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???

Memorial Day 2017

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This whole weekend carries many memories for me, as it was always one that seemed to make the D’Elias a typical American Family. In the early days of being a family, the weekend always started with a great fireworks display on the beach Friday night at Bar Harbor, on the Long Island Sound side of the Town of North Hempstead. We attended this event for many many years, and over the years, our group of friends changed and grew. It started out being folks from ABC, then church friends were added, eventually the kids’ school friends’ families, and then neighbors and our Boy Scout friends joined. Whatever the make up of the group, it always was centered around sitting in a beach chair, surrounded by our kids and friends, watching a wonderful Gucci fireworks show. What could be more American than a local fireworks display on the beach to start your Memorial Day Weekend?

Then, Saturday morning, bright and early, it was time to pile everybody in the van and hit the highway. To be specific, to head to the Garden State Parkway, and even then, our spiritual home, Ocean City. We’d stay in a motel, we’d walk the boardwalk, we’d eat pizza and french fries, we’d play ski ball and mini golf, and join with hundreds of our Shoobies in the traditional first week of the summer season in whatever year it happened to be. That was our usual Saturday and Sunday routine, and then Sunday night. we’d pile into the van again, and start the northbound trek up the Garden State Parkway home to Long Island.

While Memorial Day’s date would change year to year, one special event that was also usually centered around this weekend was Susie’s May 28th birthday. Some years it happened before the actual weekend, and some years after, but the many years that it landed on the weekend, it was a huge part of the D’Elia Family’s Memorial Day weekend. Some years it was celebrated with a candle in a Hostess Cupcake in a motel room, some years there was a fireworks display on her birthday to mark the special day, and some years, the Village of Mineola even threw a huge parade to celebrate…Susie never knew exactly what form that year’s celebration would take!

IMG_2534As much as we love the traditions that have become such a huge part of our family’s life, as time goes on, things change. Eventually the fireworks display on Friday night at Bar Harbor ended, and we no longer had that anchor for our weekend. The kids got older, and they had their own life, and were no longer interested in Dad’s version of the typical American Memorial Day Weekend. For the past 13 Memorial Days, we’ve owned our house in Ocean City, and so that has led us to create new traditions. For many of those 13 years, we have had the kids join us at the house, we’d spend the weekend on the beach, on our front porch (when the weather has been better than it’s been this weekend), surrounded by our family and their friends, and our Ocean City friends who have become more like family than friends. We’ve celebrated Susie’s special day with the kids, at the Ocean City Yacht Club, at a surprise party at a friend’s house, or just sitting around having friends drop in to have a drink, and share her special day with her. If you ask me, great new traditions that will last forever!

But if you remember earlier, I said we’d pile into the van on Sunday night and head home, and that’s because of the longest standing tradition in the D’Elia Family’s life. This was one tradition that transcended the many changes in our lives, that took different forms in some years, and was enjoyed by different people, but was a constant part of this weekend for us for close to 30 years, The Mineola, New York Memorial Day Parade.

IMG_2519From Billy’s first year in Cub Scout Pack 246, through the years when younger brother Kenny joined him, the years when Billy transitioned to Boy Scout Troop 45, to the years when Kenny and Dad joined Billy in Troop 45, to the years when Billy went off to college, and even long after Kenny stopped being a Boy Scout, marching in the parade was a constant part of this weekend. Some years my Mom would drive in from Bayside, and she, Susie, and Krissi would stand on the side of the road and cheer us on. Some years Susie’s Dad would join us in the parade, and we’d end up after the parade at a party at her Dad’s VFW Post in Albertson. Some years we’d sit on a neighbors porch and reflect on the day and the parade, and for many years, the day would end at our good friends Pat and Steve Grosskopf’s house, as Scoutmaster Steve would throw a huge post parade party for the Troop 45 Family!

For most of the last 13 Memorial Days, no matter what has been going on at the Ocean City house, and no matter who was with us for the weekend, and no matter how late Sunday night went, our routine has been to set the alarm for 5 AM on Monday morning, quietly get up and get dressed, sometimes climb over sleeping people, get out of the house and into the car, and head for an empty Garden State Parkway and the Village of Mineola, arriving in plenty of time to change clothes, and get over to the start of the parade. We might have been somewhat sleepy, but remembering those who had given their lives for our freedom, and reminding the boys of Troop 45 why we were doing what we were doing, had become a very important part of our Memorial Day Weekend.

Because both Susie and I were retired last year, and there was no reason for me to be in NYC on Tuesday morning, we made the hard decision to change our routine and not head back for the parade. Mother Nature must have felt bad for us, because she opened the heavens in Mineola, and the parade was canceled because of torrential rains, so we didn’t miss a parade. As I write this on Memorial Day, 2017, I’m sitting at the table in our Ocean City house, reading a weather forecast for heavy rain the Mineola, and wondering if the parade will happen, or if it will have to be replaced with a smaller indoor ceremony to commemorate the day. Either way, we won’t be there, ending yet another tradition in our life.

IMG_2520But no matter where we are, and no matter what we are doing today, on Memorial Day Monday, my heart will always be walking the streets of Mineola, following a large group of young men, holding many American flags, being proceeded and followed by many other organizations, seeing friends and neighbors on the side of the road cheering on the marchers, and remembering the sacrifices that so many made so that we can have the lives we now enjoy. I’ll remember our long standing Memorial Day Weekend traditions, and always be thankful that it was because of the sacrifices of others, I am blessed with these wonderful memories, our wonderful family and friends, and the ability to live the life we now live. Our family was lucky that all those from our circle that served, returned home safe and sound, but for the thousands of families who were not as fortunate, today has even more meaning. Please remember them today, and their heroes who may have died at Pearl Harbor, or a trench in the First World War, or over the South Pacific or wherever they were standing up for what they believed.

Memorial Day is truly about memories!

Day Two….Sunny Afternoon in Georgia!

So, the end of day two finds us in Darien, Georgia at a very nice Comfort Inn.  Our room tonight is much nicer than the Days Inn was last night.  Lesson learned……You get what you pay for!  Today we traveled from Virginia, through North Carolina, South Carolina, and into Georgia.  Driving was good, but if some of the folks we’ve encountered on the road today, did what they did on imagethe Garden State Parkway or the New Jersey Turnpike, I think they’d be dead.  Lets just say, interesting drivers.  We’ve spotted license plates from 21 states, the District of Columbia, Official US Government, Quebec, Ontario, and a bunch of US Army Humvees in full battle gear, with no license plates.  We drove by Paris Island,  Pope Army Air Base, and saw huge GI helicopters come in low over I-95.

imageThis morning, when we crossed from North Carolina into South Carolina, we passed South of the Border.  We’ve heard from friends that it’s a shell of what it used to be, and although we didn’t stop, it did bring to mind a story from one of our very early trips to Florida with the kids.

I guess we were nuts, or perhaps just didn’t know any better, but we loaded up our 1986 full size Ford van with two 18 month old twins, our almost 6 year old son, our baby sitter, and started down I-95.  Among the things loaded into the van were two porta cribs, which we unloaded and set up at every hotel.  Nuts, or what?

So, as we leave our first night’s motel, I notice that one of the tires on the van needed a little air.  I filled it before leaving, and when we got to the North/South Carolina border, we decided to stop at South of the Border to check the tire.  Once again it was low, so I decided to see if I could get it looked at.  The guy at the gas station in South of the Border said he had no empty lifts, but if I brought him the tire, he could fix it.

I went back to the car, got Susie, Eileen our baby sitter, Krissi, Kenny, and Billy out of the car, and started to jack up the van.  The way to jack up that generation van, was to slide the jack way under the frame, and then lift it off the ground.  Just as I was getting the jack under the frame, two Air Force fighter jets buzzed South of the Border at about 100 feet!  From that time on, Susie loved telling the story of how, when the planes flew over, I dove under the van, totally abandoning my wife and my 3 young children to protect myself!

So that’s my South of the Border story for today.  Tomorrow we have about 4 hours to Walt Disney World, and our reservations at Disney’s Port Orleans, French Quarter.  Tonight we are in 60 degree temperatures, tomorrow we’re hoping for the 70s!  Also, looking forward to using my ABC/Disney Retiree discounts!  Ah, retirement!!