Long John Silver's
Rt. 93 - Hazleton, PA
I mentioned earlier today that Long John Silver's was a Christmas Eve tradition in my family. These days, it's a bit more than that. You see, in addition to being a nerd, I'm also a sentimental bastard, and little reminders of happy moments from the past never fail to bring a tear to my eye and a smile to my face. Those everyday little reminders of the past are getting fewer and farther between with each passing year as the world changes with time. At this point, I can probably count the number of places remaining in Hazleton that I've visited with my grandparents on one hand. One of those places is Long John Silver's. It's a place that my grandfather and I went together many times, but typically only once a year - on Christmas Eve.
The restaurant on Rt. 93 in Hazleton has only seen minor changes over the years. However, like most of the rest of the world this year, it has taken on a bit of a dystopian feel due to the pandemic. The dining room is closed and the lights have been turned off, although you can still enter the restaurant for pick-up at the counter, which is what we always did anyway.
There are also a number of signs like the ones pictured at the top of this entry. The one on the far left are placed six feet apart on the floor to give you an idea of how to keep socially distant. The stop sign in the center is placed on tables that are meant to be left empty, which is all of them in December since the ban on seating in Pennsylvania restaurants went into effect. The tan circle on the right is on the soda fountain and in the locations where the condiment packets are usually kept. You have to hand it to Long John's. At a time when we're all tense and worried about a virus that has now killed over 300,000 Americans, they have taken the time to inject a little fun into these signs by keeping to the pirate and nautical theme of the restaurant. Well done!
This restaurant has an L-shaped hallway that starts at the front door and leads to the cash register at the counter. In the photo on the left, you can see most of it. You pass by the window on the far wall, then turn left and walk toward the foreground where you place your order and pick up your food. When I was a kid, the restaurant didn't have such an open floor plan as it does today. The waist-high white wall that makes the L-shaped hallway was yellow back in the 80's, and it went either up to the ceiling or close to it, so it was an actual hallway. I suppose it may have had a bit of a claustrophobic feel, but I always kind of liked it.
In most years, it was very busy on Christmas Eve so the line of customers was backed up all the way to the front door. Sometimes, we even had to wait outside for a few minutes before the line moved enough for us to enter the building. It was about a half hour wait before we made our way through the line and placed an order. If it were any other situation in my childhood, I probably would have been impatient, but I was happy to wait in line. The place smelled outstanding, and I was with my Grandpa on Christmas Eve, with dinner and presents and desert with my family ahead of me, just waiting to unfold.
To the left of the register at the front counter is a little secondary dining room with a row of booths. This section is closed off 99% of the time that I've ever been here, so I don't remember if it looked this way back in the 80's and 90's or not, but I've always liked it. It has a bit of a private feel to it, with windows that overlook the strip mall down the road. Each of the booths has a backboard to make it look like the rear of a boat, with names like The Beach Comber, Neptune and One That Got Away.
I can't say that I've been to too many other Long John Silver's in my travels. For all I know, they all look like this, and this one is nothing special to anyone else who looks at these photos, but they're special to me.