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Eating Out on the Island... Memories (Part II)

Part 2 of Alameda memories triggered by the familiar tastes and smells of local restaurants.

In , I cited and as being a couple of the Alameda destinations that hadn’t changed their recipes in generations, and I noted the ancient memories that were triggered by tastes and smells from those restaurants.

While my memories here of the 1950s and 1960s may make it sound as if I pine for the old days, I much prefer the present, with so many more opportunities for healthful, good choices when dining out.

Recently, I asked a friend for a squirt of hand cream and what she had in her purse was Coppertone suntan lotion. What a flood of vivid memories that distinctive smell brought back! Summer days at “Rocky Beach” (before there were houses and a marina at Ballena Bay), running through the sprinkler with the neighbor kids and sitting on the roof of our house watching fireworks from the Naval Air Station.

Another institution on my list of memorable Alameda gustatory experiences is Tucker’s Super Creamed Ice Cream. While they’ve changed locations and owners, the ice cream (and the hand-lettered sign listing all of the flavors) is still the same.

The first couple of licks of Tucker’s strawberry brings back a sweet memory.

Despite Tucker’s array of offerings for some reason, my sister Ellen, cousin Paul and I only seemed to know about vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. We invented and strictly enforced the Tucker’s Rules: 1. each of us got a triple dip; 2. the flavors had to be arranged with the least favorite on the top and most favorite on the bottom (saving the best for last); 3. each cone had to look different.

Mine was easy: chocolate first, vanilla in the middle, and strawberry, my favorite, on the bottom.

But Ellen and Paul both preferred chocolate, so poor Mr. Tucker – napkin-wrapped cone in one hand, scoop ready in the other hand, bent at the waist over the freezer – waited patiently while they argued about who would get vanilla, then strawberry and who would get strawberry, then vanilla. I was almost finished with my cone by the time the two of them figured it out.

When was new, a shopping trip was not complete without a stop at the Woolworth Luncheonette. Most of the time we had steamed hot dogs or grilled cheese, but occasionally Ellen and I shared the turkey dinner plate. It was probably just processed turkey, canned yellow gravy and instant potatoes, but it came on a big oval platter and seemed to us an extravagant treat.

When Orange Julius arrived at South Shore we were enchanted by the frothy drink. Some people said that it was just powdered coffee creamer whipped up with orange juice. I don’t know, but we couldn’t get enough of Orange Julius

Lola’s Chicken Dinners was – I think you could legitimately call it a shack – on Alameda Avenue at Oak. They made pan-fried chicken that surpassed anything the Colonel ever came up with. McGee’s on Park Street has the recipe now. We only had Lola’s when the family had spent a day sailing on the bay or working in the yard. That fried chicken flavor brings back recollections of being a tuckered out, hungry kid ready to eat, and willingly go to bed early.

Ole’s Waffle Shop is another unchanged Alameda institution. I admit I don’t quite understand the line out the door most weekend days, but they do consistently serve a crisp, straightforward waffle in a nice coffee shop atmosphere. When I was in high school and college, I loved to sit at Ole’s counter with my dad, reading The Chronicle, not talking and drinking endless cups of coffee.

Lest you think that every bite I take sends me into a flurry of nostalgia, there is a flip side. I can always count on spearmint to bring up an unpleasant memory. When I was very young, a neighborhood boy, Dickie, gave me a piece of gum. I chewed it and swallowed it.

“Where’s your gum?” Dickie said.

“I ate it.”

“No, you’re supposed to chew it.” Dickie gave me another piece, which I chewed, then ate.

“No, you’re supposed to just chew it without swallowing,” Dickie said.

I didn’t get it. So Dickie kept unwrapping pieces until he’d given me every stick of gum in the pack.

I had a case of Wrigley’s Spearmint Indigestion that I remember to this day.

Share your memories in the comments.

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Craig Long January 30, 2012 at 10:07 AM
Grilled cheese at Woolworths...Oh the memories!!! I so miss Alameda Joes at Mels Bowl (now AMF Southshore bowl...no restaurant now, only empty space but the snack bar has been updated a bit). Sitting at the counter watching the cooks whip up pasta dishes, joes specials, chops,steaks, burgers and the likes. It inspired me to become a cook. Not too many years later, I was actually doing the same thing at Francheco's out near the airport. Those were the days...sigh...

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