Did any of you feel a wave of nostalgia for a Howard Johnson’s road trip stop while watching Mad Men last night? I kept thinking of my family driving from Ohio to Cape Cod in the family truckster (a tan Ford station wagon with wood paneling and flip up seats in the way-back) and stopping for a hot dog and an ice cream cone. The bright colors, light fixtures and even the waitress uniforms actually looked retro-fresh in last night’s episode.
Somehow, the combination of pot pies and orange sherbet leads to a devastating fight between Don and Megan, and he abandons her in a HoJo’s parking lot. How could he not, with that fabulous honeysuckle dress with matching chevron coat? It was made for a HoJo’s. Girlfriend even had on matching pink sunglasses. Tory Burch has got nothing on Megan’s costume designer.
Only that devilish cad Don Draper could make the iconic Howard Johnson’s roof look sexy.
Anyway, the wave of nostalgia made me want to look into the history of Howard Johnson’s. Because I’m lazy, most of this information was compiled via Wikipedia, so take it for what it’s worth.
Howard Deering Johnson opened drugstore in 1925, but soon realized that the soda fountain was the most profitable part. He started tinkering with ice cream and the business changed direction toward becoming a restaurant that became known for fried clams.
In 1932 a second restaurant was opened, one of the first franchise deals in the U.S. The first motor lodge was opened in Savannah Georgia in 1954, and it was designed by architects Rufus Nims and Karl Koch. From there, in a nutshell, the business boomed and the motor lodges became known for their ubiquitous roadside advertisements:
In the 1960s and ’70s, there were over 1,000 HoJos across the United States and Canada.
There is a site completely dedicated to posting pictures of former HoJos, called HoJoLand.com
Then, new owners and more new owners and big changes, bland architecture and a new logo that’s no fun. The End.
Oh, P.S. Also, when you Google “Howard Johnson,” this guy is interspersed between all of the motel pictures. He’s a singer:
Images 1,2, 3 via amctv.com
Image 4 via diet.com
Image 5 from Wikimedia Commons