More Menlo Park memories get dusted off

by Linda Hubbard on December 8, 2012

Our post from Laura Pitchford who shared memories of downtown Menlo Park “back in the day” prompted a number of readers to email us. Here’s a sampling:

From Tricia Young:

“The first Round Table Pizza opened right there on El Camino where it is today, and an Italian man with thinning white hair would throw the pizza dough high over his head in the large front window!

“A & W Root Beer was where Jason’s is today on El Camino…Madam Marla Palm Reader next to the Red Carpet Car Wash (now Duckys)…Johnny’s Smoke Shop next to Fosters Freeze…Rosanne’s Dance Studio on El Camino.

“Alec’s, the first discount store ever on the Peninsula, is where the old Safeway used to be ( now a variety of shops since they put the new Safeway in). After school I would work at Alec’s in the wig department for a lady named Rena.”

parade on Santa Cruz Avenue in the 1950s

From Mary Kuechler:

“Remember Don’s Hobby Shop and Ingersoll Photography?  Building where Keplers/Cafe Borrone now stands. And of course, the old Keplers.

“How about the Menlo Cinema, which I think then became Su Hongs first location, now Left Bank?

“Nice that Ann’s Coffee Shop is still there.  Menlo Florist across from Preuss. Children’s Bootery, later that became that Swiss Bakery, now LB Steakhouse.

“Ah, thanks for the mentions of Menlo Camera and Toy & Party and the Pink Pastry. Stevens the fabric store was pretty awesome, and your story starter, Prein’s. Wow! Was Preins’ also the electronics store that sold the RCA TVs?

“The Hippo became the Gap, now the mattress store.

“Oh, and there was a great sporting good store over near the post office, where we used to get our swim team suits each year (now that physical therapy place)

“Draegers and the Wells Fargo seem to still anchor it all.  Oh, and when Applewood was Village Host Pizza.  Mmmm.

“Thanks for the memories!  What a GREAT little city.”

Santa Cruz Ave in the 1960s

From Carol Jorgenson Mince:

“My strongest [Menlo Park memory] on was when Joe Priens Record store tossed wooden nickels all over town. You found the right one and you got a free 45!   Then there were the great listening booths with the holey acoustical board on the walls.

“[Still remember] the polka dot paper from all the presents wrapped at Toy and Party… Anderson’s shoes, and of course Duca and Hanley groceries.. carnival in downtown Santa Cruz Ave.  Don’s Hobby shop near Menlo Station was where I bought my rubber spongy trees for my ‘mission’.”

Photos of downtown Menlo Park, Menlo Camera (top) and parade on Santa Cruz (middle), Santa Cruz Ave in the 1960s (bottom) courtesy of Menlo Park Historical Association



Barbara December 08, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Don’t forget Jiffy Burger! Best little burger stand ever!

Lucy Foster April 18, 2014 at 8:58 am

Where was Jiffy Burger? I just loved their burgers and shakes!

rod pommes April 18, 2014 at 10:31 am

Lucy, that would be in the area just so. of Café Baronne, there was a little alley between what is now or was BBC and Don’s hobby shop and the Chevy used car lot on the corner of Ravenswood, also an arts and craft store. 19cent hamburgers in a yellow wrapper, good fries, way cheaper than Marquads and better parking, good old days for sure!!

Phil Noelke March 22, 2019 at 1:43 pm

Jiffy Burgers! First to Johnny’s smoke shop to get a Cream Soda, talk to the shoe shine guy and then to Jiffys!

Leslie McLaren July 13, 2019 at 9:17 pm

how many baseball/football? school age games did we watch and the pop on over to Jiffy Burgers? Rod Pommes hmmm baseball player I believe!

JOHN MERCER April 18, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Jiffy Burger??? On El Camino / 1/2 block south of Santa Cruz Ave.

Remember Fries: 11 cents / Burger 24 Cents!!! Get a great bag of grease for a couple of bucks!!!!

Richard Sumner December 10, 2012 at 5:54 pm

I lived in Menlo Park from 1944 to 1960, and then moved on to Palo Alto. But just wanted to say that I knew Joe Prein–he was a great guy, very nice to me. He sold me my first television set in 1960, and we used to go in there and play records. As a teenager, I worked at the Sunshine Market, shown in your photo. I also remember Ciardella’s Market, Consumer’s Market, Ducca and Hanley, Menlo Hardware when it was on the corner of Santa Cruz and El Camino, and I well remember Ann, of Ann’s Coffee Shop(boom-boom!) There was Derry’s Feed and Fuel on Oak Grove, Jerry’s store for Men, Mrs. Minor’s Bakery, Menlo House across from Johnny’s Smoke shop, around the corner from the Menlo Funeral home which faced the train station. Sprouse Reitz, and believe it or not, there was a bar called “The Bucket of Blood” at the lower part of Santa Cruz Avenue, across from the train station! The old police station became the British Banker’s Club, East West Books was on that same stretch before they moved to El Camino and then Mountain View, and Whole Earth Catalog. Central School became Rector Cadilac, Borden’s Creamery, and the Park Theater when it was a vacant lot. Oh Boy, I could go on and on!

Bob birchett May 18, 2017 at 12:43 pm

Hey Richard ,
Don’t forget Central school where Sheppard Cadillac moved in.

Bob birchett May 18, 2017 at 1:03 pm

Also Andersons shoes before it became Andersons was Hogans Shoes.

Jym December 11, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Somewhere I’ve heard that before Bill Larson opened his first Round Table Pizza (1959?), he worked across El Camino in another restaurant making pizzas. Does anyone know the name of that place and it’s exact location?

I came to Menlo Park in 1975 when the Menlo Cinema was still operating. It’s entrance was on Doyle St. Next door on Santa Cruz was a small Chinese Restaurant called Yueng Yang, which had a handy 2nd entrance from the rear parking lot. Eventually the restaurant owners acquired the theater and rebuilt it into a grand Yueng Yang Restaurant, keeping the old smaller space for their take out operation. Su Hong’s, which opened on El Camino some time in the 1980s, was never at the Menlo Cinema location. After the Yueng Yang owners retired, the theater building was again rebuilt, this time as Left Bank. The original Yueng Yang space next door is now Harvest Furniture.

Skip January 25, 2015 at 2:40 pm

I worked for Bill Larson at Round Table. The original restaurant was known as ol’ number one before it was purchased back from the man who’d bought it from Bill.
There was a bit of a celebration when it was reacquired.
The story I’d heard was Bill learned the trade at the Gaslight in San Mateo and refined his skills at Big Al’s Gashouse, also in San Mateo.
His idea was that he wanted restaurants with a family atmosphere that were a little more intimate than Shakey’s or Me ‘n Ed’s.
I would venture his plan worked.

mp native December 12, 2012 at 8:12 am

Not as old a memory as the rest, but Shaw’s Ice Cream Parlor was where Applewood to go is now — gave out free ice cream on John Naber Day- olympic swimmer. He flew in on a helicopter, landed at Burgess.

Jym December 14, 2012 at 11:01 am

A couple days ago I was talking to a couple old-timers, friends, who grew up in Menlo Park. They both remember that before he opened his first Round Table Pizza (the one here in Menlo Park), Bill Larson was driving a delivery truck for Coca Cola. This doesn’t explain where Larson learned to make pizzas.

Harry Smith March 05, 2013 at 5:54 am

Lived at 1142 Chestnut St 1940-47. During labor shortage during war, delivered mail downtown route and two other bicycle routes. Worked for John Rodriguez at Menlo Garage. Mrs Giardelli saw a newspaper picture of Marines at Guadalcanal and swore one was her son. Sold War Savings Bond stamps while in 8th grade at Central every Thursday morning. We had a large chart of a B-17 bomber and colored it in as we collected money. Many memories including Japanese family who lived next to us in duplex who were shipped off to relocation camp. But, at the time, anyone resembling a Japanese was risking life and limb being seen in public.

Gen X March 28, 2013 at 12:39 am

Joe Prein passed away in the mid eighties but I still have those famous wooden nickels to this day, it is good to hear what they were used for- thanks Carol.

JOHN MERCER March 28, 2013 at 4:42 pm

I lived in Menlo Park from 1953-2007!
I had a Paper Route (M.P. Recorder) and once a week
would get my “Pay Envelope” and head directly to McFarlanes
Ice Cream!
Remember Plaza Days”? When they completed a parking lot
the town would put on a Carnival on Santa Cruz Avenue – I was on on plane ride, and trying to get it to go faster (?) took a big chip out of my front tooth-
confirmed when I ran into Sprouts-Ritz (sp?) to look in a mirror!
Great town to grow up in!!!!

Dennis Rodeen June 12, 2015 at 1:38 pm

I remember the days-
the Hippo, Jiffy Burger, Fosters, young life, the Busy B (before the Dutch Goose)
what a great place to grow up!

Bob birchett May 18, 2017 at 12:47 pm

Dennis ,
Are you the Dennis that could tell what beer brand it was just by the taste ?

Bob Hadeler March 28, 2013 at 7:04 pm

I lived in Menlo Park from 1950 to 1965. As mentioned before by many, a great place to grow up. I would get my clothes at Van de Sands, hang out at Meno Cyclery. Both on Santa Cruz Ave. Although the name escapes me, remember the sporting good store?

Rod Pommes March 29, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Sporting goods store, Shreves was on Oak grove ave. Jerry’s store for men had the best cloths.

JOHN MERCER March 29, 2013 at 5:45 pm

HAD!!!! Shreves – on Oak Grove???????? You could get anything there!!!!

JOHN MERCER March 29, 2013 at 5:46 pm

HAD!!!! Shreves – on Oak Grove???????? You could get anything there!!!! YO!

Leslie McLaren March 30, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Thank you Patty Wagner for forwarding me this site! Hey to all the familiar Menlo ittes…or however you spell Menlo Park folks! Hi to Linda who lived what, five doors down? from us on Hillview Drive? I’m having lunch with Linda Cahn and Bea Cahn and Pat Porter on Tuesday…how’s that for a blast from the past? Yep, Shreve’s was the BEST as was it Hirzels where all the id bracelets came from?

Larry Roberts August 23, 2013 at 9:03 pm

I’m the son of Denny David Roberts, he was a police officer in Menlo Park California around 1968 to about 1972, if anyone has any photos or newspaper articles I would appreciate it.

Clive Roberts May 14, 2018 at 6:52 pm

I have some photos I took in 1968 or 1969 of Menlo Oark Pilice Officers and I believe one is of your dad.

Philip Peters August 18, 2014 at 8:27 am

Hello all I’d like to invite you to join my facebook page “Do you remember the old Menlo Park”. Please log onto facebook and join us! This is the direct link:

Trudi Barnes November 20, 2014 at 8:50 am

I have lived here (still do) since 1976. I remember there was Chelsea Water Bed store right where the new Keplers is now. Also, I think there was Jeff’s Jeans either in the BBC building or where the mattress store it.

I also remember before any stores like Blockbuster were around, there was a little mom and pop shop (sold VCR’s) and rented movies. It was on Oak Grove at the corner of the Maloney Street (the little street that goes to the back of the postoffice).

This is not an old memory, but I really LOVED having Arby’s right next to Cooks Seafood. The building is still there and there was talk of Cook’s opening it up… but it just sits there.

I REALLY wish Su Hong would open back up on El Camino but the rumor is that there is a ‘family matter’ that is keeping that from happening.


Philip Peters January 25, 2015 at 8:31 am

Hey all I’v made a face book page dedicated to memories of old Menlo called “Do you remember the old Menlo Park”. Please join, all are welcome!

Rochelle Winston Davies January 25, 2015 at 9:22 am

I was born at the old Hoover Hospital in 1948 and ‘moved’ to Menlo Park 3 days later. I went to Willow Elementary, Menlo Oaks Jr. High and M-A, class of ’66. What a wonderful city to grow up in!! Great schools, safe neighborhoods with so much to do…..Swimming and teen dances at Burgess Park, fast food at Jiffy Burgers, Foster Freeze and Howatts, shopping at Stevens Fabric Center and going for ice cream at
Shaws. My friends and I rode our bicycles everywhere and our parents could allow us to walk to school without worrying something untoward woukd happen. A dozen or more “mother’s eyes” keeping a watch on us as we wandered from home to our friend’s houses and playing in
San Francisquito Creek……wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.

rita gilmer altig September 14, 2018 at 11:22 am

are you karen’s sister? went to willow school also. the winstons lived on menalto ave.

Rochelle Winston Davies April 23, 2019 at 3:04 pm

Yes Rita, I am. Karen is my middle sister. While my parents are now deceased, both Karen and Donna are still alive and doing well.

Roy McCanless April 27, 2015 at 2:34 pm

Yes Menlo was a great town to live in from 1952-2002 retired and moved out had alot of friends played alot of softball there at middle Rd. and swimming at flood park .

nancy wand March 07, 2016 at 9:47 am

Does anyone remember any of the businesses that were on the short half street between Oak Grove and Santa Cruz which is now a couple of restaurants? Its just past the post office. During the 70s and 80s it was kind of in disrepair.

Phil Chabot March 20, 2016 at 6:23 pm

I was eating a chocolate éclair…. haven’t had one for years. It brought back a childhood memory from the mid 1960’s when I would go to Alec’s on El Camino in Menlo Park. A highlight was to buy a chocolate éclair that was sold there. It cost 50 cents and was a lot of silver for a 9 rear old in the 60’s, but well worth it!! The store had everything imaginable, from musical instruments to a “Tube Testing Station” where we would test old tubes in our never ending quest to bring an old radio or television back to life. Parking was in the basement and you would walk up a long ramp and into the store…. That in itself was cool. As a kid it was a fun and exciting place to go… A great memory of an era long gone!

Renee Primack December 19, 2018 at 1:44 pm

I remember riding my bike down that ramp at crazy speeds hoping no car got in my way!

Peggie Jones April 13, 2017 at 10:55 am

My mom, Jacque Anderson, worked at Steven’s Fabrics while I was in high school…I loved that store! Later, she worked for our friend Ed Dixson at his beautiful dress shop up the street, Dixson’s.

chuck Bush October 11, 2018 at 2:26 pm

Grew up in MP in the early and later 50’s and sixties and was, recently reading at this site, of old business’ in Menlo. Looked for, but never saw a mention of the old ‘Johnnies Smoke Shop’, just a parking lot East of Foster’s Freeze. Now that was an education by itself, the smoke shop was, that is. I think you could get about anything you wanted there and I mean ‘anything’!! Kind of a creepy place, but they did have, cheap cigarettes. What a time that was. What a different life we have now, eh? Life does take some turns as we plod along, but it’s all part of it….

Some great and dear memories of life in those carefree days.. How time fugits, eh?

C. Bush
Sonora, Ca., 95370

John Hafner December 15, 2018 at 9:06 am

Loved Menlo..first job was selling peanuts at Stanford Football Games one season..University Barbers next to Children’s Bootery.. Pat Smith’s dad owned..Joselyn’s Bike Store next to Toy and Party..”Blinky” from Menlo Bike and Key..Officer John Lyle shot and killed in Draegers Parking lot, heard the shots while I was on Redwood City Tribune paper route, taken from Laurie Mattison..Buying baseball cards at Sprouse Reitz .. playing pinball in back room at Round Table Pizza..Park Theatre On Saturday afternoons listening to Michael Angelo yell “terret induced obscenities”..putting pennies to flatten on railroad tracks..A&W Root Beer.. teen burgers..Bill Mumford’s Junk Yard behind Johnny’s Smoke Shop..eating four hamburgers on opening day of the Hippo Restaurant..( they were free)..floating on Lake Laganitas in summer, and then the Stanford Bonfire every year..Fourth of July Fireworks at Menlo Circus Club Polo Field..big giant deep hole where St. Raymond’s Church was erected..Apple Pancakes at Ken’s House of Pancakes..”Rumbles” at Jiffy Burger on a Friday nite..Tony Ramirez reading comic books at Johnnies..
Ahh, Bill, the Shoeshiner at Johnny’s Smoke Shop..!!! The best..when he was done, would walk to the bus stop at the corner and ride back to SSF and come back the next day..Best Chilhood Ever

Craig February 20, 2019 at 4:59 pm

John- Don’t know you but I am confident our paths past sometime. I really enjoyed your summary of your days in Menlo. I lived in neighboring Atherton but spent more time in Menlo Park. As a kid I too went to the Park Theater and experienced Michael (S%$T, F#$K, PISS) out breaks during the matinee’s. I remember the shooting at Dreagers but did not know the circumstances. I knew Laurie Mattison and his brother. Did you happen to play any little league or babe ruth ball in Menlo?

Mike Lawlor February 20, 2020 at 8:36 pm

Well said John, great memories.
Mike Lawlor

Brian Ferrin February 18, 2019 at 4:50 am

Family moved to Menlo around 1960, where my father was a fireman from 1948 to 1979. Willow School, Menlo Oaks. Shreve Sport Shop, Don’s Hobby Shop, Ken’s House of Pancakes. Our family Dr., Leland C. Burrill was next to Don’s (became BBC) before moving up to Oak Grove. Used to go to Menlo Auto Parts with dad when he tinkered with his car. Madame Marla Palmistry, where my ‘band’s’ guitarist lived, Steve Adams. Weird place. First job Menlo Park Recorder, then Howatt’s BBQ on Middlefield. Dance and etiquette class at Reilly’s studio.
But it was mostly about swim team at Ad Janes on Willow.
Menlo Park…idyllic place to be a kid.

Robert Valdez April 26, 2020 at 10:55 am

hi Brian – don’t remember you but used to hang sometimes with your brother Wayne. I remember your dad and Wayne quite a bit – we lived at 207 Concord 1963-1971. I always went to Menlo Auto Parts, as did my dad. They always had the right part for my ’56 Buick. Cheers.

Jan July 06, 2019 at 9:50 pm

Just saw all these fabulous memories pop up when I was searching for some long ago information. I lived in Menlo from 1947 until I left for college in 1961, then my name was Jan Regan. I adored my home town and couldn’t possibly chronicle all my favorite memories although I’ve seen many listed here.
Does anyone remember a clothing store on Santa Cruz Avenue that may have been near Duca & Handley’s? I think they sold children’s and maybe women’s clothing, but definitely children’s.
Wow, this has really taken me back to such happy days!!! My daughter lives there now, but it’s a very different place

John Hafner July 13, 2019 at 8:51 pm

Jan Regan.. did you live across from St. Raymond Church
If so, I remember you.. Anyway,?don’t remember clothing store, but maybe the Menlo Camera Shop has a picture of it… Yes, great little town back then, now, hhhmmmm, don’t miss it.. Techies are buying it up, tearing it down, rebuilding and the quiet town is no more.. beeping trucks backing up, blowers, workers parking up and down streets..shameful
But we have memories…

Patty (Thompson) Emert July 20, 2019 at 10:40 pm

I moved to Menlo Park around 1959. I went to Garfield elementary, Hoover School for Middle school, then M-A. We lived in incorporated Menlo Park. We loved Ken’s Pancakes, my mom, Aunt & Grandma had breakfast there almost every morning. I worked at Steven’s Fabrics for awhile when my kids were young, but always bought fabric in seeing classat M-A. I’ve heard people talk about Marquad’s Restaurant, but I don’t remember it; can anyone tell me where it was located? Do you guys Gayle’s Coffee shop on the corner of Santa Cruz Ave and El Camino? I loved that place and Ann’s Coffee Shop!!! Gayle’s made apple pancakes with cinnamon sugar on top. After highschool I worked at Sunset Magazine for four years until my son was born. I loved working there. I worked with Jeffra Glassey Smith, she also went to M-A. We had a great time! Breaks my heart they closed Sunset Magazine . Thank you everyone for be sharing your memories. I guess I need to come home to Menlo Park to see what it’s like; likely it will break my heart. This June would have been my 50th highschool graduation anniversary. Geez, how did I get this old!

Mike Lawlor February 20, 2020 at 8:38 pm

Well said John, great memories.
Mike Lawlor

Rochelle Winston Davies December 04, 2019 at 6:11 pm

Does anyone have the class picture for the Kindergarten class of ’54, Willow Elementary – MIss (or Mrs.) Smith I believe was the teacher.

CHARLES WERTHEIMER January 19, 2020 at 11:50 am

Carlos Cleaners? 60’s. I thought it was amazing when they would come to my house, pick up and drop off.

Cynthia House May 10, 2020 at 8:53 am

I grew up in Palo Alto and remember going to Howatt’s Hamburgers on Middlefield. Do you have any information on it and pictures?

Thank you

Tom kieninger May 29, 2020 at 9:27 am

Hello Parkies, grew up in Menlo Park in the late 60s and 70s. I’m still here today somehow. Great memories at Johnnie smoke shop playing pinball in the back shoeshine bill would pretend to be sweeping and knocked the plug out of the socket. Worked at the walnut tree for Mr. Jeffreys during high school as a cook. Patty, Mark quads was on the corner of Cambridge and El Camino south west corner. Are used to ride our bikes over there and look at all the cool cars pulling up. Good weekends at Burgess pool. Graduated from MA 1974 . Bought bicycle at Sugden and lynch Santa Cruz Ave. and took off for Europe for a year and a half. Worked at Ken’s House of pancakes. Those German pancakes were hard to make also great pinball machine at the round table. Walk across the street to A&W to get a mama burger. Walking along San Franciscquito Creek from El Camino to the Stanford golf course. I miss Menlo park the way it was. T.K

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