Blue Castle

by Les Mathis


Starting in 1956 when I was 18 and in Uppsala College I worked in the Blue Castle restaurants (they were not called fast food palaces then) on Raymond Blvd and Chapel St and the original one on North Broadway near the old school of Pharmacy through 1958. I lived near the Blue Castle on Stuyvesant Ave in Union which is where I was about 1/3 of the time I worked.

The North Newark and Down Neck stores were as different as night and day. When I worked weekends from 5pm to 3am at the Broadway store I could count on enough tips to gas up my car for the week. The Ironbound store provided zilch in tips no matter what time of day or night you worked. The customers on Broadway were the neighborhood type with quite a few people from the School of Pharmacy and a bar next door. The customers down neck were from the farmers market on Chapel street, Ballantine's or the heavy industry in the area. They were generally closed mouthed and came and went in a hurry. There were a few local residents who patronized the store but nowhere near the number at the Broadway location.

Hamburgers (they were hand rolled---16-17 per pound of meat) were 10 cents. Coffee (this was the one item the owners would not skimp on and it was the best) was also 10 cents. You could get the coffee to go in paper or a glass bottle for which there was a deposit of 10 cents. No french fries but Taylor Ham and eggs with toast (45 cents) and British biscuits (English muffins). Terrific Ice Cream (which was made in the Union store) danish and pie made up the remainder of the menu.

All 3 Blue Castles are now history. I know the one on Raymond Blvd was torn down years ago and I have not been near North Newark for a least 15 years so I have no idea what has transpired there. There were 3 other Blue Castles that were operated as franchises: On the Blvd in Jersey City, Harrison and Passaic. The one in Union first turned into a pizza joint (Interestingly it was part of the FBI/DEA probe they dubbed "The Pizza Connection".) and then into a Dunkin Donuts.

All I can say is that it was an education in of itself. Being at the Ironbound store when a big fight rolled in between 3 guys which started in the Esso Station next door. They put one guy's head through the Jukebox which took us the rest of the night to clean up, and in North Newark when the imbibers from the bar next door came in all jovial and were still telling stories and jokes when I went home at 3 am.

The best story is the 1st night I worked at the Broadway store when, at 2 am, the crowd came in. Being totally wet behind the ears I didn't know they had a game they played with all the new young countermen. When I asked one woman what she wanted she replied; "you nude on toast".. I stood there with my jaw hanging unable to speak. Without breaking a beat the guy working the grill asked: "white or rye". The place roared to watch the bright red face of the teenager behind the counter. The hazing finished I was immediately taken into their confidence and became one of the "BC crew".

Great experience.


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