Woody’s Smorgasburger II

The comment thread on the original posting here about Woody’s Smorgasburger got so long that we decided to stop it there and start a sequel over there. You can read the old thread here. Please continue the conversation below. And by the way, all this talk has made some of us miss the place all the more.

251 Responses to Woody’s Smorgasburger II

  • Phil A. says:

    This comment is akin to the two minute warning in NFL football.

    There are only a very few open slots remaining on this Woody’s SmorgasBurger site until the #400 Benchmark is posted.

    Who will it be ? Will it be an ol’ timer like Chris Pingel, or perhaps a brand new FEMALE commenter who just happens to wear a 34B ? ( my personal favorite. )

    We will see what the next few days bring.
    In the meantime, don’t forget your Motrin.
    Phil A.

  • Phil A. says:

    You are too funny ! Does NBC even know you exist ?
    What would it take to get your friend Steve C. up and running on this site?
    He may turn out to be a prolific writer like Mark Evanier. ( our manager. )

  • Phil A. says:

    Randy’s girlfriend at the time was ” Penny.”
    The question is; did he love her more or less than his gorgeous ” Stang. ”

  • Phil A. says:

    ” Hey Jude ”

    Such an awesome CBS show honoring the Beatles. Best TV in years !

    Mark T.,
    Thank you for casting more light and details on the AD issue.
    While watching Paul and Ringo, I was thinking about your album suggestion for Mr. Wood. Then I began to wonder if an original Woody’s china dinner plate would work in the same context. The plate has not seen the light of day in 50 years and it has the mountaineer logo.
    Mr. Wood could keep the plate by his LazyBoy side table for snacking.

    These plates were used at all locations to serve the steak dinners. ( and yes, those icky white things too. )
    Anyway, if you think that this would be worthwhile, I would mail the plate to Wayne at the Admiral Risty and he could run it over to Mr. Wood.
    What does thou think ?

  • Bruce says:

    I have now spent more time reading about Woody’s Smorgasburger than eating there!

  • Mark Thorson says:

    My mother has Alzheimer’s Disease, and I’d say that if you showed up to see Mr. Wood he’d probably find that confusing and upsetting. However, if you have old photos of the restaurants and the employees and could assemble that into an album, he might enjoy that very much. If he has mild to moderate AD, he can probably remember events from decades ago fairly well. Those are the last memories to be lost. Some captions to identify which restaurant it is, the year, and the names of people would also be helpful. With AD, an album like that would seem new every day, because of the profound loss of short-term memory and the inability to create new long-term memories.

  • Gary Wilcut says:

    Phil, Phil…….

    Protein, amino acid and essential fatty acids in fish benefit the brain. Fish being the brain food explains your position. I’m only kidding, I couldn’t resist. We love you being the “devils advocate”. Were still friends.


  • ChrisP. says:

    Sorry to hear about Randy. We also worked together for awhile.
    Didn’t he have a 64 Mustang? He did have a girlfriend at the time I can’t remember her name, though. He was always very nice to me.
    If anyone has any more to share about Randy that would be nice.

  • Phil A. says:

    Thanks for posting Randy’s cancer status, a most serious issue. I will move him to the top of my prayer list. Both Randy and Ty M. worked very well together while at Woody’s #1. I did learn that Ty also hired in at the Wich stand after Woody’s and stayed for a long tenure as well.

    Our comment count is now at # 381 ( 240 + 141 ) . Only a matter of days till the fantastic benchmark of # 400 rolls up. I suppose Mark Evanier will be informing us of yet another site extension; Woody’s SmorgasBurger III.

    Nothing more from me tonight. It’s midnight.

  • ChrisP. says:

    Hi, Gary,
    I remember in 1970 our halibut steak dinner was $1.35 and included everything.
    A new York was $1.95 and a Top Sirloin was $1.89.
    I don’t remember how much the haddock was but I too enjoyed it. I believe it was a quarter pound. The Halibut was 7 to 8 ounces.
    We eventually had to use cod for the fish sandwich because it was hard to get the haddock and the price, of course, got to be prohibitive.
    Fish used to be so reasonable now it’s so expensive.
    Say Hi to Dennis for me.
    Take care,

  • Phil A. says:

    Gary Wilcut and all Readers,

    Please allow me this space to further explain my tirade on the Woody’s fish sandwich and Halibut steak. I have been in one of my ” devil’s advocates ” moods. Gary could just as well have started his day by posting an opinion on how a 36 DD bra size was his personal favorite.
    Well, I would have spent some amount of time crafting a narrative which explained to all how the 34 B is so much better.

    I just want to assure Gary and all Readers that when I come on line here,
    I am looking to share fun and information plus learn something too.
    I think this is how Mark Evanier approaches all of his offerings as well.

    Are we still friends Gary ?

    I must admit to a feeling of dismay in that Mr. Ralph Wood will probably never read or hear of our comments. I have learned from the Co owner of the Admiral Risty that Ralph Wood’s short and long term memories are deteriorating as these months go by. Mr. Wood will be 89 this year which explains a lot in itself. His daughter Sarah is nearby and she does look in on him and takes care of all of his affairs.

    I did send Sarah a note at Christmas time suggesting that she take a laptop to her dads apartment. I gave her the address for this site hoping she would sit next to her dad and read our comments.
    I did NOT get a response from Sarah, so I guess there is a 50/50 chance
    that she could follow through.
    I also asked Sarah to let her dad know that he would be in our prayers. Amen.

    All my best …. always.
    Phil Ankofski

  • Dick Roletta says:

    Randy Ewing worked at a number of fast food stands, the longest being The Wich Stand nine years . I don’t know if he ever maried. When I saw him he told me he had 4th stage colon cancer. Do you remember having to lift a 5 gallon can of milk into the milk dispenser? Stu Matros worked at #1 and did the lift but missed the dispenser and dropped the can creating a 5 gallon sunami in the cooking area at the peak of the rush time. He was later fired for chewing out a kid for slopping up the Do it yourself sundae bar not knowing his mon and dad were good friends of Ralph Woods. He was fired that very night for using swear words with the kid.

  • Phil A. says:

    Gary, Gary …….

    Since you and I have both proclaimed our love for Johnnie’s Pastrami, I thought we saw things pretty much alike. But, perhaps not.
    The reason the two Woody’s fish items have been neglected here is because nobody else wants to remember them. I thought the items were the biggest waste of menu space on the entire board !

    First of all, both items lacked any fish flavor and are known for their blandness. The only taste in the sandwich was from the damn tartar sauce !
    The items were ordered so rarely that most guys on the line never had a chance to learn how to grill them. There was a certain moisture sheen that appeared when it was time to flip them, but then what?
    The cook had to keep testing for flakiness with the spatula and if he happen to get that right, then it was a mess getting it off the grill and onto the plate.

    Of course the grill master had to remember to clean off the spatula before resuming his proper attention to ” Rare” King Swiss Burgers. (mussen’t overcook those babies! ….. right Chris? )
    I don’t think there were any patrons driving into Culver City from the Inland Empire for A Woody’s Halibut Dinner.

    Believe me Gary, I have been known to drive for miles and miles for a great batter dipped COD fish and chip dinner. And my own Baked Salmon with Lemon Butter Dill would win national awards if I cared to enter.
    Perhaps I should send the recipe off to the Admiral Risty.
    Is anyone in Boss Angeles doing a great Fish and Chip dinner? Perhaps CoCo’s ?

    Ron Blasio, the manager at CC who hired both Chris and myself used start his lunch break by walking to the nearby grocery store. This store featured a butcher counter where he would select a nice Delmonico and then bring it back to grill for his lunch.

    Of course the ” tongue lashing ” about Woody fish items was offered in fun.
    I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I did writing.
    Time to catch up on the Russian games.
    Phil A.

  • BOTVOLR says:

    Yo Phil…re “…must Stand Corrected!” Many guys would certainly appreciate being able to still do that when trying to be able to get off the pot in the middle of the night without ‘touching’ anything…rue the day will come….LOL In any event, it’s a shame the younguns of today may take for granted their cell cameras or digital ones where they are able to record/save/discard so much of the world around them whereby we were only ‘armed’ with the cameras of-our-mind which may fail us now at times. All in all, nice you’ve brought some fuddies together who can ‘chip-in’ to create a ‘picture’ of Woody’s of yore…photoshopping not withstanding! LOL

  • Gary Wilcut says:

    After all this talk about, Smorgasbergers, King Swiss, Matterhorns, Steaks and Kebobs, one very important food offering at Woody’s has been neglected, FISH. Two types of fish where available, Broiled Halibut and Haddock Fish Sandwiches. Fish Sandwiches where my personal favorite. They where awesome.

    For those interested in a fish tale about an acquaintance of mine who I used to go spearfishing with, you may view it on the internet: ” california gold 10015 “.

    That’s all for now. Have a good day.

  • Phil A. says:

    Good morning guys,

    Well , well…… I must STAND CORRECTED on the stairway issue.
    Good thing Chris did not take me up on my challenging bet.
    After liquidating to pay off the bet, my wife and I would have been homeless, so I guess I would choose Santa Barbara as the place to relocate to ……. and be homeless there. At least I could meet some of you guys.

    After all these years I do not think I can reprogram my brain to accept
    what all of you are telling me about the stair locations. Amen !

    I am sorry to learn that Randy Ewing is not doing well. I think he is two years older than I so that puts him around 71 this year.
    I would be interested in knowing what career path Randy followed and if he has family.

    Regarding the LAUSD ; I called first thing and was told they can only help me if I could provide a SS number for Les Simons.
    With all this privacy crap, I am not surprised.
    I will continue to devote some time on this issue.

    Additional comment on the Atomic Insecticide Co; It was a classic mom and pop type operation. I told you about the back of the store so here is a little description about the front.
    The store was quite small like a shoe repair shop, and this one was dark and dusty as well. There were empty cans and boxes on display which showed what products they had available for roach control, rats, mice,
    flys, mosquitos and whatever else. They could not display the full cans as they would be stolen.

    The owners, Pat and his wife were the sweetest people.
    When an order was called in for a new can of insecticide, they would come
    around early dinner time and deliver the product themselves.
    Of course I would use my tab to treat them to dinner.

    At the time of my tour of their store, they were of retirement age and the neighborhood was getting very bad.

    That’s it gang.

  • Phil A. says:

    Thanks Dick for LAUSD suggestion. I will follow up on Friday and post results if positive.
    The bug bomb people were Pat Hogan and his wife. The company name was Atomic Insecticide. ( most appropriate ).
    They mixed the chemicals themselves in the back room of a retail store front on Vermont or Western. When I caught wind the company was for sale, I went to investigate. During the tour of the back room, I got sick and light headed from the chemicals. No deal for me !

  • ChrisP. says:

    I remember the bug fogger and the 3 gallon can the chemical came in. Who knows what that stuff was but it worked.
    JR showed me how to use it. I would get a long extension cord so I could go all over the dining room. I would do it in the morning fairly early. I would turn on the noisy fogger it would create a large cloud of bug spray and proceed to walk around the store spraying this stuff with no mask or anything just tried to hold my breath but I usually couldn’t hold it all the way. I can still remember the smell.
    We only had to do it in the hotter months, thank God.
    The pull down ladder in El Segundo was in the kitchen.
    I swear the ladder was in the back dining room and went to a door (not a full size door)in the back dining room, up about 9 or 10 feet. This door led to an attic space above the restrooms of C.C. I stored a few things there, not much room because that’s where the make up air (swamp cooler)was. The office was inside near the back kitchen door, but,
    Maybe, I’m losing my marbles, though.
    I do have a pair of the suspenders (red with Tyrolian design)and a yellow shirt and checkered pants.
    No hat or nametag.
    Sometime I’ll look around for more stuff. I keep saying that, but I’ll try to find some more stuff.
    Take care,

  • Dick Roletta says:

    Chris is right in his discription of the upstairs office in #1. The bun racks were half racks located up front. They were half racks located in front of the ice box window. I just saw Randy Ewing and his health is not good.

  • BOTVOLR says:

    Sorry Phil…lest I be wrong, El Segundo didn’t exist in ’62-63. I concur with Chris about the pull-down, folding stairs toward the back door, coming awkwardly “into” the dining area in CC. Indeed, when down, it was awkward for folks to come from the back. If El Segundo had such stairs, I can neither confirm nor deny! LOL

  • BOTVOLR says:

    ~ Jacque the Frenchman! What came to mind was a guy about 5’6″ish with a bit of a pencil moustache, an accent, and a frenetic, well kinda hyperactive side…but really, that might be pure fantasy. LOL
    ~ On the other hand, per reading “Woody’s right hand man” (John R or whatever) an image of Eric McCormick of Will and Grace, as being a kin, popped into my head. Don’t know about you Honcho types, but he seemed like a “nice guy”.
    ~ What goes around, comes around: Sounds like some of you old fa… foogies have enough expertise and time on your hands to get going with Woody’s II !!! as a national franchise! I.e. If the concepts were good enough for sophisticated Californias at the time, i.e. “hunks” like us working the line, the uniforms, the Smorgasburger and do-it-yourself Sundae bar, the happy Yodeler on the sign, newspapers-on-a-stick, 99 cent Hamburger Steak dinner night, and frosty root beer mugs were good enough back then, might the current fast food scene need a new kick-butt ‘venue’ to happen that might have a 6 to 10 year run to make Woody proud? Think of all the new innovations to add in!!! ~ Alas in the meantime, my G-daughter has a friend working at th D-Q whereby I might be able to get her to throw some chopped nuts on one of their burgers!!!!

  • Dick Roletta says:

    I remember John R. he eventually became manager of Admiral Risty. As for Les Simons I worked for the Palos Verdes School District and don’t know much about LAUSD. But call Human Resorces at the Central Office in downtown LA and they should be able to help. When I worked at #1 every night we had to fill the electric bug bomb and run it while the place was closed. Anyone remember that.

  • Phil A. says:

    Hello Readers,

    This last batch of comments has been most informative and fun to learn.
    You guys have provided new insights to Mr. Wood, Mr. Cramer and
    my long time ” mystery man ” , Don Steinke. Thank you all !

    I will add these new insights to the notes I already have on Woody’s, and will proceed to formulate an interesting narrative.
    I hope to have this prepared by February 13 , which is the TWO year anniversary of this Woody’s SmorgasBurger site which was of course originated by Mark Evanier. Can’t thank you enough Mark !

    Chris, Chris, Chris !
    I must be the one to tell you my friend ; You are confusing the stairway layout with El Segundo which pulled down into the dining room near the back door. Fine.

    Culver City had the pull down stairway located in the hallway which ran along the wall INSIDE THE DISHROOM.
    The bun racks were always located along this wall. I remember both Randy Ewing and Ty Messersmith having to move these bun racks up toward the walk in cooler so the stairs could be yanked down. Amen !
    I bet your long time employee, Vinnie can back me on this.
    In any case, I will bet my wife’s retirement against three of your EPL units.

    I think the two guys kept their yellow shirts and checkered pants up there in the attic so they would not get mixed in with the others.
    For the life of me, I cannot figure why Don Steinke would do office work up there …… even in the cooler months.
    The office desk in the back certainly was not expansive, but surely would have been okay for doing payrolls, etc. Anyway ………

    Regarding the back office: I also remember how much Helen and Mr. Cramer hated getting down on their knees to clear out the safe.
    They were both in their 60’s, and now that I am too, I can appreciate
    the torture they endured.

    Yes Chris, this winter season has been a dark and dank one.
    I have always considered the winter seasons a four month waste of time.
    I used to do extensive wood working projects which got me through the season and I also did family history and photo album projects.

    We have been snowed in pretty much since the week before Christmas.
    This leads to cabin fever very quickly. The easiest options for relief are to get out for a Chinese lunch and a two circuit trip around the inside of the mall.

    So while you guys are in Rome, Florida, Marina del Rey, Brea , New Mexico,
    and Oregon ……. what the hell to do I get ? I get my Combination Lo Mein order which is always two or three pieces short on the shrimp.

    It must now be obvious to everyone as to why I have been the most prolific commenter here. Perhaps I should apply for a El Pollo Loco franchise.
    Yet another fun afternoon with all of you.
    God bless,
    Phil Ankofski

  • Phil A. says:

    For Dick Roletta,

    I have come to learn you are a retired teacher and principle. Well done!
    Perhaps you are the man to help me.
    For years I have been trying to locate an ex Woody’s man.
    His name is Les Simons. He is 68 years old and is listed as a substitute teacher in the Los Angeles USD. I cannot find any further info on Les.

    At this point I am wondering if you can suggest a route I might take
    to locate an address or phone number for this active teacher.
    During 1966 and 67, Les Simons worked at several of the Woody’s units on Sepulveda. He was an experienced assistant manager who worked as many hours as he could during the summer college breaks.
    Les was invaluable because a store manager could schedule his own vacation and utilize Les as a most dependable replacement.
    He probably knew as many Woody’s safe combinations as Mr. Cramer.

    Dick, please advise either way so I know how to proceed.

  • Gary Wilcut says:

    Phil A.

    Ralph only came into #1 every other week. He was off tending to other business most of the time.
    Don S. left a few months after I was hired so my recollections of him are sparse. Dick Roletta worked with him a few years and has best info on him.


    I do not remember you either. I remember Jacque the Frenchman was the supervisor at the time of my early employment. There was a General Manager, I think his name was John Rutenberg or something like that, who was Woody’s right hand man. Does anybody remember him ?

    You guys are sure pushing my memory buttons.

  • Chris P. says:

    Things must have changes somewhere along the line because when I owned the Woody’s in Culver City and also, when I worked there, I only remember the pull down stairs in the rear of the dining room. It would have been in the way leaving them down because, if I remember correctly, they were in front of the rear door to the dining room. Also, the large make up air unit was up there and fairly noisy and really there was very limited room for an office.
    The office, as I knew it, was always by the rear kitchen door.
    Maybe the restaurant was remodeled in some way early on before 1964.
    Regarding the skylights at Culver City. there were glass panels across the entire top of the A-Frame roof. It was very hot in the summer.
    In the very early 1970’s we covered the glass and put wind turbines to let all the hot air escape from the restaurant. Good thing I didn’t get sucked thru the turbines with all my hot air.
    Mr. Cramer was Ralph’s uncle, the finest gentleman I ever knew. I worked with him from 1971 till late 1978. Our employees use to refer to him as Pelo Blanco, white hair, in Spanish.
    I love this site.
    Take Care,
    Phil, have you shoveled your steps and drive way yet today? I’m glad to be in California. It would probably kill me having to do that. I hope all your below 0 weather ends soon. Sometime ou should tell us what you have to do each morning just to get going.

  • Dick Roletta says:

    I didn’t know Charles Cramer. Don S. always worked the lunch rush on the register and helped the drink man. Very seldom saw Ralph W. The name tags were black with white printing. Mine said Dick Roletta Asst. Supervisor

  • Phil A. says:

    And yet one more question for both Dick R. and Gary W. ;

    Did you guys know Mr. Charles Cramer? While Ralph Wood and Don Steinke were both around 37 in 1962, Mr. Cramer would have been a white haired gent near 60 years old. At some point he was a partner with Ralph Wood , but I do NOT know if that was fact PRIOR to Don Steinke’s separation OR AFTERWARDS.


  • BOTVOLR says:

    1) Correction: 2/1 said Manager at Holly-Riv was “Chris”. Ate some granola in the interim; should have said “Ron” as in CHRISman (sp?).

    2) Gary, per your noting starting in ’62: Sorry man, can’t bring up an image right yet, but I only periodically subbed. My image of “Don” was being kinda slender (like myself) who had thinning blondish hair. To me, he always looked a bit ‘intense’ more than laid back…maybe concerned he was doing a good job; often ran the register. AHA! confirmation the office was up the fold-down stairs!! LOL Weren’t there skylights at CC? While I didn’t see it, I think the Malt Machine was a classic tale!
    I’m pretty sure there was a guy named Felix on crew at the time. Wasn’t there also a Joe who, despite being in CA, had light blond hair and always seemed to have a ready smile like he might be trying to figure a way to keep things light by playfully yanking someone’s chain. Me? I drove a Vespa up from Hermosa; always had a great time, but really didn’t care for the always exciting 12 mile go-home on Sepulveda on a foggy night…LOL

    3) Did we have nametags? If so, can anyone describe them?

    4) No matter where ya worked on the line, was always surprised ya had to turn your apron inside out once a shift…but maybe it was just me?

    5) Anyone know what the monthly laundry bill was for wipe-down clothes, aprons, and lederhosen? Were there lockers?

  • Phil A. says:

    Two more for Dick and Gary ,

    On days when Don S. was in #1 and up in his office loft, did he come down and work the line during the lunch/ dinner rush ?

    Did you guys see Ralph Wood on site at #1 as often as Don S. or do you think Ralph was off tending to the newer stores ?

  • Phil A. says:

    Good Morgan ! ( As in Robert W. ~ KHJ ~ ) How I miss that guy.

    For Gary,
    Nice to learn from you that the loft at #1 was used for Don’s office.
    I only remember that Ty M. kept some uniforms up there.

    Back to the departure of Don Steinke. Do you think Don S. separated
    from Woody’s prior to your departure in 1963 , or did you quit while Don was still there ?
    This may sound like knit picking to some, but I value dates in helping me to resolve other questions.
    So , who separated first, Don S. or Gary W. ?

    Woody’s general manager lived in Palos Verdes also. Seems like a good percentage of our group made it up the hill. As for me. the best I could do at the time was Walteria, which of course did NOT afford any ocean views.
    At least I made it to the base of the hill.
    After resigning from the #2 store in Redondo, I did return to Rindge Ave. in Playa del Rey where the views and breezes are magnificent too, especially to a kid who came from Detroit.

    Amen Chris, Ty was one of the best ever !

  • Chris P. says:

    When Barbara Ann went out of business I had to change bread companies. I forgot now who I changed to but they were good too, but Barbara Ann was the best.
    The 2 for 1 day was on April 15th. It had something to do with Income Tax day.
    I was manager of #1 Culver City for the last two years before the split. We were so busy on that day. I remember scheduling my whole staff that day.
    We served coffee to people waiting in line from a very large stainless thermos probably around 3 gallons. I had a people assisting customers waiting in line and around the dining room.
    it was a lot of work but a lot of fun also.
    Like Dick, I started as a busboy too in 1964. I was hired by Ron Blasio and Ty Mesersmith was the assistant manager. Ty was always a great guy.
    You had to be 18 to work at Woodys at the time, I believe.
    I worked on the line after that. I loved working with people and still do.
    Take care, more later.

  • Gary Wilcut says:

    Phil A.

    If we started a memory war between Dick And I, Dick would win hands down. He was a school principal in Rancho Palos Verdes in the area where Chris P. and Woody live. But Don S. did hire me in 1962.
    Don Steinke was a laid back dude. Don would stay in his office and do paper work in a loft in the A framed shaped restaurant only accessible by stairs which folded down from the ceiling. He would leave day t day management to the supervisors.

  • Phil A. says:

    Hi Guys ……

    Not to start a memory war between Dick R. and Gary W. . but I would like to get the facts straight. Dick R. indicated in his first posting that Don Steinke left Woody’s in 1960.
    Gary W. just posted that he was hired by Don S. in 1962. Okay.

    So Gary, do you think you can pin down the year that Don S. separated from Woody’s ? Tell us more what Don S. was like.
    Phil A.

  • Dick Roletta says:

    Chuck Fierce, who was a supervsor and someone I grew up with, got me a job at Woody’s #1 and I started as a bus boy because the regular bus boy was sick. Since we alway had a steady flow of good looking girls coming in because the crew was mostly highschool and college guys, Chuck came up with the idea using the code number 86 to let the rest of the guys know that a good looking girl had just come in. So you might hear someone say #86 your dinner is ready which meant get up front there is a looker here. Chuck passed away a couple of years ago and I told that story at his funeral. RIP Chuck.

  • Phil A. says:

    ” Best Buns in Town ” .
    This is the slogan of the Puritan Bakery Co. operating in Carson, CA.
    The Los Angeles Times has informed us that John Markulis who was a partner and operator, has died. The article pretty much made John out to be the ” sparkplug ” of the company. Puritan makes 300 types of breads and buns for the Southern California restaurant /food institution trade.

    One of Puritans customers calls for a hamburger bun recipe which takes SEVEN hours to formulate and bake. I am learning something today.

    During my mid sixties tenure with Woody’s, the Barbara Ann Bakery was the sole supplier of buns and rolls. Our delivery guys were the best, always on time and we never had to run elsewhere for buns because of being cut short. Chris P. can advise us if he saw fit to make changes in bakery vendors down the road.

    Puritan also had/has a weekend delivery service available to customers who find their bread inventories a tad low. How about that for bonding customer loyalty ?

    We have mentioned the ” 2 for 1 ” anniversary specials which caused patrons to join a line which ran down to the Studio Drive In. (tee hee )
    I bet Mr. Wood or Mr. Steinke approached Patman’s Meats and the Barbara Ann Bakery about food cost sharing on this promotion.
    These two vendors could easily write their contributions off in their advertising budgets. Am I right Chris ?
    Phil A.

  • Gary Wilcut says:

    I was hired by Don Steinke in 1962 at Woody’s Culver City (#1). My first job was that of drink server. Well, as I look back the following story turned out to be one of the funniest experiences of my life. I began with root beer, lemon aid, coffee, milk and the famous alpine chocolate malts. My first dinner rush began and I was doing well until someone ordered an alpine chocolate malt. I approached the malt machine and lifted the frozen silver metal glass up to the dispenser nozzle, out came the chocolate malt. Upon removing the glass, the dispenser keep going and out came more of the malt. I grabbed another glass from the freezer and filled another glass. This went on until I had filled about 9 glasses. I felt like Lucile Ball of “I Love Lucy” in her chocolate factory episode, the malts kept pouring out of the machine. I was able to get Steve Claypools attention who was the cashier next to me. I informed him of my predicament and he promptly shoved the stuck nozzle on the malt machine to the off position but not until I a had about a dozen malts lined up. What a fiasco. I finally sold all the alpine malts by offering to put two cherries on top of the wiped cream topping.
    Any other funny Woody’s experiences out there.

    Gary Wilcut

  • chris p says:

    Good morning everyone.
    I’m so happy to see we have some really neat people join the site. I think we will have fun remembering more of the good old days.
    I read about the wooden steak markers and it brought up something I hadn’t thought of in years and years. I remembering them right up against the top of the grill and catching fire all the time during a rush, quite a thrill.
    Monday nights at #1 (Culver City) Hamburger Steak Dinners 99 cents. Boy those were the days. It was so busy, but fun at the same time.
    All guys working but all great people and polite.
    If the guys just joining us haven’t read Woody’s original site, you should, to catch up on everything since the beginning.
    There’s a lot of interesting stuff there.
    I still have many stories to share.
    Anyway, glad to be back.
    Chris p.

  • Phil A. says:

    I will be 69 this summer, and the only things I am missing more than a Woody’s Swiss Burger are the ” Gazzari ” Dancers. Thank the Lord for UTube !

  • Phil A. says:

    Well ………. What do you know ?
    Our newest commenter Dick Roletta just posted #350 !! ( 240 + 110 ).
    Congratulations Dick ! We should have a trophy for these benchmarks.
    I can now see that # 400 is within reach.

    With Dick aboard, our group of ex Woody’s employees have most of the SmorgasBurger years covered except for the very earliest; ( 1956 to 1958 ).
    Starting in 1959 ; Dick Roletta followed by Gary Wilcut.
    Middle years; BOTVOLR,Phil Ankofski, Chris Pingel and Marshall Loveday.
    Later years 1970 +; Chris Pingel returns as manager of #1 and #7 followed by his many years as owner/ operator of Woody’s #1 & #7 until 2005.
    So, there shouldn’t be anything that gets by us.

    The most memorable Rykoff item for me were the Dill Chips which were packed in 5 gallon tin containers. Once opened they needed refrigeration
    so that is where the pickle juice became so damn cold.
    If the stainless tongs were not where they should be , well you had to do some hand dipping.

    Separate internet sites show that at some point Don Steinke relocated to the Sacramento area where he continued to be connected with KFC.
    Some sites show he also has a number of pizza parlors in the area.
    One site lists Don as co owner with his two sons in property management.
    Well done Don !

    Have A GREAT week.
    Phil Ankofski

  • Dick Roletta says:

    I would say Ralph W. and Don S. were about he same age. Ralph graduated Occidental ( spelling ?) in engineering. So Don had to be the business brains. We had a special knife to triple slice a kaiser roll and I failed to mention that SE Rykoff supplied all our staples like canned soup and French dressing.

  • BOTVOLR says:

    Yo Phil, I agree that most galz…even of that era…. could hold their own working the line. Before I get ‘flamed’, I say “most” just as I’d say some guyz couldn’t work the line, e.g. per the tempo.
    In addition, while I only worked for just under a year in “the early ’60s” (’62-’63) at Holly Riv and while not being able to say it might have been different elsewhere, I take umbrage…no offense Gary…. with the “crude” theory as I don’t believe the crews (may they RIP) I worked with could be described as ‘crude’ and I didn’t hear rumors to the contrary about former guys. I’d say that about CC too, but…to be fair…. I only subbed prn. I think the guys acted like most (normal) young guys which might include nudging each other when a pretty gal came in or, “innocent” flirting once in a while but only with a ‘regular’ customer, but indeed, nothing I’d describe as crude compared to what one sees even on everyday network (in contrast to Cable) TV today! As previously noted, Mr. W often dropped by Holly Riv. While I could be in error, I never felt he (while standing with Manager Chris right across the counter at arms length from me at the register), to be surrreptitiously ‘observing’ for crudeness, but appeared to just enjoy watching a smooth running line operation. I believed he often dropped in cuz he lived just “up” the road in PV; no crew commented otherwise. Secondly and most substantially, what kind of ‘crude dude’ would even agree to take a job wearing the uniforms we wore and especially those Alpine/Tyrolean hats with a feather sticking out? LOL Perhaps other theory possibilities? Being astute, Mr. W knew how any “Alpha” males can get and so he sensibly avoided guys ‘fighting’ over gals on the line or, knowing how “catty” gals can get, he simply avoided that problem. Oh come on, I’m yanking gal readers’ (if there be any) chains by just trying to be ‘fair n balanced’! Geesh, I never saw a Playboy pinup in “The Back” let alone in the outside trash area! Be that as it may, I stand to be corrected! LOL

    Eeek Richard! Tee hee: “Triple” slicing the Kaiser?! “Double” slicing was bad enough!

    Other trivia: Re Mr. W as an employer before his time: My $1.32 was 15 cents above the minimum wage in ’63. Today minimum would be $10.05 using an “inflation calculator” http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm (Seriously??? for plunking shrads of lettuce in a yellow(?) plastic cup and remembering the beet slice atop the Blue Cheese? )
    That ‘door busting down’ Monday night special of a (Hamburger) Steak dinner would be $7.54 !!! in today’s dollars….only about a buck more and with a salad today, than a Carl’s Jr. Star Combo!

    (For single, light hearted Wooders to announce to the crowd in their or another’s Man-Cave during pre-game Sunday: “Du…uh, the only SuperBowl that would impress me is a Self-Cleaning Toilet!”) Aaargh…Sorry!

  • Phil A. says:

    Good morning Readers,

    Thank you Dick Roletta for your speedy return to this site and for your extremely detailed narrative describing the very early days at Woody’s.
    Woody’s biggest expansion period occurred during your tenure.
    Woody’s #3, #4 , Fiskehus ,# 6 and # 7 . I am thinking that the training
    of new staff was constant at Culver City as qualified guys were promoted
    away to the newer stores. Must have been a lot of guys coming and going.

    Regarding the Woody’s IHOP units; I never thought about lower quality food as being the bigger reason for their very short life.
    I thought operating margins for the franchise owner were too slim because the monthly royalty fee to IHOP was set to high.
    I suppose both factors did them in.

    Question; Were Ralph Wood and Don S. about the same age ?
    I am now wondering if these two men shared work experience somewhere
    else prior to the opening of CC #1.

    Looking forward to Chapter II.
    Phil A.

  • Dick Roletta says:

    I started work at Woody’s #1 in 1959 and left in 1963. Don S. left in 1960. He was the brains behind Woody’s and had most of the marketing ideas like the Alpine burger and the do it yourself ice cream sundae bar. The Alpine burger was a swiss burger and a smorgasburger on a triple cut kaiser roll. We got quality meat from Patman, great salad dressing from Abbott’s and chocolate eclairs and fruit tarts from Martino’s bakery in Culver City. When Ralph sold the use of his name to IHOP, their attempt to take advantage of his name and success failed because they failed to use Woody’s vendors. People would come and ask if we were owned by the Woody’s say in Alhambra and we would say no. They would say good because their food was awful. So giving the rights to IHOP hurt Woody’s reputation for awhile till the stores IHOP opened eventually closed. Don S. was at Woody’s #1 everyday in the beginning when I worked there. As they began to expand we saw less of him. Don came up with the idea of freezing root beer mugs and the Apine malts had to have whip cream and a cherry on the top. The mix came from Carnation. Don S also came up with idea of having a 2 for 1 smogasburger twice a year. The only time we ever used frozen meat. People would lineup past the Bank of America on those times. Don S also came up with hamburger steak dinner Monday’s for 99 cents. We would sell over a 100 dinners on those nights. Stayed tuned for Chp. 2

  • Phil A. says:

    Good morning Readers,

    If you had a hand in the fact that Dick Roletta joined us … Thank You !

    I DO buy into your opinion on female employees at Woody’s.
    However, your last sentence bothers me a little since I can think of so many examples that run counter to ” awkward conditions. ”
    I had many aunts who worked in the auto plant and school cafeterias . My sister worked at Woolworths lunch grill during 11 and 12th grade.
    My high school job was working in the dietary department at Sinai Hospital of Detroit right along with high school girls.

    We worked on the line prepping the meals going up to the patients for dinner, and afterwards was the cleanup as the trays were returned to the
    kitchen/dish room. All of the jobs were very similar to what was required at Woody’s or harder. We too enjoyed this ” team ” concept. Amen.

    Don S. and Ralph Wood were formulating their business model in early 1955 as doors to CC#1 opened in February 1956.
    I would bet my wife’s retirement that these two guys replicated the ” all male ” concept from a burger joint they had come to respect.
    From research, I have found that MANY of Cassell’s ideas were replicated at the very first Woody’s. So, PERHAPS Cassell’s had an all male crew which also impressed Ralph and Don.

    Can anyone speak to this issue of Cassell’s employees during the early years
    say from 1948 to say 1960 ? If Cassell’s was all male to start, I would then make the jump that the ” service model ” was copied too.

    How I wish I was in Florida (76) with friends instead of being stuck here in Ohio ( 0 degrees ).


  • Gary Wilcut says:

    Phil A,

    I have an opinion on the subject of female employees at Woody’s in the early 60’s. Mark Thorson asked a similar question earlier when he asked what made Woody’s tick and be so successful. The male employees of the early 60’s were somewhat crude in nature. I think management recognized this and decided women would not fit into this atmosphere. There was a competition to keep the customer line moving as fast as possible, much like a male team sport. Women of that time would have found the working conditions awkward.

  • Phil A. says:

    For Dick Roletta,

    Can you pin down the precise year in which Don S. split with Mr. Wood?

    Do you have an opinion as to why these two men came up with the
    policy which excluded female employees ?
    This is my last mystery to be resolved.

  • Phil A. says:

    Hello Readers and welcome Dick Roletta !

    You have brought me into ” detectives heaven “.
    First of all, Mr. Wood is very much with us. He resides in an assisted living complex in Palos Verdes. His wife Barbara ( Risty ) passed away in May of 2012. They were married for 67 years.

    When I was a lineman at Culver City in 1964, I used to hear Don Steinke’s name often enough that it always stuck in my memory.
    It seemed like the talk described him as a part owner, but I was never clear on that. Thank you so much for that information.

    Dick, perhaps you know who the ” idea man ” was between Don and Ralph.
    I always had the notion that Ralph was the ” economics ” guy and someone else came up with the ‘ Tyrolean ” stuff. Perhaps it was Barbara Wood or perhaps Don Steinke. Would love to know the answer.

    With your new info, I now surmise that the early ownership of
    Woody’s SmorgasBurger proceeded this way;
    Don S. and Ralph Wood started the company as equal partners.
    When Don and Ralph decided to part ways, Mr. Cramer joined the company and supplied the money to buy out Don S.
    Mr.Cramer and Mr. Fox had sold their Mayfair Market chain to Arden Farms, so there was certainly cash available for this buy out to take place.

    Dick, if you would please continue to add comments about Don Steinke
    and what role he played in the guidance of Woody’s …. I will be most grateful indeed. I am sure our other Readers would also love to learn of your other great stories. You are the oldest and earliest guy on the Woody’s scene and of course Chris Pingel is the man who wrapped things up in 2005. I have come to learn just how much Chris hated to do it.

    Dick, if you can remember the charcoal guys name from 50 years ago, I am sure we can rely on the info you provide us. Please join us often !
    This is a much more substantial topic than jello.

    To my knowledge, Jim Collins bought the KFC Master Franchise for much of Southern California , so he and Don S. were obviously connected at KFC. I do hope Mr. Wood and Don S. remained friends.

    I am really going to sleep good tonight. Thank You !
    All my best,
    Phil Ankofski

  • Gary Wilcut says:

    Dick Roletta,

    Welcome to Woody’s Blog. I look forward to more stories. As you read some of the old stories more will come back to you to share with us.


  • Ralph Jones says:

    Thanks for all the memories!
    Actually I discovered this site while looking for a couple of old pubs from the 1960s – “23 Skidoo” on Westwood Blvd, which later became “The RF” and the “Beaver Inn” which was on Pico at (approx) Beverly? Blvd.
    Westchester guys Mark & Dan Davis were part of the band called “The Tormentors” who played at times at both locations in the 1960’s.

    The wife still misses peanuts on her burgers!
    I spent a lot of meangful (?) time in Culver City, ate at that locatin, and I worked across the street from the Westwood Woody’s.

    Other noteworthy burger places were The Apple Pan (I lived a couple of blocks away). Some were noteworthy not because of the food – but due to a place to gather to line up street races or to find parties, etc.

    Scot’s (Pico and Westwood) and the Hamburger Handout on Sepulveda at
    Jefferson? come to mind. “The Handout” was also called “Club 19” due to the price of the burgers.

    Some of the current burger “joints” come close, but there’s still no comparison to a Swiss or a Swede from Woody’s.
    Thanks to all the Woody’s employees for those culinary delights!

    CC Rider.

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