Monday, June 20, 2011
Howard Johnson (1897-1972)
Howard Deering Johnson built a small soda shop in Quincy, Massachusetts into a chain of over a thousand hotels and restaurants. The distinctive orange and blue buildings were once ubiquitous in the US. (At right is a picture of a Howard Johnson's model kit I built as a kid for my train set. Didn't turn out as nice as the picture and I glued the front door on upside down. Not good for business, I'd imagine.) Johnson would have himself driven around in his black Cadillac with the license plate HJ-28 (one of the chain's big draws was its 28 flavors of ice cream) and make surprise inspections. When one manager found Johnson inspecting his refrigerator, he called the cops. When he told a cop who he was, the cop replied "And I'm Christopher Columbus!" Howard Johnson died on June 20, 1972 at age 75. Today, Howard Johnson's exists as a hotel chain (as part of Wyndham) but as of last month only three restaurants remain.