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FC 87 A History of Howard Johnson’s with Anthony Sammarco

This week on Fieldstone Common our featured guest is Anthony Sammarco, the author of the book A History of Howard Johnson’s: How a Massachusetts Soda Fountain Became an American Icon.

Bio – Anthony Sammarco

Since 1997, Anthony Sammarco has taught history at the Urban College of Boston, and his course “Boston’s Immigrants” is based on his book of the same name to highlight the city’s diversity. He was named educator of the year in 2003 and he serves on the UCB’s A History of Howard Johnson's with Anthony Sammarco on Fieldstone CommonLeadership Council. Mr. Sammarco received the Bulfinch Award from the Doric Dames of the Massachusetts State House and the Washington Medal from the Freedom Foundation and was named Dorchester town historian by Raymond L. Flynn, mayor of Boston. He was elected a fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society, is a member of the Boston Author’s Club and is a proprietor of the Boston Athenaeum. In his volunteer work, he is treasurer of the Victorian Society, New England Chapter, and a trustee of the Forest Hills Cemetery Educational Trust. He is past president of the Bay State Historical League and the Dorchester Historical Society. He lives in Boston and in Osterville on Cape Cod.

Book Summary

Howard Johnson created an orange-roofed empire of ice cream stands and restaurants that stretched from Maine to Florida and all the way to the West Coast. Popularly known as the “Father of the Franchise Industry,” Johnson delivered good food and prices that brought appreciative customers back for more. The attractive white Colonial Revival restaurants, with eye-catching porcelain tile roofs, illuminated cupolas and sea blue shutters, were described in Reader’s Digest in 1949 as the epitome of “eating places that look like New England town meeting houses dressed up for Sunday.” Boston historian and author Anthony M. Sammarco recounts how Howard Johnson introduced twenty-eight flavors of ice cream, the “Tendersweet” clam strips, grilled frankforts and a menu of delicious and traditional foods that families eagerly enjoyed when they traveled.

Publication Info

Title: A History of Howard Johnson’s: How a Massachusetts Soda Fountain Became an American Icon

Publisher: The History Press (2013)

Paperback; 157 pages  with a bibliography, index and lots of photos.

A History of Howard Johnson’s: How a Massachusetts Soda Fountain Became an American Icon is available for purchase from Amazon.com and other booksellers.

The Interview

In this interview Anthony and I discuss Howard Johnson, the man, who built an incredible business empire of restaurants and hotels that originated in the Boston area. We also talk about some very surprising cameo appearances by Jacques Pepin, Pierre Franey and the House of Dior. We start with the rise of Howard Johson’s as an ice cream stand to its demise in 1979 when it was sold out of the family. You will be surprised by the history you hear in this story!

Prize Winner

One copy of A History of Howard Johnson’s is given out to the Fieldstone Common audience courtesy of The History Press.

The winner is:

  • To be announced next week

Congratulations to our winner and thanks to The History Press for their generosity in donating the book!

Make sure you qualify to win the giveaway next week by signing up for the Bonus List! Once you sign up your are in the running each week!

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News & Announcements

BIG NEWS for Android users! Fieldstone Common is now available in the Android app Stitcher. Stitcher is a program like iTunes but is available on the Android platform. Download Stitcher and search for Fieldstone Common or click here.

Question: What’s that’s new stuff in the Fieldstone Common title (FC 87)?

Answer: That makes it easier, especially for iTunes and other podcast listeners, to keep track of which episode they are listening to. FC stands for Fieldstone Common and 87 is the number of the episode.


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  1. Thank you for bringing back memories from my youth. We traveled every weekend to visit a different relative throughout the New England region. As children with excitedly anticipated seeing that Orange roof knowing that we would enjoy a meal or ice cream depending how long the drive had been. I lived in New Hampshire where we had a choice of Howard Johnson’s to visit. It sadden me when the our Nashua store closed in 1995 I believed it was the last one in new Hampshire to close. I would love his book, so I could relive those memories for years to come. Maybe he will write a bok about A&W Root Beer, another of my icon memories; roller bladed waitress arriving to your car with your order.

  2. I have good memories working at Howard Johnson’s, it was my first job. I was a 1958 high school student working part time after school at Howard Johnson’s in St. Petersburg, Florida. I didn’t interact with customers as I was the dishwasher. Enjoyed the food, ice cream and working for Howard Johnson’s.

    1. Larry, that is so cool that you worked there in high school! That is way better than saying you worked at the local grocery store or McDonald’s.

  3. I, too, have many fond memories of spotting the orange roof, deciding on a flavor of ice cream, and always being a bit disappointed that the food itself never seemed to live up to its glamorous depiction in the menu.
    I’m so eager to read this, and thanks.

    1. I myself don’t have any memories about eating the food but I sure remember seeing those orange roofs as we made road trips. It seems strange to me when I see the quirky roofs now and they are painted a different color and used for something else.

  4. This interview brought back so many memories – and just like the author, I think of the Howard Johnson’s in Vernon CT whenever we pass it on the interstate – you used to be able to just hop off the highway right there. Also Papa Razzi here in Concord was a former Howard Johnson’s. Their ice cream was very good, consistently so. And if you ask my brother Bobby and I about the day in 1955 my brother Joey was born, at home, unexpectedly, we will mention how disappointed we were because we were going to the Howard Johnsons’s in Hooksett for dinner, but our baby brother changed those plans pretty quickly!

    1. What a great story! I bet you’ve been teasing Joey about that all his life!

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