HoJo Heaven in ’67

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Hopping into the Ford LTD wagon with my older brother and sister on a Friday night meant two things: a shouting match to decide who wouldn’t sit on the hump in the middle back seat, and a trip to Howard Johnson’s on Route 110 in Huntington, New York, for the “all-you-can-eat fish fry.” Being the youngest, I usually lost the battle for a window seat, but my spirits never really dampened because I knew I’d soon be at arguably the greatest place on Earth: Howard Johnson’s. Okay, maybe Shea Stadium or Herman’s World of Sporting Goods were the greatest places on Earth, but to a seven-year-old kid in 1967, HoJo’s in Huntington ruled.

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The restaurant’s signature TenderSweet fried clams were crispy and succulent, and still make my mouth water when I think about them. And even at seven, I put a significant dent in that all-you-can-eat. But perhaps the best part of the HoJo experience—besides pulling up to the classic orange and aqua arched building featuring the famous chef sign—was the ice-cream counter. The floor-to-ceiling all-glass backsplash with sparkling chrome confectionery dispensers and scoops gave the impression that the shiny padded stools ran about a mile long. And although HoJo’s served up a whopping 28 flavors, there was only one for me: peppermint stick.

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Even after my fill at the fried-clams trough, I was up to inhaling peppermint perfection. And there was never any skimping at HoJo: I received one very huge scoop of creamy, pink-and-red-ribbon ice cream, chock-full of crunchy little peppermint candies in a classic sugar cone. And not the usual round scoops you get at other places, either, but big, thick, pointed scoops. The shape of your ice cream shouldn’t mean anything, I suppose, but I just thought that was the coolest thing.

It’s been about 30 years since I left Huntington, and that Howard Johnson’s no longer exists. What will always exist, however, is the very fond memories of the happy times I had there with my family. That’s HoJo Heaven in ’67.

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