame said, “Jericho Turnpike in New Hyde Park”, specifying the exact one he remembered!

Childhood Garden School friend Joyce Cohen Leibert said, “Petty Fours!”

Jim Nedelka, who I worked with a lifetime ago at WHN said, “Any flavor ice cream ensconced by that iconic conic scoop works for me!”

WPLJ Alumni Jimmy Fink said, “Those special New England Hot Dog Rolls were made by Fink…we just called them HoJo rolls.” (Jimmy’s family were the ones behind the famous New York area Fink Bakery) after I asked Jimmy if they made them for the whole country, he replied, “We made them and delivered to all the local locations in the tri-state area, then shipped a bulk order to their warehouse where they distributed to their other locations.”

I replied to Jimmy, “Well, then I often enjoyed your family’s rolls  on those Sunday drives!”, while WABC Alumni Howard Hoffman commented, “HoJo took an already awesome bun, then grilled it in BUTTER which sent it into the stratosphere. Stuffed with Tendersweet Clams? MWAH!!”

My friend Frank Dunne remembered. “I was embarrassed on a date in the Westbury one on Jericho Turnpike when I didn’t have a jacket and had to wear one of the waiters!”

Alan Seltzer from WCWP and I had a back and forth about the huge HoJos we both remembered from our childhood. Alan said, “My family used to go to the one on Queens Blvd. in Rego Park, which I believe was the largest in the country”

My fiend Linda Walters commented, “Our Wedding Cake was a coconut loaf cake sold by HoJos. We eloped and wanted a white cake!”

My friend from WCWP, WHN and the Mineola Long Island Rail Road platform, Joe Honnercamp commented, “And the HoJo chocolate fudge cake was the best!” He should know because as he commented, “I ended up in the HoJos in Little Neck frequently because it was just across the street from my grade school”. Like my Sunday rides to the same location, “What a treat it was. I only went there with my folks.”

Jeff Kroll, WCWP and WHN friend said, “Miss the burgers & ice cream. When I first moved to Roslyn while in High School, we were right up Willis Avenue from the HoJos”.

The owner of a wealth of HoJo information, which he blamed on “The things I learned while living in New England”, Howard Hoffman, also contributed, “Anyone remember their “upscale” attempt at finer dining – The Ground Round? Lots of sawdust died for the floors!”    Many of us had no idea of that connection!

Old WABC friend Steve Goldstein said, “My favorite was the “Ham Quickie”, while WPLJ friend Jim Brownold only had 2 words, “Clam Strips!!!”

For those of us of a certain age, we remember when HoJos were everywhere as you traveled. They were on the highways and the new Interstates, they were in neighborhoods, and even in cities, such as the one that was located in Times Square.

I think my cousin Walt Pratt summed it up very well, for most of us in the Baby Boomer generation, “For many families Howard Johnson’s was the place to get a good meal without having to spend an extravagant amount of money.  Often, it was the choice for a dinner after a Sunday afternoon drive.  When my mother closed her diner in the late 50s, she went to work for Howard Johnson’s and recruited a lot of the neighborhood teen-agers to work there part-time.  My youngest brother Eugene who is a culinary school graduate also worked for Howard Johnson’s.  Little known is that renowned chef Jacques Pepin turned down an offer to be President Kennedy’s White House Chef to go to work at Howard Johnson’s.  He wanted to learn about American food.”

Found a great article from New York Magazine’s Grub Street from 2016 that talks of the history of Howard Johnson’s and even verifies what Walt mentions about Jacques Pepin, and ultimately what went wrong, and why there are only remnants of former HoJos around the country! You may find it an interesting read. http://www.grubstreet.com/2016/08/there-will-soon-be-just-one-howard-johnsons-left.html

I think one of the best Howard Johnson memories I’ve gotten today is from my new son-in-law, Mike’s dad Jerry Mikowicz. I know he’s on a cruise with his wife Paula and his grandkids Maddy and Ethan, so obviously he had a real soft spot for HoJos to take the time to share this story, “One time my brother visited me in Laurel, MD, for Thanksgiving Day.  We planned a late afternoon dinner, but drove into Washington, DC, for the morning to sightsee.  On the way back to Laurel it was early afternoon, lunchtime, and we stopped at a HoJo for a hamburger to tide us over.  After we ordered, the waitress went over to talk to the manager, and after a few minutes he stopped by to offer us a free, complete turkey dinner.  He may have assumed we couldn’t afford the full dinner.  We declined and explained, but I will never forget that kind offer.”

 

So for better or worse, it appears that many of us have a shared history with the Howard Johnson chain. We remember Sunday drives, or family members that worked there, or hot dog buns, fried clams, and 28 delicious Ice Cream flavors. We’re also the people that every time you see a building on the side of the road, with a particular shaped roof, whatever color it now is, you know that at one time it was bright orange and topped with a cupola and a weather vane. It’s amazing to me, when a simple picture of a magazine ad from years ago, can generate so many comments, and it obviously jump started many memories for my Facebook friends, as it did for me! So, as I originally asked…what flavor ice cream do I want today???

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