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Hot Beans: 1955

Hot Beans: 1955

July 1955. Horn & Hardart, New York. "Woman getting a dish of baked beans from an automat." Medium format negative from photos by Arthur Rothstein for the Look magazine assignment "America's Favorite Foods." View full size.


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"Always freshly placed by invisible human hands?"

I'll say! What may not be apparent in that peaceful picture is the frantic pace of a Manhattan automat at lunchtime! My most lasting memory was the new York hustle of the many customers speeding through the line and the matching hustle on the other end of the boxes. I clearly remember yanking out a piece of pie and seeing a hand sliding a new slice at exactly the same moment and exactly the same speed as my hand! I think most of the food at the rush hours went from oven to someone's stomach in a very few minutes, far too quickly to get cold. I always thought the food good and the whole arrangement fascinating.

To heck with the beans,

I want that bracelet!

Went with granny

One of the best days of the year as a kid in the early 60s was going with my grandmother for a deli lunch in Manhattan. Then we made a Radio City Music Hall Christmas show matinee followed by hot chocolate and dessert at Horn and Hardart before heading back to Brooklyn on the subway.

Automat in Paris

When I first moved to Paris in 1964 there was an automat on the Champs Elysees up near L'Etoile. Until then I'd only seen them in movies set in Manhattan. In high school we'd get a cheap meal there before heading out to drink on Friday and Saturday nights.

Please post more automat photos!

This is a wonderful photo. I first learned of automats when I was 16 (back in 1978) and read the novel "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn". Later in life, I saw them in movies, such as "Easy Living" and "That Touch of Mink".

When I read the name "Horn and Hardart" in your description, those names kept ringing a bell in my head and finally after a day of thinking about it, it came to me. I heard this in another movie- Hitchcock's Marnie, where Mark Rutland's father (played by Alan Napier) says, "The meals in this house are shocking bad, but I do insist on good Horn and Hardart cake at tea."

Back in the 50's

As a little kid in NYC, I still remember the very heavy cups and the great deserts behind those little glass windows.

Beans to Go

Horn and Hardart also had "Less Work for Mother" retail shops that sold takeout meals.

Doughnut and Coffee

I made it from California to H&H in 1990, not long before it closed for good. The doughnut was so stale that I could only eat it by dunking in the nasty, bitter coffee that I could only drink by sucking it out of that stale doughnut. H&H symbiosis.

Small Servings

This was a small serving of beans by today's standards; served on the thick, American-made restaurant china that was made to take a beating. Photos like this remind us that that food expenses took up a larger share of people's incomes then and was served in portions that were about half the size of today's. And that's one of the reasons why people were slimmer then; the other reason is because they smoked constantly.

The lady in the change booth

She always amazed me. You handed her a $1 bill and then she reached into a bucket of nickels and grabbed a handful. Without looking she sort of tossed them to you and there were always exactly 20 of them.

How Was It Kept Warm?

Constant replenishment by human hands, two of which belonged to Audrey Meadows who played Connie the Automat worker in the 1962 film, That Touch of Mink. Doris Day regularly seeks Connie's advice about Cary Grant through the open door as Connie restocks the pies!

How was it kept warm?

As a mere 59-year-old, I never got to try an Automat. My innocent question: how did you get warm food? Always freshly placed by invisible human hands? Or heated cubicles?

Much tastier than you might expect

As a teen spending summers in NYC in the late 1960s, I was pleasantly surprised by the food at the Automats. The meat loaf and the macaroni and cheese were top notch.

Getting hungry.

I so very much wish I could go to an authentic Horn & Hardart Automat. I never had the opportunity.

No Tipping

Horn & Hardart was my favorite restaurant visiting NYC as a kid because there was no necessity to tip and you could just immediately get what you want and sit down.

PDQ Bach composed a comic piece, "Concerto for Horn and Hardart," where the players had to insert a coin to retrieve their instruments.

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