expo 67 lounge

Mid-century fashion, vintage pop culture and retro cool... from Expo 67 and beyond.

18 January 2007

Woolworth's Lunch Counter

The F.W. Woolworth Company was founded in 1878 by Frank Winfield Woolworth.

Woolworth's pioneered the five and dime store genre: they were the first to set merchandise out for customers to handle. Stores at that time usually kept goods behind counters, which necessitated asking for service from a sales clerk.

There was a Woolworth's in our neighborhood growing up, and I have fond memories of it. My absolute favorite element of that store was the lunch counter. It seemed frozen in time, recalling a 1960's diner. My mother took me there as a child, the way her own mother had taken her...

A Woolworth's menu, circa 1960.

The menu was very diner as well. The ladies that worked there really seemed to care. I remember so vividly the taste of their club sandwich, which the waitress had dressed with mayonnaise beforehand. (I've never quite understood why restaurants always serve it on the side...)

Vintage Woolworth's dessert and soda fountain signs.

Our Woolworth's even had cutlery engraved with the store's name. I had asked our waitress if I could buy one (I could never steal from our Woolworth's). She let me keep it, wrapping it nicely in a napkin so that I wouldn't be accused of theft...

I still have that spoon, long after Woolworth's and their beloved lunch counters have all disappeared...

A Woolworth's lunch counter in the 1940's.

images: (1) pbs.org (2) curly-wurly.blogspot.com
(3-4) vintagedepotdirect.com (5) collections.mnhs.org



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the flood of heart felt memories, I do rememer my Mom taking us (your Mom and my little sis) to Woolworth for lunch. I always had the club sandwich, with a big coke in the old fashioned tall soda glasses. (Mousse always had to have the "biggest" everything, glutton) then we would go grocery shopping at Steinberg's !! I miss that innocence....Auntie Mousse xoxox

5:11 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, forgot all about that place, until i read it here. Very very nice, Jason.
I am a friend of maggie


12:09 am  
Blogger Jason Stockl said...

Thank you, Rhonda!

9:20 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That 1960's menu listed on the front page really 'knocked me out'.
And the picture of the lunch counter....I think they must have been the same everywhere.

Woolworth's in Leavenworth, Ks. was right next door to S.S. Kresge on Delaware Street. Their lunch counter was my very first experience in eating out, away from home. That is where I got 'hooked' on "Hot Turkey Sandwiches", and they are still one of my favorites 50 years later. And not to forget the overhead "money handling' system of tracks and tubes that moved sales transactions from the various counters 'downstairs', to somewhere 'upstairs' that was magically returned with your change and a receipt, and you were on your way.
Lest I be somewhat remiss, I should also mention the time I got caught 'red-handed' putting moth balls into the fish tank over in the pet department. Not a very good day for me, and I remember it vividly. Nonetheless, I kept coming back to that 'lunch counter' all through high school for all the other 'goodies' too. What a shame all those memories are long gone...Delaware street is just not the same!

4:39 am  
Blogger Frank Ireland said...

I was born and raised in Leavenworth, Kansas myself (born in 1959, left Leavenworth in 1979 for California-in Florida now). I remember Woolworths and the famous lunch counter & soda fountain. I also remember the Kresges, and if memory serves, it also had a lunch counter and soda fountain. Am I correct? I also remember Bakers department store with its toy section and giant slot-car race track in the upstairs mezanine. I see that someone named Rhonda posted here. I have a sister by that name-is that you, Rhonda Ireland?
Frank Ireland

1:33 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Grandma on my mom's side worked at the Woolworth's Lunch Counter in Downtown Chicago. That thing was HUGE!!!

7:18 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My memories are further East -- Ogdensburg, NY (on the St. Lawrence River). In the 50s early 60s I was a teenager and loved their hotdogs (deep-fried) and fries (probably cooked in lard). I shudder now to think how much I loved them. The whole downtown was raised in the early 70s -- a victim of Urban Renewal and a tragedy from which the city never recovered.

8:14 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HI! I'm originally from Cleveland, Ohio, and LOVED going with my mom after school on her shopping trips because it meant stopping at the Woolworth lunch counter. We'd both get the BLT. I'd get Coke and fries and mom would get coffee. She even let me eat those wonderful "lumps" of sugar -- first her two and then the waitress would sneak me another two or three ! ! ! Hey, but I turned out OK ! ! ! No one born after '75 will EVER have those experiences or memories like we have. It was certainly a different era . . .

1:51 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The menu is wrongly identified as being from the 1960s. From the prices, it is more likely to be from the late forties or early fifties. Do be careful about checking out such things because people copy them and they proliferate all over the Web, as this menu has.
Otherwise, thanks for info, especially the photo of lunch counter, exactly like the one where I worked in late forties (and was fired in three days for "general inefficiency".

4:45 pm  
Blogger Jason Stockl said...

Thank you, Anonymous, for the clarification.

I try to make it a point of being as accurate as possible. However in this case, the image (which came from another blog) was identified as 1960.

As for the proliferation of inaccuracies on the internet, such is the reality of web 2.0, I'm afraid.


6:57 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look closely at the bottom right of the menu, it saya Rev. 9/60. I take that to mean Revision September 1960. So I think saying it is from the 60's is accurate.
I too remember the lunch counter from Boston. The wateress theye would not serve us kids Coke with out hot dogs. She said we should drink milk and that is all she would serve us. If a wateress did that today they would be fired. In the 60's they watched out fro us kids on our own.

11:27 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I use to have lunch at the Woolworth's in downtown San Antonio in 1985...I use to go in there to have their wonderful soup. I actually "stole" one of their soup spoons. I've had it for years and years...the only spoon I would eat my cereal or soup with. But recently I lost it. It is a terrible tragidy. Maybe someone reading this will have one that I can buy?


4:51 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I drank my first cherry coke at Woolworth lunch counter in Wellington,Ks back in the sixties.thanx for the memories

12:15 am  
Anonymous Bill said...

Amazing memories brought back by the photos of the lunch counter and menu.
I used go to Woolworth in Leavenworth, Ks every Thursday when I was a kid with my grandmother. I can still smell the food cooking and how good the Coca Cola tasted.
Great memories but it was also the scene of one of my worst spankings. I threw a toy on the floor after my Grandmother told me I couldn't have. She spanked my butt all the way to car a 1/2 block away. It was a different world then and a hell of a lot better.

5:03 pm  

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