About the Colony

The real story behind Bob’s Big Boy

After the Thanksgiving treats I’ve enjoyed the past several days, the most recent is a big slice of humble pie — a tasty dish of eating crow.

In writing about the coming of Bob’s Big Boy to occupy the old Denny’s restaurant space on El Camino Real, I waxed on about the original Bob’s Big Boy less than a mile away that opened shortly after Sambo’s in the late 1970s.

I was right about the date, but I had the wrong building. Bob’s original location in Atascadero is where Carrows now operates.

I remember the plastic statue in front of Bob’s and got it confused with another restaurant that opened not long after Bob’s and Sambo’s — and that was Hobo Joes.

Hobo Joes also had a statue in front of its building. I seem to remember that someone stole the hobo statue one night because the space was soon filled with a water fountain.

As some faithful readers have reminded me, it was Hobo Joes that went through a number of incarnations before being torn down by Caltrans for the freeway interchange project, among them the Colony Kitchen, The Peppertree Restaurant, Genie’s Steakhouse and finally a Thai restaurant.

Many of those who corrected my “restaurant tales” agreed with Atascadero’s need for a late-night restaurant.

That doesn’t mean there wasn’t good food all around during the day and very early evening. I had the best slice of pie ever at the little restaurant where Stoltey’s Malt Shop was, which is now Ocean Harvest Seafood. Hoover’s, practically next door, served up great pies, as well. Hoover’s stood where Virginia Plaza was eventually built.

The best hamburger in town could be found at Virgil’s Drive In. There was also another small drive-in tucked behind Virgil’s up against the freeway called Nell’s Drive In. It might have been torn down to make room for the Sambo’s restaurant.

Another very popular daytime gathering place was at the Carlton Hotel. It had a large horseshoe-shaped counter.

With those giant windows along the Traffic Way side, you could keep an eye on what was happening around town, too.

When the fire whistle blew, you would probably have seen Roland Kenney, who owned the gas station across the street from the Carlton, walk into the intersection of Traffic Way and El Camino Real (then the state highway) to make sure the roadway was clear for the fire engine that left the firehouse just up the street.

And, of course, the local pharmacies had a counter where you could get fountain drinks and a cup of coffee and some sandwiches.

Lon Allan has lived in Atascadero for nearly four decades. His column appears here every week. He can be reached at 466-8529 or leallan@tcsn.net.

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