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Posted on Wednesday, December 09, 2015 - 6:01 am:   

Until he joined the Army Air Corps after the 12/7/1941 sneak attack on Pearl Harbor plunged the USA into World War II, my father was H&H Night Commissary Superintendent in New York City. He often brought home discarded shallow stacks of printing press overruns of cardboard strips about 4� wide. Each was scored in the middle to facilitate folding in half. Scores near each end folded in, and die-cuts hooked together to form the base of a tall, triangular table card for the Automat restaurants. Whatever dish was being promoted would boast a colorful pictorial ad on each slanting side. I used the blank backs for my primitive drawings with a thick-leaded pencil. Holes punched through two cards accommodated paper cotter pins which anchored articulated shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles for two cardboard playtime companions circa my height. One was a human skeleton, my buddy and MEMENTO MORI. The other�s Birth Certificate in Linz, Austria had read ADOLPHUS HITLER. For $5 Dad bought a surplus wooden chest measuring 29� wide, 18� long, and 14� high with a hinged lid and a stout handle on each end. Commissary personnel used these to ship big, cylindrical cartons of ice cream to Cafeterias and Retail Stores. At home in Westchester County, we Grade School kids painted this chest gray (�If it moves, salute it�) and stashed our toys inside. (Today I store computer stuff in it.)
Dad often brought twine-wrapped boxes home from an H&H Retail Store to provide �Less Work for [my] Mother�. During each Christmas season we employees� brats were invited to a Saturday party in a rented Manhattan theatre. We�d line up downstage left, clamber up the stairs, snake across midstage center to where Santa sat and gave each of us a toy in a big box, and then file down the other staircase to our seats. The organist sat at the console of (probably) a Wurlitzer Unit Pipe Organ with at least three manual keyboards. I was transfixed, little wotting that one day I would intoxicatedly study J. S. Bach�s Preludes & Fugues on that soul-expanding instrument with Concert Recitalist Arthur Howes. Behind Mr. Augustin Hardart�s dignified mien as Commodore of the NY (and part of the NJ) operations lurked the mischievous soul of a smudge-faced, beady-eyed street urchin. He dearly loved to perpetrate practical jokes on his unsuspecting lieutenants in top-tier corporate Management. The high quality and freshness of the H&H menu decade after decade was overseen by top executives at �Sample Table�, a frequent ritual to assure quality control. This was presided over by Mr. A. Hardart. Each V.P. or other decision-maker sat at his station at a stainless-steel table. He would be served a small saucer with a sample of a current or proposed dish and a spoon. Lip-smacking and judicious critiques ensued. A hole die-cut in the table top permitted emptying the uneaten portion from each dish into a garbage barrel lurking beneath the opening. Easing around behind these seated worthies focused on the food before them, Mr. Hardart quietly got down on all fours and crept, unnoticed, under Sample Table. Approaching the shins of an elderly executive laden with years and gravitas, Mr. H. crawled over on both knees and one hand, raising the inward-curling fingers of the other hand into a fierce claw. Suddenly uttering horrific wolf howling and growling, he sank his fingernails into the hapless victim�s calf. The poor old soul, startled out of a decade�s growth, �riz up� a foot off his chair and gave vociferous vent to exceeding great vocalizations of dismay, terror, and protest of this affront AD DIGNITATEM�to the ill-concealed delight of the usually August (albeit fun-loving) Czar Augustin, Emperor of All The Automats, Cafeterias, and Retail Stores. In company with relatives during my childhood, and alone in late adolescence & adulthood, I reveled in being a consumer, sharing the guileless wonder described by other young diners. My favorites included deep-dish beef & chicken pies with filling cooked in copper-lined, hemispherical, steam-jacketed kettles; Harvard beets; warm rolls and cocoa; rich whipped potatoes; and�most magical of all�creamed spinach. As each spoonful spread its high-butterfat delight across my tongue and olfactory sensors, my eternal soul was transfigured. Has this recipe survived? Thank you, Messers Horn & Hardart, and all your dedicated employees for evolving and maintaining this gustatory argosy and egalitarian social phenomenon until customers moved to the barphburbs, and profit-mad greasy spoons undermined your business plan and high standards of ingredients and your H&H family members� swift, ardent prep and delivery to a ravenous & grateful public. Including moi.
Posted on Saturday, January 05, 2013 - 11:48 pm:   

Was there ever a Horn and Hardart automat store in Newark, NJ
Posted on Thursday, February 09, 2012 - 3:31 pm:   

I worked at H&H from August 1969 to april 1971 at the sixth avenue and the Broadway locations with relief work at the 59th street locations. It was a lot of fun and most of all as a student, I was fed well
Posted on Thursday, February 09, 2012 - 3:28 pm:   

I worked at H&H from August 1969 to april 1971 at the sixth avenue and the Broadway locations with relief work at the 59th street locations. It aws a lot of fun and most of all as a student, I was fed well
Wanda Pruner
Posted on Saturday, August 15, 2009 - 7:17 pm:   

My grandma Wanda worked at the automat. I actually inherited a program of the "H & H 5th Annual Spring Dance of 1938" at the Commadore Hotel May 28. H & H EMP. Relief Assn'n. I've heard so many stories of that place in my lifetime. She ended being a meat carver before she left. Apparently that was "wow" there.
Posted on Sunday, July 05, 2009 - 10:42 pm:   

I worked one summer in Horn and Hardart's near Reading Terminal in Philly. At that time there were a number of Ukranian women working there and it was fun to learn the basic greetings that I still recall. My shift started at 4:00 p.m. and finished at 1:00 a.m. A notable fringe benefit allowed us to eat as much as we wanted with minor restrictions. After a ride on the Frankford "El" I arrived at 5th and Market and had the first meal before work, then had one at each of the two breaks we were allowed. After work at 1:00 a.m. many of us lingered and enjoyed yet another before riding the "El" home only to sleep and awaken well after noon to repeat the cycle.

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