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My mother remembers going to a Ho Jo’s for the first time in the early 60’s. “I think I ordered it because it was such a pretty color.” My boss, editor Mel Allen, also has a strong Howard Johnson’s memory.It was the end of the school year, she was with her Brownie troop, and was excited to sit at the counter and order an ice cream. I’ll let him tell it: It was the summer after my freshman year in college. to 7 a.m., at Milprint, a plant that, among other things, produced the packaging for Marlboro cigarettes. Inside the Bangor Ho Jo’s restaurant, which is tucked behind the renovated hotel and is only open during select hours, it’s quiet, even though it’s lunchtime, but I guess that’s to be expected when you’re located off the highway instead of downtown, and don’t offer drive-though.My friendly waitress, Julie, brought over a menu (“We’re busiest on Sunday mornings for breakfast” she told me when I mentioned the reason for my visit), but I already knew what I wanted to order.While Howard Johnson’s Restaurant was famous for its “28 flavors” of ice cream (plus its colorful sherbets) and “frankforts,” the restaurant was also credited with delivering two New England staples to the masses, albeit in a form most native Yankees consider a slight abomination. Ho Jo’s is still remembered (especially during Lent) for its Friday “All You Can Eat Fish Fry,” but I had another fried clam dish in mind — the fried clam roll in a buttered and grilled New England-style hot dog roll.Quality and homemade taste were important to Johnson, and no doubt contributed to the brand’s steady success.In the automobile-fueled post-war years, Johnson was poised and ready to deliver friendly service to an American public that was desperate for a little fun and adventure.
The fried clams were quite popular, and as demand increased, it grew harder and harder for the brothers to keep up.
At one time, New England-born Howard Johnson’s was the largest restaurant chain in the country, with more than 1,000 locations.
In the summer of 2015, however, the last Howard Johnson’s restaurant in New England, and one of just two left in the country, was operating on borrowed time in Bangor, Maine.
The shape is familiar, but the former chain’s signature orange roof and turquoise cupola are gone.
Aimee Seavey A mid-century cultural institution, the Howard Johnson’s restaurant chain in particular has a special spot in the memories of many Baby Boomers.