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A loose history of Howard Johnson

by Aunt Clara –

Aunt Clara loves history. It tells us where we have been, where we are going and then lets us relive it all over again. About 10,000 years ago a cave man named Howard went out of his cave, snared a huge buffalo and brought it back to the tribe. Howard was essentially the first takeout delivery man. Early humans had no way of storing food. The only way to feed a whole group of people was to bring the food back home, alive if one could, so all the Cro Magnums could enjoy a fresh home delivered meal.

The problem was that the food kept on moving to different areas, so Howard and his group of cave dwellers would have to pack up all their things, and wander around until they found more food. Nobody was happy with this, least of all Howard, as he had to do the packing up and then the hunting once they settled into a new place.

One day, when Howard was out, he ran across a group of sheep. The sheep stayed together, did not bite, and tended to be content to graze and sleep. So Howard put a fence around the sheep herd and moved the family next door. Now Howard could hang out all day and when his wife, Norma, asked him to rustle up some food, he just walked over to the sheep, grabbed one and got it cooking on the fire. Howard had invented ranching and his life got a whole lot easier. He then added goats to the mix and found he was even able to get drinkable milk from the goats. Howard had tried milking the sheep one summer but was never able to get the spigots going. With goats it was much easier.

Some of Howard’s friends did not like the sheep and goats and so they made better farmers than ranchers. They made a deal with Howard. If he gave them some roast lamb or goat legs they would give him potatoes and corn. Thus a whole world of bartering opened up and society flourished. As did Howard. It might be important to know Howard’s full name: Howard Johnson.

For thousands of years after this, food was cooked and eaten at home. This worked well until the 1920s. Then a direct descendant of the original Howard Johnson, who owned a drugstore in Quincy, discovered that his soda fountain was his most profitable item, so he eventually started selling other edibles. Johnson used a recipe his mother had given him to make ice cream and soon expanded onto beaches along the Massachusetts coast line. He also sold hot dogs and soda pop to tourists.

Many other entrepreneurs copied Johnson but with a twist — curb side service. This made it easy for dads to stop at the new restaurant chain opened by the McDonald brothers and bring home supper to the family. But as Americans grew lazier the need to find a new way for food to come to us was created — the Chinese food delivery method. Oyster boxes were small, disposable cardboard containers used to deliver fresh oysters to restaurants. Hearing the American cry for takeout food, the Chinese took these boxes, filled them up with menu items such as General Gau chicken and fried rice, then delivered them right to our homes.

So, while 10,000 years ago a cave man named Howard was able to bring takeout food right to the cave, Americans had come full circle and were again waiting for someone to deliver their food right to their homes.


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