This post is part of our series ranking the top 25 bygone products and trends we'd like to see return.
If I had a time machine, the first place I'd go would be back into the 1970s, to visit a Howard Johnson's.
OK, maybe, actually, it wouldn't be the first place I'd go. I'd enjoy seeing dinosaurs from a distance, touring the Roman Empire, and I'd have to try to get Abraham Lincoln's autograph. There's no way I wouldn't visit the 1920s, an era I'm fascinated with, and come to think of it, I'd have to check out one of Shakespeare's plays, and... well... okay, Howard Johnson's may not be the first place I'd visit. But I would want to go there.
In fact, now that I think about it, it probably would be my second or third stop. Running from dinosaurs would be thirsty work.
Back in the 1970s, when I was a kid, I didn't know it then, but whenever my grandparents took my parents, younger brother and I out to a Howard Johnson's for breakfast, lunch or dinner or just an ice cream -- we did it all -- we were engaging in a part of American dining history that had encompassed much of the 20th century.