Howard Johnson's Fire

I have reached the end of my internship here at the Media Library and Archive at WGBH, but the work continues with the Boston Local TV News project.  There is still so much to do.  I’m excited to see where the project will go and all the valuable news footage that will be preserved and archived.

Since starting the project back in May, I have transcribed approximately 2000 cards.  So many names and events from the late sixties and early seventies have gone across my computer screen prompting me to find out more.  The experience has given me a deeper understanding of that time period. For my last entry into the blog, I’d like to highlight a card I came across that, while tragic, also reminded me of summer.

The day was June 10, 1969.

The card reads that a fire destroyed the site of the first Howard Johnson’s restaurant.

A story the next day from the Herald Traveler newspaper, a predecessor to the current Boston Herald newspaper, explains, “ A three-alarm fire in Quincy yesterday destroyed the building that had been the first ice cream parlor of the multimillion dollar Howard Johnson’s restaurant chain.”  The article goes on to say that Howard Johnson’s had not occupied the building for quite some time and that another restaurant, Bee-Dees, was the last recent tenant. Ironically the building was scheduled to be demolished within days of the fire to make way for the Wollaston MBTA railroad station and parking lot.

Of course, building fires do not conjure up visions of summer, but Howard Johnson’s reminds me of travel and ice cream, two summer-time favorites.  The once familiar orange-roofed motor lodges and restaurants complete with ice cream parlors were the refuge for weary summer travelers.  I’m not sure how many original orange- roofed Howard Johnson’s restaurants and/or motels are left, but if you were around before the mid 1980s you most likely remember them.

The motor lodges are now owned by the Wyndham Hotel Group which still maintains the “Howard Johnson” brand.  You can take a trip down memory lane or discover what these iconic places used to look like at this website detailing these restaurants and motels of days past.

Do you remember the first Ho-Jo's?