Jones’ Kentucky Home Restaurant – Bardstown, Kentucky

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The following article, written and photographed by Lee Heiman, appeared in the Courier-Journal on October 16, 1960:

Keeping Up with the Joneses, a difficult matter anywhere or anytime, is particularly nerve-wracking at a certain restaurant on U.S. 62 at the west edge of Bardstown.
This isn’t because of high prices but because of the large number of Joneses.
There is an inkling of it in the name – Jones’ Kentucky Home Restaurant – but nothing to reveal that here is indeed a hotbed of Jonesism.
On a clear day you can see 16 Joneses at this location. If you are having a meal here, it is conceivable that 13 of them may have a part in it.
Heading the list are Mr. and Mrs. William E. Jones, who own and manage the establishment. The others are 11 of their 14 sons and daughters:

Mary Annette, 19, is bookkeeper and operates the gift shop at the front of the restaurant.
Barbara, 18, works the breakfast shift, 7 to 3, as a waitress.
Twins Marolyn and Carolyn, 17, handle part of the dishwashing chore in the kitchen
Bill, Jr., 16, works at the grill and helps with the stock and the cleaning.
Wanda Marie, 14, is a waitress and sometimes cashier.
Betty Sue, 13, hands out menus, puts water in place for costumers as they arrive, and cleans tables afterward
Mary Michelle, 12, better known as Mickey, does about the same kind of work as Betty Sue.
Joseph Francis (Frankie), 11, helps with dishwashing.
Gerry, 10, makes toast, helps the breakfast cook and carries orders to the serving window.
Jimmy, 8, picks up paper on the grounds.

Three other young Jones – Jack 5, Tony, 4, and Mike, 3 – aren’t on the payroll yet. At this point they’re only in the mouths-to-feed category. The older youngsters take food to them in the Jones house next to the eatery.
Even with all their help within the family, the Jones still have to employ eight others in the kitchen and 12 additional waitresses. The youngsters work mostly on weekend while school’s in session but nearly every day in summer.
They began their business five years ago with a 75-seat restaurant and today, after additions, have a modern, 250-seat establishment.
Two of the employees who have been with them since the beginning, and are credited by the Joneses with providing much of the know-how which assured success, are still working at the restaurant today – Mrs. Nita Howell as a waitress and Willie Lee Hickman as chef. Four other original employees are there, too.
Members of the family punch the time clock along with the rest of the employees. Most of the older kids draw individual checks. The younger ones – except Jimmy – get a lump check which is deposited in the bank for future use, and for spending money they receive an allowance of $1 a week. Jimmy gets 50 cents.
One the wall are baby pictures of all 14 of the young Joneses with the notation, “14 Good Reasons For Eating Here.”


The restaurant is closed one day each year – on Christmas. “That’s the children’s day,” said Mrs. Jones, “and we wouldn’t spoil it for the world.”

The Jones’ Kentucky Home Restaurant story began in 1945 when three brothers, Robert, Tucker and Harry Hagan joined forces with Edward “Bill” Jones to operate Bardstown, Kentucky’s first commercial dairy, H and J Dairy. The dairy supplied milk to all the schools in the area and did pretty well. A few years later another commercial dairy, supplied with Dean’s Milk opened. Armed with a big overhead and more capital, the new dairy began to win local school contracts, but Hagan and Jones knew there was not enough money coming in to keep four families happy.

Bill would go home and talk it over with his wife Wyanda and realized that the dairy could not support the then already enormous family of 13. Bill and Wyanda’s lived on five acres of land on West Stephen Foster Avenue in Bardstown. Directly across the street from their house a new motel, the Old Kentucky Home motel was under construction.  That gave the Jones an idea.

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Old Kentucky Home Motel

Travelers to Bardstown and Stephen Foster exhibits would surely stay in the motel and they would need a place to eat. The Jones’ could use the land they already owned and build a modest eatery for the motel patrons. Bill went back to the Hagans and asked to be bought out of the dairy. The brothers obliged.

Bill would have the money he needed but need to convince the local zoning board to change the property the Jones’ owned to a commercial zone so they could build the restaurant. The zoning change was approved at almost the same time as a 12th child, Jack, arrived.

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Postcard of the exterior of the restaurant not too long after opening

Jones’ Kentucky Home Restaurant opened  for business in 1955.  Intentionally starting  small and slow they hoped they could ease in to owning a restaurant. For weeks they were opened without a sign on the outside, but that didn’t matter.When the 75-seat restaurant opened on that first day, the place was absolutely packed. There was even a line. Business was good.

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14 children pictured

The restaurant was open from 6:00 am to 9:00 am on everyday but Christmas. As the 1960 article above states, the Jones would utilize a good many of their kids in the restaurant. It truly was a family affair.

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Circa 1962-64

The restaurant was so successful that expansion and renovation was needed almost immediately. There would be five such expansions to increase the seating capacity to over 225 persons. The Jones’ would also expand their family three more times and finally stop with FIFTEEN children.

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The last Jones’ postcard, probably around the 1970 or 1971

Bill and Wyanda would remain in charge of the restaurant until their retirement in 1974. Two of the sons, Bill and Frank would take over the restaurant for a short while. Then Jack, another son, and his wife Lisa ran it for a bit and then Marie, another Jones, took over the helm. Business was slowing to a crawl until the restaurant finally closed in 1985.

Generic looking apartments now occupy the space where a husband and wife and their umpteen kids once provided 12, then 14, then ultimately 15 good reasons to eat the food at Jones’ Kentucky Home.

Lehr’s Greenhouse – San Francisco & San Diego, California

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“DINE IN A GARDEN IN FULL BLOOM”

The Times – November 17, 1972

Lehr’s Garden Restaurant opened at 740 Sutter St., San Francisco in November, 1972. Housing both a full florist shop and restaurant, the glass-enclosed “dining spa” was designed to look like and actually be a greenhouse.

By the time restaurant opened, the proprietor Murray Lehr had been a part of San Francisco for more than 25 years. Lehr, a hotelier by trade, had and currently owned and several hotels around the area.

The Olympic Hotel, at the corner of Eddy & Taylor Sts., was Lehr’s first major property. He sold that in the early 1950s.

In October, 1954, Lehr purchased  the Hotel Claremont in Berkeley-Oakland from Claude Gillum for $2 million. Gillum had owned and operated the hotel since it opened right before the 1915 San Francisco Exposition.

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Hotel Claremont

Less than two months later, Lehr sold the property to Harold Schnitzer of Portland, Oregon who, in turn, leased the building right back to Lehr with an agreement that Lehr operate the hotel on a long-term lease basis.

Ukiah Daily Journal – February 24, 1964

 

Lehr began management of the Claremont on January 1, 1955. The hotel would become his pride and joy.

Known for its big name entertainment and beautiful atmosphere, the Claremont thrived through the remainder of the 1950s and throughout the 1960s.

In 1957, 88 year-old Frank Lloyd Wright unveiled plans to balance on stilts above the the Claremont a “wedding chapel in the sky.”

Lehr said the planned chapel would cost upwards of $50,00 and would be octagonally shaped glass and steel with a peaked roof. Wright described the planned chapel as “a gay little thing with a certain springly spirit.” Nothing ever came of the plans.

The hotel’s buffet; touted as the largest, longest and most bountiful buffet table in the West, was nothing short of extraordinary.  The Garden Room, filled with flowers and plants, many grown in Lehr’s personal greenhouse, was THE place for lunch on Sutter. Lehr would also stage spectacular ice shows, open a Prime Rib Room and even hosted something called “Matcharama.”

The following blurb appeared in the The (San Mateo) Times on October 28, 1966:

TONIGHT IS THE BIG NIGHT at the Hotel Claremont, Berkeley. The world premiere of “Matcharama,” wherein men and women attend the dancing the Claremont’s Terrace Room will fill out a questionnaire, which will be transmitted by electronic remote control to Phoenix, Ariz., and in a few seconds back will come the answer mating compatible partners. Murray Lehr announced that the first couple who marry through meeting at “Matcharama” will be given the Claremont’s bridal suite and a wedding reception at the Claremont as his guest.

I don’t know if any couple ever married from “Matcharama.”

In late 1971, Lehr would leave the hotel to set out on his path. Being well versed in the large restaurant business and a lover of flowers, he wanted to combine both of his loves in one space. Using the formula of the popular Garden Room in the Hotel Claremont with the added element of his being a full floral shop.

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Lehr opened The Greenhouse and Potting Shed (the official name) in the restaurant spaced attached to the Hotel Canterbury on Sutter Street.

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The restaurant a success from the day it opened. Offering a garden atmosphere and good food, the Greenhouse would become a popular eating spot in San Francisco.

Photo of Lehr's Greenhouse Restaurant - San Francisco, CA, United States. Hoping someone who cares will see these.  Love the prices and the artwork!

1975 Lehr’s menu Found on Yelp. Original uploader unknown

In 1977, Lehr’s purchased several statues from Italy and had them imported to the restaurant to add to the greenhouse feel of the place.

On December 31, 1979, a second Lehr’s location opened at 2828 Camino Del Rio South in San Diego, California. The location would be run by Murray Lehr’s son Dean.

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Located beneath a freeway overpass, the Greenhouse, like it’s San Francisco predecessor,  would contain a florist and would be famed for its food and Sunday brunches.

Lehr’s Greenhouse in San Diego, however, had a much younger vibe than the original location. Throughout the early-mid 1980s, the San Diego location was a party scene. Getting in early on the “Disco Sucks” movement of 1980, the restaurant would host dance parties, concerts and battle of the bands competition sponsored by local radio stations.

Murray Lehr died in 1987. Dean decided at that point that is was time to close the San Diego location and moved to San Francisco to tend to the original Lehr’s and his father’s hotels.

Lehr, who helped with the building of the San Diego location had originally secured a long-term lease for the property from the state of California. The Greenhouse building at the underpass went through numerous different restaurants and sit idle for years. In 2014, Lehr sold the building. The place had become such an eyesore by that point that the new owners were hit with a $1,000 graffiti fine due to the visibility of the property from the freeway.

The original location would struggle throughout the 1990s and limp into the new millennium. The original location finally closed on February 16, 2005. Years of declining quality and lack of patrons finally ended the 33 year-old restaurant’s run.

Lehr’s Greenhouse left an indelible impression on both San Francisco and San Diego as I have found numerous posts from patrons reminiscing about their experiences eating in the greenhouse restaurant.

Frtizel’s – Chicago, Illinois

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New York Public Library

Fritzel’s was an incredibly popular place. For more than 30 years, the restaurant at 201 N. State Street in the Loop was the place to be seen. Friztel’s catered to the celebrity, politician, athlete and upper crust of society in and visiting Chicago.

Famous sports names such as Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle would visit when the Yankees were in town. Joe Dimaggio was said to be a lifetime member, and during the halcyon days, then-wife Marilyn Monroe would accompany Joltin’ Joe.  Mayor Richard J. Daley, singer Tony Bennett and comedian Phyllis Diller were just some of the Fritzel’s regulars.

How did the restaurant get so popular? The answer: food. Their menu of as many as one hundred exquisitely prepared items dazzled. The restaurant was spotless. No detail was overlooked. Joe Jacobson was the man responsible for Fritzel’s success.

Ironically, Joe Jacobson was more identified with Frtizel’s than Mike Fritzel, Jacobson’s former partner. The two were proprietors of the Chez Paree nightclub at 610 Fairbanks Court in Chicago and opened Fritzel’s in 1947. Mike Fritzel retired in 1953 and Jacobson became sole owner. Fritzel’s really started then.

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The menu with lots of options – New York Public Library

“Joe was very particular about the food,” Nancy Jacobson, his widow, recalled in the 1980s.”He would go into the kitchen, and if he saw a baked potato outside an oven, he would throw it in a wastebasket and tell the kitchen help, ‘Don’t ever send anything out to anyone unless it’s straight from the oven.'” The staff was also under strict cleanliness and preparation guidelines. Joe Jacobson was no-nonsense.

Jacobson himself was always incredibly neat and tidy. With a trademark, long black cigar, the debonair restaurateur would often walk the floor and became well-known to the clientele. He was a celebrity to the celebrities.

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Frtizel’s boomed through the 1950s and ’60s. However, tastes were changing and the restaurant would soon struggle. Fritzel’s fell victim to negative perception about the clout of its patrons. Dennis Swenie, a former police officer in Chicago, allegedly told a grand jury that “it’s taboo for policemen to write tickets for autos illegally parked in front of Fritzel’s.” The restaurant also felt dated. The interior was a reminder of the “good old days” that people wanted to move past in the late 1960s.

In the late 1960, Fritzel’s attempted to modernize with an expensive redecoration. People interested in the new Fritzel came to see it, but only once. The Loop was no longer very safe at night and the style of the restaurant was still just too passe.

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Fritzel’s closed in June 1972, when the then Genral Manage Wayne Boucher (Jacobson sold out in 1968 to food service business Interstate United Corp)  determined that the restaurant was not meeting it’s break even point of $125,000 and closed the restaurant for good.

Everything is Crowded

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Mailed from Florida to Mr. & Mrs. William Sullivan of Mt. Holly, New Jersey on November 29, 1972:

Ate here after seeing the Cardinals and a Jap team play baseball.
Sure picked good weather – cold, cloudy & rained for 12 days. Got 2 free newspapers.
Everything is crowded.
Have gone to retired people’s dances, card parties & variety shows.
Last night went on Mark Twain boat dinner & dancing.
Going to East Coast Thurs. Went to St. Armond’s Key to-day – a showplace of shops. – Mary & Bill

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Cinelli’s Country House – Cherry Hill, New Jersey

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For more than 80 years, Cinelli’s Country House restaurant was a Cherry Hill, New Jersey landmark. Originally opened in 1909 by Julio Cinelli as a restaurant and bar in a farmhouse on a 7 acre plot of land, the restaurant was a family affair. Julio’s wife was the cook. The restaurant was known for its 25 cent bowl of spaghetti and 10 cent beers. The service was exquisite and the restaurant was a popular sport among locals.

In 1942, Thomas Sr., Julio’s son, took over control of the restaurant after Julio retired. Thomas Sr. and his wife Olga continued to bring fine service and a fine meal. The restaurant was going well and then the Garden State Racetrack opened nearby and Cinelli’s was busier than ever.

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Courier-Post – December 19, 1949

The restaurant continued to be a popular spot for locals throughout the next 30 years.

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Courier-Post – October 6, 1950

In 1979, Julio’s grandson and Thomas Sr.’s son Thomas, Jr. took over control of the restaurant. By the mid-1980s the restaurant had hit hard times. Changing tastes and and aging building, along with poor business decision lead to Cinelli’s declaring bankruptcy and closing its doors in 1986. The building was torn down a short later.

Jim Flannery’s Constellation Lounge & Restaurant – Penndel, Pennsylvania

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Amelia Earhart’s plane went down somewhere, history says, leaving the world with one less brave pilot and one more aeronautical mystery. But there’s no mystery- as any resident of Penndel can tell you – about an airplane at the corner of Route 1 and Durham Road.
The only mystery connect with the Lockheed Super G Constellation from the mid-1950s and Amelia’s the nightspot it houses is this: Whatever happened to Jim Flannery’s Constellation Lounge?
We hit Flannery’s once, back in 1978 and enjoyed hearing the tale of how the large aircraft was brought to its current location in 1968, after Flannery purchased it. The wings and tail were dismantled, and it was trucked through Delaware, up Route 295 and over the Walt Whitman bridge.
The convoy, with an attending media sideshow, the moved up Broad Street, around City Hall, and onto Route 1, encircled by the Philadelphia Police Force. Now, it sits 25 feet in the air, supported buy concrete airfoils.
Flannery got out of the business after 53 years in 1981, and sold it to the current owners, who redecorated the interior quite a bit, and renamed the establishment. The conventional building downstairs houses a restaurant and cocktail lounge with live entertainment. Given a choice, however, the one-time or non-regular visitor is not about to spend too much time down there.
A long stairway leads upstairs, into the aircraft, where the lengthy fuselage sports a long bar one one side, and an assortment of seats on the other. Live entertainment is featured on the weekends near the cockpit.
The new owners have given the entire complex – building and airplane – a much more contemporary, suave look. The old version stressed bright blues and greens, woodwork, paintings and bright lighting. Now, the place boasts a lot of earthy browns and tans, plants, mirrors and dim lighting.
Drinks, downstairs or up, are very strong and generous, as they should be at $2.60 per cocktail. Both levels have comfortable bar stools, complimentary bar-top snacks and gracious, if slightly languid, service.
An eclectic crowd of a wide age patronizes the nightspot, taking in the stimulating scenery and listening to one of several solo pianist-singers or the Just Us trio.
Right now, Paul Keys entertains in the plane Friday and Saturday, while downstairs, Joe Liptick plays Sunday and Tuesday, Miriam Roberts entertains on Wednesday, and the trio performs Thursday through Saturday.

“Finding mystique without mystery” by Edgar Koshatka originally appeared in the Sunday, June 6, 1982 issue of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The piece asks and answers a question with 1982 information. I am writing this post to answer the question once and for all. Whatever happened to Jim Flannery’s Constellation Lounge?

To answer that we have to go all the back to 1928. The first Flannery’s Restaurant opened that year on Route 1 in Penndel, Pennsylvania. Anne Flannery, Jim’s mother, had opened the restaurant just off the Lincoln Highway.

The small restaurant was popular meeting place for local civic groups

Jim would come back from the War and work for the restaurant. He would ultimately run the restaurant in the early 50s. Under Jim’s leadership modest restaurant would expand over the years and come be known for good drinks and a friendly staff.

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The Bristol Daily-Courier – April 30, 1956

Flannery’s Restaurant was destroyed by a fire on October 27, 1957. The fire probably could have been slowed by the Penndel fire department had difficulty getting water to their hoses and the fire burned for 90 minutes. The restaurant was completely destroyed. Damages from the fire totaled $300,000.

Jim, ever the entrepreneur kept himself in the news. A personal ad appeared in the Bristol Daily Courier on November 7 & 8, 1957 that read:

DO YOU KNOW THE IDENTITY – of the masquerader who displayed the sign, “Eat Flannery’s – for the hottest meal in town!” at Penndel’s Halloween Parade on Wednesday, October 30? Please ask him to contact Mr. Jim Flannery, immediately, at SK 7-3757.

I actually found a follow-up on the personal ad. and after reading it I feel like there is almost a zero percent chance that this wasn’t a publicity stunt trumped up Flannery.

The blurb ran in the Bristol Courier-Journal on November 22, 1957.

Dinner Proved Jest Right

A 9-year-old Langhorne boy who came to a Halloween party as a “sandwich man” won a big laugh and an invitation for dinner from Jim Flannery of Flannery’s Restaurant.

Raymond Heiss, 221 Hawthorne Ave., wore two poster cards in the shape of the “sandwich man,” shortly after the fire at the restaurant.

One card read  “Eat at Flannery’s – Hottest food in town.” The other side stated “Everything well done and extra crispy this week.”

The restaurant owner heard of the boy’s costume and located him through and advertisement in the Courier-Times.

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Bristol Courier-Tmes – November 28, 1957

Flannery would rebuild but not without some more free publicity first.A few weeks after the fire, Flannery invited Carl Hodgert and Josephine Poynor of the Courier-Times advertising department to eat a meal in the burned-out ruins of the restaurant. The two had made a wager

While plans were being hatched to rebuild the restaurant, Flannery was active in the Langhorne County Lions Club, serving food for a Neshaminy High School fundraiser and being active in the community.

The restaurant re-opened in the Spring of 1958 and was a hit. The restaurant would once again become the spot in town for meetings, family dinners and for civic groups.

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Jim Flannery pops up in news stories quite a bit over the next few years. He is part of the area’s painting project called “Paint Up, Clean Up Week.” He would named Boss of the Year in 1962 by the Trenton Chapter of National Secretaries Association. Flannery hits a hole-in-one at a local golf course, is named a judge in a KING OF BARBECUE contest in the Miss Pennsylvania region of the Miss Universe Pageant and even gets married quite suddenly to Alice Ann Dexrod of Jenkintown.

Flannery’s Restaurant would go through a major redesign in 1963, with a new dining room, more seating and more elegant 1960s decor. That would not lost long.

Jim Flannery had an idea that would become a landmark and fight. Flannery, a former pilot in WWII. In the Summer of 1967, Flannery, ever the showman, purchased an authentic Lockheed Super G Constellation airplane known as the “Geneva Trader” from Capitol Airways.

Flannery explained to Hemmings Motor News in 2007:

“Route 1 really started to get built up following World War II when the Levittown homes were built [finished in 1958] and U.S. Steel opened its big plant in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania [1952]. The idea first came to me in 1967. I was sitting on my boat in an Atlantic City marina, and reading a restaurant trade magazine that talked about a restaurant made from old railroad cars in Pennsylvania and another one in North Jersey made from a ferryboat. I was an old Air Force pilot, and I decided to look for an airplane to put at my restaurant.”

The Super Connie (N1005C) had already been through seven owners, starting with Cubana Airlines in 1954, when Flannery found it on the tarmac in Wilmington, Delaware, where Capitol Airways was looking to sell it.  Flannery bought the plane and it was dismantled and trucked from Wilmington, Delaware to the restaurant.

Flannery would mount the plane in the back/on top of the restaurant and convert the interior into a cocktail lounge. Hardwood floor and dining tables were installed. The cockpit would retain its instruments, but be turned in to a small performance area for nightly entertainment.

The Philadelphia Inquirer – October 31, 1967

Flannery’s Restaurant was gone. In its place was Jim Flannery’s Constellation Lounge and Restaurant.

The new designed cocktail lounge/airplane opened in October 1967 and immediately became a landmark in the Penndel-Longhorne area.

It became so much a part of town that people would use it for directions, turn left at the airplane. One mile south of the airplane, etc.

The original restaurant would be renovated for the 2nd time in 5 years. The decor would be changed to match the airplane theme and to better accommodate access to the plane.

Jim Flannery’s “on-the-ground” restaurant reopened on August 1, 1968. Flannery’s Constellation Lounge and Restaurant was now complete. To celebrate the occasion Flannery planned a Grand Opening Party for Thursday, September 19.

It was beautiful day. There was food, fun, drinks and a 35-foot hot air balloon. The balloon was to be launched from the parking lot to honor the aviation theme. Two passengers boarded the balloon waving and smiling.

Lebanon Daily News – September 20, 1968

In front of nearly 350 people, the balloon lifted off and, almost immediately as it rose, the wind sent them off course and struck a power line. Both passengers were instantly electrocuted and, as the balloon fell, both passengers fell over 40 feet to their deaths.

Jim Flannery would be shocked and horrified by the event until the day he died. He never spoke of that day publicly.

An incident like that could have destroyed the restaurant but Flannery’s remained strong.

The Constellation Lounge became the hot spot in the area with good drinks and a fun atmosphere. The good times wouldn’t last.

By the end of the 1970s. Economic difficulties in the area, along with the slow demise of that stretch of the Lincoln Highway lead to a sharp downturn in business for Flannery’s.

The plane would be dubbed “The Spirit of ’76” in honor of the nation’s bicentennial.

In September 1979, Flannery filed for Chapter 12 protection from his creditors and the restaurant and cocktail lounge closed.

In a 1980 interview, Flannery would say “Maybe I just ran out of steam for a while. Burned out, as they say. But I’m really charged up now. I really think I could turn this place around.”

Flannery had plans to turn the place in a family-style restaurant but it was too late. Flannery needed to raise about $185,000 dollars in short order – through sale of part of his land to a developer in order to build apartments. He was also willing to sell his home.

Money wasn’t the only problem. The Penndel Borough Council refused to grant a zoning change needed to build the apartments. The Council thought that Flannery’s desperation showed a blatant disregard for zoning ordinances of the area. Without that change Flannery was basically doomed.

The citizens rallied to save the restaurant. There was a “Save the Plane” rally attended by about 75 people.All of it ultimately amounted to nothing.

Flannery would liquidate his assets and sell the restaurant and plane to a new set of owners. The new restaurant, dubbed Amelia’s, opened in early 1982.

Amelia’s failed to capture the audience that Flannery’s once had and closed by 1987. The restaurant and plane were unoccupied for nearly five years. Then, in 1991, a couple purchased the landmark with the same hopes and dreams of Jim Flannery and Amelia’s.

The old airplane would get one more chance at life. On January 10, 1992 the new restaurant called Airplane Family Diner and Restaurant opened.

The Philadelphia Inquirer – January 19, 1992

Penndel restaurant has top-flight opening

To say that the opening of the Airplane Family Restaurant & Diner drew a crowd would be an understatement.

“From the second we opened on Friday, all the way through Sunday, we had people in line,” to get in, Dabbour said.

But then it had been five years since Bucks County residents could dine beneath the hulking Lockheed Constellation airplane that is permanently grounded on old Route 1 in Penndel.

The plane, although newly scrubbed and painted outside, still needs refurbishing inside and will not open to the public until this summer, Dabbour said.

For years, Dabbour and his wife, Karen, worked in the airplane’s shadow, at their pizzeria called Penny’s Pizza down the street, and dreamed of refurbishing and reopening the restaurant beneath the landmark.

They realized that dream this month and simultaneously realized that they had embarked on a landmark undertaking.

Karen Dabbour estimates that between the two of them, the couple managed about 18 hours of sleep each during the diner’s first 72 hours.

She said her husband did not leave the new diner from the moment he arrived Friday, at 5:30 a.m., until 2 a.m. Sunday. She slipped away for a couple of hours to check on their two young children, who were being cared for by their grandmother. But Ghassan Dabbour “slept on a cot in his office,” she said.

The Dabbours said they were grateful for the turnout, particularly at a time when financially strapped families were not dining out much.

And, they said, the first weekend was especially hectic because it was everyone’s first day on the job. To make matters worse, there were four or five no-shows among their 28-member crew.

But the past week has given the couple a chance to iron out those wrinkles. ”Every day gets better,” Ghassan Dabbour said.

The ’90s version of the restaurant is a family establishment, the Dabbours emphasized. The plane, when it reopens, will not be a bar as it was previously. It will be rented out for private parties, including children’s birthday bashes, Ghassan Dabbour said.

And though the new restaurant is called a diner, and offers such standard diner fare as steaks, eggs, burgers and sandwiches, it has a few features that set it apart from the typical diner: Its light, airy interior, done in soft blues and grays, for instance, and menu items like “fajita pita” and souvlaki.

The Airplane Family Restaurant closed in 1995 and both the restaurant and airplane sat idle, deteriorating in the elements. The fuselage of the airplane began to come apart from the stress of the load and constant water leaks filled the lounge. The Constellation was finally sealed off for good in 1997.

Amoco purchased the land for a new gas station shortly after that and both the company and the borough decided that the airplane had to go. In July, 1997 it was dismantled and the restaurant torn down. The Penndel landmark gone forever.

Amoco donated the plane to the Air Mobility Museum in Dover, Delaware, where it has now been restored as a replica of an Air Force C-121C cargo plane.

Jim Flannery would always be open to talking about his baby but he basically stayed out of the public eye from the closing of the restaurant until he died on June 17, 2011.

Carolina Pines and Carolina Pines, Jr. – Los Angeles, California

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Carolina Pines postcard from the Illinois Digital Archives

The original Carolina Pines restaurant opened in either 1923 or 1924 or 1925 (even the restaurant would use all three years in their advertising) at 4619 Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. The proprietor, Rose Satterfield, opened the small cafe and tea room in with a seating capacity of just 12 people.

Rose Satterfield was described by the Los Angeles Times as a “tiny, dimpled, gray-haired widow with merry blue eyes, who knows she looks well in pink.” She was born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina and had no intentions of working for a living.

However, in early 1924 her husband died and Rose had to find a way to earn a living. With $600 to her name, she moved to Los Angeles in hopes of finding prosperity. Satterfield knew that she could provide delicious Southern cooking in an area that did not have authentic Southern food. The restaurant succeeded and became a success.

The Los Angeles Times – September 9, 1929

In September 10, 1929 the restaurant moved to its own building just down the road at 7315 Melrose Ave and the seating increased to over 200 people.

A renovation took place in 1931 and the hours were extended from 1pm to 8pm during the winter months and the restaurant was finally open on Sundays.

Over the years, the Carolina Pines gained a reputation as a place with good food and moderate prices. As the Depression gained a stronghold in Los Angeles, prices were reduced in order to lure customers to the restaurant to spend their hard-earned money.

Satterfield was known for closing the restaurant once a year for at least two weeks to go on a summer vacation. However, during the 1932 Summer Olympics that took place in Los Angeles, the restaurant and tea room remained opened to accommodate the numerous people from all of the world that were in town to watch the games.

Carolina Pines became known for its homemade pies. Rose made every single pie by hand, almost 600 pounds worth of dough a day. The pies, served in the Tea Room, became the Carolina Pines go-to-food. In 1933,  Satterfield announced that you could purchase a pie for home consumption. The move proved to be popular and business increased even more.

As the years went, Carolina Pines became a Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Times – January 8, 1941

restaurant institution. The pies, the desserts, the hot rolls and  the Southern Hospitality all felt authentic. Unfortunately, the racism of the day, especially Southern racism and the restaurant’s use of  African-American servants and “Mammy” added an extra element of Southern authenticity.

1940s and 1950s advertising for Carolina Pines featured a racist caricature of a black woman telling patrons to “Dine in the gracious atmosphere of the Old South.” Later in the decade a minstrel show was added as part of the evening entertainment.

On January 10, 1947, two well-dressed, armed bandits walked into the restaurant and forced cashier Nellie Paynter to hand over the contents of the register. The thieves got away with $1089. I never found any evidence that the pair was arrested.

The Los Angeles Times – July 7, 1948

Rose Satterfield died in 1938 at the age of 63. The new owner was Julius Davidson. After a few years, ownership would be passed to his sons, Stanley and Marvyn and their business partner Sumner Ravitch.

In 1948, Carolina Pines celebrated their 25th anniversary, I think. In 1934 they celebrated their 10th anniversary and 14 years later they celebrated their 25th. I don’t know what to believe anymore.

To celebrate the remodeling the existing restaurant as completed remodeled. More seats were added, a new parking lot built, and a cocktail lounge added. The cocktail lounge was a change for the old restaurant, as for years Satterfield swore that the restaurant didn’t need a bar or lounge to survive.

On November 27, 1953 the restaurant was robbed again to by two men at gunpoint. However, Davidson was able to call the police and give a description of the men and their car. The men were arrested hours later with several thousand dollars and a loaded pistol in their possession.

In the summer of 1955, it was announced to the newspapers that a new Carolina Pines restaurant would soon open at the corner of La Brea and Sunset in Los Angeles.

This restaurant would be a revolutionary for the time concept. It would be a 24-hour coffee shop specializing in good, simple food. The restaurant would be called  Carolina Pines, Jr. as a nod to the original franchise. The food would be the same quality, price and portions but it was not a chain.

The new restaurant was  designed by noted Googie-style architect Eldon Davis, would be ultramodern in its design and amenities. A 40-foot sign, emblazoned with the Carolina Pines, Jr. name in neon, would be

The Los Angeles Times – July 3, 1955

Carolina Pines, Jr. opened in October 1955 and it become an immediate hit. The restaurant catered to third shift workers, night owls and insomniacs. The food was good and cheap and the coffee plentiful.

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Postcard from my collection of the original location

In 1960, the original Carolina Pines would change locations to a newer, modern space. Davidson felt the move was a necessary step to  help bring in newer clientele and distance the brand from its Southern, more race-driven past. A Geisha Room would be a fixture of the new location at Century and Aviation across from Los Angeles International Airport. The restaurant, now called Carolina Pines International, opened in April 1960.

I don’t think the move worked, as I cannot find anything on the original Carolina Pines or Carolina Pines International after 1961.

A new location, another Carolina Pines Jr., also designed by Armet & Davis was announced in June 1961. The new location at 6th and Vermont in Midtown featured an unusual and beautiful design.

The Los Angeles Times – June 4, 1961

The $250,000 restaurant would hold 134 patrons in the 5,000 square foot space was designed with a roof system of eight thin-shell concrete arches and an air-conditioning system that could control the air-flow evenly. How I wish I could have seen it.

On October 29, 1965, the third Carolina Pines Jr. location opened at 16624 Ventura Blvd in Encino, California. Business was booming and the giant corporations took notice.

The Davidsons and Ravitch would ultimately sell the franchise to the Hyatt Corporation in 1968 .Shortly after the announcement all three Carolina Pines Jr.  coffee shops would be re-branded as Hyatt Coffee Shoppe locations. Within three years the Hyatt Coffee Shoppe brand would fold and every location closed. After nearly 50 years, the Carolina Pines name ended with a whimper. The buildings would all be torn down by the 1980s.

Top of the Ocean Restaurant – Tacoma, Washington

Cardboard America

The Top of the Ocean was once a popular “luxury liner” restaurant in Tacoma, Washington. Located at 2211 Ruston Way in Tacoma, “The Top” was built along Commencement Bay to resemble a docked ocean liner. Architect Charles Kenworthy designed the restaurant and it was constructed by an actual boat company, Tacoma Boat Mart, at a cost of over $260,000.

The Top of the Ocean opened on December 15, 1946 and quickly became a hotspot for locals. Over 700 patrons at a time could fit in the restaurant, lounge and three decks.

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From the beginning, the Tacoma Athletic Commission had used the top deck of The Top of the Ocean as their headquarters. In 1948, the commission purchased the entire restaurant and opened it to the public.  The commission would only own the restaurant for three years before selling it to Roger Peck.

Over the next 25 years the restaurant would see several owners but very few changes. The Top was something an old Tacoma institution. In 1977, the restaurant would be deliberately set ablaze and a fascionating trial ensued.

On the morning of April 3, 1977, an arsonist, using an accelerant, torched the the Top of the Ocean. The  fire spread quickly and burned for two hours. Damage to the landmark restaurant was originally estimated at over $500,000 but would actually be more in the $1 million dollar range.

The Daily News – April 4, 1977

Fire investigators immediately determined that the blaze was intentional. The next day, a taxi driver named Richard Black would be the person to finger the assailant. Black told arson investigators that he had driven a man to the Top of the Ocean the previous day and he helped the person load and unload several gallon cans of paint thinner.

Almost immediately, 27 year old David Willard Levage was arrested on suspicion of arson. Employees of the restaurant told the police that Levage had been ejected from the restaurant for drunk and disorderly behavior on multiple occasions. In the fact, the night before the fire Levage had been kicked out for harassing customers and staff. He was released from custody after posting $10,000 bail.

After a lengthy trial where Levage told the jury that he was having trouble remembering. Levage was found guilty and sentenced to a maximum of 20 years and sent to  his new home at the Washington State Correctional Center in Shelton.

The story doesn’t end then there. More than one year later, a federal grand jury in Seattle indicted Levage, Pierce County Sheriff, George Janovich, local crime boss John Carbone, and 12 others, for racketeering. It was determined that Levage was one of Carbone’s arsonists for hire. Ultimately everyone but Levage was found guilty of racketeering and other charges.

There were plans to rebuild the Top of the Ocean, but the money from the insurance settlement did not cover all the damage done by the fire. The property would be unoccupied for 20 years.

 

Metro Parks Tacoma would eventually acquire the property and build a plank-style walkway over the water, where the restaurant original pilings remained. Ten years later, the Tacoma Historical Society, City of Tacoma, Tacoma Athletic Commission and other sponsors, dedicated a small monument to the old Restaurant. The monument is a three-dimensional replica of the “ocean liner” in bronze. It was sculpted by Paul Michaels,  and dedicated to the memories of the Top of the Ocean.

 

 

Chick’n G’lore – Albany, New York

Cardboard America, Uncategorized
chickn-glore

Altamont Enterprise – July 23, 1965

Chick’n G’lore opened at 230 Washington Ave. in Albany, New York in July 1965. Started by Joseph Gadomski, the small, glass-fronted restaurant featured a 10-foot tall chicken in the lobby. Chick’n G’lore offered shrimp, fish, ribs, chicken (of course), and had a business within the business called Pizza G’lore.

Both Chick’n and Pizza G’lore offered free delivery and low prices. One of the more popular options was Pizza G’lore’s permanent buy 4 pizzas get one free special.

The restaurant is gone now. I am not sure when it closed. I know it lasted until at least 1976 and then can’t find anything after that. I don’t know what happened to the rooster. I’d like to think it settled down and lives with his nice family out in the country.

Cook no more – Call Chick’n G’lore!

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Abra K Dabra: Pizza Magic

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CHAIN - Abra K Dabra (1)

Matchbook cover for Abra K Dabra

Every so often I come across something in my collection that I hadn’t paid much attention to in the past but when I rediscover it I become fascinated and wanted to know more about it.

This is a matchbook for a place called Abra K Dabra. There were only two locations listed and it advertised “PIZZA MAGIC.”I had to know what this was all about.

I got a lot more than I could have possibly. imagined. What I got was a story about a bargain department store looking to expand their empire, the rise and collapse of an entire niche industry and magic, magic, magic.

After doing some cursory research, I found a blurb in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from Sunday, June 27, 1982:

K-mart Corp. is testing a new family restaurant concept featuring pizza and magic in the St. Louis Area. The company has opened two of the restaurants, called Abra K Dabra for their magic theme, at 1899 Edwardsville Road in Wood River, Ill., and at 5 Flower Valley Shopping Center in Florissant (MO). Both are adjacent to K mart discount department stores.

The restaurants feature pizza, sandwiches, salad, ice cream, beer, wine and soft drinks. Magic shows, filmed and live, are to be presented. There are token-operate video arcade games, a playroom for young children and a computerized piano bar for adults.

K-mart was looking to capitalize on the success of the success of Pizza Time (the parent company of Chuck E Cheese) and Showbiz Pizza which both used the pizza/arcade/family entertainment model.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch – July 19, 1982

In May, classified ads ran in the local papers looking for managers.  few weeks later the newly hired managers were instructed by K-mart to look for teenagers that could both be severs and magicians for the crowds. A K-Mart executive said that the number one qualification for hiring the teenagers is that they be “nice kids.” Their potential as magicians come second.

The two locations opened on June 17th, 1982 to fanfare and pizza(zz).

St. Louis Post Dispatch – July 12, 1982

But Abra K Dabra wasn’t just trying to corner the market on family entertainment, they were trying to attract adults with a new technological concept.

This brief article, “K-mart Puts Vid in Pizza Parlors” by Laura Foti that appeared in the August 7, 1982 issue of Billboard explains what K-mart was trying to accomplish.

“K-mart has found a unique way to use video clips from record companies. The retail chain is testing the clips in two in-store restaurants in St. Louis, with other locations possibly to follow.
The video clips, supplied by record companies through Handleman Co., the racker, are shown on large-screen television in the evenings. During the day, when the patrons are mostly family-oriented, K-mart’s Abra K Dabra pizza restaurants show magic acts, either live or on tape. But in the evening, according to Handleman’s Stephen Strome, “We want to attract a different crowd.”
Hence the decision to go with rock music. The record companies are thanked at the beginning of the tape, and K-mart’s own record department, the Music Place is plugged at the end.
The program, according to K-mart’s director of research Mike Wellman, is “in the early stages of development. We’ve been working with the record companies, and they’re very cooperative.”

Unfortunately for Abra K Dabra, they were doomed from the beginning. In 1983, family entertainment pizza places reached their saturation point and the bottom fell out quickly.

I haven’t found the numbers from Abra K Dabra, but Pizza Time, which had a record revenue of $99.3 million in 1982, lost over $6 million in the first few months of 1983 and had nearly $16 million in losses and write-offs of over $35 million in the fourth quarter of 1983. Showbiz Pizza also reported a loss that year. Abra K Dabra didn’t last until the end of 1983. Both locations were closed quickly in October or November with no fanfare. (EDIT: The Wood River store actually DID close with fanfare, as a young man actually chained himself to the inside of the pizza place, in hopes that they would not close it.)

 

Ultimately, the market was hurt by expensive but poor quality food, too many similar restaurants in the same market, bored parents that never grasped the video concept, and the changing taste of children who made up most of their business.

Abra K Dabra was quickly forgotten, a failed experiment in a changing time. The K-mart empire moved on without much of a hitch…for a while at least.