How about ordering a hot meatball sandwich with a side of fries for $.75, or a burger with lettuce, tomato, and a side of fries for $.50? All that was once possible when I was attending Syracuse University. Of course that was a few years back, 1954-59. Today’s post is mostly a copy of the menu for the Savoy restaurant from that period. The Savoy’s location was 133 Marshall St. in Syracuse. The restaurant is now long gone but Marshall St. remains. On the Marshall Street in my time, it housed many small restaurants, bookstores, clothing stores, etc. catering to the student population. It may now be similar in function, but greatly different in appearance. If you aren’t familiar with Syracuse, imagine a similar scene from a college you know of, and I think you will be on target.
The Savoy advertised itself as “The Heart of Marshall Street.” For a few years, I lived in the S.U. Infirmary (long since demolished but now houses the Student Health Services complex). The Infirmary was at the heart of Waverly Ave. which parallels Marshall St. It was an easy walk out the back door, along the hospital which was there at the time, and across the street to the Savoy for something to eat or a cup of coffee. At that time, I could drink coffee at any time of the day though it is now hazardous to my sleep if I have coffee after breakfast.
I know Marge and I must have gone to the Savoy as it was close by both of us and was at least an OK spot. I don’t have any stories about us, but I do have one to share about another inmate of the Infirmary, let’s call him Joe. Somehow Joe had obtained of one of those then ubiquitous green restaurant order pads that the waiters and waitresses carried with them to take food orders. The pads were pre-numbered and would make an original and a carbon copy. The cover of the pad slipped under the order form to prevent duplication. I remember seeing a version of the same pad up until a year or so at the restaurant/bar that our car club uses.
When most people ordered food/drink and had finished, they signalled for the bill and the server would return with the original and the charges for each item and the total. Most people would take this to the cashier, pay and leave. Remember the misplaced comma story of a few years ago about Pandas “Eats, Shoots and Leaves?” Hold that thought.
Joe was different, he would order a full meal with beverage and desert which would cost about $2.00 then. He would get the tab and pocket it, substituting an identical looking green original on which he had written an order for a donut and coffee, something like that. That tab would be maybe $.25 which he would pay. So his book could have been titled “Eats, Cheats, and Leaves.” I don’t think he ever got caught.
I think that it was the job of some bookkeeper to reconcile the cash total (no credit cards then) and match up each green original and the flimsy to account for all transactions. I don’t know this for a fact, but it seems a reasonable assumption to me. Most of the restaurants, including the Savoy, were quite busy and the detailed bookkeeping, with at best a mechanical adding machine, must have been tedious in the extreme. I am sure some short cuts happened. Just human nature. I don’t know if Joe pulled this stunt at other restaurants, but it seems likely if the place did a lot of business. I know he did it at the Savoy since I have been with him and seen him in action.
So, enough already, that’s my story and now on to the menu pages. I scanned and did a quick and dirty edit of the pages. I had to reduce them in size a bit to get them into the post. If anybody wants a copy of the low res JPEG scans at full size, send me a note addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will e-mail the folder. The images look OK on a computer but would not print well.