On the Momentum of Life

Momentum is crazy thing. When you build considerable momentum in life and then something happens to derail your progress, it feels like all the air has been taken out of the world. If you were to liken this moment to anything, it would be the aftermath of a car crashing through the front of someone’s house. You have to look over the rubble and find out a way to pick up the pieces. Nobody is going to do it for you. Though it might seem like you will never come back from this moment, you will make it eventually.

Once you let a moment rob you of momentum forever, you will never have the chance to regain it in the future. Life has a way of throwing curves when you least expect it. You have the option to choose to dodge these shots or take them directly. After taking a few shots, you will get tired of the damage you will accumulate. You will need wiser and stronger and before you know it, you will never have to take shots again. The moment that took away your momentum will be something that you will look back and laugh at one day.

Maintaining a sense of realism is also important. You can’t operate under the delusion that you feel like you are heading in the right direction when really you’re doing the opposite or doing nothing at all. I am not saying you should doubt yourself and the things you have accomplished. You have every right to be proud of yourself, especially when you have achieved something that came after a period of hard work. At the same time, you need to take an inventory of your position at any given moment. Do you have a reason to be satisfied or do you need to step it up a notch to move yourself forward?

In these situations, I think a lot about winning sports franchises. A team that has been winning for a few years will run out of steam unless changes are made. They’re not going to sit back and bask in their victories. They will want to retool and come up with a new winning formula. That’s what you have to do when life has gotten you down. You will find that your ability to pivot and go in a different, more productive direction will determine your overall resiliency going forward.

Let’s Drive Down to Dee’s! Dee’s Drive-In – Utah and Beyond


Dee’s Drive-In locations were a fixture throughout the state of Utah for nearly five decades. Towards the end of the 1970’s, the family sought to change its business model away from drive-ins to sit down family restaurants. The chain was sold to Hardee’s around that time. Based on my research, it doesn’t appear that the land on which any of the Dee’s Drive-Ins stood is involved with any fast food restaurant. I will be looking at each former location individually to see what it is now. I’m not ruling anything out. Any help to fill out the location list would be amazing.

I’ve lived in Utah for most of my life and I just barely heard about Dee’s Drive-In. I went to Dee’s Family Restaurants, but I never knew they were once a drive-in burger chain. 

I performed a search of Standard Examiner’s archives stretching back to 2001. I turned up one article. One article about Dee’s Drive-Ins in nearly two decades. The article itself wasn’t even about the chain. It was about an artist who created sculptures representing various Utah icons. Dee’s Drive-Ins were included on the list for being so iconic that the article in question was its only mention in the press in 20 years.

I know that a chain that hasn’t been around for 35 years is the exact opposite of what people think of when they think of news. I’m not saying that every Utah media outlet should cover Dee’s Drive-Ins ad nauseam. What I am saying is that one of them might have thought to cover this chain more than once since 2001. 

I will give the Salt Lake Tribune. They put out a “Whatever Happened To” profile on Dee’s Drive-In a little while back. While I appreciate the fact that this article exists, it is very dry and too brief. Topics get touched on, but not enough is done to expound on them. You’re left wanting more, but the stories end with those threads waiting to be pulled. I will not repeat a lot of the information the article presented. If I do, it will only be in an introduction to an article that expounds on it.

By the end of this series, we will all have a record of Dee’s Drive-In that’s so comprehensive that it will stand as the definitive resource on the subject. As always, any help people could provide is much appreciated. Email me at allenglines@gmail if you have anything to add.

Searching for the Big Guy! China Nite – Ogden, Utah

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If I were to pick one symbol that defines the iconic nature of China Nite, it would be the Hoi Toi statue or the big smiling Buddha statue that hung proudly on the front of the building, beckoning customers from far and wide to get a bite to eat.

This statue has gone missing.  I am able to rest easy knowing that it’s somewhere safe because it was removed from the building long before came tumbling down. I have received some leads on its location, putting it in someone’s backyard in one of several cities. The vagueness of these leads is the reason why I decided to write this post. I want to know where the big guy is now. I want to know that he’s safe.

The best information I received on the whereabouts of the Buddha statue came from the administrator of the China Nite Facebook page. They said that someone purchased it and it’s in a backyard in North Ogden. I’m hoping that this is the case because I’m currently living in this part of the state. I would like to pay the owner a visit, take pictures with the Buddha, and come back to you with a full report.

If the person who owns the Buddha is reading this now, I promise you that your location and name will not be divulged. You can contact me anonymously at allenglines@gmail.com or 801-389-2327. I will work within your schedule and meet you wherever you want me to meet you.

I don’t care if it takes multiple posts to shake down the current location of the Buddha. I fear that this majestic monolith is in a storage shed somewhere rather than the place of honor it deserves. I would love for someone to come out of the mist and current me if I wrong. Trust me, this is one of those things about which I would love to be mistaken.

No one can accurately tell the story of China Nite without mentioning the Buddha. I will delve more into its history in subsequent posts. For now, I’m more concerned about its current situation. Out of all the things that made this restaurant great, the Buddha statue seems to be the only thing that still exists. I could easily go on and on about what used to be and why it’s sad that it’s gone. I will do that, but not before talking about what’s still around.

A Break in the Case! China Nite – Ogden, Utah

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Based on the research I’ve conducted, ownership of the land on which China Nite once stood traces back to a Washington Terrace address. I will be writing a letter to this address in the hopes of extracting some additional information. I don’t know the relation of the individuals living at this address to the people who owned the China Nite. I assume, since their name is listed in the public record, they are the current holders of the land. I will not be revealing their name in this forum out of respect for their privacy.

Once I have completed the letter I intend to send to them, I will post it here in its entirety. My main goal for this project has always been to outline every possible detail of my investigations so the process can be followed at a later date. I would rather be completely transparent than leave anything out, causing readers to become confused and ultimately disenchanted.

I don’t like the comments I get whenever I tell someone that I’m going to write a letter. They remind me that the internet exists and that I should just send an email. This comment is both unhelpful and fails to take into consideration all the people who have no web presence. Plus, email is a very impersonal means of communication that can easily be ignored. Letters give reaching out a personal touch and require a physical effort to dispose of.

I used to love writing letters before I became consumed with trying to reach out to everyone via email. I have since come to the realization that there’s nothing wrong with writing someone a letter. If you have legitimate reason to get in touch with someone, you should find whatever means you need to make that exchange possible. I feel like the need for the China Nite story to be told is so profound that it constitutes a reason for me to get in touch with them.

In this letter, I will ask their permission to scan and repost their response. I will give them the opportunity to contact me via mail, telephone, or email. I doubt I will get a reply back. I hope I’m mistaken. I have been wanting to know the postscript for China Nite for years. I hope it’s good news and not confirmation that the end of this Ogden icon was as unceremonious as it seemed.

Bring Back the Nite! China Nite – Ogden, UT

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What was once the China Nite restaurant on 2783 Washington Boulevard in Ogden, Utah is now a vacant plot of dirt with a for sale sign near the curb. I looked at this building that was so full of life and character as I drove by it year after year and time after time. One day, I passed by it again and looked to see that a crew was tearing it down. My heart immediately dropped, especially when I saw one of their signs on its side on the ground. I’m hoping that someone saved it and all the other signage on that building and it’s currently getting the loving preservation it deserves.

China Nite did not get the proper sendoff it deserved. We watched as it served as a beacon in the community for so many years only to see it get old, collapse, and then meet its ultimate fate. I’ve always wondered who demolished the building and what their plans for the land were. Clearly nothing came of these plans because the land still remains vacant. An Ogden icon got demolished so we got the opportunity to look at yet another desolate open lot in downtown. Lucky us!

The biggest travesty associated with the demolition of the China Nite is the fact that so many people walk by that land every day and none of them know what stood there. None of them saw the big Buddha statue on the front with all the arrow holes in its belly. None of them witness the majestic glow of the signage when it was lit up at night. All they see is a patch of dirt. That’s unacceptable.

My efforts to come up with the contact information for the family that owned China Nite have so far proven unsuccessful. I know that Glen Hong, the man who ran the establishment until 1995, died last September. Some of his family members are listed on his obituary. I have yet to find any online profiles for these individuals, so my best bet is to write them letters. I’m hoping that if I’m able to get in touch with one of them, I will have the chance to tell the story of China Nite’s afterlife.

I want to know that the outcome of China Nite’s storied history was more than just a pile of rubble that led to a patch of grass and sand. I want to know that someone was given the chance to preserve everything that made this place so interesting. If anything, I want this family to know that their contribution to the community did not go unnoticed, even though the last years of China Nite were nothing like its glory days. Ever since I saw the demolition of China Nite, I wanted to tell its story. Join me, shall you?

Where Have All the HOJO’s Commercials Gone?

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You would think that with all the video sharing options we have available us, there wouldn’t be any missing video. On the contrary, there are so many things that have little or no video associated with them. One of them being commercials for Howard Johnson’s Restaurants. I understand that there are many commercials for the brand on YouTube; however, the quality of each of these videos is horrendous. They all look like someone dredged up a long lost video tape from the bottom of the ocean, encoded it, and threw it up in the lowest possible resolution.

There has to be more video available than what I’m finding. I realize that internet video is a relatively new thing, but actual video isn’t. Somewhere out there someone has a stockpile of HOJO’s commercials that are in a somewhat usable format. I want to talk to that person. I feel like my ability to adequately tell the story of this brand is hindered by the shocking lack of visual material on it. That being said, there are all sorts of other kinds of advertisements I can get my hands on. Those will be covered in subsequent posts.

Commercials are seen as an irritant by many. Millions of people have a plugin attached to their web browser for the sole purpose of blocking ads. With all this outrage swirling around, it should come as no surprise that my search for commercials is coming up empty.I am not willing to give up. I know that Wyndham, the company that currently owns the brand, has them stored somewhere at their headquarters. At least that’s what I’m hoping. Since so much time has passed, it’s possible that they have been deleted at some point over the years.

Why would they though? You wouldn’t be able to tell their story if you cut out the way it was advertised. A lot of company’s commercials give a sense of how they evolved over time. You’re able to see how a company represented itself during the time in which the commercial came out. You can’t derive this kind of story from any other resource. If the commercials for Howard Johnson’s Restaurants were deleted, I want to know a good reason why. If they still exist, I want to get my hands on them and show them to you.

I will tell you that my favorite commercial out of the ones I could find was the “Around the Corner” one. I have watched it several times and it ranks as one of the best commercials I have ever seen. I feel like it presents a high quality snapshot of what Howard Johnson’s was all about. This formula could be used for any new Howard Johnson’s commercial and still produce the same impeccable results.

Articles in this Series
1. Take Me Back to Howard Johnson’s Introduction
2. Where Have All the HOJO’s Commercials Gone?
3. So You Wanna Build a HOJO’s?
4. Lake George’s Howard Johnson’s Restaurant: A Good Place to Start

So You Wanna Build a HOJO’s?

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I keep having a recurring dream where I build a Howard Johnson’s restaurant in my local community. In this dream, I buy a long neglected plot of land and begin construction right away. The resulting restaurant was not a carbon copy of the dilapidated HOJO’s that have dotted the landscape in the past couple decades. No, this restaurant takes what was once thought to be the long gone glory days of this American institution and brings it back to the forefront of our consciousness. People who have spent untold years being disgruntled with their local restaurant chains will finally have a destination where people will take care of them. When they have a complaint, someone will be there to make sure that it’s addressed.

Is it possible for someone to feel nostalgic about a place they never visited from a time in which they never lived? I understand that there’s still one HOJO’s location trucking along in Lake George, New York. I could go there tomorrow if I really wanted to. At the same time, that HOJO’s is not the same as the ones that have people looking back so fondly. It’s a tribute to a time gone by. However loving of a tribute it might be, it’s not the same thing as the genuine article.

You might be thinking “Why are you dusting off an ancient franchise when there are so many modern ones to choose from?” I choose HOJO’s because HOJO’s is America. We had 1,000 locations to choose from. Through a combination of corporate greed and the apathy of the restaurant going public, we watched as an institution burned to the ground and we didn’t do a thing. Yet, we freak out and mobilize at the mere suggestion that the Lake George location might close soon. Our nostalgic hysteria will do nothing to fill the coffers of those who are running that location. The time has come for action.

I read the news every day in all its horrifying glory. One unifying them seems to be a desire to return to the simplicity of days gone by. What better way to accomplish that feat than to dust off a nearly century old restaurant chain and make it ready for prime time? Don’t throw a modern sheen on it and rob it of all its character though. The new HOJO’s should look like the people who built them fired up the time machine and brought them knack from a previous era.

I talk about these things all the time to my family. They think I’m crazy for liking old things. Perhaps I am crazy. I just know that we should not press forward at such a frantic pace without first acknowledging our history. So many of us like to go out to eat, yet we accept options that would be regarded as substandard in any era. We are the public that keeps these restaurants open, so if we want better, we need to raise our voices and demand better. Until then, we will be left with what fills so much of us with dread.

Who knows. Maybe my dream of building my own HOJO’s will become a reality. Maybe my location will be the one that re-establishes the brand to the level of an industry titan. I know that I will look forward to going back to dream land, walking into that orange-roofed building, and serving hungry people fried clams and 28 flavors. I don’t care that HOJO’s was the industry juggernaut of its day. If it were around today, it would be seen as a quaint mom and pop shop.

Articles in this Series
1. Take Me Back to Howard Johnson’s Introduction
2. Where Have All the HOJO’s Commercials Gone?
3. So You Wanna Build a HOJO’s?
4. Lake George’s Howard Johnson’s Restaurant: A Good Place to Start