Showing posts with label Route 66. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Route 66. Show all posts

Restaurants of YesterYear - Howard Johnson's Restaurant and Motor Lodge

Monday, February 14, 2022

Like many Americans, travel is in my genetic makeup.  It's in our blood.  Americans come from pioneers who pushed boundaries into the wild west, explored new horizons, and experienced new things.  

I love all traveling: road trips, train travel, cruise ships, and of course, airplanes. 

I firmly believe there is something truly American about an old fashion road trip.  Europe might be known for "backpacking" trips across the continent, but we set out in cars here in America to see the country.  Eating at mom and pop diners or spending the night in a roadside motel is a right of passage... or it should be, in my opinion, anyway.

Growing up, the best parts of our vacation, for me, were often the plane ride and the hotel!  One day, after getting back from Florida, my Mom was talking to another mother while we waited for the school bus.  She mentioned all I cared about were the plane, hotel, and rental car!  She jokingly said that she shouldn't have taken us to Disney and instead saved a lot of money just booking a room at the hotel down the road.  That comment always stuck with me, and while she was only joking, there was some truth to it!   I DID like the hotel better!


Don't get me wrong, I loved our trips to Disney World (still do!), but sometimes what I genuinely enjoy most is the hotel stay.  

I can remember every trip and each hotel we stayed in growing up.  As a kid, I collected the free paraphernalia from the room, and until around college, I had a giant bin of soaps, shampoo bottles, pens, and notepads from hotels around the country.  

I remember well one such trip occurred when we all headed up to the Boston area for a cousin's wedding.  After the wedding was over, we drove into the city proper to spend a day or two sightseeing.  Boston is a great walking city, and you can see much of the city in only a day.  We had a memorable time on the hop-on/hop-off trolly, but true to fashion, what I remember most about was the hotel.

We stayed at a Howard Johnson's.  

After a bit of research, I've come to find out we stayed at the somewhat famous "Boston Park Plaza 57 - Howard Johnson's." This was the trip that not only did I learn that most high-rise buildings superstitiously skip the "13th floor," but my family gained a story we sometimes retell when we're all together.  We walked down the street to a Bennigan's for dinner on our first night.  The waiter barely got out "Hi, I'm Mark, and I'll be your waiter..." before he dumped a tray full of drinks on my poor brother's lap.  We stayed a night or two at the hotel, and I remember that it wasn't anything special.  It was a little old and dated but clean.  Before heading home at the end of our trip, we ate lunch at the Howard Johnson's restaurant in the lobby.  I remember that it was busy, and the way I picture it in my head now reminds me of a diner with tablecloths.  I also remember a large wooden lattice arch as you entered the room for some reason.  Funny what the things that stick out in your mind end up being.

My only other experience with Howard Johnson's was driving home after completing two months of training at my first airline.  I had very little sleep the night before my big final flight simulator test, and after a long day, I left Cincinnati for Long Island just as the sun was setting.  I had hoped to drive through the night and get to my apartment by sun up, but somewhere after leaving West Virginia, I could hardly keep my eyes open any longer.  I pulled off the highway at the first billboard I saw.  It was a Howard Johnson's, and I thought, "That's a recognizable brand.  How bad could it be?"


I checked in and was immediately skeeved out by the room.  So much so that I put the bath towels on the bed before laying down.  I should have left, but it was one in the morning.  I was dead tired, and I had already paid for the night and was too broke to lose the money.  The place offered some type of breakfast, but I wasn't going to stick around after staying in that room for only a few hours.  I woke up early and hit up a gas station for snacks before making a bee-line for New York.  

While I'm filing this under my "Restaurant of YesterYear" series, this story could just as easily fit into the coming Motels of YesterYear collection too.  It'll eventually end up there.

Warning, this is a long one.  I do think it's a fun story, and hopefully, like me, you learn some cool things about this company from the past.  Or, perhaps even more in line with the purpose of this site, you sit back and go, "Huh, I haven't thought about that in years!"

Dive back in time with me, won't you, as we take a deep look at the history of Howard Johnson's.