Long before any golden arches appeared, a fast food restaurant called CELIA BROWN'S prospered at the New Jersey Shore.


A 1937 ad included this photograph of the establishment's proud employees. The caption read, "Sixty-three good reasons why there is never any waiting for SERVICE at CELIA BROWN'S."


Joe Long, car hop, at Celia Brown's in 1936.

CELIA BROWN'S, a "drive in" restaurant had a few tables inside, but featured energetic car hops who served patrons in the privacy of their cars. Specially-made trays attached to the car windows, and customers would blink their lights to signal when finished. Obnoxious tooting of horns was not allowed!

The original depression era CELIA BROWN's at Belmar was on the southwest corner of Main St. and 17th Ave. but moved to the northwest corner of Main St. and 18th Ave. for more space in 1935. (This is actually South Belmar.) There was also a CELIA BROWN'S in Asbury Park at 1313 Asbury Ave. that closed at the end of the 1937 summer season, and another shop in Union, NJ. Mr. and Mrs. Condo McGinley who came here from Kansas and Texas, were the owners and Celia Brown was Mrs. McGinley's maiden name.

This group photograph provided by Raymond F. Davis depicts the Belmar location in the summer of 1937 and features a combination of employees from both the Belmar and Asbury Park locations. Ray Davis, who was eighteen years old at that time, is the handsome young man with a bow tie standing in back of Mrs. McGinley's right shoulder on the right side of the picture. Celia (Mrs. McGinley) appears to be holding a purse on her lap. Kneeling next to her is Condo McGinley and at their feet rests their trusty dog, Tex.

Ray Davis started working as a cook for Celia Brown's in the summer of 1936 and soon became manager of the Belmar shop, a position he held from 1938 to 1941. Ray fondly recalls his time there and describes the juicy fifteen cent hamburgers as being "very big." The rolls were custom made and a "special" sauce was used that combined ketchup and mustard. The menu also included sandwiches, steak platters, fried spring chicken, and ice cream sodas. The ice cream ads boasted of real cream in those days, not like the emphasis today on low fat desserts. One of the more expensive items on the menu was coffee. Ray says, "coffee cost twenty-five cents a cup which was quite a lot then, but people ordered it anyway."

During the Great Depression, and then as World War II began, visitors to Belmar flocked to the amusements and restaurants. People especially needed to have some fun during those difficult years. It was a heyday for quick jaunts to the shore in automobiles for those who could not afford trips to more distant resorts.

Ray calls the car hops at CELIA BROWN'S, "the originals." According to Ray, a car hop there could make as much as $50 a night, an amazing amount for that era! Just think about that...an evening's tips could buy 333 hamburgers, and a few weeks' earnings might be enough for a new car! Many of the workers were college students who came from all over. Ray reminisces about times when he and his friends from work would have great beach parties at Belmar. They used to have night bonfires on the beach which, of course, would not be allowed today.

Many of the young workers from CELIA BROWN'S entered the armed services in the Second World War, and their days as Jersey shore cooks and car hops became happy memories. Ray Davis was a Captain with the 1st Armored Division in North Africa and in Italy.

Sometime, not long after the War, CELIA BROWN'S closed down. Does anyone out there remember exactly when? The site of the innovative fast food establishment where young people would hang out till three in the morning is still jumping with activity, but is now the home of rock radio station WRAT in South Belmar.

Thank you to Raymond F. Davis for sharing his memories of CELIA BROWN'S. This photograph will appear in the forthcoming book, BELMAR, presently being compiled by Monmouth County author/historian Karen L. Schnitzspahn, for the Arcadia publishing company's series, "Images of America." Karen is continuing to look for good photos of Belmar and its people from the 1870s to the 1970s.


Joe Long and Ray Davis.

Perhaps you would like to contribute photos for the book? If so, photos will be copied and promptly returned. Please contact Karen by Email at Karlouis@aol.com. All contributors of photos selected will be will be gratefully acknowledged in the book.

© Copyright 1997 by Karen L. Schnitzspahn


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text by Karen L. Schnitzspahn
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