Woody’s Gallery

Much of this weblog has been joyously devoted to one of my favorite now-defunct places to eat…Woody’s Smorgasburger.  Many former employees have chimed in to create a weblogged history of the chain, and the most vocal and interesting has been Phil Ankofski.  Recently, Phil sent me some photos of a diorama he has lovingly built of the Woody’s I most often frequented, the one in Culver City.  I’ll be posting Phil’s photos here along with some other pics he’s contributed, and I’m sure he’ll be along to offer commentary.  Please join in.  Here’s the first pic he sent of his remarkable reconstruction…


156 Responses to Woody’s Gallery

  • Gordon Ross says:

    I worked at the Topanga Canyon and Victory Blvd. WOODY’s and THANK the manager for hiring me. My family had moved to Europe just one year prior and my father abandoned the family while there. Since I was the only American citizen, the consulate repatriated me, something I longed to do as I was an American and wanted to be in America. My job was to get enough money made (at 16 years old) to send to my mother in Germany and get HER back and then we would work to get my sister back. When seeking hire there, I told the manager this and he hired me on the spot. Sometime soon thereafter he saw I was a ‘go-getter’ and promoted me to shift manager, a job held until I left as the family finally came together and we got an apartment in Tarzana, which was too far for me (no car yet). I don’t remember names or faces, but do remember the kindness of that manager and thank WOODY’S for doing a great thing when a great need arose.

    Can ANYONE tell me more about that Woody’s? When it closed, why, etc. I remember as an adult the one in El Stinko (local name for El Segundo)…loved that Woodys until IT closed. Be well all, and THANKS.

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    For Chrisp,

    While repainting my daughters bedroom, this idea came to mind :

    Why not petition the city fathers in El Segundo to designate the
    El Segundo store as a Registered Historic Building !!
    It is now 52 years old and should qualify.

    The great thing is that your name would also be on the plaque commemorating your 34 years there.
    Also, thousands of folks would learn that you indeed had the last laugh
    over an issue with a CC manager. This would be priceless !

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    For Lunker,

    Yes, the potato salad was very popular …… and not as controversial
    as the potato salad at Cassell’s. Fries did not appear at Woody’s until
    Charles Cramer and Chris Pingel took over in 1971. Bless em’ .

    A few of us guys do have pix’s of the El Segundo store and until they get posted ( ?? ) , the following info may tide you over.
    Google map service ( street view ) offers a fabulous view of the El Segundo store although it is now a IHOP store.
    The current owner invested a boat load of $$$$ with interior and exterior
    renovations. If you are anywhere close it is worth the drive to see it.
    If not , punch in 755 N. Sepulveda Blvd, ~ El Segundo , CA ~ Google maps ~
    Enjoy the memories !

  • Lunker says:

    hey Phil, thanks for the woody’s history lesson! my parents started taking me there in the late 60s. the thing i remember most was the potato salad that came in a yellow plastic dish-did they even serve fries?-i don’t believe so. for some reason i can’t seem to find a pic of the El Segundo woody’s on here…at least not a shot of the outside of the building.
    thanks again!

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    Sixty years ago, during a summer month in 1955, bulldozers and contractors arrived at 5529 S. Sepulveda Blvd. to begin the site preparation for the brand new Woody’s SmorgasBurger. For the next 30 years patrons enjoyed the
    flame broiled offerings of Ralph Wood, Charles Cramer and Chris Pingel.

    In 1985 big changes occurred when Chris Pingel took many deep breaths
    and began planning the change over to a brand new El Pollo Loco store
    to replace his Woody’s. Flame broiling would still be featured, only now it would be Mexican style chicken for the NEXT 30 years. Patrons love it !

    Here is a toast to the memories of those heady times.

    Phil Anlofski

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    I hear ya Phil….”too few of the old guys around”. Certainly some have passed… out of the area geographically or ethereally wise “over the years”. Alas, I was also trying to reach out to bring in some Guests who might enjoy getting some reveries* stirred up coming in as kids/teens. As such, I’ve since sent a similar blurb off to The Daily Breeze and LA Times.

    * As a kid in MA, I always thought there was a bit of ‘mystere’ going for a Sunday afternoon dinner in what some might say was a roadhouse (they had D-i-Y hot rods racing on a dirt track out back some nights…LOL) with its knotty pine panelled walls and noted for its ‘fried chicken’ where my Dad’s trick was to get the order to to be served by lighting a Lucky Strike!!! Elsewise, there was something special after a record hop to go for a Lobstah(sic) Roll or order of Fried Clams in a real “Diner” (e.g. http://tinyurl.com/l56syk9 ) or at an oranged roofed Howard Johnsons!

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    Hi there Bobber,

    I applaud your efforts with the newspaper , but I fear they will have the same problem we have here; to few of the older guys around.
    A newsman would want to talk to the original source like Mr.Wood or our own Mr. Chris Pingel. The Daily Breeze should be a good bet.

    You can send anything ” Brian Wilson ” my way each day of the week and six times on Sunday. His current Brian Wilson band is 1000 times more accomplished than the currrent Beach Boy’s band.


  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    Yo, Per Chris’ 11/10 Comment, perhaps Phil/Chris might want to pass this or something similar on to other newspapers.

    I just sent this off to The Beach Reporter which covers Redondo/Hermosa/Manhattan/El Segundo:

    Hi Dudes and Dudettes!

    About 4:45 PM in the Spring of ’63 at the corner of Vista del Mar and PCH, we’d look out the front window over Hollywood Riviera to the blue Pacific and shout “Surf’s Up!!!” to get ready for the lines to form of hungry surfers as we hummed, and lest You forgot the words: http://tinyurl.com/m2zgbd8

    Lest you need a ‘filler’:

    There is a guy who has set up a website/blog focusing on long gone restaurants of LA & Environs, e.g. The Brown Derby, Scandia, Chaisson’s, C. C. Brown’s, Ship’s Coffee Shop, The Captain’s Table etc.

    Specifically regarding your coverage area, Woody’s SmorgasBurger is featured, which was a…actually The… Place to go in the ’60s in El Segundo on PCH and Redondo/Hollywood Riv (where KISS’ Rock & Brews now sits on its footprint) with several locations elsewhere, e.g. Culver City, WestWood Village, Woodland Hills, LA etc.

    (Do you know that SNL’s Phil Hartman once worked in Redondo or that a Culver City High Schooler, whose Great-Uncle founded Mabelline, http://www.sharriewilliamsauthor.com/, enjoyed putting Thousand Island & Chopped Peanuts on her SmorgasBurger with her CCHS “Saffron” club Girly-Girls in CC?)

    Originator Mr. Wood, of PV and founder of Admiral Risty “up” there as well, and his compadries had ventured to provide several other types of dining enjoyments in the environs over the years.

    My thought/hope/suggestion is that you might report on the site/blog for some of your readers to revive some fond memories in their family or dating lives as well as they can comment right on the site, or other particular restaurants, about what they enjoyed. Please go here http://tinyurl.com/k6rx4xy Please note there are actually 3 “pages” and a Gallery page for Woody’s due to so many interactions having been made with regard to Woody’s!

    For other places, click on the choices on the Left; click on restaurants on the Right for most recent Comments.

    Any Questions and


  • chris pingel says:

    Good morning all.
    Please, again, welcome to anyone, old customers, past employees, anyone that has an interest in the history of Woody’s Smorgasburgers from the 50’s, 60,s, 70’s or 8o’s, PLEASE, PLEASE leave your comments or questions.
    We love to hear from anyone.

  • Phil Ankofski and Chris Pingel says:

    For the days of Woody’s and the Helm’s Bakery ~

    Not too many of you were impressed by the diorama, but for Bob and and Mark, I have a great update. Around May of this year I located a Canadian company which makes a resin model kit of the Helm’s Bakery Truck .
    It is made in the necessary HO scale. The company does not deal with the public so I had placed the order with a local hobby store.

    The hobby store had to wait until they built up a minimum order before submitting it to the Canadian firm. Anyway, I will be getting it in a day or two.
    I am thinking this will be the last piece I will ever need to buy, unless I can locate a 1957 Ford convertible in the HO scale.

    Have a great week !

  • Phil Ankofski and Chris Pingel says:

    Good morning Readers !

    This posting should be the 700th comment from the combined four sites that Mark Evanier has devoted to Woody’s SmorgasBurger. Thank you Mark !
    Chris and I share the same level of interest in maintaining and enhancing the Woody’s legacy. While my tenure came in at four years, Chris maintained the Woody’s banner for THIRTY FIVE YEARS !

    Our shared appreciation goes out to Mark and all the Commenters who have made this number so meaningful.

    What lies ahead ? God only knows.
    All our best,
    Phil Ankofski and Chris Pingel

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    A note on the Mike Thomas book ; It is a biography on the life and times of Phil Hartman. It does mention that Phil and his friend hired in with Woody’s but no further info. ( page 31 )

  • Chris Pingel says:

    Any ex managers remember going to the restaurant convention in downtown Los Angeles?
    We went as a group, it was always fun and interesting and always lots of free samples of new food items.
    I believe Mr. Wood was the President of the Restaurant Association at the time.
    We could see the latest equipment and get ideas to bring back too.
    It would be nice to hear from some old managers and I mean old managers.
    Have a nice evening.

  • Chris Pingel says:

    Did you all know that Martinos baked our brownies for Mr. Wood using pans made especially for Woody’s so the brownies would be the same size.
    We used to heat the brownies in the microwave and put vanilla ice cream on top. They were fantastic.
    Take care,

  • Chris Pingel says:

    I know why Culver City dropped in sales. When they opened the Bob’s Big Boy 2 blocks away in the late 60’s sales fell off dramatically and never came back.
    Bob’s, at that time, was extremely popular (BIG BOY COMBO 99 cents). At that time they were pretty good, but nothing like our Smorgasburger. To this day I have never had a burger even close to the quality of ours.
    I can still remember when I would come in to open I would make myself a 1/2 pound King Swiss extra rare and I would put freshly made tomato salsa with a few extra onions (dehydrated in those days) and eat it with an ice cold mug of rootbeer. When we took over we kept the salsa but we had fresh onions.
    What a treat.
    I used to have the Mr. Wood’s secret recipe for the beef blend from Patman Meat Co. I only wish I knew where it was now.
    Anyway, now that I’ve made myself hungry I gotta go.
    Take Care ChrisP

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    For the days of Woody’s and Phil Hartman ~

    We all knew and loved Phil Hartman from his fabulous tenure on Saturday Night Live and many, many TV commercials.
    A few of us came to know him more personally when he was a part time lineman at The Woody’s Redondo Beach store in 1967 /68 .
    Phil was a student at one of the nearby community colleges at the same time.

    Mike Thomas has authored a new book : ” You Might Remember Me ”
    I have just received my copy from Amazon so I cannot give you an opinion.
    Phil was very much a ” sparkplug ” amidst our crew and he mimicked John Wayne more than he used his regular speaking voice.

    We all miss you Phil Hartman. May God bless us all.
    Phil Ankofski

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    Woody’s SmorgasBurger and The House of the Rising Sun , Redondo ~

    A lyric from Bob;
    ” and the answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind ”

    We have talked now for more than two years now on what made Woody’s great, different and successful for many years.
    For whatever reasons the business model stopped being profitable around
    1967. The four stores ( W Hills , Westwood, Orange, and Tustin ) which soon followed were all under performers. Why ? New competition around every corner of course. But the rest of the story is nailed by Dylan.

    Well it’s Saturday ….. and as Stew Clay used to sing; ” everybody loves Saturday night ……. even the ol Rooster in the Hen house loves Saturday
    night. ”

    This will be my last ” shotgun ” comment for today. I do plan on returning tomorrow. Wonder if anyone else will show ………..

    Phil Ankofski

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    For the days of CARWOOD and Woody’s SmorgasBurger ~

    From day one in 1956, CARWOOD INC. was set up as the legal umbrella entity under which SmorgasBurger Inc. and other restaurant ventures functioned. It was set up in Redondo Beach , CA. ~ 1956 ~
    The name was derived from the last names of uncle Charles Cramer ( CAR ) and nephew Ralph Wood Jr.

    To my knowledge , CARWOOD INC. exists to this very day with the Admiral Risty Restaurant being the only remaining subsidiary company.The current address shows a location in the Golden Cove Shopping Center.
    Because of Mr. Woods age and health issues, I would assume that his daughter administers the CARWOOD entity under a power of attorney.

    I would think Mr. Charles Cramer would have bowed out or was bought out of CARWOOD in the 1970’s when he was selling his other assets. ( #1 & #7).
    This sentence is pure conjecture on my part, but it makes sense as Mr. Cramer was nearing 80 years old at the time and Ralph Wood had three sons participating in different CARWOOD ventures and operations.

    When the day comes to sell or close the Admiral Risty, CARWOOD , INC.
    may very well cease to exist as well after 60 plus years.

    That’s todays history lesson guys.

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    ‘Should’ve worked Fri/Sat nites!’ Yo, you’d be missing who you canoodle with today especially if you had “soldiered on” in pursuing Blond Sharrie http://tinyurl.com/lb9v5yc despite her giving the filled-in Birthday App to someone else! Per a spate of 10 second TV ads for several new Mabelline products about 3 weeks ago, I emailed Sharrie urging her to look into gathering a few old CCHS Saffrons to suggest the Company use them in some ads given how well she appears to have “kept” herself http://tinyurl.com/mkfmvrh She said she just might do that. What a hoot that would be! If I get any feedback it might happen, I’ll suggest she work in a reference such as “I’m sure wearing our Mabelline mascara as Culver City High School Saffrons must have inspired Phil, the manager of Woody’s, to burst into signing “Can’t take my eyes off of you” http://tinyurl.com/khf2qtd as he got all our Smorgasburgers sizzling!!!”
    ~ “NEVER a single problem…” Ya, good luck with that today!
    ~ Ya, I have regrets re a Kathy too, but an M. Dang it, she’s still married.

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    Would anyone else remember Helen who was the bookkeeper , banker and secretary for Woody’s up until the very late 60’s ?
    She started her day by doing the money change outs in the safes at several locations. I knew Helen because she serviced the CC store with bags of freshly rolled coin for the register. She would also clean out the bottom of the safe where our daily deposits were made and then place all that cash in the trunk of her car. Talk about an opportunity for an ” inside job ” robbery !

    I remember Mr. Cramer performing the same function for the Redondo and El Segundo stores. I now assume that Mr. Cramer lived close by
    in PV or Redondo and made these stops on his way into the office in CC.

    Question for Chris ; I learned from you that after the split that Mr. C retained space at the CC office. Did Mr. Wood remain there as well ?
    I am thinking that just because they split assets , there was no reason to
    split office space and office personnel.

    When I resigned the managers job at Redondo in October, 1968 , I was invited
    by Mr. Wood and Helen to come and work in the office as a protégé to Helen.
    The Woodland Hills store was up and running and The Westwood store would be opening in a months time. Helen would be needing help.
    I declined the job offer and I think a gal named Georgina was hired.

    It’s Saturday ! Enjoy your weekend.

  • Chris Pingel says:


    I worked Friday nights till 1:00am. I started as a busboy, That’s what they were hiring at the time. I would have done anything to work there, didn’t matter what I did. Ron hired me and Ty was his assistant manager. This was August of 1964.
    That was so much fun but very busy. St. Bernards came in also, not the dog, but my high school. Met a lot of people and made many friends.
    Those were days I’ll never forget.
    This was at #1 Culver City.
    We need some new, or old blood. Someone, x employees or customers please add some comments. We love to see anything anyone has to say.
    Take Care,

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    A Culver’s in Culver City ??

    I am sure this will happen in the very near future and when this burger venue comes to town, I bet they will pick a spot right on Sepulveda Blvd. in CC.
    Culver’s has great quality fresh food and they do most other things right.
    I love their dining rooms and staff. ( very well trained. )
    Arizona now has 18 locations up and running, so it won’t be too long before you have relief from the screwy Five guys prices.

    I am wondering if Ralph Wood would enjoy getting out and seeing the latest burger joints. He is very close to the newer Rock and Brews in Redondo which now occupies the very site of his former SmorgasBurger #2.
    I know I would love to do that with him very much.

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    Did any of you Woody’s guys ever put a 10 oz. Hambuger Steak patty on a Kaiser roll ? I never did or even thought about ……. till now.
    Now that would make one pretty picture.

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    Woody’s SmorgasBurger and Google maps ~

    Just a heads up here to advise that Google maps has just completed a massive update on their ” street view” app.
    All the ex Woody locations come up really nice with excellent print off results.
    I am delighted. Check ’em out. ( except #6 and Westwood which are now
    vacant. )


  • Phil Ankofski says:

    ” Grampa, what’s a Smorgie Burger ? ”

    For many, many years I maintained a ” Woody’s File ” in my home office cabinet. It was about a half inch thick with some photos , notes and memorabilia. After discovering Mark Evanier’s site about two years ago the file has grown enormously. As I was learning new facts and info from the commenters I would make new notations. Chris Pingel, God bless him, would send many photos via his iphone and I would then print them off and add them in the file.

    I am now in the process of converting that file into an album/binder which can expand out to 3 inches ! Phase 1 will contain photos and info on the people who were associated with Woody’s. Phase 2 will contain pix and facts about the buildings and structures used by Woody’s. Phase 3 will focus on memorabilia such as napkins , print advertising, and business cards.

    I myself might attempt a book if I thought I could come up with a love interest. I learned from Stephen King that even a scary novel needs a love interest. Remember ” Christine ” ?

    My purpose in telling you all this is that if any of you have kids or grandkids that express an interest in your history and work record, I would be a source
    for information. I will be ready and willing , 100 %.

    One never knows how children may turn out regarding an interest in their families history. I was 55 when I discovered a latent interest. I was asked by a cousin to spearhead a family album project. Our dads were twins with 13 other siblings ! So I had to deal with 14 other families to get narratives and photos. The result ; 3 albums which are 3″ wide each.

    I guess this background is what turned me into such a strong player here on the Woody’s sites. My continued thanks and appreciation to Mark Evanier, Chris Pingel, and all the commenters who have posted here.

    Again, all requests for my assistance will be most welcome.

    Phil Ankofski
    Dublin , Ohio

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    I have noticed that no one has picked up on my suggestion of for a new Woody’s on the El Segundo Stick and Steins location. Silence speaks volumes.
    I understand you feeling ticked that other sign owners were not following the law, BUT your store really had a dangerous sign with tremendous liability issues if it ever fell on the store or Sepulveda Blvd.
    I would think your business insurance premiums must have been reduced a lot after the sign was adjusted to it’s lower height.
    Anyway, you should rest well knowing you did the right thing early on.

    The Heath Co. invoice would be fun to see. Thanks.
    If you run across the $50,000. construction bill for #7 , that would be fun to see as well if it is fit for copying.

    For the Bobber in NM; I was not clear about where a TV ad with the UCLA girls might be filmed. In my mind , I clearly saw the filming location to be right at the Culver City store. And yes there were plenty of UCLA babes
    coming into CC. Plus there were the younger girls from Westchester, Culver and Venice high schools. I had just turned 19 so I guess I was still going for the high school seniors. In fact, my first girlfriend in LA asked me to escort her to the Venice High Prom, 1965. All my best to you Kathy N. !!

    In 50 years of hindsight, I now think I would have worked Friday and Saturday nights at CC for free. It was so busy and yet so much fun. Plus, there was the free dinner break about 8 PM.
    The kids started rolling in about 9:30 PM , and they too were a lot of fun.
    The girls were so happy and outgoing. Of course many were coming in with boyfriends, but no matter, it was fun to share in their fun.
    NEVER a single problem during my two years at CC.

    To Kathy N. and all Readers; Sleep well my friends.

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    I am just thinking out loud here regarding Bob Anderson. Pure conjecture on my part. Since Bob went with Mr. Wood , perhaps he was reassigned and offered the managers job at Redondo Beach until Mr. Wood changed it out to the Mucho Gusto Mexican Restaurant. Bob and his wife did buy a home in Redondo and this MAY have been the time frame he did so.
    Anyway …… Bob, if you ever read this, all my best to you!

  • chris Pingel says:

    I found an invoice which I paid to the Heath Sign Company to have the large rotating sign that was in Culver City lowered to 30 ft. At that time I also removed the lower oblong part all together and the motors etc.
    The reason I had to do this is because Culver City changed their sign ordinance. They gave us a few years but I just did what I had to do, of course, as usually happens to me, turns out I was the only one on that entire block that followed the law. Everyone else ignored it. They only now enforce it when a new building is built and now it must be a monument sign. When we removed the old Woody’s and put in the present restaurant we had to put in a monument sign. Good thing we are on a corner. It works for us now.
    I’ll send you a copy of the invoice for your collection when I complete your package.

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    Speaking of enticing signs…Too bad “Woody” didn’t do a (neon) jig or whatever Alpine yodelers do do, as this animated neon was always a draw for my kids when small http://tinyurl.com/qz4nbpf (besides the wagging tail, the “wienerschnitzel” is eating a string of hot dogs). ‘People still!!! get their kicks on old Rt. 66′ (sorry ’bout that!) via a Footlong NM Red (not brown Tex-Mex/Coney Island/Wolf’s Chil’i’) Chile Cheese Dog in this iconic, cinder-block, hole in the wall which goes back to the mid ’50s with it’s own avant garde exhibition kitchen as seen seated at the counter http://tinyurl.com/psypw92. So far I’ve eaten 556 feet (1/10 of a mile) of them.
    For Breaking Bad Folks: this was a (fictional) drug deal site.
    ~ TV spot? UCLA cheerleaders on Figueroa? Seriously? are you Yankin my Chain?! Obviously blond TroJanes a must!

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    For the days of Woody’s , the themed uniforms and Buddy Holly.

    I can tell you are all thinking ; how in the hell is Phil going to tie Woody’s in with Buddy Holly. Well , I’ll leave that to last.

    I have been focusing on Woody’s controllable expenses such as portion control with salads and sundaes plus advertising.
    And now the issue of Woody’s themed uniforms. To begin with, the uniform for the linemen was a five piece outfit; hat, shirt , trousers, apron and the
    all important orange suspenders.
    All the guys who had been a lineman have expressed some degree of humiliation from their high school buddies. Not me. I was new in town and my new friends were fellow linemen too, so I had no one coming into the store and teasing me.

    Controlling the usage of these uniforms for 10 or 12 guys on the work schedule was very difficult indeed. All of the guys were okay with wearing the trousers and suspenders for longer periods ( a week or so ) but many wanted to change into a new shirt on each work day. If the guy was a part timer working a four hour shift, three nights a week, then one shirt per week was doable. On the other hand, there were a few guys who had to be sent back to the change room to get a fresh shirt. Guys had to be reminded that aprons
    could be folded so that they had four clean sides.
    The guys did keep their own hats for long periods of time.

    Woody’s laundry expenses as a percentage of gross profit had to be the highest in the food service industry. With a few important tweaks, the laundry expenses could have been cut by 87 % .
    Keep the aprons . Change out shirts to polo shirts and let Mom wash them at home. Change out trousers for ” school slacks ” and let Mom wash those too.
    Change out hats for baseball caps. ( each guy buys their own ).
    Yes, the suspenders would have to go.

    Although Buddy Holly had a TexMex sound, he was not a hipster as some of our parents thought. Buddy was a very serious and focused musician who
    was also very tenacious. He forged new recording contracts which allowed him to control most aspects of his endeavors. He enjoyed breaking new ground in his chosen career.

    I feel Mr. Cramer and his nephew, Ralph Wood were in the same camp.
    Mr. Cramer had 30 plus years developing his Mayfair Markets with prior partner Edwin Fox. Together they certainly broke a lot of new ground in LA.
    The opening of the Woody’s SmorgasBurger in Culver City was yet another new direction to explore their crafts and talents.
    Rave On !
    Phil Ankofski

  • Chris Pingel says:

    Bob Anderson did not come with Mr. Cramer. I think he went with Mr. Wood, but, I’m not sure for how long.
    Mike Schuler, Jeff Gerod, Abdel and myself went with Mr. Cramer. We took over Woodland Hills, Culver City and El Segundo.
    very interesting times.
    Take Care.
    Chris P.
    Steve Dabbs took over Westwood.

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    My seventh grade English teacher at Christ the King Elementary in Detroit always stressed proof reading. Better late than never.
    The correct spelling is The Hotel Normandie ( NOT dy ).
    Anyway, this joint ain’t cheapo …… $259 per night, standard room.
    I think I will raise my estimate for a Cassell’s lunch from $ 15.00 to $ 20.00.

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    For the days of Woody’s, Rotating Road Signs, and Cal Worthington.

    I think Bob’s Green Chili Burgers may well be in the same class as the Pingel family’s ” Cannibal Sandwich “. To each his own !

    The following mild tirade is regarding the HUGE rotating road signs that Mr. Wood and Mr. Cramer decided to install at three of their four operating stores; Culver City, Redondo, and Figueroa Street. (late 1966/1967)
    ( El Segundo had no room for it ….. and probably did not need it anyway. )

    The cost of the signs had to be enormous, and I doubt the cost was ever recovered , let alone generate new profits to the bottom line.

    In 1965 there were 2.5 million of us souls in the city of Los Angeles. (4M now)
    So, let me throw this out for fun: Cal Worthington became the largest sole proprietor car dealer in the world by featuring himself and Spot in his memorable TV advertisements.

    I am thinking Mr. Wood should have emulated Cal and spent his road sign investment on a sizable TV ad budget. The TV spots would have reached 2.5 million hungry patrons compared to the signs rotating in the clouds and playing to the same old neighborhood crowd day after day.

    The film crew could have stationed Mr. Wood and his general manager at the condiment bar dressing their burgers. Ralph Wood, with his Matterhorn sandwich could be adding a dollop or two of the salsa while his GM was
    sprinkling chopped peanuts on his KS ( King Swiss ).
    In the background would be two cute babes from UCLA who are licking the last of the chocolate syrup from their ice cream sundae dishes.

    In these last two narratives, it may seem to some who do not know me, that I have been ” dissing ” Mr. Wood’s menu and advertising.
    This is being done in jest ….. although with 50 years of hindsight, there has to be a hell of a lot of truth as well.

    If Cassell’s can reopen in the Normandy , I think a Woody’s SmorgasBurger
    should reopen on the old Sticks and Steins property just south of the old #7.
    It is an enormous property with plenty of room for a drive thru feature and parking.

    Bob has the current lunch price at $6.17 which is HALF of the FG outfit.
    I guess you would have to specify your toppings instead of doing it yourself.
    Same for the ice cream Sundaes. You could order a Sundae ” all the way “, minus the marshmallow.

    The exhibition cooking could still be a feature with a giant window along the drive thru lanes.

    Hope you had fun with this Mark E. Thanks for taking care of us !
    My dinner time.

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    Holy Moly! After catching my breath from last night (now there’s an enigmatic comment designed not to raise a ruckus…LOL) must say Chris’ tale of selling off CC brought a lump to my throat even tho I’d only subbed there.
    ~ (Re salads: let us not forget the optional beet!)
    ~ Whoa! Only $.84 for a Smorg, salad, and RB for lunch??? Can’t imagine that and that being on a Kaiser Roll!
    In any event, as I’m ignorant as to the 10 to 1 cost ratio, I often use a “government” inflation calcultor http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm which would bring today’s number as $6.17. While we have 3 Five Guys out my way the past 3 or so years, I’ve never been to one as most of us that have been here “a few years” can’t even think of having anything less than a Green Chile CheeseBurger http://tinyurl.com/l7ykxqf ! We even have a State GCCB Trail http://tinyurl.com/lw7ct2j Even chains like Carl’s Jr., Wendy’s, McDonald’s etc. offer GCCB. Jalapenos? Seriously? They just don’t cut it!!! Who’d even think of having a pizza without Green Chile? Whoa! While almost 5 bucks of $12.50 is for small fries & drink, that surely makes FG’s not worth it. Que sera, sera!

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    For the days of Woody’s , Mass at Loyola U, and the Romaine leaf.

    First I want to thank Chris for his two informative narratives.
    I really enjoy your style of writing and all the facts you provided did answer all my questions.

    Today I would like to address the issue of portion control at Woody’s, or the lack there of. There were three salad offerings, and all used the same small yellow plastic dish ; Potato, Macaroni , and the Green Leaf.

    Every guy who ever worked the Woody’s line will remember the consistent problem of getting a fair amount of salad into the yellow dish.
    The cause was the required large Romaine leaf which was inserted into each dish prior to scooping the desired salad.

    A new lineman could be shown how a desired portion should look like and how the proper weight might feel , but because each Romaine leaf varied so much in size, it was impossible to get the same portion of salad to each patron. For every patron who did not get enough salad, there ten patrons who got too much.

    Once the patron sat down at his table, the Romaine leaf could be ripped in half and added to his Smorgie. ( still no tomato slices )
    In todays world, this would never happen. If your price point required a
    4 oz. portion of Potato salad, then you would only have a dish that held 4 oz
    when leveled off at the top. No more ….. no less.

    We at Woody’s could have done the same thing, as we did with the jello.
    About 10:30 AM , the opening man could have pre made 25 or 30 potato salad
    offerings using a scale. They would then be set off to the side with the iced jello. Everyone wins; the patron , the lineman , and Mr. Wood’s bottom line !

    I feel the same way about the soft serve Sundaes.
    No matter what age the patron, the real fun was selecting your own toppings which was fine. Allowing the patron to control the ice cream machine was a very big boo boo. The soft serve should have been dispensed by the line man
    for 100% portion control. To my way of thinking, the patron could have cared less about controlling the ice cream spigot. They were all anticipating getting
    over to the toppings.

    This approach would have benefited Mr. Woods bottom line as well.
    Plus, you would have avoided all the screw offs at USC and UCLA who tried to put $5.00 worth of ice cream in a .49 cent dish.

    Questions for Chris; As the two Woody’s units came under your control , did you address these portion control issues ?

    At the time of the 1971 split , I think Bob A. was a area manager.
    After the split, did Bob go with Mr. Wood or Mr. Cramer or separate ?

    That’s it for today guy and gals.

  • Chris Pingel says:

    When I closed Woody’s in Culver City I sold most everything to a very nice gentleman, I forgot his name now. He owned a soul food restaurant near the Marina Del Rey. He came by one morning to check the stuff out and bought almost everything. I have to say a lot of it was still from the old days. The large freezer behind the line, I thought, was original to Woodys. It worked but I never thought he’d get it out in one piece but he and his helper did. They rolled it out on galvanized pipes. I couldn’t believe my eyes. He took the tables and chairs, we had replaced all the old tables and benches with wood grain tables and chairs, instead of benches. He took most, of the small wares that I didn’t need. I took all the plates, silver ware, mugs etc to #7. I’m not sure but, I think he took the dishwasher too.
    I dumped pretty much all the rest.
    The building was empty. It was very sad for me to see it that way. I had so
    many memories.
    Anyway, what we would do now is to call an auction company. I have a friend who just happens to own one that specializes in restaurants. They would either come out and offer you a price for everything and take it away, which is, by far the easiest or you can just try to sell it yourself on line or something.
    If they didn’t take the stainless we would take it to a recycle place and get cash.
    The old stainless is so much better, heavier and more pure, than it is now days.
    When I closed and sold the building and property in El Segundo. The auction company took everything in a package deal.
    That was another very sad day, but not as sad as Culver City.
    We did turn the page and forged ahead with new restaurants.
    Take Care Everyone,
    Chris P.

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    Woody’s , Five Guys and Cassell’s ……….

    My wife and I had lunch out today. We tried a new burrito joint called MO’S.
    They use all white meat chicken which is NOT spiced unless you ask. YAY !!

    After leaving , we approached a Five Guys store which has been open for more than a year. I had never been in a FG until today. I thought I may as well step in and see what all the hubaloo is about. I walked thru the warehouse style dining room and picked up a paper menu sheet to take along.
    Now that I am home, I did the math.

    During my four year tenure, ( 64 thru 68 ), a lunch at Woody’s was .84 cents.
    For that money you got your 1/4 Smorgie , your potato salad, and your frosty mug of root beer.
    With todays 10 to 1 cost ratio, that same lunch would be $8.40.

    The current prices for the regular burger, fry and drink at FG is 12.50 !!
    The only notation needed is that FG is giving 1 more oz. of beef in the patty.

    A further translation ; A couple with a teen age kid goes into FG for lunch
    and the dude working the register asks for FORTY BUCKS !
    I learned FG is a favorite of Mark Evanier who is a guy that gets less for his money than the average Joe because he passes on most of the condiments.
    I am glad writing pays that well in LA.

    On to Cassell’s ; This LA burger icon is due to reopen any week now in the refurbished Normandy Hotel. I am talkin’ prices here, so I would bet they will charge $15.00 bucks for the same thing FG is putting out for $12.50.
    I think I can count on Mark Evanier to produce a short narrative on the resurrected Cassell’s.

    Let’s see what this month of November brings. I know it won’t be a new house for me.


  • Chris Pingel says:

    It was on Topanga Canyon Blvd. I don’t remember the address.
    Mike Schuler was the last manager before closing the store around 1972.
    That store was originally by opened by Mr. Wood as something else ( The Carvary) , or something like that. I believe it specialized in sandwiches. I never saw it so I only know what I heard. After not meeting expectations it was converted to a Woody’s.
    It was in the bottom of an office building. It took quite a beating during the Northridge earthquake in 1971, I think that was the year, maybe 72.
    The whole building compressed. The grill glass popped out and the outside windows shattered. One of the steel beams at the top of the stairs dropped to where you actually had to bend over at the top of the stairs so you wouldn’t bump your head getting into the upstairs storeroom.
    That Woodys was a very large unit. The dining room was carpeted and always hard to keep clean, spilled ice cream from the do it your self machine
    etc. It had large chandeliers in the dining room, which, I heard, some employees used to shoot at the bulbs with water and watch the bulbs explode.
    This is one of the 3 stores that our group took after the split. We also, didn’t keep it too long.
    It was way too large for a Woodys. The line was so long and wide it took a lot of steps, It wasn’t very efficient. You’d be exhausted at the end of your shift.
    It was also very far from our other stores, #7 & #1 and the traffic to and from was a nightmare even way back then. There were a few other reasons too, parking being one.
    Anyway, I was glad to see us be able to get rid of it so we could concentrate on the other units and possible future expansion.
    Sorry I didn’t have the numbers. It was not far from Topanga Plaza, which was very popular in the valley.
    Anyway, take care.
    Chris P.

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    For the days of Woody’s and the Ronettes …. both in their primes , mid 60’s.

    I have completed a page listing the full street addresses of all the SmorgasBurger locations ( finally ) ……. except the Woodland Hills store.
    Can anyone supply this street number ?

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    For the days of Woody’s and the frozen Lyons root beer mugs ….

    I would like to use this space this evening to prevail upon Chris Pingel for some enlightenment on the issue of store closings.
    Perhaps we can all learn something.

    Chris, when a decision has been made to permanently close a restaurant, what are the next steps for disposing of interior contents?
    There would be the tables, chairs, light fixtures, refrigerators, freezers,
    dish machines and of course the Lyons root beer barrels.
    And what about all the stainless steel …. what happens to that ?

    Are there reclamation companies that come in and bid on 100% of the contents, or are different items disposed of on a piecemeal basis?
    I know there were sad days for you regarding Culver City and El Segundo, but I was also thinking of Mr. Wood and the number of stores he closed after they turned unprofitable.
    On a happier note, as of 2014, both men are still enjoying success in the restaurant business because they did what was necessary, turned the page, and forged ahead.


  • Phil Ankofski says:

    For the days of Woody’s and Mayor Sam Yorty ………..

    First a greeting to all for a funfilled Halloween ! Trick or Treat, smell my feet !

    The body of this narrative will be of interest only to those who care about the Woody’s store lineup and the ” Fiskehaus . ”
    After doing some amount of research on the Figueroa Street addresses I think we can now confirm that the current FedEx store was indeed the Fiskehaus in 1960.

    My original tip on this ” fish only ” restaurant was from an article in the Torrance Press dated April, 1960, written by Ron Burpo.
    Ron listed the address as 2713 S. Figueroa which was a misprint or the post office eliminated this number at some point in the future.
    The Woody’s unit was at 2735 ….. FedEx is 2723 … and the B of A is 2703.
    There is no room for a 2713.
    I think the article should have read 2723 , not 2713.

    To support this, Pat Wilbur states the Fiskehaus building was extremely similar to the Woody’s store and very close by. Chris states that Woody’s enjoyed the use of a very large parking lot which encompassed the current FedEx. If Pat Wilbur returns, he can surely confirm.


  • Phil Ankofski says:

    For the days of Woody’s # 6 ~

    Good morning Readers,
    Woody’s #6 was the next lease/conversion unit to be opened after the Fiskehaus around 1960/61. It was a SmorgasBurger unit located on the west side of Vermont and just a few steps south of Santa Monica Blvd.
    This location is now a vacant lot.
    For myself, all I have is this address , but know nothing else of it’s existence.

    New question for Pat Wilbur ; Would you be the man that can finally provide
    information on this store ? If so, I will be indebted to you for a very long time.
    I do love working on the Woody’s legacy and this issue of the Vermont store remains the only blank spot.
    I can hardly wait to hear from you.

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    For Pat Wilbur,

    I realize you separated from Woodys in 1965 and may have moved from
    the area but I do have this question; do you know in what year the McDonalds
    was opened right across the street from #4.

    I contacted McD’s home office in Oak Brook but they could not tell me.

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    Thank you Pat W. for the fun and informative info on the IHOPs and the
    Fiskehaus. One last question on the fish house ; was it located on the same side of Figueroa as #4 and was it right next door to the north?
    On the mapping sites I see a likely building which is now a FedEx joint.

    On a previous comment I am so glad you listed the IHOP units at a total of 12.
    I had thought the most that got up and running was around seven. Too bad about the gas money …… I guess you should have asked for some.


  • Pat Wilbur says:

    To answer your question about where I was living when I worked at Woody’s, during all the years that I worked at # 4, #3, and #1, I lived near #4. For six months when I worked at #2, I lived in Gardena. Gas money from Woody–surely you jest!!


  • Pat Wilbur says:

    The “Fiskehaus” pronounced “fis-ke-hoos,” had similar decor as Woody’s but was slightly smaller in square footage. I really think that there were not enough customers that wanted an exclusively fish menu. This is why it eventually failed after about a year or a year and a half.

    As for IHOP, in my opinion, there was an arrogance in their treatment of the customer. The IHOP people felt that they knew more about Woody’s style of food preparation and presentation. I think they “shoved that down the customer’s throat.” At IHOP, there was a lack of warmth and friendliness that was a part of Woody’s. There was a family atmosphere at Woody’s that did not exist at IHOP. We had fun. That did not develop at IHOP. This is my own observation.

    Anybody remember Woody’s French dressing? Ron Blasio and Leon Wright developed a style of mixing that made the dressing smooth and creamy.

    Speaking of dressing, my wife and I found an address for Nickabood’s Fisherman’s Wharf manufacturing facility online. We went there one Saturday and Nick was there! We spent a few minutes talking about old times. He only makes specialty sauces now. He no longer makes blue cheese, thousand island, or Roquefort dressings.

    That’s it for now.


  • Phil Ankofski says:

    Woody’s SmorgasBurger and one time marriages. ~

    While awaiting Pat Wilbur’s response to my IHOP questions , it occurred to me that there is yet one more time frame in Woody’s history that I am not 100% clear on. For this I need to call upon Chris Pingel who himself has been married to his bride for 43 or 44 years. I trail behind Chris at 38 years because I was 31 when married. Ralph and Barbara Wood were married for 67 years !

    If you will Chris ; I understand the ” split ” occurred in 1971 and this legal
    deal gave Mr. Wood and his Uncle ( Mr. Cramer ) separate individual control of three operating stores each.

    1)After this split occurred, was the office in Culver City closed? Was Mr. Cramer then working from home?

    2) Who did the bookwork / payroll for Mr. Cramer’s three stores ?

    3) Were the monthly managers meetings canceled or did they continue.
    What point in time were they terminated.

    4) After the split, did Mr. Wood still have a need for the GM ? If not, was the GM used in another capacity ( like unit manager ) or was there a complete separation at this time ?

    5) At what point in time did you stop getting official visits and inspections from the GM?

    Your answers should clear up my remaining issues.
    P.S. Your new store front in CC is taking some getting used to. I thought the previous front was much prettier with more curb appeal. Having said that, I also understand the reasons you resurrected the patio format.
    Customers like it which translates into more $$$$. Right ?
    Thank you.
    Going out to rake leaves.

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    For the days of Woody’s and the MUCHO GUSTO ~
    Man, I sure wish I could have been a fly on the wall when that conversion was in the planning stages. ( around 1973 or 74 ?? )
    Anyway ……..
    The more we talk about the change outs and conversions that have occurred over the years, the more I appreciate the fact that the original Woody’s structure in El Segundo is so well preserved.
    The newer owner ( 9 years) must have very deep pockets, and I’m glad he does.The exterior looks sooooo gorgeous. I noticed the IHOP patrons are using the now vacant Stick and Stein parking lot.

    I also see that the El Pollo Loco in Culver City has completed a small conversion of their own ; an outdoor patio located at the very front of the building. This same concept was introduced at the exact same spot where the Original SmorgasBurger stood until the mid 1980’s.
    I guess the guys responsible were keeping this a secret.
    Check it out : 5529 S. Sepulveda Blvd. Culver City, CA.

    Bedtime in Dublin.

  • ChrisP says:

    I believe the name of Mr. Wood’s Mexican Restaurant ( the one that replaced the Redondo Woodys) was called “Mucho Gusto”.
    After that it was Acapulco, then Arriba, then two different rib places, Chicago for Ribs & Tony Romas, neither and after Oliver’s. Thanks Phil, I forgot the name. Oliver’s didn’t last long at all. The food wasn’t bad, but, in my opinion, they just couldn’t generate enough business. Just my opinion.
    Next was R&B.

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    Good morning Readers,

    As I get comfortable here at the keyboard I feel like I am attending a long overdue family reunion. Pat Wilbur has arrived and is now sharing a good deal of company and personal history with us.
    Thank you Pat for joining us with so many details.

    First let me commend you and your bride on your 48 years of marriage.
    It appears that our Woody’s guys have enjoyed a high percentage of one time marriages. How can you connect the dots on that ?

    Because of our age, I had lost hope in ever communicating with anyone who had an intimate knowledge of the IHOP units and now we are able to learn from Pat who worked right inside their doors !
    Plus having been assigned to stores # 4, 1, 3 and 2 must have some distinction
    in the record books. I hope Mr. Wood was adding extra $$$ for gas allowance
    as these stores were spread out pretty far.
    Question for Pat; what part of town were you living in during your Woody’s tenure? Where do you live now ?

    As I reread your narrative Pat, I will draw up a list of questions, but only ask two or three per session so the narratives don’t get too long.

    Marshall and I have been intrigued by how much the Gardena store looks like the #4 store. Since the leases came available at the same time, I am wondering if they had the same landlord and prior tenants.
    Anyway, can you advise if the interiors were identical as well ?

    Last question for today ( maybe ) :

    In your preceding narrative you spoke of the IHOP relationship and how it failed because IHOP’s style did not mesh with Woody’s formula.

    The only reason we used to hear circa 1964/65 was that the IHOP food was terrible. I wondered how much a company like IHOP could degrade ground chuck, burger buns and catsup.

    Since you worked there, what actions or inactions were different from the Woody’s formula ? Was it indeed the food quality that suffered?
    Were there other differing issues which displeased the patrons enough so that they never returned ?
    I have been wondering about this issue for 50 years !
    I know I will be sleeping better after learning your response.

    All is well in Dublin , Ohio

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