West Hartford’s ‘Thursday Throwback’

Courtesy Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society

Test your knowledge of West Hartford history with this ‘Thursday Throwback,’ courtesy of the Noah Webster House and West Hartford Historical Society.

By Ronni Newton

It’s Throwback Thursday (#tbt), and time to take a look back into West Hartford’s past to either stir up some memories, reflect on how much things have changed, or both. And if you have no idea, we love the photo captions, too!

Courtesy Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society

Courtesy Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society

Last week’s photo (at right and in larger size below) generated quite a lot of attention!

Many (most) people easily recognized the distinctive roofline of the International House of Pancakes (IHOP) as the building that now houses Bombay Olive on the northeast corner of the New Britain Avenue/South Main Street intersection. The store that was next door, Shoe Town, is the current Jake’s Wayback Burgers.

Figuring out the year the photo was taken proved more of a challenge! Here are some of the comments:

“Corner of New Britain Ave. and S. Main, now Jake’s hamburgers. Closed about 20 years or so ago, it seems. Didn’t go to IHOP much, but was glad to know it was there, if that makes sense. Looks like a Volvo 122 wagon to the left, late 60’s-ish model, will say photo from 1969. (Helpful was a previous Shoe Town photo/article from Patch, written by one…Ronni Newton.)” wrote Robert Farr. [Note: I searched for that article, and couldn’t find it, but I do recall using a Shoe Town photo in a history column years ago!]

Nancy McCabe guessed the 1970s.

“I remember going to ihop for pancakes when our kids were younger & we were new to the area. I’m a classic maple syrup girl but the kids loved the blueberry syrup. The building is on New Britain Ave at the corner of South Main. Seems to me more than one restaurant has been in this location since the ihop days but it’s been Bombay Olive (wonderful Indian food) for quite a few years,” commented Susan Petty-Bailer.

Mark Grenier added this detail: “If I remember correctly, IHOP was a ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ for a little while.” Does anyone else recall that?

“I remember going there about 15 years ago when it was still an IHOP. I also went to the Friendly’s further down New Britain Ave before it became the jewelry store,” wrote Greg Book.

“Ronnie” [not this writer, who doesn’t have a “e” at the end of her name!] thought IHOP didn’t close down until about 8-9 years ago. “I remember going there with a friend sometime around 2006 thinking we’d better relive some old memories before it closed. It was a good thing we did because the next thing I knew it became ‘Bombay Olive.’ My favorite syrup was always maple but I’ve been known to like blueberry too. I was sad when this IHOP closed but since then others have opened so it’s all good. That photo appears to have been taken in the early ’60s judging from the car. I’m dating myself!!” I can’t find any details about when this IHOP closed, but it appears as if Bombay Olive opened in 2007 and the space had been vacant for at least 18 months based on a blog post I found.

Liz Gillette had some details – and a question – about the other corners of this intersection: “Does anyone remember Steak and Brew across the street? There was a Poppagallo store diagonally across, as well. And Charley’s Place? What was that corner before about 1950? It’s a natural intersection, does anyone know?”

John Lyons, who posted his comments on Facebook, definitely gets the research medal, and his dating of the photo was spot on: “To me the car is the most amazing thing about the photograph, It took me an hour to research it but I figured out what it is. The easy part was figuring out that it’s a Volkswagen type three squareback. The hard part was understanding why there were no engine cooling vents on the rear quarters which appeared on every car sent to the United States. It turns out this is a 1964 European order Volkswagon type 3 known as a Varient. Exceptionally rare then and now especially in the USA. The Type 3 was not officially imported until ’66. So my long winded answer is 1966.”

Beverly Truebig, who said she liked all of the syrup flavors, also got the year right.

“IHOP at the corner of South Main and New Britain Ave. Loved the blueberry syrup. I remember shopping for trendier shoes at Shoe Town – the Payless of those days…. I think this is late 60s, early 70s,” added Lisa Petersen.

Rick Liftig shared some great memories: “Back in those ‘wonder years,’ IHOP (The International House of Pancakes) was the favorite of just about every kid under the age of 12. Chocolate chip pancakes! Six types of syrup! Belgian waffles! Holy cow! AND it was “international”. I remember being intrigued by the Swiss style roof and the waitresses costumes. That’s as close as I got to foreign travel for many years. There were two locally: one in Elmwood and one in Bloomfield. The Elmwood location was next to Robert Hall Clothing. According to the venerable Wikipedia, the Robert Hall chain closed in 1977. This location was turned into a ShoeTown. So despite the 1960’s vintage car in front of the store, I will guess the photo was taken in the mid to late 70s. BTW – chocolate chip pancakes were my favorite (topped with cherry syrup). It’s ironic that most dentists I know have a wicked ‘sweet tooth’!”

“It was always sticky….” said Sharon Brewer.

“We use to buy french fries to go at IHOP as we walked to St. Brigid’s for CCD on early release Wednesday!” recalled Brigid Rice Gunn.

Jennifer Mullen Main said, “I loved it there !!! I loved when Charley’s Place was across the street (after Joshua Tree left)!

“We’d go there after getting shoes from Shoe Town right next door. My dad always challenged their claim of the ‘Never-ending Coffee Pot!’ wrote Al Fichman. “Also right across the street was my favorite, rowdiest steak house/Irish pun, Brock’s!” he added.

Many of our readers recalled shopping at Shoe Town, especially for back-to-school shoes. Some other firsthand memories include:

Melissa Colonese “I was a hostess at the IHOP until they wouldn’t give me time off for beach weekend after Conard’s senior prom in 1983, so I had to quit…”

Vincent Castagno: “The IHOP was filthy!!! The one AND ONLY time my wife and I went there my wife’s shoe literaly stuck to the floor due to the sticky stuff on the floor, YUK! She literaly had to rip her shoe off the floor with her hand.”

Kevin Larkin: “I remember that in the late 60’s not sure of the year it was the first time I saw a phone that had push button numbers (the public wall hung phone) versus the rotary dials we had at home…”

Michael Schuman: “This thread got me wondering. Who would order veal parmigiana at an IHOP? Yet it was always on the menu.”

Amanda May Houle: “I worked at the shoe town next door as a teenager in the eighties. That’s where I first met my husband!”

“And after Shoe Town was Anderson-Little men’s clothing,” commented Susan Wiley.

Thank you to Jeff Murray, for capturing an image of these buildings today, for a side-by-side comparison!

Courtesy Jeff Murray

Courtesy Jeff Murray

And finally, a confession from Dwight Owen Schweitzer: “Oh Oh…Out comes the bad boy in me…That IHOP stood (or stands) at the corner of south Main St. & New Britain Ave. Well, one morning I was returning from New York with a friend on I-91 and as my car (a Jensen Intercepter at the time) passed under the bridge with Ch. 30’s Hq on my left, just ahead on the right was a speed trap.I saw 4 or 5 cars had been stopped by the State Police as my radar detector went off. I suspect I was doing about 80 MPH in the far left lane when an officer waived me over. I don’t honestly know what overcame me. There was a semi on my right which soon was between me and the officer. I floored the car and made for the highway exit up ahead at South Main. As I was going up the ramp I saw a state police car was chasing me. Well, to make a long story short I took a right on So. Main, a left on NB Ave and quickly turned into the parking lot at IHOP, and watched the police car whizzing by behind me heading east on New Britain A.venue. My friend was somewhere between shocked and amazed, and I felt like I had just exited a war zone without a scratch. Not my best behavior to be sure, but at the time, it was nothing less than exhilarating!”

Courtesy Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society

Courtesy Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society

I’m not sure we can top last week’s conversation, but this week’s photo (at right and in larger size below) is also one that should stir up some memories.

Where was this?

What year was the photo taken?

What is in this space now?

Please share your memories below.

Thank you to the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society for providing us with the images. They are always looking for new images to add to the collection. Visit their website atwww.noahwebsterhouse.orgfor more information about membership and programs.

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Courtesy Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society

Courtesy Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society

Courtesy Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society

IHOP and Shoe town were located at the northeast corner of the intersection of New Britain Avenue and South Main Street. Courtesy Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society

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  • That’s the intersection of Prospect Ave and the Boulavard. Currently home to a medical care center, CVS, couple of small restaurants among others. Formerly this also was the site of West Coast Video..

  • Grocery store was located on the corner of Boulevard and Prospect Ave. It was a Shop Rite Store and at one time called Motts. CVS is there now.

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