Our Little Town

  

Based on exclusive interviews with Morty Shor (son of its co-founder, Leon Shor)
  and his son, Richard Shor

 By Howard B. Levy

 

 On January 4, 2004, then seven years later in December 2010, and again in June 2015, I had the distinct pleasure and privilege of talking to the delightful Morty Shor and interviewing him by telephone at his home in West Palm Beach, Florida. Morty's father, Leon, co-founded the Roadside Rest together with his brother-in-law
(Morty's uncle), Murray Hadfield.

When I interviewed Morty, first at age 81 and again at almost 88 and 92, I found him still vibrant and sharp.

Morty Shor

Leon Shor

Sadly, we learned from Morty's son, Richard, that Morty passed away on August 30, 2016, at age 93. According the Palm Beach Post, "Morty had a terrific sense of humor and missed his true calling which would have been comedy joke writer. When he was a young man he wrote a few jokes that were used by Henny Youngman."  Richard told me his Dad was "very fond of your Oceanside memories."

    
The famous Roadside Rest in Oceanside, New York, was built in 1921 as a fruit and vegetable stand on the then unpaved Long Beach Road. (The original building is pictured above at left after expanding the fare to include 10 frankfurters on rolls, sandwiches and drinks.) But by the late 1920s, Shor and Hadfield had built the huge and beautiful, Spanish-style restaurant pictured in several other photos below that we all knew and that was famous for its hot dogs and "sea food" and, before our time, for its entertainment. It became one of the two most famous locations in
our little town, along with St. Anthony's underground church.
     

 


These three clustered black and white photos and the larger one immediately below seem to be from the mid-late1920s and the oldest available pictures of the Roadside Rest building that we knew when we were kids. Notice at left and immediately below that the famous sign on the northwest and southwest corners of the building seen in the two newer photos below had not yet been erected. You may also notice that the northernmost section of the building that is evident at left in the color photo below from circa 1937and the one to its left had not yet been added.

 

  

                       

  

 
   

 

Circa 1940s, photo courtesy of Lloyd Handwerker,
from his 2014 film documentary,
Famous Nathan

 

As all Oceansiders should know (but many today probably do not), that in the 1930s and very early 1940s, in addition to its incredible variety for great foods, our magnificent Roadside Rest was also widely renowned and hugely popular for its first class, live, big band entertainment and dancing, and people came from miles around to enjoy it. According to the account of Morty's son, Richard, (as told to Richie Woods and reported in his 2013 book, Legendary Locals of Oceanside) our Roadside Rest gained a national reputation in its early days when the music was broadcast by radio coast-to-coast for a half-hour each night. Also, it occupied a full city block and claimed the capacity to seat 3,000 people. 
   
So why, you might wonder, are you hearing the music that you are? (You should now be listening to an excerpt from an Artie Shaw version of the swing favorite from the 1930s, "Moonglow.") Well, Morty Shor told me that during the glory days of our Roadside Rest, several swing era classics were actually written on its Garden Terrace tables (pictured at right) by songwriters who frequently hung out there with big band musicians, right in
our little town. For example, according to Morty, the lyrics to at least two songs made famous by such musical giants of the time as Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, were written there in 1934 by lyricist, Eddie DeLange; they were "(In My) Solitude" and (as they say, it must have been) "Moonglow."

Our Small Online Collection of Roadside Rest Memorabilia

  

 Menu known to be used in 1937 or 1938 (above and below)

         




Drink token used in Oceanside,
probably circa late 1930s

Food was served on this china
    in the late 1930s and early '40s.

   
Morty spoke joyfully in 2004 of our Oceanside Roadside Rest during its pre-WWII heyday. His words:

"It was a grand and glorious era, a wondrous time that gave me many, many fond memories. In fact, not a week goes by today when I don't meet someone who speaks fondly of his or her memories of that place."
 
Click these links to read what Morty Shor and
his son, Richard Shor, said about this page.

    And look at the prices!!

Since you can't read them, here is a sample taken from the menus shown above and below:

  1937-38   1942       
  • Franks or hamburgers.............................

not served a la
carte for dinner

   

 

$  .20

 
  • Shrimp or crabmeat cocktail...................

       $   .35/.45  

$   .50

 
  • Lobster Newburg ....................................

       $ 1.00  

$ 1.25

 
  • Chicken chow mein................................

       $   .75 (with hot
                      beverage)

  
 

$   .75

 
  • Club sandwich.........................................

       $   .75  

$   .75

 
  • Cream cheese and jelly sandwich..........

       $   .30  

$   .15

 
  • Hot roast beef sandwich..........................

       $   .45  

$   .60

 
  • Sirloin steak platter.................................

       $ 1.35  

$ 1.25

 
  • Pie a la mode...........................................

       $  .25  

$   .20

 

There was a minimum charge in 1942 of $1 per person on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays and 50 on weekdays, but it included dancing every night to live music! (On the earlier version of the menu from the late 1930s shown above, you can observe a single minimum charge of 75 in effect every day.)

 

Below is a "supper" menu sold on eBay, November 30, 2010, for $51.00 (to a member of the Shor family). It was known to have been used at the Oceanside Roadside Rest in May 1942 just after it reached its peak and began to decline and shortly before most of us were born:
  

 

  

Note above the wide variety of meals available even in the evening, everything from cold or hot sandwiches, hot dogs and hamburgers to shrimp and crabmeat cocktail appetizers with full steak or seafood platters and chow mein or, later, other Chinese dishes! (In fact, an ad for the Oceanside Roadside Rest in a 1940 edition of the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper boasted the "Finest Chinese Food in Long Island"!) 

  

A cover from a still earlier menu (probably circa early to mid-1930s) follows:

  

  

  
Although our famous Oceanside Roadside Rest was an original, and it is widely and fondly remembered as "an institution on Long Island," very few people left today know that during its prime in the 1930s and very early '40s, Leon Shor and his partner, Murray Hadfield, also owned and operated two branch locations under the same name; one was in Miami Beach, Florida (at Dade Blvd. and Alton), and the other (opened May 23, 1930, according to Richard Shor) was less than 6 miles away from the Oceanside original on the south side of Sunrise Highway in Merrick, Long Island.
*

Near the time Roadside Rest's once booming business entered its abrupt decline during WWII, Leon and his brother-in-law/partner had a falling out and parted ways, and some time in mid-late 1942 (when Morty was 20 years old), Leon Shor left the business, and Murray Hadfield ended up with the then sinking Roadside Rests. Hadfield kept the Oceanside property open, but according to Morty, neither he nor Leon ever went back to it. Both branch locations ceased operating as Roadside Rests in the early 1940s. The Miami Beach location became a commissary to feed the U.S. military during the war, and the Merrick location, according to Richard, was replaced with the Gateway Motel. Hadfield died in 1944 (at age 51), and debt-ridden and struggling, the decaying Oceanside Roadside Rest property was shut down briefly in 1956 and soon sold out by his heirs to Murray Handwerker, who made the needed repairs and operated it as his own until June 1959 when it became the spectacular Nathan's Famous that we all knew so well in June 1959.
  
Despite years of searching the internet and inquiries of two members of the Shor family (Morty and his son, Richard, until June 2015, I was unable to find any photos of the Merrick Roadside Rest; however, I finally obtained the photo below, of what obviously became the successor to the Roadside Rest after a transfer of  ownership and a name change (to "Island Rest"). The photo comes from a postcard mailed in 1950 (although the building was likely destroyed in the 1940s so the card is older). Notice that the building is almost an exact replica of our own Oceanside Roadside Rest,  but smaller, substantially the same as the Oceanside building was originally (as shown in a color photo above and at right) before the northern extension was added probably just before the 1929 market crash:

                             

_________________________
 
*  No apparent connection to the bikers' bar called "Jugs-N-Strokers Roadside Rest" that is currently operated elsewhere on Sunrise
    Highway in Merrick, NY.

  

Below are several views of the art-deco style Miami Beach branch (which Morty called, "the prettiest") circa 1937:

  

Morty Shor told me that the most significant and precipitous factor in the decline of our Oceanside Roadside Rest's business, soon after the U.S. entered World War II at the end of 1941, was gasoline rationing. He said that pleasure driving was virtually banned in the United States at that time and that, as a result, wooden barricades were set up that summer to block beach traffic on Long Beach Road, the lifeline of the business.
   

  

The promotional message on the back of the foregoing three postcards quite modestly proclaimed as follows:
   

   
Fame  Marches On
From Long Island to Miami Beach

   The ROADSIDE REST's gay, romantic atmosphere, fascinating dance music and delicious food well served, constitute it as one of the outstanding places for pleasure-lovers Here you  may  dine  and  dance  in  the  Garden  Patio,  or  in  the Rainbow Dining Room, a veritable paradise under the stars Free Parking space Open all year This bright spot caters to the millions

                                                  BRANCHES: OCEANSIDE, L. I. and MERRICK, L. I.
   

The following two additional photos of the Miami Beach Roadside Rest were featured on the back side of an Oceanside menu of the late '30s shown above.
  

 

Morty Shor also informed me that his father, Leon, was a second cousin to the very famous New York City restaurateur, Toots Shor. And because of his close friendship with Robert Moses (the primary architect of the parks, stadiums, highways, bridges and tunnels of the New York metropolitan area and subject of the classic book, The Power Broker), After he split from his partner, Murray Hadfield, Leon Shor was awarded the contract to operate all of the concessions at Jones Beach for a short time from the inception of that facility until 1943. Following his disassociation from the three Roadside Rests, Leon opened in West Hempstead the first of four Shor's restaurants in Nassau County that you might remember. 

 

Copyright 2000-2016 by Howard B. Levy and 1960 Sailors Association Inc. All rights reserved.