Woody’s Smorgasburger II

The comment thread on the original posting here about Woody’s Smorgasburger got so long that we decided to stop it there and start a sequel over there. You can read the old thread here. Please continue the conversation below. And by the way, all this talk has made some of us miss the place all the more.

223 Responses to Woody’s Smorgasburger II

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    Dear Readers and Mark ( the management )
    I may be the first to post a comment on this new sequel thread.
    If so, let me say I am proud to be the one to do so.
    Thank you Mark for monitoring your site on a daily basis and looking out for us. Your time and efforts have allowed the rest of us to reconnect
    to each other and to a time and place which was like no other.

    Now for an official Woody’s comment;
    I THINK the Woody’s hot dog buns were seeded, but I cannot remember if the they were poppy seed or sesame seed.
    I bet Chris can help me out.

    Welcome all to WS II .

  • Chris P. says:

    Thank you, Management.
    I want to be the first one to welcome everyone to this new Woody’s Smorgasburger site.
    Please feel free to share your comments, good or bad about your experiences at Woodys whether as a customer or an old employee.
    We all love reading what people think about the food, operations and experiences in general.
    This is a fun site.
    Please, don’t be bashful.
    Chris P.

  • Chris P. says:

    I know poppy seeds were on the Kaiser roll but I can’t remember any seeds on the hot dog buns, if there were any at all, I would think sesame seeds.
    We did not have any seeds on our hot dog buns at #1 C.C. or #7 E.S. after 1978.

  • BOTVOLR says:

    Ya, I’ll go with poppy seeds on Kaiser Rolls as a “natural”. But why are Y’all even talking about any seeds on hot dog rolls as they are most always ‘Nude’? I don’t know of ‘dogs before “63″, but had I, I would’ve organized a protest for any kind of hot dogs unless they approximated a Bratwurst as might be expected in the Alps!!!
    Lest I be branded UNpc in today’s world! I, nevertheless, would vociferously recommend an Icon of hot dogs here in Albuquerque, NM for All who ‘re’travel the Mother Road…Rt. 66…which existed in its time, where you get a Footlong (NM red) Chile Cheesedog with onions! E.g. http://www.nmgastronome.com/?p=261 (Yo like you choose wine? I recommend the Orange Drink vs my beloved Pepsi!”

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    Good morning Readers,

    My offering today should be more fun and more interesting than my previous quip about hot dog buns.

    1956 ~ Woody’s Smorgasburger opens in Culver City with huge crowds and a tiny dining room. While dads takes their place in line, other family members go inside to claim a vacant picnic table.
    Well, this causes big problems for the customers who have just dressed their burgers and are departing the condiment bar and now have nowhere
    to sit.

    The job of resolving this problem fell to Mr. Wood while his partner, Mr. Cramer happily takes in the cash at the register.
    Mr. Wood had to approach the families who were holding tables and ask them to rejoin dad in line …….. and then promise he would have a table available for them after their order was prepared.
    I hope Chris has this same problem with his newest store.

    During this time, a couple of kids we know were in those lines as well.
    Chris Pingel was ten, Marshall Loveday was about five.
    Mr. Ralph Wood was 31 and Mr. Cramer was about 55.
    Phil A. was eleven in 1956, back in Detroit, probably at the corner drug store trying to steal a Snicker bar.

    For Botvolr : I am going to do you a big favor by informing you of the
    ” Chicago ” hot dog which is served only with a Poppy seeded roll.
    Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words, so go to your favorite image site and see for yourself what you have been missing for 70 years.
    I don’t know …… perhaps the Chicago dogs are not available in the areas you have lived. Too bad !
    But do not lament as you can board the eastbound Southwest Chief and be in Chicago in a day and a half. Enjoy !

    Such fun on a Saturday morning.

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    Other notable events which took place during 1956 along with the opening of Woody’s Smorgasburger #1 in Culver City;
    U.S. carries out H bomb tests.
    Elvis first hit ~ ” Heartbreak Hotel “.
    Interstate highway construction begins.
    First Hard Disk ~ IBM.
    Albert Sabin develops oral Polio vaccine.
    Chris Pingel and friends goof off during the Saturday matinee at the Paradise theater in Westchester.
    Phil Ankofski receives a brand new ” English racer ” bike from his grandpa
    for getting a good report card.

    Start a great weekend by giving your husband or bride a big hug and kiss !

  • BOTVOLR says:

    OMG Fer sure Fer sure: there ARE apparently poppy seeded hot dog rolls http://tinyurl.com/m75qmwzand and which I can possibly get a Chicago dog on right here in river (Rio Grande that is) city at my local Sonic Drive-In!!!
    Indeed, took the kidlets on the SouthWest Chief through Chi-Town depot to Massachusetts back in the ’70 amidst rumors of Amtrak’s demise. To this day….being deprived of cell phones/IPads/Tablets, my now adult kids shoot me daggers lest I might share that wonderous adventure with G-kids! Also to this day, I don’t think either one will touch a corn-on-the-cob per miles and miles of Midwest Cornfields and Wheatfields. I think one sent me this anonymously once http://tinyurl.com/kh7mvcn wherein Jackie D’S drives home the point at about the minute and a half mark!!!!
    Otherwise, Great verbal picture of the opening of Woody’s in CC and putting people’s ages in perspective! Alas, there are still no takers on the existence or not of a pull down from the ceiling, fold-out staircase to the “office” at CC… LOL.

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    If one of us was to bring a new Woody’s store on line, I would love to see a
    Chicago dog on the menu. It like the Matterhorn is a work of art.
    The following is a ” heads up ” for those of you who might be trying the Chicago dog for the very first time:

    It is ESSENTIAL that your order is prepared with a FRESH, STEAMED
    bun. Without these two words in play, your order will be a waste of your time and $$$ . If I am doubtful when ordering, I will say ” I love your Chicago dogs, but I will order only if you can tell me that you will use only the freshest buns in the store ” ( no left overs from last nights closing. )
    I have always had 100% cooperation.
    On the way out , I ask to speak to the manager and then proceed to tell him or her what a great staff they have.
    Gosh, it would be fun to be back in the business. Like it was in the 1960′s .
    I have learned from Chris P. and other friends that major changes have occurred over the past decades. They attest to all the new laws and fees which have drained much of the enjoyment and satisfaction from the business. I guess this pertains to all the headaches that owners and operators have …… but what the hell, it can still be fun to work in the joint.
    Am I right ?

  • Chris P. says:


    At Culver City #1, the office was on the ground floor just before the back kitchen door.
    The pull down stairs you’re referring to went up to the attic where the make up air and heater were. We did store a few things up there.
    In El Segundo #7 The office again was just before you went out the rear (kitchen) door. The pull down stairs there went to the attic where, again, the heater and swamp cooler for the make up air were located.
    We did store more stuff there because there was more room, however it was kind of inconvenient having to pull down the ladder and climb the steps so we just stored things that we didn’t need too often.
    I hope I’ve answered you questions. I must have missed your previous comments, sorry.
    Have a nice weekend.
    Chris P.

  • Chris P. says:

    On my last posting I neglected to tell you where the fold down stais were located. Culver City’s stairs were in the dining room by the back door.
    El Segundo they were in the kitchen.

  • Marshall Loveday says:

    Hot Dogs……
    There was something unique about Woody’s hot dogs, but I’m having trouble remembering what it was. While working a shift, I would quite frequently have a hot dog on a lunch break rather than a burger. I know they were high quality dogs – might have been a better flavor than ones you would normally run across. We grilled them, too, and if you wanted a cheese dog, it got zapped in the microwave, which made the bun all soft and hot as well.

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    Congratulation to Chris P. for yet again posting a benchmark comment.
    #240 from the older site plus #10 on the new site = # 250 !!!!
    Woody’s Smorgasburger was a lot of fun for us the patrons and employees. The comments posted on this site also indicate that the Wood family and the Pingel family also had tons of fun as owners / operators.

  • BOTVOLR says:

    -Chris: Thank you, Thank U! for the staircase clarification altho I still think you guys called it “The Office” as a cover for when Y’all went up there to nap!!! Ron Chrisman(?)’s ( ground floor) ‘closet’ office of ’63, was off the kitchen area just before you went out the door to the dining room in Holly-Riv.
    - Phil: Hot dog bun/rolls….such a specialty! LOL Alas! To be left ‘soft” or not! On the classic (New England?) Lobstaah roll/bun there is a naked space where crust usually is, for it to be served ‘buttery toasted’: http://tinyurl.com/krqzf6k At the previously mentioned Iconic Dog House on Rte. 66 in Albuquerque http://www.nmgastronome.com/?p=261, the roll/bun for the Foot Long (NM red) Chile Cheese Dog is ‘opened’ and the inside grilled (toasted?), which I believe tends to strengthen the bun from easily disintegrating per the chile sauce. (My assumption is that early on in the ’50s, it was recognized that Easterners who were travelling the Mother Road (aka Route 66 http://tinyurl.com/lcoczve) from Chi-town to Santa Monica were not used to taste-heat and they had to pause between bites to let the heat subside, let alone enjoy the unique taste of NM red chile…i.e. not Coney Island/Tex-chili). I.e. such pauses, if left unchecked, would let the chile seep further into the bun’s structure. In addition and most importantly, they take the extra step of slicing their generic dogs lengthwise for the grilling, which of course brings out the true flavor-essence of this meat!) “Chow!”

  • Vincent Chiesa says:

    Hello once again my friends! Well I know Chris is on the mark when he tells about where the office area and retracting stairs was at Woody’s #7. I remember in early 1985 my wife and I painted the whole kitchen and office area during a 2 or perhaps 3 night period after Woody’s closed for the night. At the time I really didn’t realize what I got into since so many supplies had to be removed and put back and ready for business the next morning. But all-in-all, I think it looked pretty good, and nice and bright with fresh white paint. On another note, I remember when the satellite dish system went in, a new draw for customers who were interested in watching the games. And who can forget when the TV was turned on and a Playboy channel popped up from someone watching it the night before after the store closed (this was prior to scrambling the channel). How embarrassing it was. Yeah we all have great fond memories of Woody’s during its heydays! Since I was in my early 20’s at the time, mine are perhaps unique from everyone else’s…lol! I drove down there about 3 years ago only to find that it was an IHOP…how sad! I wanted a KMB (aka: King Size Mushroom Burger) not a tooty-fruity pancake.

  • Sr Plata says:

    I remember the amazing ice cream sundaes that made our day as children of the beach.

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    The L.A. Times reports the Proud Bird restaurant in Westchester will be closing November 21, 2013. I myself was not a patron , but I understand from fans of good food and aviation that this will be a sad day indeed.
    Mark our site manager should have an interesting narrative to share in the near future. It is now eight and one half years since the closing of Woody’s Smorgasburger in nearby El Segundo. In honor of both locations, lets all go out this weekend and patronize our current favorite restaurant.
    Tip extra well, and give the owner/manager a pat on the back.

  • Vincent Chiesa says:

    Yes, I remember eating at the Proud Bird once. I had forgotten about that place it has been so long ago. I remember once at Woody’s we were cooking so fast that a customer got a Fish Sandwich and ate half of it, then returned and said “Isn’t this suppose to have fish in it?” We always had fun and exciting customers who never seem to get mad at the little things in life. If that were to happen today, we would be sued for giving out a false fish sandwich. I always enjoyed serving our Woody’s customers! and our food was ‘real’ food. Even when serving the bake beans, it never was served out of the can-many other ingredients were added to bring out the best flavor/tasting bake beans. The food quality was hard to beat anyplace for such a great price. I think when I started there the Smorgasburger was around .69 cents.

  • BOTVOLR says:

    Whoa…Small World! Lest I be telling tales out of school and it is not Sr. Plata I ‘know’, I bet, knowing what he knows today, he’d have been suggesting Woody’s D-I-Y Sundae ‘condiment’ bar would have included red chile ‘sprinkles’ and the burger bar condiments had chopped green chile! LOL

  • Phil A. says:

    Good morning Readers,
    I just returned from my local McD’s after having a breakfast sandwich.
    Boy, am I lamenting the bygone days of the 1960′s when Woody’s had dining room service only and no TV’s.
    Todays big problem is service ; dining room vs. drive thru.
    Over the last several years you could see the handwriting on the wall
    that drive thru was going to get top priority for service attention.
    I do understand why it developed to such a high degree. The fast food customers voted for the drive thru in overwhelming numbers.
    So be it.

    But after this mornings breakfast experience with extremely bad counter service, I have resolved to do the following in the future.
    I will enter the fast moving drive thru lane , place and pickup my order,
    and then park the damn car and take my order inside to a nearly vacant dining room.
    As I was exiting the restaurant a short time ago, I saw the Ray Kroc plaque by the door and wondered what Ray would do if alive today.
    What would Ralph Wood and Mr. Cramer do ?

    I have to think this subject is also of great concern to Chris P.
    I bet this is discussed at every management meeting ;
    ” How do we give the dining room patron his fair share of our attention ?”.
    As always, I am looking forward to your responses and comments.

    The subject of ” dining room TV’s ” can wait for another day as I must get outdoors and do some yard cleanup after last nights storms.
    We lost power from 7 PM to 1AM but all is well now.
    Help is needed in Illinois and Indiana to be sure.
    Phil Ankofski

  • BOTVOLR says:

    Yo Phil,
    It’s always mind boggling watching such weather ravage anywhere while imagining how one regains one’s sensibilities, e.g. where do I start first or do I just get on a plane to head out of Dodge? Weirdest story I heard while in Kansas was an acquaintance in Topeka finding a vase of flowers, that had been on the kitchen table, inside her refrigerator! Good to hear of your safety.
    Drive-thru-s: A week ago, I was surprised to see a pre-construction sign for a Drive-thru Subway which apparently exist elsewhere. This left me wondering if there will be a window where I could look upon the line of condiments as I actually do in a Subway and talk to the hoagie/grinder/submarine maker and pick out my choices just like in the ‘store’ or will it be by a view of the ‘line’ via a HD/LCD monitor or picking off from a listing on a signboard to speak them? (Do any Contributors have the option of ‘chopped green chile’ other than in New Mexico Subways?)
    Alas, Sonics out here don’t have a dining room albeit our weather allows having a ‘dining-patio’…LOL
    While Woody’s didn’t have LCDs hanging from the A-frame rafters, it did have Newspapers-on-a-Stick which were despised later by Seinfeld.
    Say, as an aside, I remember starting out bussing tables along with running stuff through the dishwasher and prophylactingly ‘pre-soaking/treating’ lettuce for rust my first few weeks before graduating to Drinks, then Salads, then Register. Did we have D-i-Y bussing as well or was that introduced later, i.e. demeaning as you might say the ‘dining’ experience? BTW, I hope you Guyz kept up the proud tradition of those of us who came before Y’all and you never put up a Pity-Jar, e.g.: Please help with our tuition at USC; Our surfboards were stolen out of our woody while we were inside serving you…please help!; Mom/Dad are divorcing-Mom can no longer afford to send me to Soccer Camp!; etc.
    Lastly speaking of Drive-thru-s: heard of this being tested a couple of years ago: Outsourced Drive-thru order takers!!! The article I read referred to a “contracted” work-@-home Mom in Roswell, NM, as an example, as actually taking orders via a special phone arrangement per being the Drive-thru order taker for MickeyD’s in a couple of places in e.g. LA. Did that ever take hold? E.g. a related article for reference http://tinyurl.com/l97sw8r

  • Phil A. says:

    Dreamin of a King Swiss ( not rare ) on a Kaiser roll today.
    I was thinking today about what time period might be considered the
    ” hay days” for Woody’s Smorgasburger.
    I came up with the period from 1958 to 1971.
    Woody’s #2 opened in 1958 and 1971 saw the ownership split between
    Mr. Wood and partner. From 1971 on , units were closed or sold.
    As we have learned from commenters here, there were newer attempts
    in the early 1980′s.

    So, from 1958 thru 1971 , times were especially good.
    I came to learn of a much different venue that pretty well matched this time period as well: Pacific Ocean Park !

    In nearby Santa Monica , POP opened in 1958 with tremendous crowds.
    ( some days were better than Disneyland ! )
    The adult admission was .90 cents which gave everyone access to some really great stuff.
    I bet a lot of families started the day with breakfast at home, then headed for the park by 10 AM. Kids could not wait for lunch time which meant choices and more choices ; hot dogs, Coney dogs , fries, popcorn and cotton candy. As the afternoon progressed, mom and dad sat on benches in the shade while the kids had a blast with their friends.

    With everyone tired and bushed, the gang headed out of the park and mom started wondering out loud, just what in the hell she was going to fix for dinner at home. Well, dad pipes up ; ” my check was really big from overtime at Hughes , who wants to go to Woody’s ? ”

    The kids all scream ” I do , I do “.
    Mom says ” I’ll get a Swiss Burger and their wonderful potato salad”.
    Dad , with a big smile says; ” Why not rethink that dear as I was just remembering Woody’s awesome Steak a Bobs. Or the New York Strip.”
    “Both come with salad, baked potato, and buttered roll. ”
    Mom says; ” Hon, just how big is your check this week ? “.
    Kids; ” can we make our own sundaes dad? …… can we dad ?”

    I hope this narrative entertained you as much as it did me !
    Anyway, there must be thousands of you guys out there who have some pretty interesting tales to tell of times at POP.
    Please do share !!

    PS; As the gang left Woody’s that evening , dad opened the car door for mom ……. and mom whispered something in dads ear.
    Dad stood up with biggest smile we ever saw. He said something about
    “getting lucky tonight.”

    Have fun !
    Phil Ankofski

  • Vincent Chiesa says:

    Perhaps heydays can come in various time periods, just depending on what happened during the time that someone knew, or worked, for a place at the time. For some it seems as if it was the time it opened, for me, it was the time I worked there. And perhaps for Chris it might be the time he took ownership of the business and continued to develop the business with new ideas and concepts in dining out. Dynamics change through the years and so do businesses, clientele, and current events that affect both. Without change, you do not survive! I would certainly agree that many restaurant businesses decades ago were more friendly and survived on quality of service and product for customers. Today in the fast-food industry a person is a “number” or a “guess and a number.” In retrospect, the McDonald’s brother could say they lived in a time of the heydays of McDonalds when they started their business in the mid 50’s, only to be bought out by a great entrepreneur/salesman who had a vision far beyond the McDonald’s brothers vision; and sold it to Ray Kroc years later for a little over $3M. Ray Kroc would probably say his heydays were everyday as he built the business into what it is today. I will say that after the Vietnam War, all these businesses really started taking hold, people started getting out eating more and anyone with a strong will was able to make it. The problem today is everyone wants a piece of the business without putting their sweat into building it from ground-up. Customers want to sue for the coffee being too hot, states want to tax you everyway they can, counties want to regulate how to keep an establishment clean/safe, and the list goes on. As silly as it may seem, Woody’s was more than a place to work for me, it was the foundation to many greater things I achieved later in life. Just think, California is one of few states which started so many great restaurant businesses (e.g., Del Taco, Nogales, Bakers, Jack-I-The-Box, and many more). Now I’m ready for a Hamburger steak dinner with a bake potato….lol

  • Chris P says:

    Thanks, Vinnie,
    We did have a lot more freedom to do things in those days. Now there are so many regulations it’s not so fun anymore, just work.
    It was sure good having you work with me. You really helped and were a pleasure to work with.
    Chris P

  • Chris P says:

    Pacific Ocean Park
    Wow, what a place.
    I went there for the first time on my 13th Birthday in 1959 and fell in love with it. I have tons of stories about POP.
    But this site is for Woodys.
    Maybe Mark would like to start another site, I’m sure lots of people were very familiar and loved the place as well.
    Thanks, Phil for mentioning it.

  • The Management says:

    I think I have enough websites to tend to without starting up one for Pacific Ocean Park. And besides…

    1. I never liked the place.

    2. My father closed it down. (Sort of. See here.)

  • Phil A. says:

    ~ Chris P. and Mark ( our manager ) ~
    I could not believe my eyes as I read Marks spectacular narrative on POP
    which he published in June, of this year. I also enjoyed learning from Mark that his interest in writing was evident at age six. My daughter Kate was exactly the same and is now an editorial director.

    We all are aware of the phrase ” it’s a small world after all. ”
    But to have Phil A. and Chris P. express an interest in POP and then have
    our Site Manager swoop in with a very detailed account of his dads
    involvement ……. well it just blows the mind. What are the odds ?

    For Mark, How about this addition for the old la restaurants;
    Hamburger Handout. Jim Collins opened several units in the Culver City and Westchester areas. His first in 1952. Jim of course went on to be a major guiding force with his KFC and Sizzler units.

    I am thinking Ralph Wood and Jim Collins had to be buddies.
    Hamburger Handout #1 (1952), Woody’s #1 (1956) and Sizzler #1 (1958)
    all opened in Culver City. They were but a short bike ride from each other!
    Man , what heady days !

    Mark, thanks for sharing the ” dads” site which featured POP.
    Phil Ankofski

  • The Management says:

    Phil…The restaurants I feature on this site are ones which I went to and feel that I have a worthwhile recollection or observation…and it also helps when I have pictures, menus, etc. I never went to Hamburger Handout.

    Since I started this site, folks have written me — sometimes angrily or like they’re correcting some outrageous error on my part — because I haven’t covered their favorite restaurant of the past. I usually reply to them that they’re welcome to write a listing, especially if they have images to accompany it, and I’ll probably post it. So far, no one’s taken me up on it. I’m running out of places I remember so I hope someone will.

  • Phil A. says:

    Good evening Mark,
    Thanks for the swift reply. I understand that we are all in the same boat.
    As you are running out of places that you remember, I am running out of interesting ” issues ” to raise about Woody’s SmorgasBurger.

    I do spend some amount of time thinking about how your ” old la ” site could be advertised to a much broader audience. (not just Woody’s).
    I think most of the Readers and Commenters have come upon your
    site by accident ( as I ). Sure would love to see this aspect change.
    If any ideas occur to you, and you need help, I would love to hear about it.
    I know Chris P. can speak for himself, but I know he would be heartbroken if he was left out of any plans for making more people aware of your sites and the histories of the Southland.

    In the meantime, I would like to repeat your ” shout out ” of several months ago regarding your interest in receiving photos.
    I myself do not have the setup.
    So, dear Readers ……….for those who can share photos with Mark and the rest of us, PLEASE step up to the plate and do so.
    Who is up for this ? Who will commit ? Who has the follow thru ?

    Best regards to all. Farewell to the Proud Bird.
    Phil Ankofski

  • Karen says:

    Thank you for the work you do. It is fun t share memories from the good old days.

  • Phil A. says:

    I am glad to say the following was never a problem at Woody’s .
    To see what I am referring to switch over to the ” R.J’s for Ribs” site.
    Scroll down to near the bottom and you will see the comment posted by Elise in late October. Her comment has put a smile on my face every day since her posting. I do hope all our Readers will check this out as I know it will make your day.
    Phil A.

  • Phil A. says:

    Hello Readers !

    Now that the holiday season is upon us, we will be hosting or attending several festive dinners or gatherings in the spirit of peace and good will.
    Plenty of punch, nice little nogs, and a joyous supply of Gentleman Jack.
    The hostess calls out ” dinner is served “, and guests file in to take their place at a table laid out with roasted turkey, Polish kielbasa and grandmas homemade fruit cakes. ( Folks in Palos Verdes probably get prime rib . )

    So, you are asking ;
    What does this menu possibly have to do with Woody’s SmorgasBurger ?
    As my Christmas gift to all, I want to share with you just one of 12 rules from Woody’s General Rule Book. ( given to each new employee )
    Adherence to this rule will make you an appreciated host/hostess.
    The Rule;
    NEVER serve any food that has fallen to the floor.
    If a guest drops or spills food, replace immediately !

    Have fun. Merry Christmas !
    Phil Ankofski

  • BOTVOLR says:

    Well Phil… Wesolych Swiat! Wishing you may also find some pierogies, e.g. kapusta and potato/cheese filled ones, in your stocking. What? No Golumpki? (Eh…please note, I did not ask if you had garatchki!! Groan: the key to the garage door.) In today’s Spirit of “Diversity”, may I break off and pass you a piece of Oplatek for your efforts. Lifting a glass of nog: Na Zdrowie! Slante! Salud! Cheers!

  • Phil A. says:

    Hello Mark , ( our manager )
    I just read your quips regarding burger toppings or dressings and your preference for neither. ( from the E mail bag. )
    No wonder you were such a devoted patron of Woody’s SmorgasBurger !
    Fixing a medium rare ” Smorgie ” your way with no explanations to anyone.
    Reminds me of a young man who went to his local pizza joint and devoted a fair amount of time in getting his order placed. In the end he ordered a mushroom and pepperoni pizza with the specific stipulation that there be only one single piece of pepperoni on the pizza. ( plenty of mushrooms).
    Such a story Mark . Perhaps a Woody’s SmogasPizza would have been a success as well.
    Such fun on your sites !
    Phil Ankofski

  • Gary Wilcut says:

    I am heading over to Johnnies Pastrami in Culver City next week for one of there wonderful pastrami sandwiches. Johnnies was a popular hang-out for Woody’s employees for a change of pace from Woody’s and they had fries. I am then going to Dupar’s in Farmers Market for a slice of boysenberry pie. Dupar’s was established in 1938 is now owned by Biff Naylor, son of Tiny Naylor, the owner of the car hop restaurant in Westchester. It was a toss up weather to go the Apple Pan in West L.A. for apple pie or Dupar’s for boysenberry pie, boysenberry pie won because it was created by the Knott Family of Knott’s Berry Farm in Orange County were I now live and is one of my favorites. All you foodies out there, EAT YOUR HEART OUT !

  • Phil A. says:

    Hello Gary, ( early 60′s Woody’s #1 employee ) Glad you are okay !
    If I was to fly into LAX next week, could we join up and do a ” Culver City
    Exploration Day ” ?
    We could start the day with breakfast at CoCo’s, then do lunch at Johnny’s
    followed by pie at the Apple Pan. Come dinner time we could join Chris Pingel at his El Pollo Loco location on Sepulveda which was of course the site of the Original Woody’s SmorgasBurger #1. ( info for newer Readers ).
    Better yet, Chris Pingel and Mark Evanier should join in for the entire day.
    I cannot think of anything more enjoyable than to meet up with all of you guys. Plus, when I win the $400,000,000. Mega Lottery on Friday night,
    this entire outing will be my treat. Limo included.
    ( I am in a generous mode as I just finished reading ” Johnny Carson ” written by his long time lawyer , Henry Bushkin. Turns out Johnny’s estate
    was in the same area of 400 million. ) Anyway ……..

    Lets give thanks that we all are in good enough health to contemplate
    this kind of stuff. And yes Mark, I will be happy to assist you with a “walker ” if your recent knee surgery requires. Feel better. Amen.
    Phil Ankofski

  • The Management says:

    I appreciate the offer, Phil, but I’m kinda swamped these days. If you do it, please report here on your day.

  • Phil A. says:

    Good Morgan Readers, ( in honor of Robert W. Morgan ~ KHJ ~ )

    Plenty of snow coming down here in Dublin , Ohio.
    This makes for a ” slip and fall day ” so we will be staying indoors.

    Looks like my restaurant tour of Culver City is not going to fly at this time.
    Too many guys are not available. At this point, I plan on resurrecting the same idea in May of 14. We shall see.
    If the 400 million had come my way, I was going to open a ” Phillies ”
    Pastrami shop and try to replicate the Johnnie’s sandwich. Anyway ……

    Now for my official Woody’s SmorgasBurger comment;
    The customers and linemen at all the Woody’s stores used SEVEN words throughout every day which were NEVER even uttered at places like McD’s,
    Burger King, or Wendy’s. I am including all their stores everywhere, worldwide. Billions and Zillions of burgers sold without these Seven words.
    These words are never even thought of, forget about voicing them.
    I am getting vibes that Chris P. and Gary W. are already on to me.


    There we have it; the all important words which can transform a fresh meat patty into a mouth watering ” Smorgie “. Your choice !
    No need to further discuss the competition .

    During my tenure with Woody’s, I found it extremely hard to honor these words during two time frames. The first was at Culver City on Monday nights. The famous ” Hamburger Steak Special “.
    No matter who was running the broiler ( Randy Ewing or Ty Messersmith )
    there would be quite a few platters returned for more grilling.
    Many of the returns were processed with the Amana Radar Range.
    Since the grill was already loaded with new orders, there was no more room to add ” returns “. Anyway, the microwave did its job !

    The second place of difficulty was at Woody’s El Segundo.
    All lunch time rushes from Monday through Friday.
    When I arrived at El Segundo as manager, I was not nearly as skilled at the grill as several of the other staff guys. I was most fortunate that I never had to cook during the lunch rushes. I need to give a big ” shout out ” to
    Bob Anderson who was a master at the grill and who was a guy that was so well liked by both customers and employees. Bob worked as manager for both Mr. Wood and Mr. Pingel at El Segundo for many years.

    I would say that the ” RARE ” and “WELL ” orders were the easier to process, while the other ” MED RARE” and “MED WELL ” orders pretty much fell into the ” Medium ” range.
    Perhaps I will see some rebuttal comments on this.

    Have a peaceful weekend my friends.
    Phil Ankofski

  • Phil A. says:

    More Christmas Gifts to all of our Woody’s SmorgasBurger fans.

    These gifts were authored by our very own manager, Mark Evanier.
    I am merely acting as the Christmas Elf in giving Mark this much deserved shout out. Mark has authored over 100 articles and then posted them on his special web site. The articles are so diverse and interesting that I wanted to be sure all the Readers here are informed of their existence.
    I limit myself to just one article per day so that I can extend my enjoyment over three months. ( like the Now and Later candy ! )

    Type in ; newsfromme.com

    Go to the right and select ” articles ”
    Then select ” POV columns ” ( Point OF View )
    That’s it. Enjoy !

    You will see that Mark gives all his subject matter a very entertaining and informative ” hook ” that keeps your interest peaked till the last word.
    Whether you are retired like myself, or someone who is still hitting the bricks at 60 hours a week …….. please do yourself this favor and take time out each day and put a smile on your face.

    I do realize this is the most ” silver tongued ” shout ever, but you will see that it is deserved. Am I right ??

    Phil Ankofski

  • Phil A. says:

    Good morning Readers,

    Congratulations to our own Mark Evanier .
    Today is the 13th anniversary of his separate blog site. Well done Mark !
    I have spent some amount of time trying to think of a way to mesh this news with an official Woody’s comment. ( to keep this a virgin site ).
    At this point, all I have to offer is ; the word SmorgasBurger has 13 letters.
    All my best,

  • BOTVOLR says:

    ~ Alas, Grillmen think ~ RARE ~MEDIUM RARE ~ MEDIUM ~ MEDIUM WELL ~ WELL ~ were the “The world”…LOL We Saladmen could have easily messed Y’all up by what we wrote on the “order transmittal gizmo”!!! LOL (While not meaning to brag, but only once!!! did I have a salad returned when I forgot to put the beet on it!!!!!
    ~ In any event, “Hi! Welcome to Woody’s!” were also key or most frequent words! Beyond that, “French, Blue Cheese, or Thousand Island” were the next most important or followed by “No, I’m sorry we do not have Roquerfort; will Blue Cheese be satisfactory?” (There were Trademark or whatever issues with “Roquefort” apparently.) We were instructed at Hollywood Riv to put BC in the middle as supposedly studies had shown stuff in the middle of a list was most apt to be forgotten; i.e. BC was the more expensive of the 3 choices.
    ~ Sorry Phil…per your lack of comment, I guess I missed, as a half Polack, a guess at your ethnicity per the ‘ski’ and preference for Polish Kielbasa…Only a bit of camaraderie/koleżeństwo intended.

  • Phil A. says:

    Hello BOTVOLR ( or Ken ? )
    In the spirit of Woody’s SmorgasBurger ….all is well.
    Any quips that were made about ” ski” were taken only as you intended.
    Sidebar; Your comments regarding work on the Woody’s line show that you have a terrific memory.
    Phil “ski”

  • Phil A. says:

    Good morning Readers,

    The current comment count on this site is now at 280 !
    240 with the original and 40 with the sequel.
    Can we do 300 by New Years ? I think we can !

    As I was finishing breakfast this morning which featured one cup of coffee,
    it occurred to me that Woody’s coffee has yet to be discussed.
    I think I may need help on this one, so please do step up.

    I will write this outlook with todays coffee making standards in mind.
    First the positive aspects :
    The brand of coffee was Maxwell House.
    The coffee urns were ” drip from the top ” style which is still the preferred
    method for coffee brewing. ( the old style Percolators proved to be wrong)

    The negative aspects;
    The urns were huge with a capacity of 3 to 5 gallons. From the standpoint of freshness, it took a very, very long time for this amount of coffee to be used. The coffee was made at 8 AM and my thinking is that on some slower week days … this same batch of coffee may have lasted till closing time !

    The Woody’s SmorgasBurger unit in Culver City was the only unit where I remember making additional batches of coffee for the dinner rush.
    I myself was not a coffee drinker then, so I was NOT monitoring the Woody’s coffee from the standpoint of freshness or taste.
    In todays standards, I now have to think that our Woody’s coffee must have been a pretty poor offering.
    On the other hand, I NEVER heard a comment or suggestion that hey, this mud needs to be changed out.

    Today I see ads that proclaim their coffee is changed out after 20 minutes.
    In my above scenario, I could have been serving coffee at 9PM that was
    13 HOURS OLD !
    So, this is where I welcome some informative comments from other Woody’s employees. Is my spin on Woody’s coffee correct ?

    I arrived at Woody’s Redondo in March of 1967.
    The manager who preceded me had hired this really attractive high school
    girl to work the Friday and Saturday night dinner rushes. ( 5 till 7:30 PM )
    Her job was to cruise the dining room with the coffee pot and offer customers refills. The girl was a senior and she came up with a really cute
    ” Tyrolean ” type outfit which featured a very short skirt. Lovely gams!
    I think her value in bringing in male customers was much more important than the new soaring , rotating sign.
    Her wages meant nothing. The girl worked so she could earn special credits
    at school. So, she only worked with me for three weekends and quit.
    I do not remember a discussion about replacing her. Too bad.

    Phil Ankofski

  • Chris P. says:

    French, Bleu cheese Thousand Island & Italian.
    Cheapest first and last, so, maybe, the customer might pick the cheaper dressing. Nikabood Foods, Fisherman’ Wharf, was our supplier of our Blue cheese and 1000 island at the time, I believe. They had the best Blue cheese.
    I don’t know what happened to them but, wish they were still around.
    Also. we used to say would you like salad or soup? Not, soup or salad because it could come out as super salad. I may be crazy but that’s what I remember from 1964.
    I believe one thing about the difference between blue cheese and Roquefort dressing, aside from the fact that the Roquefort was made in France, was that blue cheese is made with cow’s milk and Roquefort is made with goats milk. That’s what I heard. If I’m wrong, please correct me.
    Being that it is Christmas time, I’ll bring up just one more thing.
    Does anyone remember Risty coming to their store to supervise the decorating? She would come to #1 (Culver City) where I was managing and tell us what she wanted and would help organize things. She was always very nice. I got to know her pretty well over the years.
    Everyone, have a very “MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR”

    Chris P.

  • Marshall Loveday says:

    I learned to love a rare burger at Woody’s. Still do. Always tell the cook, “As long as it doesn’t get up and walk away……..”
    I ran across this website and Mark Evanier a few years ago when I did a google search on (what else?) Woody’s. Turns out Mark and I are contemporaries, about the same age, and grew up not far from each other, he in Santa Monica and me in Mar Vista. He turned into a very good writer.

  • Phil A. says:

    Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas !
    Pax et Veritas

    Phil Ankofski

  • Chris P. says:

    The coffee urn held 3 gallons on each side. The urns were surrounded with hot water so the coffee although a bit strong didn’t burn because it wasn’t cooking just being kept warm with hot water.
    I’m a long time coffee drinker and drink it black.
    The only way and the real way to drink coffee is very hot.
    The coffee most places serve today comes from a 10 cup drip over coffee pot which the coffee is really not too hot and usually not too strong, but acceptable to most people.
    One quick story when I was cleaning the urn one night at closing I was standing over the urn and had my foot with my loafer on under the open spigot, I didn’t realize it but I turned the boiling hot water on to wash the urn and it came out the spigot into my shoe. Holy Crap did that burn. they said quick put some butter on it, which I did. What a crazy thing to do. it didn’t work. What we do now for anything like that is put ice or very cold water on it right away which keeps it from blistering.
    Well, again everyone have a very “Merry Christmas”
    Chris P.

  • April Bunting says:

    I ADORED Woody’s! Our family went there at least once a week when I was growing up.
    This might be my saving grace since there appear to be a large number of cooks who worked there.
    I’ve been a pastry chef/cook for ….well, started cooking when my grandma taught me to pull taffy and make fudge at age 5.
    I am desperate! I have tried endlessly to duplicate their tomato salsa for the burgers. NOTHING like it in over 50 years!
    WHAT IS IN THE STUFF?! I desperately need to figure out what it is. No, it’s not for any commercial purpose just as a disclaimer. I want to make it and actually enjoy burgers again!
    HELP ME OBI WAN! Surely someone out there remembers what the recipe is. I remember kind of a thick, not too sweet, kind of clear but chunky tomato base? I think it may have had some bell peppers, but most decidedly had onions. (Excuse me, I’m going to go have a cry now) Thanks

  • Chris P. says:

    I wrote, what I remember to be, the ingredients for the original tomato salsa on the firstWoody’s site.
    When you join us again, check out on the left side column, 3/4 of the way down Woody’s Smorgasburger my comments on April 26th 2013.
    If you haven’t seen this side start from the top and see all the comments. The site got so large that the management started a new site Woody’s Smorgasburger II.
    Anyway, basically the recipe called for S. E. Rykoff pizza sauce, Ketchup,dehydrated slice onions, dehydrated bits of bell peppers, salt and pepper. That was all. At the time we used Rykoff Brands.
    The ketchup came in #10 cans as well as the pizza sauce.
    I’m not exactly sure the amounts for each but I think it was 6 #10cans of pizza sauce and 1 #10 can of ketchup we would take the dehydrated onions about 2 cups, add water to bring them back to life, I can’t remember how long that was, but just a few minutes, you can judge for yourself and the same with the bell pepper bits. I think the amount of bell peppers was about half the onions, I really can’t remember. Salt and pepper, I’m not sure the amount.
    This of course is way too much for you but you can cut it down to what
    you’d like.
    I think as long as you have the ingredients I’ve listed, you can work it out to taste and amount. The ingredients are so simple.
    I used to eat a king Swiss extra rare with fresh salsa a lot. That was truly my favorite. I can’t believe I’m still alive, but I am.
    In the late 70′s I changed the onions to fresh but not the bell peppers, mainly because we put in a salad bar and a new condiment bar with all fresh lettuce, tomatoes, onions etc. and I had the fresh produce there. I didn’t change the bell pepper because I thought that would change the original taste too much and I didn’t want to mess with something that worked.
    Anyway, I hope this information helped, and le us know how you do.
    Glad you found the site and, please, keep posing your comments. Everyone likes to read them.
    Take Care,
    Chris P.

  • Phil A. says:

    Happy New Year Readers !
    Ah yes, what better way to start 2014 than by revisiting the salsa issue.
    We should resolve to replicate the Woody’s recipe once and for all.
    Not only the ingredients , but the appropriate amount of each for a smaller batch. I recall that our own Gary Wilcut loves to cook and in fact has his own salsa recipe posted on line. ( just type in his name )
    So, this is what I would love to see happen; Gary and Chris Pingel get together in one of their kitchens and have at it.
    They should be locked in until they proclaim ” success. ”
    Perhaps we should offer a prize ?

    Thus far, I have not seen mention of Tomato Paste in the recipe.
    I thought I remembered Tomato Paste being used as the thickening agent which gave Woody’s salsa the ” sludgy ” consistency.
    Anyway …..

    I guess we should be thankful that we do not have to deal with an issue regarding ” Cole Slaw .”
    Like salsa, the slaw has very few ingredients ( even fewer) and yet can taste different no matter where you go. The slaw dressing of course would be key. Some are sweat, some tangy and some with a Southern taste.
    Like anything else, freshness is paramount.
    I think slaw as a side dish is underrated and those who do not appreciate it probably did not get freshly dressed slaw.
    Woody’s SmorgasBurger did not offer slaw, unless Chris added it to his salad bars after 1978.
    Cannot imagine a fish and chip dinner without slaw. Nor a Rib dinner.
    My Lord, Johnnie’s Pastrami in Culver City has been FEATURING Cole Slaw on it’s Deluxe Plates since 1952 ! Reason; the patrons LOVE IT !

    So, in honor of April Bunting and Marlene, let’s see if those tears can
    be replaced by ooohs and ahhhs because the Woody’s salsa was found.

    Phil Ankofski

  • Phil A. says:

    Chris P. has mentioned several times that S.E. Rycoff was the company that supplied much of the non meat, non produce items to Woody’s.
    The web site ” WIKIPEDIA” has a wonderful and informative narrative about this company and it’s history. Well worth your reading time.

  • Phil A. says:

    After reading our narratives on the Woody’s salsa, my wife Mary Ann
    suggested that there may be Readers who are wondering why I myself have not stepped up to the plate and replicated the recipe. Fair question.
    About ten years ago, I started suffering from Acid Reflux.
    Two food items cause this distress ; Tomato sauces and bell peppers.
    When we order pizza, it is with very light sauce or none at all.
    Onions started giving me serious stomach distress about the same time.

    So, why take all the components which just about kill me, and mix them together to make a salsa which I could never tolerate.

    BUT …… since I have not come up with a wood working project to get me through this winter season, I will commit to this;
    IF our members here have not replicated the Woody’s recipe by March 1st,
    then I will make the attempt in my home kitchen.
    I would strive to come up with a 2 quart batch recipe so that the end user
    will always be consuming a fresh product.
    That’s the way Mr. Ralph Wood would have it.
    March 1st ……….

    Five degrees below zero here in Dublin , Ohio.
    Praying our furnace holds.
    Phil A.

  • Mark Thorson says:

    Oh, dear. Phil A., you said nice things about slaw. That is forbidden here. Do a search on Mark’s other website for “cole slaw”, and you’ll see what I mean. That, and candy corn.

  • Phil A. says:

    Hi Mark Thorson,

    Yes, I am well aware of the other Marks dislike for slaw. I have become an avid reader of all of his sites. He has such a high level of common sense.
    Anyway, I wrote the short narrative on cole slaw only to give Mark
    a New Years teasing. I did expect a personal rebuff.
    Such fun !
    Phil Ankofski

  • Phil A. says:

    Well folks ……. yes, I do agree that my choice of word to describe the consistency of the Woody’s salsa was terrible. It certainly should not be used when discussing food items. If my daughter Kate ( editor ) comes across that comment section, I may catch some deserved hell.

    The point I want to convey is that when Woody’s salsa was spooned onto your meat patty, it stayed put. It did not run off and start soaking the bun.
    The level of liquid must be kept to a minimum in our replication recipe.

    It would almost compare to the desert product; Cool Whip.
    When you add a couple of dollops to your Cherry pie ….. it stays.
    It goes nowhere till you take your fork and spread it around.
    I think this is what we need to strive for with our salsa. Am I right ?
    Phil A.

  • Chris P. says:

    I the early 80′s we did a test with two kinds of slaw. In our last 2 units (El Segundo #7 & Culver City #1) we offered two types; one was our traditional slaw and the other, which we made ourselves, fresh daily with just oil vinegar, salt and pepper.
    The oil and vinegar type won out the traditional by a mile. Everyone just loved it so, it didn’t take long when we just eliminated traditional all together and continued the oil and vinegar.
    You should all try it for a change. Serve it cold.

  • BOTVOLR says:

    1) Salsa: My initial curiosity was to ask when the “salsa” was added to the condiment bar, i.e. all I remember in ’62-’63 is a silver bowl of plain old ketchup. While I laud Mr. Woods foresight in adding it… moving to the edge, I kinda cringe, provincially/comparatively speaking, to what is being described as ‘salsa’ versus what is salsa in New Mexico. In other words, how can you have salsa without some kind of “heat” in the form of, at the least, jalapenos, or, best, roasted/peeled, chopped green chile (whoa! don’t think that brown Tex-Mex/Coney Island goo, i.e. chili) amongst a mix of diced tomatoes/onion/bell pepper/garlic sans any kind of tomato paste or sauce!!!! (From another perspective, Salsa Dancing, unlike a waltz, is HOT!!!)
    Sorry, haven’t been out & about of late to know if Y’all get it elsewhere, but in NM, you are automatically served a complimentary “ramekin” of salsa with tortilla chips, e.g. http://tinyurl.com/auw9ygb in restaurants serving New Mexican food. Can’t imagine what Y’all will be serving during Super Bowl that Y’all might call Chips n Salsa. As such, I highly recommend you check your super markets for either jars of nationally distribute Sadie’s or El Pinto Salsa of at least Medium, if not Hot, heat!!! (If ya can’t find either, Google to order online!!!) (NB Phil: Sorry about the Reflux Amigo…Y’all will have to pass on all that!!!)
    Outside of NM, maybe AZ, can you Folks order your cheeseburgers at the chains like Mac’s, Wendy’s, Carl’s Jr. etc with Green Chile? If not….am sooo sorry. Funny how the chains have adapted here to local custom…LOL…er, competition.
    2) Speaking of slaw: are we talking slaw with a “vinagrette” or mayo base. Re the latter, I think my Mom used to add some pinches of sugar to her mayo concoction. Oooeee, some Folks are making Reubens with slaw instead of sauerkraut!!! What’s with that? http://tinyurl.com/pz448dc

  • BOTVOLR says:

    Ooopsy…Re Slaw: apparently Chris had a ‘calling’ to got up earlier than I.

  • Phil A. says:

    Dear Readers,
    After reading the above comment by Chris , I feel an obligation to write this short narrative:
    Mark Evanier owns and manages this Woody’s site. Thank you Mark !
    Because this site exists, Chris has been able to reconnect and share with us
    many, many interesting facets of his Woody’s operations. Thanks Chris !

    Since my departure from Woody’s in 1968, I have now learned from Chris
    many of the features he introduced to his stores in later years.
    A partial list ; Bacon , beer, diet drinks, chicken sandwich, salad bars,
    slaw, wine ? , and FRIES ! Chris also installed the first satellite TV monitor
    in El Segundo . ( commercial business . )
    Chris ; please review this list and add things that should be included.

    I am most grateful to both Mark E. and Chris for their time and efforts.
    Without this new knowledge, I could have only guessed on how Woody’s was fairing in the later decades. ( I had relocated East in 71 )
    I thought I would write this ” silver tongued ” note for the benefit of newer
    Readers who started with us on Woody’s ll , rather than Woody’s l .
    Besides learning new things, this site has continued to be a hell of a lot
    of fun.

    All my best,
    Phil A.

  • Mark Thorson says:

    You old-time Woody’s guys have been talking about the restaurants for quite some time, without really saying what was the secret of its success. Sure, having good food is important, but what was it about the way the places were managed that gets you guys reminiscing so wonderfully about it? Was it Mr. Wood’s personality? His treatment of employees? His selection of the people to run his operations? Something else?

    I see something like that in Trader Joe’s. Most of these stores are really great, and the people seem to love working there. I can’t say that about any other grocery chain. Somehow, TJ’s management seems to have captured lightning in a bottle, and I’m wondering what is that secret possessed by Woody’s and TJ’s?

  • Marshall Loveday says:

    Good question, Mark. I spent around 4 years working at Woody’s in Westwood, from the fall of 1968 until some time in 1972, when I tool a full-time day job in L.A. (Also worked at the USC Woody’s for a month or so in ’74 or ’75). I think we all have good memories of Woody’s because it was different. Ralph Wood had a specific vision for Woody’s and each store tried very hard to retain those specifics that made it unique in Southern California: the open flame grill; the meat cooked to order; the value-loaded menu; the build-it-yourself condiment bar; the do it yourself sundaes; the friendly employees; the root beer (NOBODY served root beer except A&W…). I still remember the first time my dad took us to Woody’s in Culver City, back in the late 50′s probably. It was AMAZING…….. certainly no Denny’s or Norm’s or whatever other diner was popular back then. And I COULD FIX MY OWN BURGER HOW I WANTED IT. ……

    Oh. I’ve got a great cole slaw recipe, but in deference to Mark E., I won’t divulge it here. E-mail me at mloveday541@gmail.com if you’re interested.

  • Phil A. says:

    Congratulations to Marshall Loveday !

    Marshall has just posted the #300th comment on the Woody’s SmorgasBurger Site. #240 on the original and #60 on this sequel.
    Such a wonderful new benchmark. How fitting that Marshall achieves this honor as he obviously was an enthusiastic employee at Westwood Village.
    Chris won honors for #200. I think I will try for the #400 spot !

    For Mark Thorson and all Readers,
    I worked at three different Woody’s units. All on Sepulveda Blvd.
    All of the units shared the very same employee composition which was guys only in the same age group. High school seniors was the age group
    to be hired in as linemen or busboys. Managers were promoted from within at age 21 or 22. So, this age spacing from 17 to 22 was very tight
    and I think this is what brought about the great feelings that crew members developed for each other.
    I think your comparison to the Trader Joe’s staff is perfect.

    Mr.Wood was not in the stores on a regular basis. He left those duties to a general manager. I would say that I saw Mr.Wood in store perhaps once every four months. He would appear at a quiet time of the day for a specific reason, usually related to a maintenance project.
    So, most of my crew members did not even know what Mr. Wood looked like ……. let alone having one on one conversations with him.
    Unit managers of course came to know him quite well from the monthly
    manager meetings held at his office in Culver City.

    When Mr.Wood was in store and saw something that needed to be addressed, he would not speak to it directly. He would discuss the matter with his general manager and then the GM would speak with the manager.

    Regarding employee selection: Unit managers hired and promoted all personnel in their respective units. When a manager left the company, Mr. Wood relied on the advice of his general manager as to who would be selected as the replacement.

    To this day, I would like to hear from Mr. Wood himself as to why he did not hire girls. Perhaps having guys only was his key to Marks question.
    On the other hand, years down the road, Chris Pingel had great success
    when he finally hired his first girl, Susan.

    I am sure my perspective helps somewhat , but yes there is still more
    factors in the equation.
    I look forward to seeing comments from Chris Pingel regarding Mark T.’s

    Once again, nice going Marshall !

    Phil Ankofsi

  • Phil A. says:

    As I have been packing up Christmas decorations, a most important factor about Mr. Wood came to mind which needs to be included here.
    Mr. Wood was only 31 years old when the doors to Culver City opened.
    He was a college grad with a degree in economics.
    Mr. Wood had some experience on his own operating a few juice bars
    prior to the SmorgasBurger venture.

    The important factor; Mr. Wood had a partner, Mr.Cramer who was in his mid 50′s when Culver City #1 opened. Mr.Cramer had already experienced huge success as a founding partner of the Mayfair Food Markets.
    When the Mayfair markets were sold to Arden Farms, Mr. Cramer was happy to find a new venture to participate in.

    What I am leading to; Mr. Wood did not come to this Woody’s Grand Opening in 1956 with special business acumen and endowments.
    Mr.Cramer is the guy who had 25 plus years experience dealing with the large staffs needed in a full line supermarket.
    Plus, he dealt with all landlords for new leases, and negotiated with all vendors and suppliers. He also brought his personality to employee relations in all the many departments under the roof of the Mayfair markets.

    My final point: Once the first two Woody’s units were up and running,
    it is MY OPINION that Mr. Cramer became a mentor to Mr. Wood
    regarding everything from Business # 101 to Employee Moral and Relations. Mr. Wood and Mr.Cramer shared adjoining office space
    in Culver City for the next 20 years !

    All of the above came to mind once I remembered that Chris also stated his admiration for Mr.Cramer because of all the mentoring he did with Chris
    during the 1970′s.

    I now think Mr. Cramer was the unidentified ” sparkplug ” in the SmorgasBurger operation.The preceding narrative in no way diminishes
    the talents contributed by Mr. Wood. In fact, it reveals that he continued to be a damn good student.

    So, let’s give a long overdue toast to the memory of Charles Cramer.
    He made his mark with the Mayfair Markets,the Fox Markets and our very own Woody’s SmorgasBurger, Inc.
    I was 20 when I met Mr. Cramer. He was about 65 then with snow white hair and a bright red Chevy Super Sport convertible !
    I thought of him as a soft spoken, reserved grandfather, until I fist saw him swing into the parking lot with that new ragtop. Wire wheels too !

    Well gang, it is my lunch time.
    More later, I am sure.
    Phil Ankofski

  • BOTVOLR says:

    Unfortunately, I never had a similar position to compare but do have ramblings nevertheless…LOL I was hired despite my being upfront about leaving in about 11ish months per moving on to Grad School in early-mid ’63…i.e. that gave a nice, initial message.
    In ’64, a bearded Guru named Fritz Perls began borrowing the term “Gestalt” to establish his ‘noveau/”in” Therapy 400ish miles up the road in the woods of Big Sur in Esalen. Gestalt basically means The Whole is greater than the Sum of its Parts and, as such, best describes, IMHO and as Marshall alluded to, what made Woody’s a success experience for the Guests and Crews. The A-frame as an eatery gave it a uniqueness to suggest you’re almost on a momentary get-away from everyday life. This was accentuated by being served by Dudes in non-everyday getup of lederhosen; the “picnic” tables, at least at HollyRiv and CC, gave it a fun/casual sense…having a picnic ‘indoors’!; the Monday night Hamburger Steak (Surf’s Up!!!) Special certainly helped to ‘draw’ folks in (given the snaky lines out-the-door starting about 4:45) to explore the weird building and ask about the ‘strangely’ named hamburgers as Folks nudged their trays along fairly quickly after salads, the grill glass, and drinks. Did anyplace else serve burgers on a Kaiser Roll?; have newspapers on a stick? have Bussers joyfully/courtesly cleaning up your picnic mess? I.e. things going beyond the condiment bars. Was there someplace else I could get Thousand Island with crushed peanuts enchancing my burger???? While kids immemorial always glom on to burgers, could Micky D satisfy PV “Dads” with K-bobs or NY Strip to feast on if need be? Maybe it was just luck, but managers had talent choosing who they hired so Shift Supers had it ‘easy’ offering customer-care per guys being in-sync during the ‘rushes’ while having each others backs if need be…we all pulled our weight even if it was only a couple of cents higher, at $1.32, above minimum wage sans the offensive Tip Jar!!!!
    Add in Mr. Woods dropping by: Did I feel intimidated the first time he was standing 2 ft away espying ‘the flow’ just beyond me as I worked the register? Yes, but that was my thing as never felt it again per his congeniality. Ok, maybe burst my bubble: did he ask every lineman to consider going for a degree in Hotel/Restaurant Management at the U of Hawaii? Whatever; it was a great run with a great bunch of guys who had manners and valued doing a good job…oooeee if we’d had some Yodlettes!!!

  • Phil A. says:

    ~ A Special Note for BOTVOLR ~

    I have been asked to inform you that ” Y’all ” is forbidden here.
    This forbidden term is in addition to other forbidden issues we have recently been made aware of : No Cole Slaw …… No Candy Corn.
    Your future comments will be read in a better light I assure you.
    Please do not take offense, but please comply. Thank You !
    Phil A. ( a readers advocate. )

  • Vincent Chiesa says:

    Chris also added Beef Back-Ribs to the menu during my tenure. Try cooking that in a lunch rush! I also remember making many of the Cole Slaw Chris describes. We made it in a big stainless steel pail almost every morning ‘fresh.’ Happy New Year everyone! Vince

  • BOTVOLR says:

    ~ How sad. ~

  • Phil A. says:

    Hi Vince,
    Wow ! What a surprise ; Beef Back-Ribs at Woody’s.
    Please share a bit more. Did you cook them from scratch or did you do some amount of precooking and then just finish off when ordered.
    How much time did they need on the grill ?

    I suppose the entrée came with salad, fries or baked potato along with a half Kaiser roll. Sounds yummmmie ! Two orders please.

  • Phil A. says:

    For Mark T. and all Readers,

    I wanted to mention a growing burger chain that started in 1984 and is now spreading in all directions. ~ ” Culver’s Butter Burger’s ” ~
    Locations in Arizona are now the nearest to LA. ( to my knowledge)
    I would include Culvers in our discussion of companies that emulate the feeling of ” lightning in a bottle ” as Woody’s Smorgasburger and Trader Joe’s. It is so much fun to walk in their locations and be greeted and served by crew people who really enjoy being there.
    Plus, they all must be trained to scrub their fingernails before punching in.
    And the girls all have their hair fixed in a manner that eliminates their need to be running hands through it five times per customer order.
    ~ Training , training and more training ! ~

    This just reminded me of a cute story of mine.
    Two summers ago I entered a nearby Mc Donald’s at 10:15 AM for a breakfast sandwich and coffee. The location is in Hilliard, Ohio.
    I remember the details like we all remember where we were when JFK was shot.

    ~ The Story ~
    I placed my order, and as the counter girl began processing it, I noticed that she was CHEWING GUM ! I could not believe my eyes.
    I had been a patron of Mac’s for 50 YEARS and had never, ever saw a gum chewer on site.
    I was the only customer in the lobby, so in a nice way, I called her on it.
    I explained that she was the first and only employee in 50 years to break
    Ray Kroc’s cardinal rule. Her response; ” who’s Ray Kroc ? ”

    I could see that she was searching her brain for an excuse, and she finally said that she had just come off break.
    I wanted so badly to call the manager up front and tell him about it……..
    Not to squeal on the girl, but just to inform him that his store was making BIG HISTORY in my own mind.

    So, no …… I did not ask for the manager. I took my tray and picked out a table while shaking my head to and fro.
    If I had a smart phone, I would have taken a photo of the two of them so I could hang it here in my home office.
    As you can tell, it really was an historical day for me.

    Phil Ankofski

  • Phil A. says:

    Very Big news my friends !
    Some Readers will be more interested in the following than others.
    As for me, I have been searching for this info for many years.

    I have discovered where the mysterious Woody’s #5 was located and what type of restaurant it was. ( No, it was NOT a SmorgasBurger )

    In early 1960, Mr. Wood and partner opened a seafood restaurant which was called ” Woody’s Fiskehus. ” It was located at 2713 S. Figueroa street
    which was just one block north of their brand new SmorgasBurger unit !
    The newspaper article describes the new venue as having a Swedish Modern atmosphere and offering a wide variety of fish dinners.

    I found this article in the Torrance Press archives, dated April 21, 1960.
    As Frank Barone would say ; ” Holy Crap ! ”

    So, here is the lineup as I now understand it for the SmorgasBurger’s;
    1956 ~ #1 ~ Culver City
    1958 ~ #2 ~ Redondo Beach
    1959 ~ #3 ~ Gardena ( short life )
    1959 ~ #4 ~ Los Angeles , Figueroa at 28th
    1960 ~ #5 ~ ( Fiskehus ) Los Angeles , Figueroa at 27th ( short life )
    1962 ~ #6 ~ Los Angeles , Vermont Ave at Santa Monica. ( short Life )
    1963 ~ #7 ~ El Segundo , ( ** LONGEST LIFE ** )
    1967 ~ #8 ~ Woodland Hills ( short life )
    1968 ~#9 ~ Westwood Village , ( short life )

    1980′s ~ several units in the Inland Empire area. ( all short lives )
    ****** I think these units were opened for the benefit of
    Chip Wood, who is the son of Ralph Wood. *******

    Separate from this list would be the IHOP units opened and operated during the time period of 1962 through 1967.
    MOST of the IHOP franchise owners pulled out within 2 or 3 years.

    I hope many of you find this info of some value or interest.
    Wow, I am going to sleep good tonight !

    All my best,
    Phil Ankofski

  • Phil A. says:

    For BOTVOL,

    The last thing anyone would want to see at the start of 2014 is an
    expression of sadness from a Woody’s SmorgasBurger commenter.
    I do apologize, and I will be thinking of a way to make amends.
    Since you like different salsas and such, perhaps you would like a
    can of the Skyline Chili Sauce which is famous here in Ohio.
    It is used to make chili dogs or to pour over spaghetti .
    Phil Ankofski

  • chris P. says:

    I believe Mr. Wood opened a place called the Burger Pan? on Hawthorne Blvd. in Torrance in the 70′s. he got the idea from the Famous Apple pan in L.A. I don’t know how long it lasted, but a short time, I believe.
    This is all from my aging memory so I hope I’m getting my facts right, if not, don’t kill me. I would be interested to see if I’m just imagining this.
    He also opened a 24 coffee shop called Blums or Plums on Artesia in, I think, Gardena. in the mid 70′s. It didn’t last too long either. I know he wasn’t thrilled with the 24 hour operation, after that, they did open a place in Redondo Beach called Catalina Grill. I believe it was run by one of his sons, John, I think. it was in Riviera Village. It was there for quite awhile and was pretty good. If you want, you can check this out. The dates I’m not sure, but the place, I am sure of. I met Risty there when I went to try it out.
    If I think of anything else, I’ll let you know.
    Chris P.

  • Phil A. says:

    Good Morning Chris and all Readers,
    I think your memory is serving you very well. My sisters always say how remarkable my memory is, but I remind them that I remember the bad things too.

    Yes, the Burger Pan was a conversion deal which was up and running in 1969 or 1970. Willie ( the African American ) was the one and only manager. He was my full time busboy at Redondo Beach prior to this.
    When I stopped in to see him, he was the only employee on site.
    I am sure it closed in a matter of months.

    I cannot help on Blums as this is the very first I have been aware of it.

    I was a one time patron at the Catalina Grill. It was in 1991 when I was back vacationing in the area. The Grill was also a conversion. I really wanted to go up the hill to the Risty, but I was too hungry to pull that off.

    Years ago, the Dailey Breeze ran an interview with Ralph Wood.
    Mr. Wood indicated that he had a direct hand in 28 restaurants.
    As we go through this , I am getting the idea that ” conversions ” were Mr. Woods forte, although a very large percentage were under performers.
    Plus, quite a few restaurants were opened for the benefit of John and Chip
    so there is no telling what the stories were at those units.

    I THINK Marshall said that he saw Willie on a regular basis when he rejoined the SmorgasBurger operations at Westwood Village.

    That’s it for today.
    Phil A.

  • Phil A. says:

    Hello Readers and Gary Wilcut,
    This is specifically for Gary but sure to be of interest to all.
    So Gary , if you would indulge us.

    I have never heard the complete operational rundown regarding the
    real charcoal broiler at Woody’s SmorgasBurgers.
    I would love to learn just what was necessary to get things going in the morning for lunch, then what was done in the quiet afternoons.
    To complete the story, please tell us what you did to prepare the broiler for the big dinner rush, followed by the quiet evening hours and closing procedures.

    Did some of the procedures involve two guys at a time that were wearing insulated gloves?
    Were there a lot of serious injuries?
    Did Woody’s have a special charcoal composition which was different from what we buy in the stores now ?

    Was there a particular incident that caused Mr. Wood to switch out of charcoal and into gas ?

    I cannot believe that I am just now getting around to ask about this.
    So, if you will Gary, act like a teacher and instruct all of us here just what was involved with maintaining a commercial broiler.

    I am really looking forward to learning from you.
    PS. Tell us about the recent visit to Johnnie’s.

  • Mark Thorson says:

    Hmmm . . . so Mr. Wood had some failures in addition to his successes. I had thought that the main ingredient of success is people and the environment you make for people to succeed, but I guess the business model is of critical importance too. If it was just people and how you manage them, then Mr. Wood’s other ventures would have been equally successful. You need to have a vision that gets traction with the public, and you have to execute that vision perfectly or nearly so.

    I suppose the lesson is that you have to succeed in every area: people, product, delivery, etc. If you screw up in just one, the whole thing fails.

  • Phil A. says:

    Good morning Readers,

    For Mark T.
    I like your phrase ” traction with the public. ” Amen.

    I think this short narrative will shed light on where Mr. Wood wanted to be in his corporate structure.
    He had a general manager to take care of operations.
    He had a partner and office staff ( Helen ) for administration.
    This allowed Mr.Wood to devote his corporate time to planning for growth.
    He apparently liked the concept of conversions, but he also showed interest
    in what the current competition was doing.

    In late 1966 or early 1967. we ( the mangers ) thought Mr.Wood was preparing to take on Philippe’s .
    He instructed all of us to meet him at his office in Culver City at 10:30AM.
    Once we were all there, Mr.Wood had all of us pile in his station wagon
    for the trip into Los Angeles and lunch at Philippe’s.
    He told us that he wanted us to observe the service method, the dining room arrangement and the menu. Many of us already knew the Quality spoke for itself.

    Anyway, on the way back to Culver City we discussed our impressions.
    Mr. Wood asked us to think about this in the weeks ahead and make notes if necessary so we could “brain storm ” at our next office meeting.

    To my knowledge, that was the end of the road for roast beef.
    I say this because Mr.Wood had interest in 28 restaurants and out of those 28, there are quite a few which are mysteries to me.
    So, Mr. Wood could have very well proceeded to do ” roast beef ” at a time and place which are unknown to me.
    Hell, he could have had a spot in Westchester right under my nose !
    Just another fun facet of Mr. Wood.
    Phil Ankofski

  • BOTVOLR says:

    Phil, Thank you for your concern and offer of Skyline Chil-i Sauce!!! Alas, out of respect for my 2 deceased Uncles who were competing salesmen for Armour and Hormel Chil-i, I’d better decline accepting a can(LOL) In addition, we in New Mexico are pretty sensitive/protective about our State Legislated Vegetable, the (red or green) chil-e. Thus, so as not to confuse the public, we have an unwritten law, not to permit that “brown” chil-i, which is of a completely different genre, into the State! Lo, given our current 50 degree temps tho, sure would enjoy a steaming bowl, topped with shredded Velveeta and diced onions!!!!
    —Re the grill…tho not a clear memory, wasn’t there a certain procedure for periodically “deep” cleaning it along with some vile stuff used to clean the coffee urns?

  • Phil A. says:

    I am now the proud owner of a 1960 Woody’s SmorgasBurger matchbook.
    It was one of two different ” Woody’s ” matchbooks available on Ebay.
    The one I own now is most unique because it lists the ” Fiskehus ” as the
    #5 restaurant in the Woody’s group lineup.

    When I saw the listing on E bay, I noticed the photo showing the printing on the inside covers. It listed the first four Woody’s locations followed by the name and address of the Fiskehus.
    I was in ” detectives heaven “.
    Next I went to Google and typed in Fiskehus ……. no results.
    A day or two later I typed in Woody’s Fiskehus and what do you know !
    The first posting was from the Torrance Press with an article by the current restaurant critic. It tells all about the new seafood venture.(1960)
    Not bad for 3.99 . ( in pristine condition, not even a scratch on the front cover ! )
    I am feeling good today !
    Phil Ankofski

  • Phil A. says:

    For BOTVOLR,

    Since you are passing on the Skyline Chili, I will donate a couple of cans to our church food bank in your honor.
    I do not remember the grill cleaner. I do remember the O’Cedar for wiping down all the stainless steel on the front line each and every night. No exceptions !

  • Phil A. says:

    A real short quip;
    When Mr. and Mrs. Wood were invited to a house warming party, they would find out in advance if the new home had a natural fireplace.
    If so , they would have a cord of wood delivered as they loved to say
    ” wood from the Woods ” …….. cute .
    Phil A.

  • Phil A. says:

    And yet another item that Mr. Ralph Wood tied in with his last name;

    During my four year tenure with Woody’s SmorgasBurger, Mr. Wood
    favored the big Buick station wagon for his company car.
    And not the base model, but the top of the line model which was the Electra with the fake ” wood ” trim on the exterior side panels.
    Both GM and Ford offered the ” Woody ” trim on their high end wagons for many years. Perhaps Ralph used to ” hang ten ” during his college days.
    Phil Ankofski

  • Gary Wilcut says:

    Well Phil, It’s not much of a story. I was a grill man for about a year and a half, so I am very familiar with the whole grill procedure. Early in the mourning after making coffee, putting out pasties and the old pay yourself cash register, I would begin preparing the grill for the day. I began by shoveling charcoal under the grill and then lighting it with charcoal starter. There was no special type of charcoal just plain old briquettes, I don’t recollect who the supplier was. The grill required constant attention before the lunch and dinner rush, shoveling in more charcoal.
    As you know MR Woods had a special procedure for every task in the restaurant. After closing the restaurant the real work began. I would scoop the remaining charcoal into a metal can, then clean the grill with a wire brush and wipe it down. The real dirty job was taking down the grease pans above the grill and putting them in the stainless steel sinks in the back for cleaning.
    There were never and serious injuries, just very hot summers behind the grill.
    This leads me to the story about the fire that occurred when one of the grease pans over flowed and spilled into the charcoal which ignited a fire, that burned a large part of the restaurant. The after lunch customers where evacuated and no one was hurt. At this point we changed to a gas grill which was cleaner and easier to maintain. End of story.

  • Phil A. says:

    Thank you Gary for your narrative on the real charcoal broiler.
    I just learned from you that charcoal was just kept being added throughout the day in appropriate amounts. I was thinking that the charcoal trays were removed after lunch, scrapped and then replaced under the grill with fresh charcoal. Under this incorrect scenario, some amount of down time would have been needed in the mid afternoon. Okay.

    If you were closing at 10PM , I am thinking the last addition of charcoal would be around 8 PM. I suppose you did not have to layer the entire grill, but perhaps just a half side to cook till closing.

    Yes the grease filters/pans were nasty !

    Thanks Gary !

  • Phil A. says:

    Correction on the word contained in first paragraph of my previous post;
    Should be ” scraped ” as in scraped clean.
    Sister Ernestine always reminded us to proof read !

  • ChrisP says:

    I’m sure glad when I started with Woody’s we had gas. The only thing we had to do is dump the 2 large salt pans in the morning and refill with rock salt, not too bad. The drip pans were always a pain because, with the volume, especially at #7 El Segundo, they would fill up in the middle of a lunch rush and you’d have to empty them over the hot grill.
    Anyway, do any of you remember Roberto Ruiz? He was our handyman for all our locations and would take care of almost any problem we had in those days. His shop was under the large movie screen at the, now gone, Studio Drive In Theater nearby.
    Do you remember George Ann? from the office? She was always very nice to me and very helpful.
    Remember the monthly manager’s meetings at the office? JR would want us to do some sort of presentation for the group. I remember I had to do one on Lyons Magnus.
    Those meetings were always nice because we could all meet together and compare notes. This was early seventies (1970) when I came back to work for Woody’s after a few years away.
    Still miss my favorite King Swiss, extra rare, with fresh salsa. I made myself one almost daily.
    Later, ChrisP

  • Gary Wilcut says:

    Chris P

    There is a Blog on the internet entitled ” MEMORIES OF WESTCHESTER CALIF “. There are some terrific memories of Old Westchester, Visitation, Newberry’s, Broadway DEPT store, Loyola Theater and Tiny Naylor’s. I think you might enjoy it. Let me know.

  • ChrisP says:

    Thanks, Gary.

  • Phil A. says:

    Good Morning Guys and Gals,

    Gary Wilcuts posting on the 21st was the 325 th . Congratulaions Gary !

    Yes Chris, there is nothing lacking in your memory when you can come
    up with names from 50 years ago. When I saw Roberto’s name, I knew it sounded familiar but I could never place a face with it.

    I went upstairs to locate my 50 year old Rolodek which I used only at #7 and #2 . It was used exclusively to keep all the contact info for all of Woody’s vendors, suppliers and repairmen. I knew just where it was because I now use it as a paper weight. I had not opened it in 46 years.

    Sure enough ! I have Roberto’s name listed under Carpenter. 391- 8008

    A few more names of interest; Barbara Ann Bakery , Martino’s, Corsaro Produce, Atomic Insecticide ( Pat Hogan ),Meadows Sheet Metal ( Ed Banks ), and the Plumber ( Buck ).

    A very BIG surprise was my entry for Patman Meats.
    I have Bill Engel listed as the sales rep.
    Chris, could this be the same Bill Engel you work with ?
    If so, it’s a damn small world.

    In 1968, I remember learning that Mr. Pat Hogan was thinking about retiring and selling his Atomic Insecticide firm.
    We made an appointment for me to drive over and see his operation.
    It was located on Vermont in a questionable area.
    When we went in the back where the chemicals were mixed, I began to feel
    unstable and weak. No further interest in this business.

    I remember the name George Ann, but again no face.
    She must have been hired as Helens replacement around 1968 because Helen was sending out vibes about retirement too.

    Chris, as I was reading your last sentence, I began to shake my head.
    How anyone can enjoy 8 oz. of raw ground beef is beyond me.
    I think it is against the law here in Ohio.
    Phil A.

  • Mark Thorson says:

    What were the salt pans used for?

  • BOTVOLR says:

    a) If the salsa (created after my short time) was ‘worth its salt’, i.e. as served in New Mexico, it would have killed off any bacteria etc. in Chris’ rare King Swiss! Besides, LOL, if eating veggies raw is more nutritional, why not meat, albeit I wouldn’t do it. (For some reason, Charles Lamb’s Dissertation Upon Roast Pig comes to mind.)

    b) This site http://www.agilitynut.com/eateries/aframe3.html features various A-frames of the era with several purported to be Woody’s. I’ll leave it to Y’…oopsy…to Phil etc. to confirm or correct the designations, if need be, here or the site. I.e. Woody’s in Northern CA????

  • Phil A. says:

    I would invite Chris, Gary or Marshall to address Mark T.’s question on the salt pans. I do remember them, but not so much about their care.
    Have at it guys.

  • ChrisP says:


    The salt pans were used to catch and absorb the grease from the broiler above.
    We would line the two large flat pans with thick tin foil and fill them with rock salt. The next morning ( when the pans were cold) the opening person would dump the pans into the trash and reline the pans and refill with rock salt.
    Not too hard but a little messy. I did it many times myself.
    If you think of anything else, let me know and I’ll try and answer your question or refer it to someone who can.
    Take care,

  • Gary Wilcut says:

    Phil A

    FYI, raw ground beef is the key ingredient in Steak Tartare which is usually associated with Parisian bistros and the Tartare’s who gave the dish its name. I love it.
    Good for you Chris. I too enjoyed extra raw Smorgas Burgers of all kinds if it was quality meat and Patman’s, used at Woody’s, was quality meat.

  • Phil A. says:

    Chris and Gary, ( both Woody’s SmorgasBurger guys ! )

    Oh my Gosh ! All your talk of extra rare ground beef at mealtime only brings to mind John Belushi and Dan Akroyd at SNL. I imagine them doing scenes which feature them serving rare burgers at their burger joint.
    Instead of ” che burger, che burger ” it would be ” rare burger, rare burger,
    rare burger.”
    Of course Belushi’s menu board would list who was the current leader in the number of rare burgers consumed at one sitting. Yukkie !

    Both of you guys appear to be in better than average health, so I cannot
    diss you from a medical standpoint. I now wonder what both of your wives do for dinner when you are in one of your ” rare ” moods.
    I suppose you could be sent off to your man cave and eat on a TV table.
    Please, please , do not post comments saying they are in this with you.
    I could not bear it.

    Some last words on the rock salt;
    The rock salt must have been delivered in 30 to 40 lb. bags.
    I cannot remember where it was stored, or who supplied it.
    I do not remember ordering it, nor do I have a contact listed in my now famous Woody’s Rolodex.

    I know, I can hear some folks out there wondering ” who gives a _____
    about rock salt ? Well, I will remind you that I have been snowed in for two weeks ………. so what else have I got ?
    Great fun you guys !

  • Gary Wilcut says:

    Phil A

    I meant to say I enjoyed RARE Smorgas Burgers like Chris P. A rare burger is quickly seared on each side, on high heat, for a short period of time.

    A side note: The were four wooden markers that could be put in each burger at the time of cooking. Rare, Medium Rare, Medium and Well Done. It was the grill mans rule to undercook each designation, as it was possible to add the burger back to the grill if the customer found it to be too rare. This rule applied especially to steaks, as a Well Done steak could not be reversed.

  • Phil A. says:

    Gary ( our Woody’s SmorgasBurger man in the Inland Empire )

    Since you and Chris are rowing in the same boat , I hope he will soon tell you and our other READERS about his ” favorite thing in the whole world. ”
    It is an old family recipe which has been handed down from his dad.
    Chris is very busy now as I write, so it may be a week or two before he can respond. Gary, I am thinking your famous salsa just might be a super addition to the Pingel families ” Ca_______al ” sandwich !

    It will be fun to see how Chris ties this subject in with Woody’s SmorgasBurger. As for me, my favorite thing in the whole world would
    be closer to a 12 oz. Delmonico steak, roasted medium, with a loaded baked potato and a bottle of Beaujolais wine. Perhaps a small salad too.

    Believe me, I noticed your recipes feature raw eggs as well.
    Let me just say this; raw eggs are only intended for throwing at people you do not like. I have Justin Bieber to back me on this.
    Have a great week everyone ! ( some will be having more fun than others )
    Phil Ankofski

  • Phil A. says:

    Hi Gary,

    It just occurred to me that your friends from Woody’s #1 should be joining us. I only assumed that you invited Steve C. and Dick R. to become readers and commenters. Perhaps they need a reminder that we would love to have them. I do realize that all individuals are not into this stuff.
    I have a friend who worked at the Woody’s location in Woodland Hills for about 9 months and I just cannot get him to participate on this site.
    Like the rest of us ex Woody guys, he has a bunch of fun stories.
    So D.B., if you are reading this now, please consider adding a few lines.

  • Marshall Loveday says:

    Interesting factoid on Mr. Wood’s station wagon, Phil. I know I didn’t get my love of station wagons from Mr. Wood, as I never knew what kind of vehiclehe drove. So here’s a link to a pic of my vehicle (mine’s a Pontiac though, instead of a Buick)


    And those salt pans……….hated that job.

  • Phil A. says:

    Good morning Readers,

    Let’s devote a little space to the desert offerings at Woody’s SmorgasBurger. The brownies from Martino’s Bakery were a long running offering. I was surprised to learn from Chris Pingel that he had featured them for as long as he did. I found those brownies were way to sweet because of the added chocolate frosting.
    In hind sight, I would have liked to offer individually wrapped brownies without frosting. Plain and Walnut .

    The jello cups seemed to be a consistently good seller.
    Remember the small yellow plastic dish with a pineapple slice and cherry ?
    The fruit filled tarts were a very good idea , but not a good enough seller
    with the customers.

    Your Pontiac wagon is in fantastic shape ! Don’t you have a mess of trophies to stand in front of the bumper?
    Great car for the Studio Drive In.

  • BOTVOLR says:

    Per 1/23: “This site http://www.agilitynut.com/eateries/aframe3.html features various A-frames of the era with several purported to be Woody’s. …”

    As there’s been no comment, does that indicate there was a Woody’s in Sacramento and Oakland?


  • Dick Roletta says:

    When I worked at Woody’s #1, Ralph Woods and Don Steinke were co owners. Ralph bought out Don who then opened a string of KFC’s in Orange County. Ralph still owns a restaurant in Palos Verdes called Admiral Risty if he is still alive. Risty was his wife’s name. I have some great stories to tell. When I worked, the grill was not gas but charcoal and the guy who delivered the charcoal was name Giancarlo Giambastiani. Always thought he was Mafia.

  • Ralph Jones says:

    Thanks for all the memories!
    Actually I discovered this site while looking for a couple of old pubs from the 1960s – “23 Skidoo” on Westwood Blvd, which later became “The RF” and the “Beaver Inn” which was on Pico at (approx) Beverly? Blvd.
    Westchester guys Mark & Dan Davis were part of the band called “The Tormentors” who played at times at both locations in the 1960′s.

    The wife still misses peanuts on her burgers!
    I spent a lot of meangful (?) time in Culver City, ate at that locatin, and I worked across the street from the Westwood Woody’s.

    Other noteworthy burger places were The Apple Pan (I lived a couple of blocks away). Some were noteworthy not because of the food – but due to a place to gather to line up street races or to find parties, etc.

    Scot’s (Pico and Westwood) and the Hamburger Handout on Sepulveda at
    Jefferson? come to mind. “The Handout” was also called “Club 19″ due to the price of the burgers.

    Some of the current burger “joints” come close, but there’s still no comparison to a Swiss or a Swede from Woody’s.
    Thanks to all the Woody’s employees for those culinary delights!

    CC Rider.

  • Gary Wilcut says:

    Dick Roletta,

    Welcome to Woody’s Blog. I look forward to more stories. As you read some of the old stories more will come back to you to share with us.


  • Phil A. says:

    Hello Readers and welcome Dick Roletta !

    You have brought me into ” detectives heaven “.
    First of all, Mr. Wood is very much with us. He resides in an assisted living complex in Palos Verdes. His wife Barbara ( Risty ) passed away in May of 2012. They were married for 67 years.

    When I was a lineman at Culver City in 1964, I used to hear Don Steinke’s name often enough that it always stuck in my memory.
    It seemed like the talk described him as a part owner, but I was never clear on that. Thank you so much for that information.

    Dick, perhaps you know who the ” idea man ” was between Don and Ralph.
    I always had the notion that Ralph was the ” economics ” guy and someone else came up with the ‘ Tyrolean ” stuff. Perhaps it was Barbara Wood or perhaps Don Steinke. Would love to know the answer.

    With your new info, I now surmise that the early ownership of
    Woody’s SmorgasBurger proceeded this way;
    Don S. and Ralph Wood started the company as equal partners.
    When Don and Ralph decided to part ways, Mr. Cramer joined the company and supplied the money to buy out Don S.
    Mr.Cramer and Mr. Fox had sold their Mayfair Market chain to Arden Farms, so there was certainly cash available for this buy out to take place.

    Dick, if you would please continue to add comments about Don Steinke
    and what role he played in the guidance of Woody’s …. I will be most grateful indeed. I am sure our other Readers would also love to learn of your other great stories. You are the oldest and earliest guy on the Woody’s scene and of course Chris Pingel is the man who wrapped things up in 2005. I have come to learn just how much Chris hated to do it.

    Dick, if you can remember the charcoal guys name from 50 years ago, I am sure we can rely on the info you provide us. Please join us often !
    This is a much more substantial topic than jello.

    To my knowledge, Jim Collins bought the KFC Master Franchise for much of Southern California , so he and Don S. were obviously connected at KFC. I do hope Mr. Wood and Don S. remained friends.

    I am really going to sleep good tonight. Thank You !
    All my best,
    Phil Ankofski

  • Phil A. says:

    For Dick Roletta,

    Can you pin down the precise year in which Don S. split with Mr. Wood?

    Do you have an opinion as to why these two men came up with the
    policy which excluded female employees ?
    This is my last mystery to be resolved.

  • Gary Wilcut says:

    Phil A,

    I have an opinion on the subject of female employees at Woody’s in the early 60′s. Mark Thorson asked a similar question earlier when he asked what made Woody’s tick and be so successful. The male employees of the early 60′s were somewhat crude in nature. I think management recognized this and decided women would not fit into this atmosphere. There was a competition to keep the customer line moving as fast as possible, much like a male team sport. Women of that time would have found the working conditions awkward.

  • Phil A. says:

    Good morning Readers,

    If you had a hand in the fact that Dick Roletta joined us … Thank You !

    I DO buy into your opinion on female employees at Woody’s.
    However, your last sentence bothers me a little since I can think of so many examples that run counter to ” awkward conditions. ”
    I had many aunts who worked in the auto plant and school cafeterias . My sister worked at Woolworths lunch grill during 11 and 12th grade.
    My high school job was working in the dietary department at Sinai Hospital of Detroit right along with high school girls.

    We worked on the line prepping the meals going up to the patients for dinner, and afterwards was the cleanup as the trays were returned to the
    kitchen/dish room. All of the jobs were very similar to what was required at Woody’s or harder. We too enjoyed this ” team ” concept. Amen.

    Don S. and Ralph Wood were formulating their business model in early 1955 as doors to CC#1 opened in February 1956.
    I would bet my wife’s retirement that these two guys replicated the ” all male ” concept from a burger joint they had come to respect.
    From research, I have found that MANY of Cassell’s ideas were replicated at the very first Woody’s. So, PERHAPS Cassell’s had an all male crew which also impressed Ralph and Don.

    Can anyone speak to this issue of Cassell’s employees during the early years
    say from 1948 to say 1960 ? If Cassell’s was all male to start, I would then make the jump that the ” service model ” was copied too.

    How I wish I was in Florida (76) with friends instead of being stuck here in Ohio ( 0 degrees ).


  • Dick Roletta says:

    I started work at Woody’s #1 in 1959 and left in 1963. Don S. left in 1960. He was the brains behind Woody’s and had most of the marketing ideas like the Alpine burger and the do it yourself ice cream sundae bar. The Alpine burger was a swiss burger and a smorgasburger on a triple cut kaiser roll. We got quality meat from Patman, great salad dressing from Abbott’s and chocolate eclairs and fruit tarts from Martino’s bakery in Culver City. When Ralph sold the use of his name to IHOP, their attempt to take advantage of his name and success failed because they failed to use Woody’s vendors. People would come and ask if we were owned by the Woody’s say in Alhambra and we would say no. They would say good because their food was awful. So giving the rights to IHOP hurt Woody’s reputation for awhile till the stores IHOP opened eventually closed. Don S. was at Woody’s #1 everyday in the beginning when I worked there. As they began to expand we saw less of him. Don came up with the idea of freezing root beer mugs and the Apine malts had to have whip cream and a cherry on the top. The mix came from Carnation. Don S also came up with idea of having a 2 for 1 smogasburger twice a year. The only time we ever used frozen meat. People would lineup past the Bank of America on those times. Don S also came up with hamburger steak dinner Monday’s for 99 cents. We would sell over a 100 dinners on those nights. Stayed tuned for Chp. 2

  • Phil A. says:

    Good morning Readers,

    Thank you Dick Roletta for your speedy return to this site and for your extremely detailed narrative describing the very early days at Woody’s.
    Woody’s biggest expansion period occurred during your tenure.
    Woody’s #3, #4 , Fiskehus ,# 6 and # 7 . I am thinking that the training
    of new staff was constant at Culver City as qualified guys were promoted
    away to the newer stores. Must have been a lot of guys coming and going.

    Regarding the Woody’s IHOP units; I never thought about lower quality food as being the bigger reason for their very short life.
    I thought operating margins for the franchise owner were too slim because the monthly royalty fee to IHOP was set to high.
    I suppose both factors did them in.

    Question; Were Ralph Wood and Don S. about the same age ?
    I am now wondering if these two men shared work experience somewhere
    else prior to the opening of CC #1.

    Looking forward to Chapter II.
    Phil A.

  • BOTVOLR says:

    Yo Phil, I agree that most galz…even of that era…. could hold their own working the line. Before I get ‘flamed’, I say “most” just as I’d say some guyz couldn’t work the line, e.g. per the tempo.
    In addition, while I only worked for just under a year in “the early ’60s” (’62-’63) at Holly Riv and while not being able to say it might have been different elsewhere, I take umbrage…no offense Gary…. with the “crude” theory as I don’t believe the crews (may they RIP) I worked with could be described as ‘crude’ and I didn’t hear rumors to the contrary about former guys. I’d say that about CC too, but…to be fair…. I only subbed prn. I think the guys acted like most (normal) young guys which might include nudging each other when a pretty gal came in or, “innocent” flirting once in a while but only with a ‘regular’ customer, but indeed, nothing I’d describe as crude compared to what one sees even on everyday network (in contrast to Cable) TV today! As previously noted, Mr. W often dropped by Holly Riv. While I could be in error, I never felt he (while standing with Manager Chris right across the counter at arms length from me at the register), to be surrreptitiously ‘observing’ for crudeness, but appeared to just enjoy watching a smooth running line operation. I believed he often dropped in cuz he lived just “up” the road in PV; no crew commented otherwise. Secondly and most substantially, what kind of ‘crude dude’ would even agree to take a job wearing the uniforms we wore and especially those Alpine/Tyrolean hats with a feather sticking out? LOL Perhaps other theory possibilities? Being astute, Mr. W knew how any “Alpha” males can get and so he sensibly avoided guys ‘fighting’ over gals on the line or, knowing how “catty” gals can get, he simply avoided that problem. Oh come on, I’m yanking gal readers’ (if there be any) chains by just trying to be ‘fair n balanced’! Geesh, I never saw a Playboy pinup in “The Back” let alone in the outside trash area! Be that as it may, I stand to be corrected! LOL

    Eeek Richard! Tee hee: “Triple” slicing the Kaiser?! “Double” slicing was bad enough!

    Other trivia: Re Mr. W as an employer before his time: My $1.32 was 15 cents above the minimum wage in ’63. Today minimum would be $10.05 using an “inflation calculator” http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm (Seriously??? for plunking shrads of lettuce in a yellow(?) plastic cup and remembering the beet slice atop the Blue Cheese? )
    That ‘door busting down’ Monday night special of a (Hamburger) Steak dinner would be $7.54 !!! in today’s dollars….only about a buck more and with a salad today, than a Carl’s Jr. Star Combo!

    (For single, light hearted Wooders to announce to the crowd in their or another’s Man-Cave during pre-game Sunday: “Du…uh, the only SuperBowl that would impress me is a Self-Cleaning Toilet!”) Aaargh…Sorry!

  • Dick Roletta says:

    I would say Ralph W. and Don S. were about he same age. Ralph graduated Occidental ( spelling ?) in engineering. So Don had to be the business brains. We had a special knife to triple slice a kaiser roll and I failed to mention that SE Rykoff supplied all our staples like canned soup and French dressing.

  • Phil A. says:

    Well ………. What do you know ?
    Our newest commenter Dick Roletta just posted #350 !! ( 240 + 110 ).
    Congratulations Dick ! We should have a trophy for these benchmarks.
    I can now see that # 400 is within reach.

    With Dick aboard, our group of ex Woody’s employees have most of the SmorgasBurger years covered except for the very earliest; ( 1956 to 1958 ).
    Starting in 1959 ; Dick Roletta followed by Gary Wilcut.
    Middle years; BOTVOLR,Phil Ankofski, Chris Pingel and Marshall Loveday.
    Later years 1970 +; Chris Pingel returns as manager of #1 and #7 followed by his many years as owner/ operator of Woody’s #1 & #7 until 2005.
    So, there shouldn’t be anything that gets by us.

    The most memorable Rykoff item for me were the Dill Chips which were packed in 5 gallon tin containers. Once opened they needed refrigeration
    so that is where the pickle juice became so damn cold.
    If the stainless tongs were not where they should be , well you had to do some hand dipping.

    Separate internet sites show that at some point Don Steinke relocated to the Sacramento area where he continued to be connected with KFC.
    Some sites show he also has a number of pizza parlors in the area.
    One site lists Don as co owner with his two sons in property management.
    Well done Don !

    Have A GREAT week.
    Phil Ankofski

  • Phil A. says:

    I will be 69 this summer, and the only things I am missing more than a Woody’s Swiss Burger are the ” Gazzari ” Dancers. Thank the Lord for UTube !

  • chris p says:

    Good morning everyone.
    I’m so happy to see we have some really neat people join the site. I think we will have fun remembering more of the good old days.
    I read about the wooden steak markers and it brought up something I hadn’t thought of in years and years. I remembering them right up against the top of the grill and catching fire all the time during a rush, quite a thrill.
    Monday nights at #1 (Culver City) Hamburger Steak Dinners 99 cents. Boy those were the days. It was so busy, but fun at the same time.
    All guys working but all great people and polite.
    If the guys just joining us haven’t read Woody’s original site, you should, to catch up on everything since the beginning.
    There’s a lot of interesting stuff there.
    I still have many stories to share.
    Anyway, glad to be back.
    Chris p.

  • Gary Wilcut says:

    I was hired by Don Steinke in 1962 at Woody’s Culver City (#1). My first job was that of drink server. Well, as I look back the following story turned out to be one of the funniest experiences of my life. I began with root beer, lemon aid, coffee, milk and the famous alpine chocolate malts. My first dinner rush began and I was doing well until someone ordered an alpine chocolate malt. I approached the malt machine and lifted the frozen silver metal glass up to the dispenser nozzle, out came the chocolate malt. Upon removing the glass, the dispenser keep going and out came more of the malt. I grabbed another glass from the freezer and filled another glass. This went on until I had filled about 9 glasses. I felt like Lucile Ball of “I Love Lucy” in her chocolate factory episode, the malts kept pouring out of the machine. I was able to get Steve Claypools attention who was the cashier next to me. I informed him of my predicament and he promptly shoved the stuck nozzle on the malt machine to the off position but not until I a had about a dozen malts lined up. What a fiasco. I finally sold all the alpine malts by offering to put two cherries on top of the wiped cream topping.
    Any other funny Woody’s experiences out there.

    Gary Wilcut

  • Phil A. says:

    ” Best Buns in Town ” .
    This is the slogan of the Puritan Bakery Co. operating in Carson, CA.
    The Los Angeles Times has informed us that John Markulis who was a partner and operator, has died. The article pretty much made John out to be the ” sparkplug ” of the company. Puritan makes 300 types of breads and buns for the Southern California restaurant /food institution trade.

    One of Puritans customers calls for a hamburger bun recipe which takes SEVEN hours to formulate and bake. I am learning something today.

    During my mid sixties tenure with Woody’s, the Barbara Ann Bakery was the sole supplier of buns and rolls. Our delivery guys were the best, always on time and we never had to run elsewhere for buns because of being cut short. Chris P. can advise us if he saw fit to make changes in bakery vendors down the road.

    Puritan also had/has a weekend delivery service available to customers who find their bread inventories a tad low. How about that for bonding customer loyalty ?

    We have mentioned the ” 2 for 1 ” anniversary specials which caused patrons to join a line which ran down to the Studio Drive In. (tee hee )
    I bet Mr. Wood or Mr. Steinke approached Patman’s Meats and the Barbara Ann Bakery about food cost sharing on this promotion.
    These two vendors could easily write their contributions off in their advertising budgets. Am I right Chris ?
    Phil A.

  • Dick Roletta says:

    Chuck Fierce, who was a supervsor and someone I grew up with, got me a job at Woody’s #1 and I started as a bus boy because the regular bus boy was sick. Since we alway had a steady flow of good looking girls coming in because the crew was mostly highschool and college guys, Chuck came up with the idea using the code number 86 to let the rest of the guys know that a good looking girl had just come in. So you might hear someone say #86 your dinner is ready which meant get up front there is a looker here. Chuck passed away a couple of years ago and I told that story at his funeral. RIP Chuck.

  • Phil A. says:

    Hi Guys ……

    Not to start a memory war between Dick R. and Gary W. . but I would like to get the facts straight. Dick R. indicated in his first posting that Don Steinke left Woody’s in 1960.
    Gary W. just posted that he was hired by Don S. in 1962. Okay.

    So Gary, do you think you can pin down the year that Don S. separated from Woody’s ? Tell us more what Don S. was like.
    Phil A.

  • Gary Wilcut says:

    Phil A.

    If we started a memory war between Dick And I, Dick would win hands down. He was a school principal in Rancho Palos Verdes in the area where Chris P. and Woody live. But Don S. did hire me in 1962.
    Don Steinke was a laid back dude. Don would stay in his office and do paper work in a loft in the A framed shaped restaurant only accessible by stairs which folded down from the ceiling. He would leave day t day management to the supervisors.

  • Chris P. says:

    When Barbara Ann went out of business I had to change bread companies. I forgot now who I changed to but they were good too, but Barbara Ann was the best.
    The 2 for 1 day was on April 15th. It had something to do with Income Tax day.
    I was manager of #1 Culver City for the last two years before the split. We were so busy on that day. I remember scheduling my whole staff that day.
    We served coffee to people waiting in line from a very large stainless thermos probably around 3 gallons. I had a people assisting customers waiting in line and around the dining room.
    it was a lot of work but a lot of fun also.
    Like Dick, I started as a busboy too in 1964. I was hired by Ron Blasio and Ty Mesersmith was the assistant manager. Ty was always a great guy.
    You had to be 18 to work at Woodys at the time, I believe.
    I worked on the line after that. I loved working with people and still do.
    Take care, more later.

  • Phil A. says:

    Good Morgan ! ( As in Robert W. ~ KHJ ~ ) How I miss that guy.

    For Gary,
    Nice to learn from you that the loft at #1 was used for Don’s office.
    I only remember that Ty M. kept some uniforms up there.

    Back to the departure of Don Steinke. Do you think Don S. separated
    from Woody’s prior to your departure in 1963 , or did you quit while Don was still there ?
    This may sound like knit picking to some, but I value dates in helping me to resolve other questions.
    So , who separated first, Don S. or Gary W. ?

    Woody’s general manager lived in Palos Verdes also. Seems like a good percentage of our group made it up the hill. As for me. the best I could do at the time was Walteria, which of course did NOT afford any ocean views.
    At least I made it to the base of the hill.
    After resigning from the #2 store in Redondo, I did return to Rindge Ave. in Playa del Rey where the views and breezes are magnificent too, especially to a kid who came from Detroit.

    Amen Chris, Ty was one of the best ever !

  • Phil A. says:

    Two more for Dick and Gary ,

    On days when Don S. was in #1 and up in his office loft, did he come down and work the line during the lunch/ dinner rush ?

    Did you guys see Ralph Wood on site at #1 as often as Don S. or do you think Ralph was off tending to the newer stores ?

  • BOTVOLR says:

    1) Correction: 2/1 said Manager at Holly-Riv was “Chris”. Ate some granola in the interim; should have said “Ron” as in CHRISman (sp?).

    2) Gary, per your noting starting in ’62: Sorry man, can’t bring up an image right yet, but I only periodically subbed. My image of “Don” was being kinda slender (like myself) who had thinning blondish hair. To me, he always looked a bit ‘intense’ more than laid back…maybe concerned he was doing a good job; often ran the register. AHA! confirmation the office was up the fold-down stairs!! LOL Weren’t there skylights at CC? While I didn’t see it, I think the Malt Machine was a classic tale!
    I’m pretty sure there was a guy named Felix on crew at the time. Wasn’t there also a Joe who, despite being in CA, had light blond hair and always seemed to have a ready smile like he might be trying to figure a way to keep things light by playfully yanking someone’s chain. Me? I drove a Vespa up from Hermosa; always had a great time, but really didn’t care for the always exciting 12 mile go-home on Sepulveda on a foggy night…LOL

    3) Did we have nametags? If so, can anyone describe them?

    4) No matter where ya worked on the line, was always surprised ya had to turn your apron inside out once a shift…but maybe it was just me?

    5) Anyone know what the monthly laundry bill was for wipe-down clothes, aprons, and lederhosen? Were there lockers?

  • Phil A. says:

    And yet one more question for both Dick R. and Gary W. ;

    Did you guys know Mr. Charles Cramer? While Ralph Wood and Don Steinke were both around 37 in 1962, Mr. Cramer would have been a white haired gent near 60 years old. At some point he was a partner with Ralph Wood , but I do NOT know if that was fact PRIOR to Don Steinke’s separation OR AFTERWARDS.


  • Dick Roletta says:

    I didn’t know Charles Cramer. Don S. always worked the lunch rush on the register and helped the drink man. Very seldom saw Ralph W. The name tags were black with white printing. Mine said Dick Roletta Asst. Supervisor

  • Chris P. says:

    Things must have changes somewhere along the line because when I owned the Woody’s in Culver City and also, when I worked there, I only remember the pull down stairs in the rear of the dining room. It would have been in the way leaving them down because, if I remember correctly, they were in front of the rear door to the dining room. Also, the large make up air unit was up there and fairly noisy and really there was very limited room for an office.
    The office, as I knew it, was always by the rear kitchen door.
    Maybe the restaurant was remodeled in some way early on before 1964.
    Regarding the skylights at Culver City. there were glass panels across the entire top of the A-Frame roof. It was very hot in the summer.
    In the very early 1970′s we covered the glass and put wind turbines to let all the hot air escape from the restaurant. Good thing I didn’t get sucked thru the turbines with all my hot air.
    Mr. Cramer was Ralph’s uncle, the finest gentleman I ever knew. I worked with him from 1971 till late 1978. Our employees use to refer to him as Pelo Blanco, white hair, in Spanish.
    I love this site.
    Take Care,
    Phil, have you shoveled your steps and drive way yet today? I’m glad to be in California. It would probably kill me having to do that. I hope all your below 0 weather ends soon. Sometime ou should tell us what you have to do each morning just to get going.

  • Gary Wilcut says:

    Phil A.

    Ralph only came into #1 every other week. He was off tending to other business most of the time.
    Don S. left a few months after I was hired so my recollections of him are sparse. Dick Roletta worked with him a few years and has best info on him.


    I do not remember you either. I remember Jacque the Frenchman was the supervisor at the time of my early employment. There was a General Manager, I think his name was John Rutenberg or something like that, who was Woody’s right hand man. Does anybody remember him ?

    You guys are sure pushing my memory buttons.

  • Phil A. says:

    For Dick Roletta,

    I have come to learn you are a retired teacher and principle. Well done!
    Perhaps you are the man to help me.
    For years I have been trying to locate an ex Woody’s man.
    His name is Les Simons. He is 68 years old and is listed as a substitute teacher in the Los Angeles USD. I cannot find any further info on Les.

    At this point I am wondering if you can suggest a route I might take
    to locate an address or phone number for this active teacher.
    During 1966 and 67, Les Simons worked at several of the Woody’s units on Sepulveda. He was an experienced assistant manager who worked as many hours as he could during the summer college breaks.
    Les was invaluable because a store manager could schedule his own vacation and utilize Les as a most dependable replacement.
    He probably knew as many Woody’s safe combinations as Mr. Cramer.

    Dick, please advise either way so I know how to proceed.

  • Phil A. says:

    Hello Readers,

    This last batch of comments has been most informative and fun to learn.
    You guys have provided new insights to Mr. Wood, Mr. Cramer and
    my long time ” mystery man ” , Don Steinke. Thank you all !

    I will add these new insights to the notes I already have on Woody’s, and will proceed to formulate an interesting narrative.
    I hope to have this prepared by February 13 , which is the TWO year anniversary of this Woody’s SmorgasBurger site which was of course originated by Mark Evanier. Can’t thank you enough Mark !

    Chris, Chris, Chris !
    I must be the one to tell you my friend ; You are confusing the stairway layout with El Segundo which pulled down into the dining room near the back door. Fine.

    Culver City had the pull down stairway located in the hallway which ran along the wall INSIDE THE DISHROOM.
    The bun racks were always located along this wall. I remember both Randy Ewing and Ty Messersmith having to move these bun racks up toward the walk in cooler so the stairs could be yanked down. Amen !
    I bet your long time employee, Vinnie can back me on this.
    In any case, I will bet my wife’s retirement against three of your EPL units.

    I think the two guys kept their yellow shirts and checkered pants up there in the attic so they would not get mixed in with the others.
    For the life of me, I cannot figure why Don Steinke would do office work up there …… even in the cooler months.
    The office desk in the back certainly was not expansive, but surely would have been okay for doing payrolls, etc. Anyway ………

    Regarding the back office: I also remember how much Helen and Mr. Cramer hated getting down on their knees to clear out the safe.
    They were both in their 60′s, and now that I am too, I can appreciate
    the torture they endured.

    Yes Chris, this winter season has been a dark and dank one.
    I have always considered the winter seasons a four month waste of time.
    I used to do extensive wood working projects which got me through the season and I also did family history and photo album projects.

    We have been snowed in pretty much since the week before Christmas.
    This leads to cabin fever very quickly. The easiest options for relief are to get out for a Chinese lunch and a two circuit trip around the inside of the mall.

    So while you guys are in Rome, Florida, Marina del Rey, Brea , New Mexico,
    and Oregon ……. what the hell to do I get ? I get my Combination Lo Mein order which is always two or three pieces short on the shrimp.

    It must now be obvious to everyone as to why I have been the most prolific commenter here. Perhaps I should apply for a El Pollo Loco franchise.
    Yet another fun afternoon with all of you.
    God bless,
    Phil Ankofski

  • Dick Roletta says:

    I remember John R. he eventually became manager of Admiral Risty. As for Les Simons I worked for the Palos Verdes School District and don’t know much about LAUSD. But call Human Resorces at the Central Office in downtown LA and they should be able to help. When I worked at #1 every night we had to fill the electric bug bomb and run it while the place was closed. Anyone remember that.

  • BOTVOLR says:

    ~ Jacque the Frenchman! What came to mind was a guy about 5’6″ish with a bit of a pencil moustache, an accent, and a frenetic, well kinda hyperactive side…but really, that might be pure fantasy. LOL
    ~ On the other hand, per reading “Woody’s right hand man” (John R or whatever) an image of Eric McCormick of Will and Grace, as being a kin, popped into my head. Don’t know about you Honcho types, but he seemed like a “nice guy”.
    ~ What goes around, comes around: Sounds like some of you old fa… foogies have enough expertise and time on your hands to get going with Woody’s II !!! as a national franchise! I.e. If the concepts were good enough for sophisticated Californias at the time, i.e. “hunks” like us working the line, the uniforms, the Smorgasburger and do-it-yourself Sundae bar, the happy Yodeler on the sign, newspapers-on-a-stick, 99 cent Hamburger Steak dinner night, and frosty root beer mugs were good enough back then, might the current fast food scene need a new kick-butt ‘venue’ to happen that might have a 6 to 10 year run to make Woody proud? Think of all the new innovations to add in!!! ~ Alas in the meantime, my G-daughter has a friend working at th D-Q whereby I might be able to get her to throw some chopped nuts on one of their burgers!!!!

  • BOTVOLR says:

    Sorry Phil…lest I be wrong, El Segundo didn’t exist in ’62-63. I concur with Chris about the pull-down, folding stairs toward the back door, coming awkwardly “into” the dining area in CC. Indeed, when down, it was awkward for folks to come from the back. If El Segundo had such stairs, I can neither confirm nor deny! LOL

  • Dick Roletta says:

    Chris is right in his discription of the upstairs office in #1. The bun racks were half racks located up front. They were half racks located in front of the ice box window. I just saw Randy Ewing and his health is not good.

  • ChrisP. says:

    I remember the bug fogger and the 3 gallon can the chemical came in. Who knows what that stuff was but it worked.
    JR showed me how to use it. I would get a long extension cord so I could go all over the dining room. I would do it in the morning fairly early. I would turn on the noisy fogger it would create a large cloud of bug spray and proceed to walk around the store spraying this stuff with no mask or anything just tried to hold my breath but I usually couldn’t hold it all the way. I can still remember the smell.
    We only had to do it in the hotter months, thank God.
    The pull down ladder in El Segundo was in the kitchen.
    I swear the ladder was in the back dining room and went to a door (not a full size door)in the back dining room, up about 9 or 10 feet. This door led to an attic space above the restrooms of C.C. I stored a few things there, not much room because that’s where the make up air (swamp cooler)was. The office was inside near the back kitchen door, but,
    Maybe, I’m losing my marbles, though.
    I do have a pair of the suspenders (red with Tyrolian design)and a yellow shirt and checkered pants.
    No hat or nametag.
    Sometime I’ll look around for more stuff. I keep saying that, but I’ll try to find some more stuff.
    Take care,

  • Phil A. says:

    Thanks Dick for LAUSD suggestion. I will follow up on Friday and post results if positive.
    The bug bomb people were Pat Hogan and his wife. The company name was Atomic Insecticide. ( most appropriate ).
    They mixed the chemicals themselves in the back room of a retail store front on Vermont or Western. When I caught wind the company was for sale, I went to investigate. During the tour of the back room, I got sick and light headed from the chemicals. No deal for me !

  • Phil A. says:

    Good morning guys,

    Well , well…… I must STAND CORRECTED on the stairway issue.
    Good thing Chris did not take me up on my challenging bet.
    After liquidating to pay off the bet, my wife and I would have been homeless, so I guess I would choose Santa Barbara as the place to relocate to ……. and be homeless there. At least I could meet some of you guys.

    After all these years I do not think I can reprogram my brain to accept
    what all of you are telling me about the stair locations. Amen !

    I am sorry to learn that Randy Ewing is not doing well. I think he is two years older than I so that puts him around 71 this year.
    I would be interested in knowing what career path Randy followed and if he has family.

    Regarding the LAUSD ; I called first thing and was told they can only help me if I could provide a SS number for Les Simons.
    With all this privacy crap, I am not surprised.
    I will continue to devote some time on this issue.

    Additional comment on the Atomic Insecticide Co; It was a classic mom and pop type operation. I told you about the back of the store so here is a little description about the front.
    The store was quite small like a shoe repair shop, and this one was dark and dusty as well. There were empty cans and boxes on display which showed what products they had available for roach control, rats, mice,
    flys, mosquitos and whatever else. They could not display the full cans as they would be stolen.

    The owners, Pat and his wife were the sweetest people.
    When an order was called in for a new can of insecticide, they would come
    around early dinner time and deliver the product themselves.
    Of course I would use my tab to treat them to dinner.

    At the time of my tour of their store, they were of retirement age and the neighborhood was getting very bad.

    That’s it gang.

  • Gary Wilcut says:

    After all this talk about, Smorgasbergers, King Swiss, Matterhorns, Steaks and Kebobs, one very important food offering at Woody’s has been neglected, FISH. Two types of fish where available, Broiled Halibut and Haddock Fish Sandwiches. Fish Sandwiches where my personal favorite. They where awesome.

    For those interested in a fish tale about an acquaintance of mine who I used to go spearfishing with, you may view it on the internet: ” california gold 10015 “.

    That’s all for now. Have a good day.

  • BOTVOLR says:

    Yo Phil…re “…must Stand Corrected!” Many guys would certainly appreciate being able to still do that when trying to be able to get off the pot in the middle of the night without ‘touching’ anything…rue the day will come….LOL In any event, it’s a shame the younguns of today may take for granted their cell cameras or digital ones where they are able to record/save/discard so much of the world around them whereby we were only ‘armed’ with the cameras of-our-mind which may fail us now at times. All in all, nice you’ve brought some fuddies together who can ‘chip-in’ to create a ‘picture’ of Woody’s of yore…photoshopping not withstanding! LOL

  • Phil A. says:

    Gary, Gary …….

    Since you and I have both proclaimed our love for Johnnie’s Pastrami, I thought we saw things pretty much alike. But, perhaps not.
    The reason the two Woody’s fish items have been neglected here is because nobody else wants to remember them. I thought the items were the biggest waste of menu space on the entire board !

    First of all, both items lacked any fish flavor and are known for their blandness. The only taste in the sandwich was from the damn tartar sauce !
    The items were ordered so rarely that most guys on the line never had a chance to learn how to grill them. There was a certain moisture sheen that appeared when it was time to flip them, but then what?
    The cook had to keep testing for flakiness with the spatula and if he happen to get that right, then it was a mess getting it off the grill and onto the plate.

    Of course the grill master had to remember to clean off the spatula before resuming his proper attention to ” Rare” King Swiss Burgers. (mussen’t overcook those babies! ….. right Chris? )
    I don’t think there were any patrons driving into Culver City from the Inland Empire for A Woody’s Halibut Dinner.

    Believe me Gary, I have been known to drive for miles and miles for a great batter dipped COD fish and chip dinner. And my own Baked Salmon with Lemon Butter Dill would win national awards if I cared to enter.
    Perhaps I should send the recipe off to the Admiral Risty.
    Is anyone in Boss Angeles doing a great Fish and Chip dinner? Perhaps CoCo’s ?

    Ron Blasio, the manager at CC who hired both Chris and myself used start his lunch break by walking to the nearby grocery store. This store featured a butcher counter where he would select a nice Delmonico and then bring it back to grill for his lunch.

    Of course the ” tongue lashing ” about Woody fish items was offered in fun.
    I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I did writing.
    Time to catch up on the Russian games.
    Phil A.

  • Dick Roletta says:

    Randy Ewing worked at a number of fast food stands, the longest being The Wich Stand nine years . I don’t know if he ever maried. When I saw him he told me he had 4th stage colon cancer. Do you remember having to lift a 5 gallon can of milk into the milk dispenser? Stu Matros worked at #1 and did the lift but missed the dispenser and dropped the can creating a 5 gallon sunami in the cooking area at the peak of the rush time. He was later fired for chewing out a kid for slopping up the Do it yourself sundae bar not knowing his mon and dad were good friends of Ralph Woods. He was fired that very night for using swear words with the kid.

  • Phil A. says:

    Gary Wilcut and all Readers,

    Please allow me this space to further explain my tirade on the Woody’s fish sandwich and Halibut steak. I have been in one of my ” devil’s advocates ” moods. Gary could just as well have started his day by posting an opinion on how a 36 DD bra size was his personal favorite.
    Well, I would have spent some amount of time crafting a narrative which explained to all how the 34 B is so much better.

    I just want to assure Gary and all Readers that when I come on line here,
    I am looking to share fun and information plus learn something too.
    I think this is how Mark Evanier approaches all of his offerings as well.

    Are we still friends Gary ?

    I must admit to a feeling of dismay in that Mr. Ralph Wood will probably never read or hear of our comments. I have learned from the Co owner of the Admiral Risty that Ralph Wood’s short and long term memories are deteriorating as these months go by. Mr. Wood will be 89 this year which explains a lot in itself. His daughter Sarah is nearby and she does look in on him and takes care of all of his affairs.

    I did send Sarah a note at Christmas time suggesting that she take a laptop to her dads apartment. I gave her the address for this site hoping she would sit next to her dad and read our comments.
    I did NOT get a response from Sarah, so I guess there is a 50/50 chance
    that she could follow through.
    I also asked Sarah to let her dad know that he would be in our prayers. Amen.

    All my best …. always.
    Phil Ankofski

  • ChrisP. says:

    Hi, Gary,
    I remember in 1970 our halibut steak dinner was $1.35 and included everything.
    A new York was $1.95 and a Top Sirloin was $1.89.
    I don’t remember how much the haddock was but I too enjoyed it. I believe it was a quarter pound. The Halibut was 7 to 8 ounces.
    We eventually had to use cod for the fish sandwich because it was hard to get the haddock and the price, of course, got to be prohibitive.
    Fish used to be so reasonable now it’s so expensive.
    Say Hi to Dennis for me.
    Take care,

  • Phil A. says:

    Thanks for posting Randy’s cancer status, a most serious issue. I will move him to the top of my prayer list. Both Randy and Ty M. worked very well together while at Woody’s #1. I did learn that Ty also hired in at the Wich stand after Woody’s and stayed for a long tenure as well.

    Our comment count is now at # 381 ( 240 + 141 ) . Only a matter of days till the fantastic benchmark of # 400 rolls up. I suppose Mark Evanier will be informing us of yet another site extension; Woody’s SmorgasBurger III.

    Nothing more from me tonight. It’s midnight.

  • ChrisP. says:

    Sorry to hear about Randy. We also worked together for awhile.
    Didn’t he have a 64 Mustang? He did have a girlfriend at the time I can’t remember her name, though. He was always very nice to me.
    If anyone has any more to share about Randy that would be nice.

  • Gary Wilcut says:

    Phil, Phil…….

    Protein, amino acid and essential fatty acids in fish benefit the brain. Fish being the brain food explains your position. I’m only kidding, I couldn’t resist. We love you being the “devils advocate”. Were still friends.


  • Mark Thorson says:

    My mother has Alzheimer’s Disease, and I’d say that if you showed up to see Mr. Wood he’d probably find that confusing and upsetting. However, if you have old photos of the restaurants and the employees and could assemble that into an album, he might enjoy that very much. If he has mild to moderate AD, he can probably remember events from decades ago fairly well. Those are the last memories to be lost. Some captions to identify which restaurant it is, the year, and the names of people would also be helpful. With AD, an album like that would seem new every day, because of the profound loss of short-term memory and the inability to create new long-term memories.

  • Bruce says:

    I have now spent more time reading about Woody’s Smorgasburger than eating there!

  • Phil A. says:

    ” Hey Jude ”

    Such an awesome CBS show honoring the Beatles. Best TV in years !

    Mark T.,
    Thank you for casting more light and details on the AD issue.
    While watching Paul and Ringo, I was thinking about your album suggestion for Mr. Wood. Then I began to wonder if an original Woody’s china dinner plate would work in the same context. The plate has not seen the light of day in 50 years and it has the mountaineer logo.
    Mr. Wood could keep the plate by his LazyBoy side table for snacking.

    These plates were used at all locations to serve the steak dinners. ( and yes, those icky white things too. )
    Anyway, if you think that this would be worthwhile, I would mail the plate to Wayne at the Admiral Risty and he could run it over to Mr. Wood.
    What does thou think ?

  • Phil A. says:

    Randy’s girlfriend at the time was ” Penny.”
    The question is; did he love her more or less than his gorgeous ” Stang. ”

  • Phil A. says:

    You are too funny ! Does NBC even know you exist ?
    What would it take to get your friend Steve C. up and running on this site?
    He may turn out to be a prolific writer like Mark Evanier. ( our manager. )

  • Phil A. says:

    This comment is akin to the two minute warning in NFL football.

    There are only a very few open slots remaining on this Woody’s SmorgasBurger site until the #400 Benchmark is posted.

    Who will it be ? Will it be an ol’ timer like Chris Pingel, or perhaps a brand new FEMALE commenter who just happens to wear a 34B ? ( my personal favorite. )

    We will see what the next few days bring.
    In the meantime, don’t forget your Motrin.
    Phil A.

  • Mark Thorson says:

    I don’t know if a plate would be as worthwhile. It couldn’t hurt to try, though you might want to check whether the family already has some. They might already have plenty. My mom has managed to break most of her glassware over the last year or so, though not any plates.

  • Phil A. says:

    Last perhaps, but in no way the least;

    I am referring to Mack, the man who did the morning janitorial duties for so many years at Woody’s. Mack had the contracts to mop floors, and clean the restrooms at both the El Segundo and Culver City locations.
    I remember him working alone most of the week days, but on weekends he had another person with him. Perhaps his wife or another man.

    Mack had some work ethic. His full time job was at night, cleaning airplane interiors at LAX. Once off duty, he drove to the El Segundo location, did his work there and then drove to Culver City to clean.
    We certainly did not engage in any long conversations as Mack was already beat from 11 plus hours at three locations and wanted to get home.

    Ray Bailey, who was our opening man and also a man of color, did kibitz with Mack on occasions. These guys were both very hard workers.
    So, here is a toast to Mack and Ray. Hope they are doing okay.

    Phil A.

  • Marshall Loveday says:

    I love seafood…..
    That being said, I wasn’t a big fan of Woody’s halibut steak or fish sandwich. Maybe I wasn’t good at grilling them. It always seemed they turned out dry and flaky – especially the halibut.

    Switching topics…….
    I could REALLY go for a Woody’s chocolate shake in the frosty silver goblet – hold the cherry and whipped cream, please.

  • Phil A. says:

    Regarding Mr. Randy Ewing;
    For those who might be interested, I posted a short narrative about Randy on the original Woody’s site. The date of posting is Feb. 14th, 2013.
    It is easy to scroll down a bit and locate it.
    I describe Randy in action on Hamburger Steak Night at # 1 ~ plus I give a description of his fabulous Mustang.

    For Chris P. ~ Since Ty M. separated from Woody’s in July of 1966, who was the manager who rehired you a few years down the road ?
    I think by then that Culver City was staffed by guys I did not know.

    For Gary, ~ Remember to tell us about lunch at Johnnie’s. I only assume you will be meeting Dick R. and perhaps Steve . Fun.

    It is finally warming up here in Dublin, Ohio. 27 degrees on Wednesday.
    Don’t forget Valentine’s Day is this Friday. Who wants to make reservations at the ” Risty” ? Maybe they offer Halibut Steaks ! ( tee hee )

  • Phil A. says:

    Good morning Readers,

    As promised, I have returned to this space with this narrative which celebrates the second anniversary of this Woody’s site. Feb.13th, 2012.
    I am thinking Mark Evanier must be feeling like a proud papa in that he is the originator and manager of this site which has grown and matured.
    The recent facts presented here regarding Don Steinke enabled me to finally put all this together. Thank you all for your contributions.

  • Phil A. says:

    King Karrot and the Smorgasburger

    The following narrative was composed from facts published by two separate newspapers. The items which pertained more to Ralph Wood were published by The Palos Verdes News on Jan 28, 2009. Facts relating to Barbara Wood were published by The Daily Breeze on June 8, 2012 as part of her obituary.

    And now, for the rest of the story…..

    Ralph Wood was born in 1925. After high school, he joined the US Army/Navy. He served in 1944 and 1945.

    While Ralph was in the service, his high school sweetheart Barbara was enrolled at Mills College. In 1945, Ralph and Barbara were married while she was still a coed at Mills and he was on a 30 day furlough.

    After the war, Ralph enrolled at Occidental College and together they lived in the veteran housing on the Occidental campus. Ralph earned his degree in Economics, and Barbara worked towards her degree in Spanish.

    Barbara graduated two years ahead of Ralph and when she did, she found work as a translator.

    During Ralph’s college years, he worked summer breaks at a seafood restaurant on Balboa Island. He may have worked full time there after graduation for a (very) few years. Ralph’s experience at this seafood venue would come into play later in 1960 when he opened The Woody’s Fiskehus in downtown Los Angeles.

    In 1952, Ralph opened his first food service venture called The King Karrot Juice Bar. It was located in his father’s or uncle’s grocery store. Soon, he had three additional juice bars, which were located in three Mayfair markets. The growing chain of the Mayfair Markets was owned by Charles Cramer (Ralph’s uncle) and Edwin Fox.

    The King Karrot Juice Bars were destined to have a short life. Not because they were not profitable, but because in 1953, Mr. Cramer and Mr. Fox sold their Mayfair Market chain to the Arden Farms Corp. At this point in time, Ralph Wood lost his Juice Bar locations because the Arden Corp. wanted their space to sell groceries and dairy products.

    In late 1954, Ralph Wood and Don Steinke came up with plans to build a brand new restaurant from scratch. It would feature larger hamburgers, salads and shakes. The service would be cafeteria style, and NO FRIES! Just like Cassell’s. I do not know how Ralph and Don came to know each other.

    Mr. Wood and Mr. Steinke together formed Woody’s SmorgasBurger, Inc. and began to go to work. The year 1955 was spent on legal issues, site selection, building plans and finally, construction in Culver City. Woody’s #1 opened in February, 1956. The residents of Culver City, Westchester, Mar Vista, Venice, and Palms were all great patrons of Woody’s for many years.

    I never learned who submitted the idea for a Swedish Tyrolean theme for the Woody’s SmorgasBurgers. I now suspect it was Barbara Wood. I also suspect Barbara remembered the features she liked at Cassell’s Hamburgers in Los Angeles and encouraged their replication at Woody’s in Culver City.

    There are many strong similarities between Cassell’s of 1948 and Woody’s SmorgasBurger of 1956. To my way of thinking, it is no jump at all to conclude that Ralph and Barbara incorporated many of Cassell’s ideas. But this has been the way of business since Adam & Eve. Plus, they all made a lot of money while having a lot of fun and self satisfaction. What else is there?

    Ralph Wood and Don Steinke remained partners until late 1962. During the period of 1956 through 1962, they opened six separate stores and closed three of them. 1962 was also the year that Mr. Wood signed the five year franchise agreement with IHOP. This agreement prevented Woody’s, Inc. from expanding on their own. This deal would terminate in 1967.

    It is my opinion that Don was probably in serious disagreement with Ralph on the IHOP issue and therefore decided on the separation. When the separation did occur, Charles Cramer (Ralph’s uncle) joined Woody’s SmorgasBurger and thus became an equal partner with Ralph.

    Mr. Cramer and nephew Ralph continued this business model for another nine years. In 1963, they opened El Segundo and later in 1967 Woodland Hills was opened. Westwood Village followed one year later.

    In 1971, Mr. Cramer and Mr. Wood decided it would be in their best interest to “split” the business assets of six units. Each man took control of three stores and their destinies. They each could choose to continue to operate their own stores, sublease, sell outright or let leases expire. For additional in depth details regarding this “split”, I would have you direct your questions to Chris Pingel, who was on the scene at the time and who became the future owner of Culver City and El Segundo in late 1978.
    Chris will be delighted to assist in this regard.

    I am happy to have completed this project. It is what I enjoy doing.
    As always, I welcome any and all comments. If any parts of this narrative have raised further questions, I will be happy to respond.

    February 12th , 2014
    All my best,
    Phil Ankofski
    Phil Ankofski – February 2014

  • ChrisP says:

    Mr. Cramer took me to lunch at Cassell’s in the mid seventies. I worked for him from 1972 till late 78. We became good friends and business associates and did a lot of things together until his death in the mid eighties. He was one of the finest men I’ve ever known.
    Thanks, Phil for all your work putting all this together.
    Chris P.

  • Chris P. says:

    You forgot to mention The Admiral Risty, the dinner house which Mr. Wood opened on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in 1968. It’s still operating and doing very well. Wayne Judah has managed it for many years and became Mr. Wood’s limited partner a few years ago. He still there.
    Ralph and Risty would go there almost nightly for many years for dinner because they lived close and just liked to hang out.
    Phil can fill anyone in on early details of the Risty.
    Take care,

  • Gary Wilcut says:

    Phil Ankofski,

    You and Chris Pingle are truly historians and have chronicled Woody’s life as accurately as possible. CONGRADULATIONS !

    Have you considered posting a narrative to Wikipedia.

    Gary Wilcut

  • Phil A. says:

    Watch out Chris and Gary , I may come after you guys in a 1960′s biography. I already have the title; ” The St. Bernard’s Boys. ”

  • ChrisP. says:

    Thanks, Gary.
    I wish I had more time to devote to all this. I really enjoy connecting with everyone.
    Phil really goes out of his way to do all this. I have to applaud him.
    Thanks, Phil.

  • Vincent Chiesa says:

    Wow! this thread is really moving right along. I have been off here for a couple weeks and now a lot of reading to catch up on. This one is going to be short, and to answer Phil on the fold-down stairs. I really can’t remember where the stairs was located in the Culver City store. But I clearly remember in El Segundo it was not in the dinning room. The stairs was located in the hall within the dishwashing area (1976 ~ 1985). If you were facing the back door, the dishwashing area was to the right. The mini-office was just before the back door to the right with the safe and the bun racks bolted to the wall over the desk/safe. The grill was opposite (behind you, if facing the back door). The bottom of the stairs would extend just to the walk-in cooler. Then to the left, was the door going into the dinning room, and an employee closet/broom room (later I believe it became the area for the 5gal soda boxes which replace the drums). Once the stairs was extended down, it bottle-necked access to a lot of areas since the hallway was not very wide. Up in the attic was the water softner, bulk tank. and compressors.
    Oh! and I loved those brownies and the strawberry pies. When I started at Woody’s I was 127 IBS, when I left I was about 180IBS (haha). All I can say is that Woody’s was quality you don’t see much of these days! (so much for a short reply). Vinnie

  • Phil A. says:

    Chris, Gary and all Readers,

    Thank you guys for the kudos. As Paul McCartney sings ; ” all I need is a little help from my friends .” Together, we make this so easy !

    Yes Chris, I did leave out the Risty. I was so focused on getting facts and dates laid down for the SmorgasBurger operations that I did pass it over.
    Sorry Mr. Wood. I would suppose that Mr. Wood considers the Risty as the crown jewel in his career, so leaving it out of the lineup is a serious issue indeed. Having Chris join in so swiftly is yet another example of the value of having many devoted commenters.

    Vincent ; Your description of the # 7 stairway is certainly beyond reproach. The vivid details made me feel like I was back 48 years standing right there in the hallway. I would be standing with the Patman Meats driver checking out his invoice and signing off. Thank you !

    I am feeling a little perky this morning. The price of silver is finally crawling up out of the basement and it’s Valentines Day.

    For Chris: When I spoke to Wayne , I mentioned that I think of you as the ” Chicken King ” and he responded that he had a nickname for you as well, but I cannot recall the name. Please share !

    To all the Readers here; ZAP ! You’r Morganized ! ~ Robert W. ~ KHJ ~

  • ChrisP. says:

    Great to hear from Vinnie. I appreciate all your kind words and we all appreciate your insight about Woodys.
    Who’s #400?


  • Phil A. says:

    Good Morning Readers,

    If my elementary school math serves me correctly, Phil ( me) came in at the number # 400 Benchmark at 5 PM . ( 240+160 ) Let’s have a party !
    With my excitement in getting the King Karrot bio published, the #400 faded to the background. Bless the ” Chicken King ” for following up .
    Anyway, on Feb. 13th Chris followed with #401 three hours later at 8:25 PM and Vinny posted # 402 five minutes after Chris.

    If someone was engineering all this, it could not have been done more perfectly as the 2 year anniversary of the this site is February 13, 2012.
    100 postings in the first year and 300 comments in the second year !
    How would you like to own a restaurant with these growth factors?

    I have learned in these past two years that Mark Evanier is one of a kind.
    Thank you Mark for providing us with this forum which allows the rest of us to stay connected. Truly grateful.

    Now, about the party ; How about Gentleman Jack with cake and ice cream ?


  • Mike Webb says:

    I think this web should be renamed the Woody’s Smorgasburger II forum what do you Think ??

  • Mark says:

    Let me add a few names to the mix:
    Evan Zang (music man)
    Mike (GTO Mike)
    Pat Taylor (surfer)
    Jim Husar (VW kid)
    Mike (station wagon Mike)

    All worked with me at the Redondo Woody’s. We had some great times and would appreciate any notes, memories or stories you care to add.

  • Dick Roletta says:

    Mike Love of the Beach Boys worked at Woody’s #1 . He left the first week I was there to cut his first record. Rod Serling of Twilight Zone use to come in, always in the late evening, to order two steak sandwiches to go. Karen Black use to come in with her mother for lunch alot. Just a little trivia.

  • Phil A. says:

    Welcome Mark ,

    WOW ! You are are one lucky SOB.
    We have just passed the #400 th comment on this site and there are so many that refer specifically to the Woody’s in Redondo. Many have been posted and published in the original thread here which runs from # 1 to #240. So Mark, do yourself a BIG favor and invest some time and effort
    by STARTING at the very BEGINNING.
    Also, when you return please use a last name or initial as we have several Marks with us already.

    Why not introduce yourself and then follow up with the time periods you worked at Redondo, which managers you worked with, and which owners did you know ? ( Ralph Wood, Don Steinke, or Mr. Cramer )
    Then share several interesting/fun quips that the rest of us will enjoy hearing about as well. Remember, we are all near 70 or older so there is no need to be shy. So Mark, let’s hear about those great times from you.

  • Dick Roletta says:

    Woody’s #1 the guys I remember that worked were Steve Claypool, Gary Wilcut, Chuck Fierce, John Flannigan, Stu Matros, Dave Miller, Randy Ewing, and so many more. Many great memories.

  • Gordon Ross says:

    After our father abandoned our family in Germany, we were on the ropes and penniless. My mothers parents lived there and she stayed with them and I, as the only American citizen in the family, was repatriated to Woodland Hills and a stayed with a family friend. I promised my mother I would work hard and bring her back to the states… and went to a place called WOODY’s in Woodland Hills. It was unique, unlike any other WOODY’s I saw .. Redondo, El Segundo, etc; as it was in a professional office building, occupying the north half of the main floor. It’s glass windows faced Topanga Canyon Blvd. I was hired as a shift supervisor (my manager empathized with the story of my family and helped) and learned the value of hard work. The reward was the pay, the great management team and the food bennies. I prepared the salsa, I cleaned and serviced the codniment aisle and I really missed french fries….LOL…and now I miss Woodys. As a senior, I forget my managers names and my co-workers, but THANKS all. BTW, I worked about 7 months and saved enough to bring home mother … and we both worked in Tarzana (new job for me) and saved enough to bring my sister back. The family unit was intact again. Months later I joined the Navy and now am retired and ranching in Arizona. Thanks again WOODYS for the great experience.

  • Phil A. says:

    ” Shiver me timbers “…. another blockbuster name drop from Dick Roletta.
    The first was Don Steinke who had been a mystery man to many of us, and now Mike Love ! I myself cannot fathom Mike Love in the Tyrolean hat and suspenders. Can you ? No matter. One of Mike’s bios tells how their gang
    used to pile in a car and drive north from Hawthorne to the Wich Stand, hang out and then cruise back.

    Now the point I intended to make; With Mike Love working at Woody’s,
    I am willing to make the jump that Brian Wilson was on the premises as well. Not as an employee, but as a companion of Mike who came in for an occasional burger or who was called to give a ride home.
    ALL EMPLOYEES had their buddies from school come in and tease them,
    give them rides to and from work and get free ” tabbed” lunches.
    I do not see how Mike and Brian Wilson would be any different.

    After having said all this, I propose that the city of Culver City should erect
    an on site commemorative display at the corner of Sepulveda Blvd. and Berryman. ” Brian Wilson ate Here when it was a Woody’s ”

    I wish I had know all this back in 1964. I would have been so extra proud to be wiping down the long cafeteria style counter where Brian once stood.

    Hello Gordon,
    You did not mention the time period when you were at Woodland Hills.
    I can help this much : Ron Blasio opened the store in Oct. 1967 and stayed for about 18 months. Mike Schuler was the last manager on duty and closed the store sometime after the Northridge earthquake.
    I do not know who managed this store in between these two men.

    If you in fact worked with Ron Blasio, you may remember that he liked to spend a lot of time down the hall at the stock brokerage firm.
    He would buy some uranium mining stocks and then call the other store mangers and encourage them to buy in as well. Lost my ass on those.
    Phil A.

  • ChrisP. says:

    That’s a fantastic story, Gordon.
    Your mother and sister were very lucky to have a son and brother like you.
    Do you remember the year that you worked at Woodland Hills?
    I might remember the manager’s name if it was in the early seventies.
    I remember that store well because when the partners split up in 71, that was one of the 3 stores that our group acquired. I also remember when we closed that store and also when the earthquake hit the valley and did major damage to the building.
    Anyway, I’m glad you found out about the Woody’s site and, if you remember anymore stories, please share them.
    Take Care.

  • Mark says:

    Thanks for the reception!
    With a tear running down my cheek, I read every post and relived those days from long ago.
    I will attempt to fill in some blanks and recount a tale from time to time:
    Evan Zang was the fellow who owned the Louts Europa mentioned in one of the previous posts. Many are the young ladies who took him up on his offer of a ride in his sports car. He would be working the line, meet some pretty girl and 20 minutes later they would head out the door and go for a ride.
    He was a great musician and played in bands in the south bay.
    I was cleaning the burger condiment bar located an aisle or so from the front counter where the line ended at the cash register. I heard a lot of laughter from the line area where the burgers were ordered. I could see down the line to where the cold storage doors were located and Evan came around the corner walking toward the grill.
    Evan was wearing a metal bowl on his head… and the contents of the metal bowl were running down his face, neck and shirt!! Cherry toppings, marshmallow, chocolate, chopped peanuts and a crowning river of pineapple covered all of his features except his eyes! He was laughing his ass off and was having a great sport of it all.
    It was a payback for some prank he had pulled on one of the line guys and his sense of humor allowed him to roll with it instead of throwing punches.
    As I remember it, I believe he walked up to the register and started ringing up the next customer. The shocked customers just rolled with laughter and the entire incident ended well.

    more to come in the future!

    Mark J.

  • Phil A. says:

    Mark J. and all Readers,

    How nice to see your swift return ! I assume your story of the human sundae occurred very near closing time. I imagine this kind of stuff went on more than I ever would have expected.
    I do not recognize any of the names you included on a previous comment so I cannot place your time of employment. Please tell us the years you were with the Redondo unit and which managers you worked with.
    Also, are you still in the area, or have you relocated elsewhere ?

    Aside from the sundae toppings, Redondo was a fun place to work.
    Since Redondo had such a huge dining area, I have lamented that I did not bring in live entertainment for the Friday and Saturday dinner hours.
    I can imagine having two female accordion players (18 year olds) who slowly cruised the dining room while playing Tyrolean music.
    In hind sight, I would not have asked for permission from Mr. Wood, I would have just paid them out of my own pocket, and see if they increased business.

    The Redondo burger condiment bar was fabulous ! I think it was made from black Marlite, a material which is very hard and shiny.
    Anyway, the back of the condiment bar ran parallel to the counters last twelve feet. Since the Marlite was like a mirror, the guys working the register and drinks had awesome views of many pretty backsides.

    Of course the cutest were invited to join the Woody’s Birthday Club.
    The application card called for name, address and birthdate. Some guys would add a phrase asking for their phone number as well.
    Such fun ….. and we were paid well too !
    Phil A.

  • Phil A. says:

    Good morning Readers,

    After seven weeks I can finally see my grass again ! A few days with 45 degree weather and melting snow is lifting my spirits.

    Allow me to be a name dropper for the Woody’s in Redondo Beach.
    My tenure at this store was in 1967/68 which corresponded to George Allen’s career highs. Of course Mr. Allen was the head coach for the Rams, but at the time I did not know a football from a hockey puck.

    Mr. Allen came in for dinner probably twice a month with family members.
    All the guys working the line got so excited and George and his group always had a lot of fun with them.

    I’m off to spend some time outdoors.

  • Phil A. says:

    Hold the phone ……..
    My wife suggests I may still be in the dark on the football issue.
    Let’s see; In football, I want my team to smack a little black disc high up in the air and over a horizontal pole which is supported by two vertical poles.
    If successful, the ump declares a ” home run “.
    If the ” home run ” is missed, the other team gets four downs in which to say one ” Hail Mary “.
    Shoot, while at Christ the King school /parish for confession, I had to say ten Hail Marys every Saturday afternoon ….. once a whole rosary !

    Phil A. ( ex staffer at Woody’s SmorgasBurgers #1 ,# 7 and # 2 . )

  • BOTVOLR says:

    1) George Allen: Whoa! So, his visits to Woody’s must have been mainly in “The Off” season as your years were when he coached the Rams who were a St. Louis team then? I.e. given his Bio said he died in PV in ’90, he must’ve lived there in your years!
    2) Alas and meaning no disrespect, was Woody’s (OMG even Philippe’s, Rand’s Roundup, etc.) a forerunner of the demise of Sterling WaitStaff service which along with ambiance, e.g. Trader Vics, Scandia, etc., was part of the “dining experience”? Look http://tinyurl.com/lw96la9 how far we are behind (what some might have once considered it as a ’3rd world country’, as my Nuns never pointed Dubai out to me in Geography class!!!)
    3) Speaking of Nuns is a perfect segue to confession!!! Will Rome offer what Dubai restaurants are offering? Find the pic of your sin on a screen and tap in the frequency so it will fairly, i.e. scientifically, note your penance per a computer assessment of current sinning across, at the least, just our country!!!!???
    4) For what it’s worth and possible relevance to several herein, I’m looking forward to the computerized, colonoscopy robot so I don’t have to be flummoxed choosing a male or female doc! Be that as it may, this http://tinyurl.com/buf8wvg should be most reassuring for those who keep putting this life saving procedure off…it’s a piece of cake.

  • Mike Hale says:

    I just turned 70 and was thinking about my past jobs. Wood’s was my first official job. I started there when I was 17 it was a hard job to get because they paid the best for part work. That was 1961 big time pay was $1.25 hour. If you worked 8 hours you got a meal for 75 cents. The worst and hardest job was the grill. You earned your money a very busy place. I usually worked 16 hours a week. I worked there over a year it was a fun place and made many friends. I worked at the Culver city location. I was happy to find the interest in Wood’s.

  • Marshall Loveday says:

    Let’s see, Mike, doing the math, you would have been working at Woody’s in Culver City around 1958. You may have even served my family once or twice when my family came in (I would have been that nerdy-looking kid of about 7).

  • Phil A. says:


    This posting is specifically for you !
    Your Woody’s SmorgasBurger site has been garnering some new Readers and commenters which is a blessing for all of us.
    What I have noticed is that the newcomers have skipped over the first thread and probably a portion of the second thread.

    So, this idea may help ; On the opening page where all 50 of the old LA restaurants are listed ( on left ) could you reposition the name Woody’s SmorgasBurger II right under Woody’s Smorgasburger ?
    The thinking is that the new reader can be made aware of both offering at the same time and then make the desired selection.

    Also …… along the same thinking ; Woody’s did number their stores from #1 to # 15 . Some new Readers may think The Woodys’ II on your list applies to quips only about the STORE #2. ( rather than SITE #2 )

    A corrective measure might be Woodys SmorgasBurger A and B … with perhaps a letter C needed in the near future.

    Mark, if you think this is a worthwhile and doable idea, it will be fun to see you proceed with the changes. After all, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Thanks for your time and efforts .

    All my best, always.
    Phil Ankofski

  • The Management says:

    Phil, the list on the left is generated by the software and it’s chronological based on when I started the topic. So I can’t move it without a lot of hassle and I don’t think it would make a difference. What’s obviously happening here is that newcomers are joining the thread by clicking on a “Recent Comments” link to Woody’s Smorgasburger II and reading up a bit from whatever message they reach that way. If they were getting to the page by clicking the name in the left column, the first thing they’d see is my little announcement telling them that it’s the second part of a longer thread. If they’re unaware of the first thread, it means they’re never getting anywhere near the start of the second.

    I can change the threads to A and B but I think that’s more confusing. Perhaps you could post a message every so often telling them about the earlier thread? And I will be starting a third one around the time this one hits #250.

  • Phil A. says:

    Mark ( our manager ),

    Thank you for your swift and detailed reply. I do understand what you have laid out for us. It is pretty easy to tell which new commenters have missed the boat, so yes we can continue posting an ” awareness message.”
    Most of us are approaching or have past our 70th and all are not equal in
    computer literacy so I thought the ideas might fly.
    In any case, thanks again for your continued attention to all of us here on the Woody’s thread and the other 50 plus restaurants as well.
    Phil A.

  • Steve Claypool says:

    As I read through all the contributions, I’m stunned at the many things that you all remember! The details amaze me.

    I started working at Woody’s in Culver City, having had an introduction to Mr. Steinke by a neighbor of mine. I was there for ’60 to ’63 when I was transferred to the El Segundo store…I remember very clearly being on the line the night that it opened. I stayed until 1965 when John Rudburg, decided that I was making too much money ($1.90), and he cut my pay. I was able to go to work from my dad, so I left.

    Many years later, on a trip back to California, I stopped by for lunch and found Bob Anderson still there…I’m not sure, but it seems like it was at least 20 years later and he was manager.

    Most of my memories are more general than those I see here. Of course, I remember food prep., our opening and closing routines, some of the vendors, and our TAB – I loved the tab and enjoyed using it any time one of my friends came into the restaurant.

    Gary’s car was a big hit with me…I don’t know why but, I guess, the novelty of the top going into the truck just seemed terrific.

    Stuart Montros had a motorcycle which I remember with some dread. He managed to talk me into getting on the back of it and travel over the Sepulveda Pass the first week that it open. Now here’s a guy who missed the milk dispenser with a refill (mentioned by Dick) and I was stupid enough to accept the invitation. Needless to say, the trip was wild and I feared or my life – somehow, however, we made it back. I’ve not been on a motorcycle since.

    I saw Stuart some years later when he pitched some land to my wife and me. We didn’t buy and I find myself wondering just where it was and what it might be worth today. Considering that it was Stuart, you probably should be surprised that I remember some kind of audio/visual equipment that he had trouble operating!

    I spent most of my shifts work the cash register – probably because it was the easiest and cleaned job on the line.

    As far as celebrities coming into Culver City, the only one I remember is Rose Marie and her family. She was very friendly and came in often.

    Sorry my thoughts are not better organized, but even as random as they are, they brought a smile to my face. I enjoyed Woody’s immensely and discussions about the place have found their way into countless conversations over the last 49 years.

    Stay well and keep writing.

  • Gary Wilcut says:

    Steve Claypool,

    It was good hearing your remembrances of Woody’s and my 1957 Ford hard top convertible car, we had a lot of fun in that car. Your remembrance of the cash register job being the cleanest job on the line is very true and you were very good at it.

    I had lunch with Dick Roletta the other day at Jonnies Pastrami in Culver City, naturally we had a lot to say about our Wood’y experiences. Jonnies has not chances a bit in 50 years.

    If any thing in this site jogs your memory, as it has mine, please share it with us.


  • Phil A. says:

    What a good morning indeed ! Ah, for the days at Woody’s SmorgasBurger.

    How wonderful to wake up and find a posting from Steve Claypool. Welcome ! I too like giving credit where due, so was it Gary or Dick who brought you over ? I think it is great to have another guy who was from the ” Don Steinke days “. Plus we now can learn from Steve about the very first days and months of the El Segundo unit.

    Questions for Steve; With your many years of experience and the higher rate of pay, I am thinking you were in a supervisor/ Asst. Manager type position. Would this be correct ? In any case, I do not understand a pay rate roll back when the raises you were given had been approved as you received them. What the hell ?

    Where do you live now ? ( city )
    Which career path did you follow ?

    I am looking forward to many more comments from your ” Gang of Three.”
    ( Dick Roletta, Steve Claypool and Gary Wilcut )

    Yet another name drop for the El Segundo store; Carroll Shelby.
    During the mid to late 1960′s Carroll was doing his Mustang conversions out of a leased hanger at LAX. He would get his haircut at the barber shop next door and then come into Woody’s for lunch. Now that I think about it,
    both Carroll and George Allen looked quite a bit alike.

    A note for Chris P. ; I warned you that I would not leave you.

    Phil A.

  • Phil A. says:

    The current cover of Sports Illustrated pretty much shows how I remember the girls in Redondo Beach. When they patronized our Woody’s we may have asked them to slip on their sandals as well.

  • Phil A. says:

    Hello Readers,

    It looks to be very quiet here lately. I thought my absence would allow more room for some new ” traffic.” Today, I would like to use this space to comment on one of my prior postings.
    The date ; February 12, 2014 ~ 616AM .

    I STAND CORRECTED on a few SERIOUS errors that appear in my mini biography of Ralph Wood. I need to make the following corrections and clarifications. I apologize that the errors were overlooked in the first place.

    In the bio, I had interchanged Mr. Cramer’s name with Mr. Steinke’s name in several of the paragraphs. So here are the needed corrections ;

    ~ In 1954, Ralph Wood and his uncle Mr. Cramer came up with the plans to open a new restaurant. ( Mr. Don Steinke was NOT involved in any way).

    ~ Don Steinke and Ralph Wood had met and worked together at a restaurant owned by Mr. Wood in Pico Rivera. This was after the ” Karrot Kings ” were closed. ( circa 1954/55 )

    ~ Mr. Wood and Mr. Cramer filed the legal documents to form Woody’s SmorgasBurger Inc. ( Don Steinke was NOT involved in ANY way. )

    ~ Don Steinke was NOT INVOLVED in any way with the planning and development of the new Culver City Woody’s. At this point Don was yet working at Mr. Woods Pico Rivera restaurant. ( NOT a SmorgasBurger).

    ~ 1956 ; Woody’s Culver City opens with great success and the store remains so busy that Mr.Wood contacts Don Steinke and invites him
    to join the staff at Culver City. Don agrees and hires in.
    Don was a valued and dependable employee in Pico Rivera and Mr. Wood
    very much needed him at the new Woody’s.
    Don would become manager and at some point was offered a Limited Partnership which did NOT require a financial investment from Don.
    *** This fact was misconstrued by many who thought Mr. Steinke was a full partner on a equal basis as Mr. Wood and Mr. Cramer. ( NOT SO ). ***
    Don’s Limited Partnership would pay some amount of dividends only after all corporate taxes were paid at years end. ( some years were zip. )

    As stated in the original bio, Don Steinke did separate from Mr.Wood in late 1962. The new info here is that Don left to open his own burger joint which was called the ” Nut Burger . ” Don kept his new venture afloat for nine months during 1963 ……. then closed it.
    In 1964, Don Steinke connected with KFC and opened a unit in H.B.
    From here on out, there was no looking back. Don went on to own and operate a significant number of KFC units in both Northern and Southern California. Well done Don !

    The bottom line : With these corrections and clarifications, Mr. Cramer
    is now given his due credit for being more involved as a partner and for being on the scene from day one with his brains and his $$$$$. Well done Mr.Cramer!

    I wanted to get this out for guys like Dick Roletta, Steve Claypool, and Gary Wilcut who worked at Woody’s in Culver City during the earlier years.
    I also needed to do this for Chris Pingel so that he knows the most accurate history possible for the Woody’s Culver City store which he loved so much.

    All my best,
    Phil Ankofski

  • Will says:

    Is there any way to get some photos of the El Segundo Woody’s? I run a group on Facebook called ESHS ALUMNI (El Segundo High School) and I’d love to go down memory lane with a few photos. Thanks to any that can help out! I attached my email so you can email me :)

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    This pic is from Google Images http://tinyurl.com/mfvbhl7 claiming to be El Segundo. Unfortunately, when taking our kids to DizLand in the ’70s and finding Redondo’s HollyRiv closed, found El Segundo. Alas, my fuzzy memory doesn’t remember such a view, i.e. I wasn’t ES pretty small?

    Perhaps ya might try contacting the El Segundo Herald and the Daily Breeze re an archive search or run an ad down that way. Good Luck!

  • chris pingel says:

    Please post your e-mail address again. I was the last owner of Woodys in El Segundo.
    I may be able to get you what you need.

  • chris pingel says:

    Bob of the village.

    The picture of Woodys that is shown is the Redondo Beach store, not the El Segundo Store.
    The El Segundo store is now the I Hop.
    The Redondo store was torn down a couple of years ago and is now the Redondo Brew House.
    I was the person that owned the El Segundo Woodys.
    If you would like any information on Woodys just ask via the Woody’s web site and, If I can, I will be glad to answer any question I can,

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    Yo Chris… is http://tinyurl.com/mfvbhl7 a pic of El Segundo?

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    Chris, sorry for the cross-over per message delay getting approved.
    - I thought it might be the Redondo-Holly Riv, but I didn’t quite remember the 2 circular decorations. Obviously those kids look like they were from PV!
    - Lest I missed it being previously answered, was there a Woody’s in Sacramento and Oakland as reported here http://www.agilitynut.com/eateries/aframe3.html

  • Pat Nolan says:

    There was a Woody’s in Burbank. It wasn’t there for long. It became the first International House of Pancakes and the A-frame type structure became the model for IHOP restaurants for decades.

  • Pat Nolan says:

    Here is a link to the Burbank Woody’s after it changed to the International House of Pancakes. It is on San Fernando Road near Burbank Boulevard.

  • Phil A. says:

    Thank you Pat for sharing the Woody’s/IHOP link. The building looks to be so well maintained, as is the El Segundo store.
    I am still hoping to hear from someone who has a very definitive answer
    as to why ALL the Woody’s / IHOP units suffered such a short life.

    I think it was Gary Wilcut or Dick R. that offered the opinion that poor food quality was to blame at the franchised IHOP units.
    I had thought the monthly franchise fees made the margins to tight for the owner operators. I had brought this question up to Mr. Don Steinke in a recent phone conversation, but he did not have any insight to offer us.
    Don is 81 years old ….. eight years younger than Ralph Wood.
    When Culver City opened in 1956, Ralph was 31 and Don was 23 !

  • Mark Thorson says:

    According to this, the first IHOP was in Toluca Lake, not Burbank.


  • Mark Thorson says:

    My mistake. I didn’t realize Toluca Lake is at least partly in Burbank.

  • Phil A. says:

    Since my last posting, I have been reading about all the quake activity in the areas we all lived and worked. Marshall is now safe in Oregon and Steve C. is safe in Texas. I would like to learn that the rest of you guys are making plans for a near future relocation. How about the Florida Keys ?

    I came across a SmorgasBurger comment on another site which will shed some light on the last months/years of the Woody’s #4 on Figueroa in Los Angeles. The writer was saying how much fun he and his friends were having at this Woody’s circa 1976/1977. He was describing all the video arcade games that had been installed along with a juke box !

    Now this would not be a Ralph Wood operation. Mr. Wood may well have retained the lease, but my thinking is that he passed the store on to one or two of his sons ( John and Chip ). They were both in their mid twenties by this time. In any case, whoever managed the store during it’s final months was trying new things. It must be remembered that a giant McDonalds had been opened right across the street and yes they had fries.


  • Dennis Ralph says:

    Back in the sixties Use to go to woody’s after surfing the north bay, would down two king Swedes two fries and all the other stuff, had a friend by the name of Jimmy Clevenger who could down four king swedes at one sitting! It never got any better than that!

  • Phil A. says:

    Jimmy C. must have been attracted by the Woody’s sign which had the company slogan ; ” for mountainous appetites “.

  • Phil A. says:

    In case you are interested, here is a location status for some of the Woody’s units I know about;
    Culver City; El Pollo Loco since 1986
    Redondo Beach; Rock and Brew since 2013
    Gardina; Vacant restaurant ( original structure )
    Los Angeles #4 ; Del Taco
    Los Angeles #6; Cleared lot with sculpture
    El Segundo; IHOP Pancake House ( original structure ) since 2005
    Woodland Hills; ??
    Westwood; ??
    Admiral Risty; Still cookin and in it’s 48th year !! ( original interior )
    Orange ; ??
    Tustin; ??

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    Yo Phil! Thanks for the “location status” of several Woody’s.

    Yo, don’t mean to badger Y’all and everyone for the 3rd time, but what gives with this person’s claim about Woody’s being ‘up the coast’? Was there a Woody’s in Sacramento and Oakland etc. as reported here http://www.agilitynut.com/eateries/aframe3.html ???? Might you make a correction if that wasn’t the case? If not, and it IS incorrect, I’d be happy to try to correct the error!

  • Phil A. says:

    For Bob in NM;

    Yes , those northern units did exist for a very, very short life of about two years. Time frame was within 1962/1967.
    Those stores were operated separately under an agreement with IHOP which lasted for five years.

    I have mentioned this IHOP group of stores in previous postings but with very little detail as I have never talked with or heard from anyone who owned one of the franchises. Several of us would like to learn the overall reasons for their short life.

    Phil A.

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    Thanks Phil! I didn’t know that!
    Amazing in light of the ‘product’ (using the ‘in’ term as ‘they’ say today, LOL) that Woody’s (and…ahem…. of course his well chosen staff) had to offer, those ‘northern’ places didn’t take root!
    ~ It always amazed me visiting back home in MA in the ’70s-’90s how limited, if at all ‘fast foods’ like even Mickey Ds had not taken ahold.
    ~ Except for exceptions of “it” being the right time n place, I can imagine it is one challenging business to try to survive in. Without attempting to disrespect anyone’s views herein, I can’t imagine what a 10:10 minimum wage might do today to entrepreneurial wannabees or franchisees of places. Yes, it was eons ago, but I appreciated my buck thirty-two (sans a Tip Jar! LOL) given where I was in life (despite a BA) and what I had to offer in fair exchange. (Alas, I’ve always had a yen to open a fine dining/gourmet restaurant as experienced in days of yore, e.g. Scandias, Lawry’s, Chasen’s, the Brown Derby, Trader Vic’s and even the ‘tropical’ place down the street in Redondo’s Hollywood Riv around ’62, but wouldn’t dare in today’s environment. Indeed…Thank gawd…folks like Mr. Woods had more huevos than I…LOL!)

  • Dick Roletta says:

    Anyone remember Airport Village? This was before Woody’s.

  • Phil A. says:

    Wasn’t the Village the pre historic version of our modern day mall food courts? I myself had never patronized the area which I understand had the Hamburger Handout and Tito’s Tacos as tenants.
    It must have been a great place for girl watching and first dates.
    Of course when Woody’s SmorgasBurger came on the scene ( just down the road ), young couples had a brand new dating venue to enjoy.

  • Phil A. says:

    Dick R.
    Why not write a few paragraphs and share what you remember about A.V.
    Also, when you were working at Woody’s, did your family live in the immediate area ?

  • Phil A. says:

    This summer will be my 50th anniversary marking the date I hired in at
    Woody’s Culver City. ( Chris P. too ! )
    Anyway, in honor of this time and place, I am now laying out plans to construct a miniature diorama of the Woody’s CC location including the full parking lot. I am making it a point to feature very detailed trucks
    which delivered the meats and provisions. Do to space, I need to limit the number of delivery trucks to four. So, I selected Patman’s Prime Meats,
    S.E. Rykoff & Co. , Barbara Ann Bakery and Corsaro Produce.
    All trucks will be painted in the appropriate colors with correct script and lettering colors.

    As I proceed to make notes and drawings, I am surprising myself as to how much I do remember. I am very lucky to have Chris Pingel as a consultant for the issues which I am unsure of.

    The giant original roadside sign ( 1956 thru 1967 ) will be a test for me.
    I will not attempt to replicate that sign right away, but will use artistic license to come close for the time being.

    If all goes as well as I hope, I will provide photos to any of you who might be interested.

    Wishing you all a great summer.
    Phil Ankofsi

  • Chris P. says:

    I remember that as”The village kitchens”
    I believe there was a Sizzler there also.
    Hamburger handout, maybe KFC too, one of the first in California,I think there was a Mexican place too, maybe that was Tito’s but not sure.
    I lived above in Westchester. This was all so long ago so my memory might be playing tricks on me.
    I believe that corner was owned by Leonard’s the same people that owned the Leonard’s store in El Segundo. on Sepulveda.
    Maybe Phil can look up some facts on these things.
    Take Care,
    Chris p.

  • Phil A. says:

    The only facts I can add is that Jim Collins was a major player at this Village location. He owned the Hamburger Handout and the KFC. Sometime later Jim bought out the folks who originated the Sizzler and closed the Handouts. Jim was also offered the master area franchise for KFC which covered most of LA county and perhaps Orange county as well.

    Jim Collins forgot about hamburgers and grew his KFC and Sizzler stores
    into a fantastically successful and lucrative operation.
    Jim went public at some point with his Collins Foods International.
    I have read that Jim and his wife ” gave back ” to the Culver City area
    with multi million dollar contributions to different charities.
    Well done Jim Collins !!! I suspect Jim and Ralph Wood knew each other quite well because of their close proximity and their membership in the different restaurant associations.

    Other guys who lived in the local area ( Dick R., Marshall L., Gary W.
    and Steve C. ) probably patronized the AV and should have more comments to post.
    Phil A.

  • Dick Roletta says:

    Phil don’t forget a truck for Abbot Foods who supplied the salad dressing for Woody’s in your diorama. My parents and I lived in the Baldwin Hills Village from 1941 till the dam broke in the sixties. When we moved there, across the street in a large field the US Army Air Force was training British pilots using Spitfires. I used to watch them dog fight. Hamburger handout sold hamburgers for 19 cents, French fries for 10 cents, and malts for 15 cents. Went there alot but never as good as Woody’s.

  • Phil A. says:

    I don’t know about the rest of you guys, but my first 4 months on the job at Woody’s CC involved hitch hiking too and from Playa del Rey.
    The average wait per ride was not long at all, but I do remember two rides which were very scary indeed. Both ended safely. I was the happiest guy when my landlady loaned me the money to buy my first car which was a 57 Ford Skyliner like Gary’s. Having the car to get to work seemed like cutting my shift in half. I think the travel distance in from Baldwin Hill would have been about the same as from PDR.

    When I hired in there was a small shed in the back of the Woody’s lot which was used by the guys to change into their uniforms.
    Question for Chris; Did that shed remain forever, or at some point did you have it dismantled? I am trying to decide if I should include it in the diorama layout.

    For all Readers; Did a school or tour bus ever pull in and download a large group of patrons ? Never happened on my shifts.

  • Dick Roletta says:

    The shed is still there but I don’t know how El Polo Loco uses it.

  • Phil A. says:

    Amazing to learn from Dick that the Woody’s CC shed is still there.
    If we ever have a reunion, I want it to be held at the shed.
    It will definitely be in the diorama !

  • Phil A. says:

    Which style of roof does the CC shed have, flat or A style? Thanks.

  • Phil A. says:

    Who would have thought the Rolling Stones and the Ford Mustang would outlive Woody’s SmorgasBurger ?

  • ChrisP. says:


    The shed, which we called the block house, had lockers in it and we used it for changing etc.
    I kind of remember having the ice cream freezer there also, but not sure.
    The block house was there till the Woody’s was dismantled in 1985. It had to go to make way for the drive thru of our EPL.
    What Dick see’s in that area is our trash compactor which is close to where the block house used to stand. It’s enclosed by a brick wall. next to the drive thru lane.
    As for school buses or , in my case, tour buses, I remember one afternoon around 4 or so. In our El Segundo Store #7, I had let everyone go because everything was prepped for dinner and the night shift would be on soon. Normally that would be no problem for myself. Well one afternoon after everyone was gone except for our busboy a tour bus stopped in front with about 40 people in it. I had to handle it by myself. Thank God most had just regular Smorgasburgers and salads etc or I might have really had a problem. I took as many orders as I could , then put the items on the grill told them to slide to their left and I’d get their drinks and ring them up. Then I’d go back and take a few more orders and do the same thing. Well, I got thru it and everyone was happy and I got a nice tip.
    Anyway, you just never know.
    Have a nice day everyone,

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    D-I-Y Sundae Bar crushed nuts used by some of us for Smorgasburgers along with Thousand Island: Am I presuming correctly they were ‘plain’ peanuts such as you’d get in a baggie of Planter’s? What did the supply for them, the cherries, marshmallow come in, e.g. a tin can? I just can’t picture how ‘we’d’ resupply those bowls. Was there a cabinet underneath or different at Red.-Holly Riv vs. CC?
    Lettuce: I remember salad being soaked in water that had some “medicine” in it to prevent rusting. Thought it strange that didn’t happen before it came to us. Was that ever found to be hazardous?
    I looked up the CC now being an EPL…blew my mind that it was on a corner of a street vs in the middle of a block, even tho only subbed once in a while. Presume this is correct? http://tinyurl.com/ohzg8fq
    Diorama: sounds exciting. Feel free to have my light blue Vespa parked in the back…LOL If I’m correct I think the Red./Holly Riv. manager, Chrisman circa ’63, had a Vette. Maybe he’d visit CC for a meeting? Otherwise, per what’s been said previously, you might have half the lot filled with “classic” cars.
    Today, everyone is taking pics with their cell phones or digital cameras and we sadly have nothing from days of yore except often fuzzy memories…LOL

  • Phil A. says:

    Ah, the ” block house”. The name sounds a little sinister, like a holding cell.
    I have been devoting much time to the Woody’s diorama and am now working on the Rykoff truck. I expected this one to be the most difficult and what do you know, it has been the easiest. That’s way it is in model making.

    I have been using the net to gather photos, etc. of the Rykoff trucks and I ran across several quips written about how the drivers were teased about the motto painted on each truck; ” Enjoy Life, Eat Out More Often ”
    I guess they really got the business when stopped at a red light.

    The ” block house” is going to fit perfectly in the diorama. I am thrilled.
    By the way, all this is being done in HO scale ( 1/87 ).
    The total dimensions for the parking lot ( front, rear, and sides) measures
    12 inches by 15 inches.

    Chris, I enjoyed the story of your one man show at #7. Well done !

    Well I am off to give this truck it’s appropriate ” pea soup green ” paint job.
    I am having a hell of a lot of fun!
    Phil A.

  • Phil A. says:

    While I look for an HO scale Vespa, why not list a couple of car models that you used to drive to the CC store during the early 70′s ?
    I want to try and include one in the diorama. This thing is beginning to take on a life of it’s own.

  • Mark Thorson says:

    The “medicine” added to the water to keep the salad from rusting was almost certainly citric acid or vitamin C. Both are antioxidants, which will stop the oxidation that causes the color change (especially in lettuce). Both are totally harmless.

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