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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Let's Do Lunch! Woolworths or Soroccos?

I stopped by McDonalds in Tuckerton the other day. As I was standing in line, I glanced up at the price board on the wall. Suddenly, I was struck with a case of food prices sticker shock. I could't believe it. A McDonald's meal item was listed for $5.95! What happened to the cheap prices of fast food restaurants? The food service may still be fast, but the prices have been jumping up faster.

My memory flashed back to my elementary school days in the mid 1950's when I used to occasionally eat at Woolworth's lunch counter located on George Street in New Brunswick. It was the fast food place of that decade. I could get a bacon and tomato club sandwich and Super Jumbo banana split for 89 cents. What a bargain! No sticker shock back then.

1957 Woolworth's Lunch Counter Menu

Anyone remember eating at the Woolworth Lunch Counter in the 1950's and early 1960's? If so, where and what were your favorite menu items?

Prices here in New Gretna were also cheaper back then. I came across a 1963 photo of Sorocco's lunch counter which was located on the south-east corner of Rt. 9 and Maple Avenue about where Munchies is located today.

1963 New Gretna Ministrel Program Ad
The name of the establishment is misspelled in the ad.
It should be spelled "Sorocco" Home Cooking.
(See PPS below.)

Mary Surocca (center) and Charlie Sorocco with waitress, Dot Cramer, in 1963, at the Sorroco's Lunch counter. Food prices were listed on a board on the back wall.

Below is a close up photo of the Sorocco's price board which was much like McDonalds of today; however, the prices are noticeably more modest: Roast Beef- $1.25; Jumbo Shrimp- $1.00; Fried Oysters- $1.00; Hamburger- $0.90; Steak Platter- $1.50; Ham Platter- $1.25; Cheese Omelette- $0.70; Bacon & Eggs- $0.70; French Toast- $0.40; Ham & Eggs- $0.80; and Pancakes- $0.40.

The Soroccos employed many local girls as waitresses in their luncheonette.

Mary Sorocco (left) with local waitress, Louise Hickman.

Now that I've got my taste buds flowing, we'll have to do lunch sometime. I'll treat! The question is "Where do we go for those late 1950's to early 1960's prices?"

Pete S

PS- Does anyone out in the Blog-O-Sphere remember other local New Gretna girls who waitressed at Sorocco's Luncheonette?

PPS- I got the following email from Carole Sorocco Ruff, Mary and Charles' daughter, regarding the spelling of the family surname. I've made the appropriate changes from my original posting.

Hi Pete,

My parents spelled our surname “Sorocco.” I’ve seen it spelled with every conceivable vowel manipulation. My father was a New York City native. His grandparents came to Manhattan ab 1873/76 from Genoa, Italy, where the surname was originally spelled either Saracco or Soracco.



  1. Hi Pete, I remember another young lady that worked at Mary's (as we called it). It was ME. I worked there in the late 50's to early 60's. Many fond memories come to mind as I think of those days. There were some locals that were there every day. Churchy (Ernie Shurch) not sure of the spelling. He would come in and sit at the counter and drink coffee. His habit (which irrated Mary) was to just upset the sugar container into his cup and never stir it. Of course when he left the sugar was still in the bottom of the cup. Another regular guy was "Swifty" (don't know his first name .. maybe George??) but his last name was Swift. He lived in one of the rooms at the New Gretna House. Swifty was at Mary's everyday for oatmeal and coffee. I remember that he would carve birds (swan's) from Ivory Soap. I also remember that Mary had a "bookie" that she placed bets with on horse races. He was the bread delivery man. :) Mary was really a great cook and a lovey lady. Bob loved her hamburgers, french fries and chocolate milkshakes. I could go on and on, but perhaps someone else will add their memories instead.

  2. Oh, I forgot to identify myself.
    Elaine Weber-Mathis :-)

  3. My comment has nothing to do with NG happenings, but, do you remember that McDonalds hamburgs started out costing .15 cents? I remember people going there and carrying out bags full of the burgers. Of course, it didn't take long for the price to go up.
    DH and I could go to the movies and have a burger and drink (not McDonalds) for a couple of bucks in the 50's. You used to be able to get a real meal for what you pay for a burger, fries and drink today.
    Beverly Mathis Robinson

  4. Louise Hickman DillonJanuary 12, 2011 at 4:36 PM

    There was another young girl that worked at Sorocco's after me. Her name was Darlene Frantz. She is currently married to George Grant and lives in Tuckerton.

    I remember Ernie Church coming in everyday, as well as workers from Bass River Marina. Sometimes Mrs. Sorocco had me come in real early to serve breakfast and coffee to deer hunters. I worked there for approximately five summers until I graduated high school. Whenever I think of New Gretna, I remember those days at the restaurant.

    Before Sorocco owned the restaurant, it was owned by Aunt Jenny. My father, Gerald Hickman, would take me there every day for lunch when I attended the elementary school. Before I went back to school, I would buy penny candy. Other kids came in to buy candy also before returning to school.

  5. Thanks for the great comments Elaine and Louise. They are a part of New Gretna's history.

    Pete S

  6. I worked at Sorocco's restaurant between the employee's Louise and Darlene. I only worked weekends as my mother Dot Cramer, who was pictured above worked weekdays. My name is Lucille Cramer. I also worked deer season at Pats stand before and after school. My mother was sister of Jay Belk (esso station) and wife of George w. Cramer who was president of the fire dept for many years, adj of DAV chapter #35 and super for Burlington co. hwy dept.