Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Remember the Howard Johnson's on Route 6?

I recently enjoyed a great lunch at the popular Chris' Restaurant at 2812 West Erie Avenue in Lorain. I've driven by this place for years without stopping, and just had to find out why it was always packed. My lunch (a lake perch sandwich) was great, and the service was excellent too, but I also enjoyed myself for another reason. It was a chance to check out the building! Old-timers like me still remember when it was a Howard Johnson's.
Here's an article that appeared in the Lorain Journal on March 29, 1955 announcing the construction. (Click on it for a closer look.)

The clipping makes mention of the fact that the new Howard Johnson's was being built on the site of the old Coliseum (which I wrote about way back here.)
I think it is fascinating to think about U.S. Route 6 back then being a coast-to-coast highway, and its western approach to Lorain being dotted with so many motels. It gives the area a sort of roadside charm, and certainly a Howard Johnson's cemented that 'national highway' feeling.
My family stopped there for ice cream at least a few times on special occasions. Of course, back then there were a lot of places competing for the family buck, including Brady's Restaurant (which I've blogged about so many times, I won't even bother giving you a link) and the Lorain Creamery
Although I think of Howard Johnson's as only being a place for ice cream, apparently they had a great fish fry. Here's an ad from June 2, 1960.

Anyway, Howard Johnson's survived until sometime around 1976, when it disappeared from the phone book. I was actually surprised it lasted that long. Its location down on Route 6 between Leavitt Road and the spot where 21st Street joins up with the highway meant that we almost never went passed it if we were going west. (We'd take 21st Street instead, bypassing Howard Johnson's, the Castle and McDonald's.) I'll bet a lot of other families did the same.
But getting back to Chris' Restaurant. Here's a recent shot of the place, followed by a vintage Howard Johnson's of roughly the same era for comparison. It looks like a dead-on match to me.

The inside of Chris', to me at least, looked unchanged from its days as a Howard Johnson's, with its 1960's era booths. So of course that meant that I loved it! I'll be back for sure. And soon.


Anonymous said...

I used to eat at Howard Johnson's as a kid. For some reason I think they had either a "Birthday Club" or a "Clean Plate Club". If you at all of your food or if it was your birthday, you got free ice cream. Mmmmmmmm...maybe the "Clean Plate Club" was something my parents made up to inspire me to eat all of my dinner???

Hoy hoy,

Jeff Rash

-Alan D Hopewell said...

Do you remember these places....

The Hoop Drive-In Restaurants, on Colorado Avenue, and at the corner of Leavitt Road and West Erie Avenue?

The Big Dipper Drive in, on the corner of Colorado and Kansas?

The Big Steer Inn, on the way to Cleveland?

-Alan D Hopewell said...

OOPS! The Hoop was on Kansas Avenue, not Colorado Road.

Dan Brady said...

I've been accumulating research on the Hoop Drive-ins for a future blog series, although I only remember them as being Manners Big Boy's. We used to get a free BIg Boy for a report card with all A's!

As for Jeff's comment about a Birthday Club, I kinda remember that too. That seemed to be a pretty good gimmick in the 1960's... we used to go to Perkins Pancakes on Route 254 on our birthday too! Mmmm...pancakes with strawberries and whipped cream!