Last Call: Remembering HoJo's Edition

For millions of travelers in American back in the ’60s and ’70s, there was perhaps no more reassuring sight than the cupola-topped orange roof that signified a road-side staple, the Howard Johnson’s. Once the largest restaurant chain in America, with more than 1,000 locations coast to coast, HoJo’s also offered weary sojourners overnight accommodations at many of their locations.
Competition, the ascension (pun intended) of air travel, and mega-highways replacing quaint ribbons of two-lane have over the years taken their toll on HoJo’s, and today there are only three restaurants still in business, while the company’s motels have long since put up the no vacancy sign. A few of the buildings still remain, the former West Covina California restaurant featuring in an episode of Mad Men a couple of years ago. Sadly, that seems to be the fate of Howard Johnson’s- something we look back upon, rather than look forward to.
Last Call indicates the end of Hooniverse’s broadcast day. It’s meant to be an open forum for anyone and anything. Thread jacking is not only accepted, it’s encouraged. 
Image: Matthew’s Island of Misfit Toys

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  1. Tanshanomi Avatar

    Hojo’s is very evocative to me. I actually have collected a small array of HJ artifacts as an adult. I don’t remember actually staying in the hotels, but eating at a HJ restaurant was the very definition of family road trips (I am that rare individual who has HAPPY childhood vacation memories).
    HoJo Cola and Clam Roll, then mint ice cream for desert. That’s the stuff.
    To this day, teal and orange give me a warm fuzzy feeling.

    1. salguod Avatar

      It seems that Cracker Barrel, at least for my family, has taken the place of Howard Johnson’s. We end every major road trip with a stop at the garage sale with food.

  2. ptschett Avatar

    Someone must have bought the naming rights, we still have a Howard Johnson hotel here in Fargo. (Though it’s close enough to the river that it may be gone in a few years, in the name of progress permanent flood protection.)
    Since it’s ‘earth day’ how about a video of a bicycle tube re-purposed for automotive fun?

    1. irishzombieman Avatar

      Can’t stop laughing.
      I know exactly who I’m going to do that to.

      1. Batshitbox Avatar

        Here’s one in the wild… such giggles

    2. Tanshanomi Avatar

      The hotel brand is now owned by Wyndham. I believe the restaurants were spun off as a separate entity some time back.

  3. Lokki Avatar

    Never mind that – our very country’s sanity is at risk – I saw an adult male driving this car in Dallas yesterday.

    1. irishzombieman Avatar

      Uhhm. . . Driving what?

      1. Lokki Avatar

        Putting a pink “Bieber” liscense plate – with hearts- on your car negates any “SS” badges you put on your Cobalt.
        If you can honestly claim you don’t know who Justin Bieber is, well, I admire you.

        1. irishzombieman Avatar

          Lordy, don’t I wish I’d never heard of that wanker. There’re moron pop stars and then there’s him, on some whole new plane of idiot existence.
          But is there a picture in your first comment that I can’t see?

          1. Lokki Avatar

            Strangely enough there WAS a picture, uploaded to the site through Discus, and I could see it – even a day later when I responded to you…. But now it’s gone. I will repost in thins comment – let me know if it come through

          2. Lokki Avatar

            I can see the picture I just posted by using the View option

          3. irishzombieman Avatar

            I got nothing. View option? What’s that?

          4. dead_elvis Avatar

            If I’m surfing the ‘verse on my elderly iPhone 4S on Chrome, images embedded in comments all have a placeholder that says “view”. FWIW, Lokki’s comment does not show that option, for me.
            Note to the tech hamsters/wizards (or whoever deals with this sort of thing): on Chrome for iPhone loads the desktop version of the site, not the mobile-friendly one that is the default in Safari.

  4. Alff Avatar

    It’s a sad end to the vision of a man who was right about so many things…

  5. PotbellyJoe★★★★★ Avatar
    Don’t forget the distinctive ice cream scoop…
    My grandparents took my mother and aunt as children by car to all of the lower 48 one summer. According to her narrative, they packed their clothes in paper bags so they would only take in what they needed for the night and stayed at HoJos as often as possible.

  6. Sjalabais Avatar

    I have no clue why, but the 60s are really my decade – great roof design above.
    Yesterday, I changed to summer tires. With great help:
    But…just as last year, it seems the Michelin Energy Savers I use as summer tires are actually louder than my Nokian Hakkapeliitta 7 studded winter tires at higher speeds. There’s no rational fiber in me that understands this issue. The Michelin are even supposed to be low resistance tires, and they are not directional/rotation marked. Weird! At low speeds, everything is as it is supposed to be.
    Also, a fresh morning-VISIT to please mr. two wheel in particular: This is a 2012 model Kizashi with the 2.4l 178hp engine. These cars just sit on the ground with a righteousness that I’ve not seen in any sedan. Perfect wheels, too, if you ask me.

  7. Tiberiuswise Avatar

    We have a Chinese restaurant nearby that obviously used to be a Ho Jo. They have to paint the roof every few years when the orange starts to show through.

    1. NapoleonSolo Avatar

      Is that the one in Ramsey, NJ? Used to go there as a child and always got the turkey dinner. That intersection of Route 17 and Franklin Tpk used to be a large traffic circle before there was an overpass. I seemed to remember that from my childhood and recently verified the circle from some old maps.

      1. Tiberiuswise Avatar

        Yes. It is called Look See. Across from Don Bosco Prep and where Jimmy Reids used to be.

        1. NapoleonSolo Avatar

          You’re a youngster, I think! Ask some older locals about The Swiss Chalet. That and the HoJo were the landmarks on the circle, although Don Bosco was just up the road. I think they tore down the Chalet to put in the car dealer. Here’s a map from 1943 and an old post card:

          1. Tiberiuswise Avatar

            You flatter me. I moved into Cragmere Park in 2001. That’s the place though. First it was Swiss Chalet, then Jimmy Reids, then it was leveled and a TGI Friday’s went it. That closed 5 years ago and it is now a Shannon Rose.
            If you’re ever in the area you may want to see how they’ve renovated the Darlington Schoolhouse.

          2. NapoleonSolo Avatar

            Very beautiful old school. I’ll have to see that next time I am there. I live near Philadelphia, but my sister lives in Mahwah and is active with the borough museum. I’ve just sent something up to be displayed in the old railroad depot museum. My grandmother was postmaster in Mahwah for many years having been appointed by Eisenhower. She lived down the hill from you on N. Hillside Ave near the firehouse. I wonder if Napoleon Solo could have taken Kirk in a fair fight? Karate chop. They shared a lot of cast members. Shatner and Nimoy appeared together in an UNCLE episode prior to Trek.

          3. Tiberiuswise Avatar

            As if Kirk would ever let a fair fight happen.

  8. ConstantReader Avatar

    The one in Lake Placid just closed last month, so now there’s 2 left in the country.

    1. mzszsm Avatar

      The one in Bangor is rumored to close soon:
      Here’s a nice map with how some locations look now:

      1. Tiberiuswise Avatar

        Great link. I forgot that the one in Paramus NJ converted the restaurant into a Hooters. I guess because orange.

  9. Batshitbox Avatar

    I think we’re losing sight of the fact that Howard Johnson’s kinda sucked.

    1. Drzhivago138 Avatar

      Shh! Don’t you know that everything from your childhood was the best thing ever?

  10. Drzhivago138 Avatar

    Being that I was born and lived in a time far after HoJo’s, my only association with it was the annual farm toy show held in Sioux Falls, SD at the former Howard Johnson’s, turned into a hotel called The Oaks (sometime in the 70s, probably). I’m sure when it was new it was a decent place, and when it was HoJo’s, it was great…but by the time we went to the show there in the late 90s/early 2000s, the place was a complete dump. Eventually the toy show moved out of there to the Ramkota next door, where they actually had tables that didn’t have holes in them, and the bathroom stalls all had doors. Meanwhile, the Oaks was razed after serving as a bum gathering place for several years, but the owners haven’t sold the property yet, despite it being prime real estate right next to I-29 and on the main route to the arena and convention center.
    I only bring this all up because the former owner of The Oaks, not wanting to make any improvements to his rundown pit of a building, refused to repaint the roof, and the unmistakable HoJo’s orange showed through the dark blue quite vividly as the years went on.

  11. wunno sev Avatar
    wunno sev

    i’m too young to remember HoJo being a popular thing, but i did stay in a Howard Johnson in Flushing, Queens, NY with my parents circa eeeeeeight years ago? seven?
    it was the smallest hotel room i’ve ever seen. my parents slept on the bed, and when we put out the cot they had for me, there was nowhere left that was wide enough for my old parents to walk through. the “continental breakfast” was croissants from a bag and powdered coffee. but it sure was cheap! and you don’t stay in a hotel to stay in the hotel.

  12. StephaneDumas Avatar

    There still one HJ hotel in Canada. This one is on Lundy’s Lane in Niagara Falls Ontario.
    Another stuff to remember: Burger Chef. This restaurant chain didn’t step in the Great White North unfortunately.

    1. William Robinson Avatar
      William Robinson

      Iirc there is still one in downtown Vancouver.. HJ bought the building from My family back in the early mid ninties. It’s been a while since I’ve been in Vancouver so maybe it’s gone.

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