The Surprising Candy of Howard Johnson’s!

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I’ll often talk about how much I enjoy branded candy packaging that comes from unusual sources like private label or “store brands”.  These aren’t your typical Hershey or Mars offerings in that you can only find them at specific retail outlets, so even in the modern age they can remain quite regionalized and hard to find.

Howard Johnson’s is one such unusual source of branded confections, but it stands out due to its especially rich history.  You see, Howard Johnson’s is one of a select group of businesses that is inevitably intertwined with the history and romance of what is known as “Roadside America” as well as a period when coffee shops and diners ruled the land.  So make the jump to check out the surprising candy of Howard Johnson’s!

For those that only know of the modern HoJo’s and their Howard Johnson’s hotels, it should be noted that before the first hotels with that name were opened in the 1950’s, Howard Johnson’s was a chain of soda fountains/ice cream shops and restaurants.   Tracing their origins back to the 1920’s, Howard Johnson’s as a restaurant went on to experience great success.  Some stats point to it being the largest restaurant chain in the United States throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s.

The last Howard Johnson’s restaurant in Manhattan closed down in 2005 (I was able to visit that Times Square location shortly before they closed) and from what I’ve read, there are sadly only two remaining HoJo restaurant locations still operating in the country.

A Fallen Howard Johnson's Location - Photo by Tom Asher

A Fallen Howard Johnson’s Location circa 2010- Original Photo by Tom Asher (post effects by me)

In their heyday, Howard Johnson’s locations were distinctive for their orange roof and peaked colonial-style towers.

Howard Johnson's restaurant and ice cream shoppe postcard - circa 1950's - Source Allen Sandquist - Roadside Pictures

Howard Johnson’s restaurant and ice cream shoppe postcard – circa 1950’s – Source Allen Sandquist – Roadside Pictures

Howard Johnson's Ice Cream Display - 1960's - Allen Sandquist - Roadside Pictures

Howard Johnson’s Ice Cream Display – 1960’s – Source Allen Sandquist – Roadside Pictures

Their early brand mascots were “Simon and the Pieman” as you can see on this vintage place mat:

Howard Johnsons Ice Cream Shoppes and Restaurants placemat - circa 1950's - Todd Franklin - Neatocoolville

Howard Johnson’s Ice Cream Shoppes and Restaurants placemat – circa 1950’s – Source Todd Franklin – Neatocoolville

At some point, the Howard Johnson’s company decided to start producing and selling their own private label branded products featuring those mascots.   And from my experience they must have had quite a broad private label line-up at one time.  Here’s a Howard Johnson’s dessert cake box in my collection from 1962 (though I don’t have any, I’ve even seen examples of Howard Johnson’s branded TV-Dinner style boxed meal offerings):

Howard Johnson's Coconut Cake package box - Marathon printer sample - 1962

Howard Johnson’s Coconut Cake package box – Marathon printer sample – 1962

It is from this period that the earliest piece of Howard Johnson’s candy packaging in my collection comes from.  It’s a Milk Chocolate Fudge bar wrapper, likely dating to the 1950’s (though it could possibly slip to the early 1960’s):

Howard Johnson's - Milk Chocolate Fudge Bar 5-cent candy wrapper - 1950's

Howard Johnson’s – Milk Chocolate Fudge Bar 5-cent candy wrapper – 1950’s

I also have a gum pack outer wrapper from around this period:

Howard Johnson's - Peppermint Gum - Five Stick gum pack wrapper - 1950's 1960's

Howard Johnson’s – Peppermint Gum – Five Stick gum pack wrapper – 1950’s

The association of Howard Johnson’s with “under the orange roof” became so tied to the brand that by the 1970’s, their logo evolved to reflect that.  Gone were Simon and the Pieman, now replaced by a more modern graphic logo featuring that orange roof.  That logo is the one featured on the Lifesavers-style Howard Johnson’s roll candy featured in the title image of today’s post:

Howard Johnson's - Assorted Candy - 10-cent roll candy photo - late 1960's early 1970's

Howard Johnson’s – Assorted Candy – 10-cent roll candy photo – late 1960’s early 1970’s

Howard Johnson's - Assorted Candy - _98oz 10-cent roll candy wrapper - late 1960's early 1970's

Howard Johnson’s – Assorted Candy – .98oz 10-cent roll candy wrapper – late 1960’s early 1970’s

This is the era where I’m pleased to say I have a number of pieces in my Howard Johnson’s candy collection to share.

Here’s a few more stick gum package pieces:

Howard Johnson's - Peppermint Gum - 7 Stick gum pack wrapper - 1970's

Howard Johnson’s – Peppermint Gum – 7 Stick gum pack wrapper – 1970’s

Howard Johnson's - Peppermint and Spearmint Gum - individual stick wrappers - 1970's

Howard Johnson’s – Peppermint and Spearmint Gum – individual stick wrappers – 1970’s

Howard Johnson's - Peppermint and Spearmint Gum - individual stick wrappers - 1970's B

Howard Johnson’s – Peppermint and Spearmint Gum – individual stick wrappers – 1970’s B

Here’s a 1970’s version of the same Howard Johnson’s Milk Chocolate Fudge bar wrapper seen earlier.

Howard Johnson's - Fudge - milk chocolate covered double bar - candy wrapper - 1970's

Howard Johnson’s – Fudge – milk chocolate covered double bar – candy wrapper – 1970’s

And a couple other variety of bars featuring this same core design and type style:

Howard Johnson's - Coconut -1 3_4 oz chocolate candy bar wrapper - 1976

Howard Johnson’s – Coconut -1 3/4 oz chocolate candy bar wrapper – 1976

Howard Johnson's - Peanut Butter Crispettes - 1 1_2 oz candy bar wrapper - 1970's

Howard Johnson’s – Peanut Butter Crispettes – 1 1/2 oz candy bar wrapper – 1970’s

Here are a few Howard Johnson’s chocolate bar wrappers that each sport their own distinctive designs – I think these are pretty great:

Howard Johnson's - Coconut Double Bar - 1 3_4 oz candy bar wrapper - 1970's

Howard Johnson’s – Coconut Double Bar – 1 3/4 oz candy bar wrapper – 1970’s

Howard Johnson's - Double Fudge - 1 3_4oz  chocolate candy bar wrapper - 1970's

Howard Johnson’s – Double Fudge – 1 3/4oz chocolate candy bar wrapper – 1970’s

Howard Johnson's - Milk Chocolate with Almonds - chocolate bar wrapper - 1978

Howard Johnson’s – Milk Chocolate with Almonds – 3 oz chocolate bar wrapper – 1978

Howard Johnson's - Peppermint Double Bar - 1 3_4 oz candy bar wrapper - 1970's

Howard Johnson’s – Peppermint Double Bar – 1 3/4 oz candy bar wrapper – 1970’s

Aren’t those fantastic?  Howard Johnson’s had a pretty great packaging designer working for them in the 1970’s.  I would love to find out who developed and worked on this private label brand back then.

I have two more Howard Johnson’s branded candy pieces to share, and I’ve saved them for now because I’m not entirely sure where I should place them chronologically.  They COULD date back to the late-60’s/early 70’s, and probably do.  It’s just that they feature “old-fashioned” style of packaging, so the graphical elements I’ve used to date the others are not evident here.  Check ’em out:

Howard Johnson's - Chocolate Mints - 3 1/2 oz 25-cent Baker's Dozen paper bag package - 1960's 1970's

Howard Johnson’s – Chocolate Mints – 3 1/2 oz 25-cent Baker’s Dozen paper bag package – 1960’s 1970’s

That old-fashioned penny candy style paper bag likely contained a selection of individual foil-wrapped chocolates, as when I acquired it, it contained this wrapper:

Howard Johnson's - Thin Mint - individual foil candy package wrapper - 1960's 1970's

Howard Johnson’s – Thin Mint – individual foil candy package wrapper – 1960’s 1970’s

One final thing to share.  It’s a set of three branded foil peel-away lids from jelly containers.  These would have been found in Howard Johnson’s restaurants during the 1970’s:

Howard Johnson's - Apple Grape and Orange - foil jelly package peel-off lids - 1970's

Howard Johnson’s – Apple Grape and Orange – foil jelly package peel-off lids – 1970’s

Fun stuff!

I should note that I first touched upon Howard Johnson’s branded candy back in April of 2012.  Most of that material was incorporated and included in today’s feature, but I wanted to mention it.

That’s everything I’ve got to share today on the surprising candy of Howard Johnson’s.  It’s an area I never expected to contain so much interesting material.   I hope you enjoyed it, and I’ll see you next time!

CC_Howard Johnsons Candy - CLOSING IMAGE

About Jason Liebig

A New York City based writer, editor and sometimes actor. After spending much of the 1990′s in the comic book business helping tell the stories of Marvel Comics’ X-Men as series editor, he has since split his time between developing his own entertainment properties while still consulting and working on others. Having been described as “the Indiana Jones of lost and forgotten candy”, Jason is one of the country’s premier candy collectors and historians with his discoveries appearing in countless blogs, magazines, newspaper articles, and books. Always happy to share his knowledge and unique perspectives on this colorful part of our popular culture, Jason has consulted with New York’s Museum of Food and Drink and has also been a featured guest on Food Network’s Heavyweights, France’s M6 Capital, and New York’s TheActionRoom.com. My Google Profile+
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15 Responses to The Surprising Candy of Howard Johnson’s!

  1. Darryl Heine says:

    I also remember Howard Johnson’s Salt Water Taffy boxes in the late 1970’s.

    I remember stopping at Howard Johnson’s turnpike locations in the late 1970’s and early to mid 1980’s.

  2. Mike J. says:

    I love that fudge wrapper. It’s so rare to see people 1) use a diagonal design and 2) use it well. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Rick Jacunski says:

    The old style candy wrappers, like the fudge bar pictured above, show up very rarely on eBay, where I’ve also seen the old-style coconut and crispettes wrappers. What I’ve NEVER seen, however, are any of the wrappers from the ice cream bars sold from the trucks that used to come through suburban neighborhoods in the early 1950s. In particular, I remember a very colorful wrapper on the vanilla ice cream bar covered with toasted coconut, which sold for 10 cents. There were also chocolate covered vanilla bars and fudge bars. Has anybody out there run across any images of these?

  4. Cori says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. I worked in a HoJos in Massachusetts during the late 70s, while in High School. We stocked every one of the candies in your post, but I honestly don’t remember selling any of them. While it doesn’t qualify as candy, there were also distinctive cookies at each restaurant. We would garnish ice cream sundaes with an oval shortbread cookie, molded with the HoJos logo.
    They did have an extensive frozen food line, with boxed clam strips and something called “toasties” being the biggest sellers in this area. Toasties were flat, rectangular muffins. They came in a 4 pack, corn or blueberry, and were designed to go from freezer to toaster. Never would have remembered this if not for your post! 🙂

    • Rick Jacunski says:

      Those toasties, along with the frozen macaroni and cheese (REALLY good) were the last vestiges of HoJo’s food you could buy in the supermarkets, and they were available long after all but a handful of HoJo restaurants (in name only) had closed. But I think it’s been at least a decade since I last found any of these products. By the way, in addition to the salt water taffy, HoJo restaurants usually featured a wooden box from which high-end lollipops were dispensed. And before my time, they featured their own chocolate assortments in a brightly colored box. I’ll post a photo when I get a chance.

    • Jenny Berger says:

      Cori – (this is slightly off-topic, but since you worked there, you might know:) My family and I were in and out of Howard Johnsons in NY (especially the one near Grossinger’s in Liberty) and NJ all through the ’60s, and some of those great and varied flavors of ice cream still haunt me, but I also remember the unique shape the ice cream came in – instead of being a round scoop, it was a truncated (flat-topped) cone shape, with a ruffle or ‘skirt’ of ice cream around the bottom – pretty much guaranteed to start dripping down onto the hand clutching the cone unless you were vigilant and fast! Alas, I never really paid attention to the design of the scoops being used, but maybe you remember who made them – what particular brand they were, or if they were a proprietary HoJo design? Thanks for your time either way…

      • Rich Kaline says:

        Hi Jenny. I am a collector of all things HOJO. You are looking for a conical scoop. The bowls have different sizes. I believe that Hojo’s used a #16 conical scoop. It was not just a Hojo thing, but I don’t know of anyone else that used those scoops.

    • Kelly Smith says:

      As a kid I loved those molded shortbread cookies served with dishes of ice cream and also the little brown corn muffins (not the toasties) served with dinner that were not sweet. I’d love to have recipes for those. My Howard Johnson’s was at the edge of Golden Beach, FL at the intersection of Collins and Terracina.

  5. Mike. says:

    There used to be Howard Johnsons restaurants and stores on the Ohio turnpike in the 70’s. As a kid, whenever we traveled there, I would buy the fudge bars. They were delicious, and my all time favorite candy bar. Since there weren’t any Howard Johnsons around where I lived, I would load up on them.

  6. Louise Ryals says:

    I still miss the Howard Johnson’s large chocolate covered wintergreen patty with its soft pink interior!!! My mother, sister and I would always stop at a Howard Johsnon’s when visiting Long Island almost every Saturday back in the late forties. Mom was on the hunt for a house on the Island and those trips remained in my mind for the stops at the Howard Johnson’s restaurant for lunch. Lunch always ended with either an ice cream cone or (my favorite) that enormous wintergreen patty. How I miss them.

  7. Glyn Jaime says:

    Does anyone remember the HoJo Chocolate Lollypop? It was a round molded lolly with a lighter color chocolate on top and then milk chocolate behind, it came in a plastic shell type package? I can’t even find a picture of it anywhere, would love to see one again! Believe it or not, all the memories of old fashioned candy from our childhoods, both east and west coast inspired my husband and I to open a candy shop!

    • Jason Liebig says:

      Glyn,

      Thanks for your comment. The thing with Howard Johnson’s candy is, you’re not likely to find any images of it online. Honestly, aside from what I’ve posted personally from my archives, I don’t think there’s anything else out there at all. So it’s no surprise that the specific thing you’re looking for isn’t out there. Really, for the most part, nothing is. I’ve actually had friends tell me about your shop and recommend a visit, but I’ve never made it up there. I’ll try to remedy that in 2017. -Jason

  8. Diane says:

    I also remember those lollipops as a favorite when I was a child, and am still trying to find pictures of them! I remember giraffes and zebras, and I believe a bear and a tiger. It was a full scene, with grass and trees etc. , not just of an animal. I thought there were scenes from history and famous people as well ; I do remember the Liberty Bell. Guess I’m not the only one still looking for those. I find it odd that I’ve never come across anything similar since then. No chocolate with scenes like that. They always stood out as something unique to me, although I enjoyed lots of their other candy too. It’s really awesome seeing all the wrappers again!

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