Tuesday, February 5, 2008

UPDATE: 1960's Route 66 Postcard - Griswold's Smorgasbord Restaurant Claremont, CA

On December 9th, 2007 I posted this postcard of Griswold's. A few days ago I got an email from Karen Loparco about this restaurant and she was kind enough to send along some pictures. Please scroll down to see what Karen wrote.

She writes: "I am a freelance writer and have written several articles for Route 66 Magazine. In 2005, I wrote about the stretch of Route 66 that goes through twelve tiny towns in Southern CA. One of those towns is Claremont, former home of Griswold's. I did some research on the place. George Griswold and his family arrived in Claremont around 1915 and began turning the bounty of the area citrus into a thriving candied fruit and preserves business. Route 66 drivers enjoyed a stop for his treats and sent packages to family and friends.

Griswold's legacy grew as subsequent owners expanded the business, but retained the name.
Griswold's Smorgasbord became a Route 66 landmark and eventually included a dinner theater in the old high school gymnasium adjacent.

Times and tastes changed and by 1998, all that was left of the once thriving complex was a scaled down restaurant building and the old gymnasium building which was sold in a trustees sale. The new owner bulldozed the monument that proclaimed the building "Griswold's Old School House," and renamed it simply "Old School House Center." The name of Griswold, that had been a Claremont mainstay for over eight decades, was wiped away.

The Shadowlands index of haunted places in California indicates that Griswold's Old School House is haunted by several ghosts. "Several people have heard children's voices when no one is around, and others have seen a white mist walking around. Doors fly open by themselves. Also, there is always a feeling of being watched." Maybe George is there watching.

This is a photo of the restaurant that is on the property currently:

This is how the old school house looks:

There is still a dinner theater nearby but not in the old school building and there is a hotel next door, as well, which may be what one of the comments was referring to...... Hope this satisfies some of your readers' curiosity about the old place."

Karen also writes in a later email that if anyone would like to contact her for more information, email her at enhance01@earthlink.net

Thank you for all the great information and pictures Karen. We appreciate it all very much.


66 Productions said...

Very interesting information. The old school, by the way, was obviously Claremont High School. There used to be a pedestrian tunnel that ran underneath Foothill Boulevard (Route 66) so that the students could get from the main part of town south of Foothill to the school on the north side. I'm not sure exactly when the school stopped being used.

Just down the block now to the east, and on the south side of Foothill, is Wolfe's Market. Ed Wolfe - the third generation to own the store - used to use that tunnel to get to school. Now owned by Tom Wolfe, Wolfe's Market originally opened across from Claremont High School in 1917 before moving to its current location in 1935.

Lots of interesting history in Claremont, which has a much longer and detailed history than the other communities in that area, at least in terms of Route 66.

Viewliner Ltd. said...

Thank you for the great comment "66 Productions". The information is truly appreciated.

Anonymous said...

I used to eat at Griswold's as a kid. I remember the window into the bakery/candy making room. Claremont is/was a great section of Route 66. There was Griswolds, Claremont Inn, Old School House, the Savings and Loan Mural, the Botanical Gardens and the old Winchell’s sign down the road. I remember shopping at Wolfe's once or twice.

B Moore said...

i loved the chicken wings at the morning smorgasbord! used to go there 3 or 4 times a year with my parents when i was little. we would always stop at the shops inside the old school house and look at the historic photos in the hall. been back there in the past few years - though without griswolds. haven't ever felt watched or spooked in any way.

Viewliner Ltd. said...

Thanks for taking the time to share your story wth me and my readers B Moore. This is what blogging is all about. I appreciate it very much. Have a Merry Christmas.

sharon said...

i went there when i was a kid in the late 60's early 70's. my sister and I loved their meatballs.....i have since moved far away, but i can still remember the place

William said...

This is great seeing all this historic information about Griswolds. I worked there for almost 10 years when owned by the Sanfords and continued employment after he lost the property. That hotel had seen some great, great times - and I have some great fond memories of that place while working there.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I used to stop at Griswold's on the way to or from Lake Arrowhead -- this was in the late 70's. Now I live on the East Coast and have a daughter about to start at Pomona College. What goes around, comes around.

Anonymous said...

When I was a kid our family used to go to this restaurant on special occasions (We lived about 45 minutes away). I remember it fondly. Not only was the food good, but the little gift shop as you went out was cool too. And the people were always nice.

Good memories. Thanks for putting this on your blog. :)

Viewliner Ltd. said...

I posted this article and card 2 1/2 years ago and I am still getting comments from great people who are taking a few minutes to post there story.

To all of you... your comments are truly appreciated. All the best, Richard

Jeff said...

This is fantastic! Thanks so much for sharing. I too loved Griswold's as a kid. I used to live for the sweedish meatballs! I'm bringing my family to Claremont later this month to see where I lived when I was their age. Sad that I won't be able to share this great landmark and memory with them.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I was in the first class that went only to the "new" Claremont High, a few blocks north of the old school house. That was 1966.

Griswolds had been there all along, of course (their bakery's amazing Venetian Cream Cake was my mother's favorite, and we got it every year for her birthday), but it was a few years before the "Old School House" complex was in full swing.

It was a WONDERFUL arts community, with a silversmith, glass blower, several art galleries, handmade jewelry shops - and yes, the Crystal Cave.

For years I did all my Christmas shopping there - I knew I'd always find unique and very special items there.

Most of those shops have been gone for years - alas. Haven't been for a long time, but I'm meeting a friend there tomorrow and will let you know what I find.

Karen Wold-Wallis said...

I used to work at what we employees used to call "Grizzies", back in the early 70's. I worked breakfasts (5:30 am came very early!), lunches and dinners as a "Smorg Girl", which meant I had to keep the tables full of food. I used to really like the Swedish Meatballs until I worked there! It was hard work, but fun, since I had some great co-workers that made it much easier to deal with.

My hubby and I drove past there on a nostalgic drive thru the area last year and I couldn't believe what they'd done to the place. I couldn't even figure out which part of Buca used to be our building! I hated that the Old Schoolhouse area had changed so much!

Thanks for posting the photos and info on the place!