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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Luncheonette: 1950

Luncheonette: 1950

Early 1950s lunch counter somewhere in northern New Jersey that sold candy, cigars, small gifts and toys. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Pens and phones

You can still buy Waterman fountain pens, Mr Mel ... but not in a drugstore.

But when I looked at this photo, I tried to imagine getting to the phone booths past a couple of kids spinning like dervishes on those stools.

A couple of things that haven't changed.

Note the napkin the sugar dispensers. Go into any Waffle House in the South and you will find those exact dispensers. I always hated the napkins, they were too small and light. Couldn't clean your hands if you got syrup on them.

But I love the photo, brings memories of the great "real" milkshakes you could get at a drugstore counter. Made in a metal tumbler and poured into a real glass. The chocolate was great not the imitation you get nowadays.
And of course the paper straws.

Thanks for sharing.

I'd be sitting at that counter!

Wow, does this photo bring back memories. It looks just like the place my friends and I would "hang out" at at lunch time and after school, right down to the way it's set up with the phone booths in back. We'd buy cigarettes from a machine (put in 30 cents and get 2 cents change back on the side of the pack). Luckily, I didn't smoke too long. Cokes were either 5 or 10 cents and an order of fries was 15 cents. The guy who owned the place and his wife were like grandparents to us. They really cared about the kids.

Give or take a year or two

Most Europeans were just getting rid of ration cards. So a store like this would have been a major cultural shock for them, even for those who had actually been off rationing for some time.

West of the Iron Curtain, that is. East of that? I can't even imagine.


I see my dad's old lighter on display. All that's missing is the pack of Parliaments. Having grown up in NYC this brings back such fond memories.

My Order

I'll have a cup of coffee and a piece of that banana cream pie. How much will that be? Fifty cents? I don't want to buy the whole place, I just want a cup of coffee and a piece of pie. Next thing you know they're going to charge a quarter just for a cup of coffee.

1950 Inventory

Missing in stores today:

Kodak and Ansco Film
Ronson Cigarette Lighters
Irvin S Cobb Corn Cob Pipes
Westclox & Big Ben Alarm Clocks
Waterman Pens
Scripto Mechanical Pencils
Dills Pipe Tobacco
Blackstone, Robert Burns & El Producto Cigars
3 in 1 Oil

Still There:

Topps Gum
Coca Cola

Misspent youth, of course

Takes me back to cherry cokes at the Peoples Drugstore at Fesseden and Wisconsin Ave., Friendship Heights, D.C. Boy, were they delicious! Sigh!

Are those bunnies?

As I time-traveled back to 1950 to stroll around this wonderful establishment, I think it was near Easter because on the top of the display counter on the extreme left there appears to be a display of cellophane-wrapped chocolate rabbits near a collection of chocolate eggs in egg cartons. Also, on the far back wall, left side of photo, it looks like Easter candy novelties. Of course it could just be wishful thinking since there was something unique and especially delicious about chocolate rabbits in those days that just do not taste the same anymore.

Complete blast from my past!

My father owned a Luncheonette in Passaic until 1977. I have some fond and some not-so-fond memories of it. But everything in this photo rings the nostalgia bell in me.
His store wider than this, but the stools and counter and various wares are all familiar friends.

My job at the age of 4 was to stock cigarettes and make Heinz soup in the electric soup maker. I still have two of his three malt mixers and they still work!

Thanks for the memories.

I was surprised to find out

That you could still buy one of those Moist-N-Aire machines.

I'd like to have a cherry Coke, club sandwich and an order of fries, please.


tterrace, As a former resident of northern New Jersey, I can almost guarantee you the "large middle-aged gal with bright red fingernails" would NEVER call you "Hon." 30 years ago I moved to Maryland, where the "Hon" is quite prevalent, and I remember being quite shocked when a total stranger addressed me that way.

Deja Vu

Though I never visted this lunch counter, when I saw this photo I felt I had been there before. Growing up in the fifties, I ate at many a lunch counter that looked just like the one here.


Look at the firetruck with the raised ladder, in the second overhead cubbyhole (visible in the mirror)! I always wanted one of these but we could never afford one.

To the kids this must have been a fantasyland!


I'm a big fan of antique shops, and can't recall how many shops I've been in (mainly in small towns) that were originally drug stores or something similar, with many of the original fixtures still intact (lunch counter, back mirror, wall displays, etc.).

And a lot of the items in this photo can still be found in those shops -- Coca-Cola clock, Ronson lighters, pedal cars, countertop display cases, alarm clocks, etc., albeit at much higher prices than in 1950.

Delightful memories

Not only do I want to buy those two riding toys for my granddaughters, but I want to have a leisurely lunch at the counter and scan the items for sale!!!

Let There Be Light

When you closed the door in the phone booth, the ceiling light would come on. A nickel had been the price for a local call for decades, but by the mid-1950s it had doubled to 10 cents in most places. It was a surprise to find that it was still 5 cents on a visit to New Orleans in 1976.

Vintage Eats

Something tells me this was either a Woolworth's Or McCrory's. Being from North Jersey I'd go with the latter.

I remember hundreds of these

I grew up in Brooklyn. I remember hundreds of stores like this. We had one on Kingston Avenue, in Crown Heights. My grandmother would take me for "a malted." One could, of course, get an Egg Cream, as well, which contains neither eggs nor cream.

Note also the two wooden phone booths in the back and the older mechanical cash register behind the soda counter, in counterpoint to the electric cash register at the front counter.

Some of the stuff for sale is interesting. Wind-up alarm clocks (top-right). Camera equipment -- Ansco something. Brownie camera, Kodalite Flashholder. A tricycle and a kids tractor up above the phone booths.

Betcha they don't offer wi-fi.

So many thank you's shorpy, this one is awesome!

The candy store -- growing up, as a little kid in the fifties, let me be very clear, I was six years old, left my house to walk three blocks to the most incredible place on earth; the candy store! No parental supervision, just a total array of colors, sodas, newspapers, comic books and most of all, candy. We were poor so the only way to buy a piece of candy was to sweep some neighbor's yard or collect deposit bottles.

This brings it all back. I wouldn't trade being poor vs. rich for anything. I appreciated that five cent chocolate bar immensely.

Thanks Shorpy, you rock!

A trip downtown

This scene so reminds me of the shopping trips made to the SS Kresge, FW Woolworth , or the Metropolitan store in downtown Windsor Ontario. The SS Kresge store had wood floors, I can still hear them creak. Now, where's the toy department? Let's see the new Dinkys.

I want a hamburger and a real Coke with cane sugar

After I'm done I'll wander over and get a 10 cent Hershey Bar that's twice as big as the one you get today.

Counter service

jimmylee42, you're on the beam, but instead of a soda jerk I see a large middle-aged gal with bright red fingernails who calls you "Hon."

Dessert under glass

Love this with the Coke clock and soda machine. Twelve stool counter equals a busy soda jerk. The phone booths probably each have a fan that is automatic. Brings back some memories from childhood.

El Productos

Good to see that the store has a good supply of El Producto Cigars. You never can tell when George Burns might wander in looking for his favourite brand. Burns smoke 10 El Producto Queens a day for most of his long life. He'd order them in batches of 300 from the manufacturer and if his shipment was late he'd call the factory and send his butler out to get as many as he could find.

How I got my images

Owning an antique mall has been one source for finding some of my images. Some of my vendors know what I look for and show me before they put them out for sale.

Ebay has been a source obviously. I've been buying since 1997.

My third resource, and most prized, was from a former coin-op book author who passed away over 10 years ago. I bought several original images that he used in some of his books. I plan to upload some of those here.


Alternate title: A Kid's Dream Come True. Toys, candy plus burgers and shakes all at your fingertips. These are great vintage store and pharmacy shots, obviously done by commercial photographers. How did you come by them?

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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