Ho Jo’s

Our shopping trips always seemed to take us past a Howard Johnson’s. In the 40s, I don’t remember calling Howard Johnson’s “HoJo’s.”

Howard Johnsons, Route 14,  & then – Rte 3. Pembroke, Ma.

On our trips to Brockton, we would leave Seaview, finding our way to Water Street in Pembroke, turn left on what was then Route 3, then right on Route 14. A Howard Johnson’s was on that corner, next to the Gilbert West Box Mill. There were long windows in front and on the south side. I remember sitting inside on the south side and how bright and warm it was.

The 2×4 Ho Jo’s on Bedford St., Whitman ma.

c. 1940.

As we wound our way through Whitman, there was a Howard Johnson’s snack bar, an eat-outside only. It was a 2×4, as my Dad called it. Many years later I found out what a 2×4 building was!

Over the railroad tracks in the Montello section of Brockton, another HJ’s. I remember having our lunch there. We always had the same thing . . . that I will reveal later.

Late in the afternoon, after shopping, we headed home on Route 123. When we did not take Neal Gate Street to 3A, I knew that Dad had a plan. He would go to the lights in Greenbush, turn right, and then take another right into the nicest Howard Johnson’s I can remember seeing: a beautiful building, manicured grounds, and a paved parking lot.


There was always room to park. The front of the building was full of windows that ran from the ceiling to the floor. Above the orange roof, on a cupola, was my favorite weather-vane, ”Simple Simon and The Pieman,” with a dog. How I wished we could have one on our garage.

Simple Simon met a pieman going to the fair;
Said Simple Simon to the pieman “Let me taste your ware”
Said the pieman to Simple Simon “Show me first your penny”
Said Simple Simon to the pieman “Sir, I have not any!”

Simple Simon went a-fishing for to catch a whale;
All the water he had got was in his mother’s pail.
Simple Simon went to look if plums grew on a thistle;
He pricked his fingers very much which made poor Simon whistle.
He went for water in a sieve but soon it all fell through;
And now poor Simple Simon bids you all “Adieu”

I seem to remember a ”Simple Simon” weathervane whirly gig. The pieman’s tray would move, Simon’s finger or arm moved, and the dog’s tail wagged up and down. I’m not sure if this was on the Greenbush HJs. I also remember a Lamplighter weathervane on a HJs somewhere.


Most of the time I would sit on one of the red stools at the soda fountain and order a frankfurt, now known as a hot dog — plus an orangeade. My Mom and Dad would sit in a booth; they always ordered fried clams, french fries, and tea or coffee.


The frankfurts were sliced across on two sides, and fried on two sides. The bun was also fried on both sides (now called grilled). This was put in a cardboard container with “Simple Simon and The Pieman,” with his dog printed on both sides. Two straws came in a cardboard container for the soda.


I would always beg a few french fries, then look over the Howard Johnson toy trucks on the shelf that were for sale and way beyond my parents’ budget. I would save the paper place-mats from the table. During the war, the mats had a fighter plane, a tank and a war ship printed on them. Also there was a mat with the 28 flavors of ice cream with a bumble bee flying with a spoon. I often wonder what ever happened to all that stuff?

When I was lucky, I could have a ten cent ice cream. Most of the time it would be a chocolate one, sometimes coffee. All of that would cost my Dad about $1.70.

We would visit other Howard Johnson’s in Scituate, Hingham, Wollaston Beach & Wollaston. There are only three Howard Johnson restaurants left.

Howard Johnsons, Hatherly Rd. Scituate.



The O’Brien family owned  the ”Greenbush” Howard Johnson’s  for more than 80 years.

Geoffrey O’Brien’s father, Philip James (aka PJ’s), bought the restaurant from his father Edward when the restaurant was a Howard Johnson’s

It started out as Dutchland Farms in 1935 when 3A was the only major road from Boston to Cape Cod.



When Dutchland Farms went out of business O’Briens joined Howard Johnson’s complete with the orange roof

In 1963, the O’Brien’s opened the Tack Room, now the main dining area, and offered a more diversified menu than the standard Howard Johnson’s offering lunch and dinner six days a week.

After seeing the handwriting on the wall with the opening of the new highway, the O’Brien’s reached an agreement with HJ’s and opened PJ’s Country House.

PJ’s, reasearch, Compliments of Rob Mitchell.  8/2019.

PJ’s, Greenbush, Ma.

Hook & Harvest  2019

Photo by Fred Freitas.

Good bye to Howard Johnson’s, aka, HJ’s. & Ho Jo’s.


I am looking for an early 1930’s 40’s photo of Howard Johnsons, Greenbush.



By, W. Ray Freden, Marshfield/ Seaview, 70 years.

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