Farewell Tour of
Howard Johnson's Restaurant - Middletown, NJ
Just before shutdown 1997

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(Click on images to get larger images.)

Our own History with HOJOs in Middletown

In the fall of 1990, I was hired for a three month software consulting assignment at Bell Labs here in Middletown. At the time, I lived in Hamilton Square (Trenton), NJ and commuted to this area. During my lunch breaks I would take various tours around town. When my consulting job ended, I started work at permanent job at a small company in Princeton on Jan 2, 1991. Only a month later I met my wife Gretchen on February 8, 1991. We were married on September 28, 1991. After looking for homes in Northern NJ she went along with my wanting to move in Middletown, especially since the taxes were lower than the Westfield/Cranford area. Our house in Middletown was perfect because it is within walking distance of the NJ Transit station for my wife's job in New York and it is a low traffic dead-end street.

Often, we decided to go out to eat when Gretchen arrived at the station where I would wait for her sometimes. For years I would wait in the car, staring at the Banfield's storage building across the street, which is now, the Middletown Arts Center and 9/11 Memorial Park. Most often we ate at Howard Johnson's here in Middletown and became familiar with some of the family members running the restaurant. We loved the place because of its unique menu and low level background music. After two years of commuting to Princeton, I eventually returned to AT&T full time, which was only 1.5 miles away. We especially enjoyed our years here during the '90s and Howard Johnson's became a traditional after-work place to eat. One of us often asked "Is this a HOJO night?" I would also get out of cooking, however, I did enjoy cooking doing most of the time.

We were saddened to be told by our usual hostess that HOJOs was to close down in 1997. We knew some of the family there well enough to get permission to do a photoshoot of the place during a very quiet time of day. These images were all taken with my first digital camera (which I now regret, because film would have been higher resolution at the time). I have had these images stored on CD for years and now I have decided to share them with the public.

'U' shaped counters were typical
at Howard Johnson's.
"Simple Simon and the Pieman"
logo, shown here, was typically
etched on the mirror behind the
serving counter.

Much like a diner, Howard Johnson's restaurants had
both a serving counter area and table area.

A brief history of the Middletown Howard Johnson's
(I happened to find this bit of information in the obituary of Charles Pappas.)

In 1962 Charles Spiros Pappas partnered with his wife Angela's father, John Morris and her brothers, George and Stephen Morris, to open the Middletown Howard Johnson's Restaurant. After 40 years in business, the Morris and Pappas Families closed the Howard Johnson Restaurant in December 1997.

Salient Events of Howard Johnson's Restaurant History

As of this writing, just one Howard Johnson restaurant remains. It's in Lake George, NY. During the 1960s and 70s, it was the largest restaurant chain in the country.

It started in 1925 when Howard Deering Johnson borrowed $2000.00 (roughly equivalent to $28,000 in 2017 currency) to buy and operate
a small pharmacy in Quincy, Massachusetts. A soda fountain he installed had become the busiest part of his drugstore. This led to his
opening up concession stands along beachfront property on the coast of Massachusetts. With the success of those stands, local banks were
willing to lend him enough money to operate a sit-down restaurant.

In 1929 the first Howard Johnson restaurant opened in Quincy, featuring fried clams, baked beans, chicken pot pies, hot dogs, ice cream
and soft drinks. The stock market crash of 1929 prevented him from expanding his company, but in 1932 he persuaded an acquaintance to
open a second Howard Johnson's restaurant in Orleans, Massachusetts. It was franchised rather than company-owned, with one of
the first franchising agreements in America.

Johnson won the bids to exclusive rights to serve drivers at service station turnoffs on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Ohio Turnpike and
New Jersey Turnpike when they were built.

In 1959, Howard Deering Johnson turned the reins over to his 26-year-old son, Howard Brennan Johnson. The elder Howard Johnson oversaw his
son's control of the company until his death in 1972 at the age of 76. The company went public in 1961.

The Howard Johnson's company had more than 1000 restaurants in 42 states and Canada when it reached its business peak in 1975, but
the oil embargo of 1974 marked the beginning of decline for the company because American travelers could not afford to make long trips
that maintained 85% revenues for the company. Also, competition from fast food outlets like McDonalds, became a factor over the years.

Most information here was obtained notes I took from Wikipedia. Please feel free to send me an email (link at bottom of page) if you find spelling or any
other mistakes or inaccuracies.

A small unit where table supplies,
seasonings, napkins, cups and
a microwave were located.

The "Simple Simon and the Pieman" logo was
created by artist John Alcott in the 30s.

Reception area and Candy Display

Dining Area

Behind the Counter



Skillet behind order

Freshly cooked

Dining Area Decor

One of the owning family
build this ship model.


Placemat with Brief History of HOJOs
(Click on image)

Howard Johnson Books, Links and References
(You can Google a million Howard Johnson's history links,
but this is about our beloved HOJOs which used to be located where
Outback Restaurant now stands.)

Some references and other page links:

  1. Charles Spiros Pappas Obituary
  2. Howard Johnson's on Wikipedia
  3. HoJoLand
  4. The story behind Howard Johnsonís, a New England icon

Purchase from your favorite book outlet.