Friday, July 21, 2006

How Tick Tock started


When my parents opened their first restaurant, my father went through several cooks until he found one that was just right for him. Being a Norwegian like him, he liked that. Her name was Ann. She had a recipe for the “gooey rolls” which made Tick Tock so famous. Yet she was very guarded about her recipe figuring that if Dad found out how to make these rolls, she felt she would lose her job. but my father was very crafty. Each day he would watch her and walk past her as she was adding one of the ingredients. Then we would go and write it down. It did not take him too long to get the whole recipe. even thought it was in parts - so much flour, sugar and so on.

One day Ann became sick and could not come in to work. When she returned, Ann was shocked to find out that my father had made the “Goody Rolls” just as good as she had. Ann did not lose her job; she continues on at Tick Tock and worked there for many years. When she finally retired, my father paid for her trip so that she could go back home to Norway to visit her relatives. What a guy.

Over the years these Gooey Rolls usually were mostly glazed with cinnamon sauce on most days. Yet on Wednesdays there was an orange sauce and on Fridays a white sauce would be placed over whole wheat rolls. One Good Friday that always was a cross put on the wheat rolls


My parents bought their first restaurant, which was called the Laurel Crest Tea Room. They paid for it by selling the 1930 Model "A" Ford that they drove from Minnesota. This forst restaruant seated only 35 people. The neme "Tea Room" was quite popular restaurants in the '30’s, So this name was put on the restaurant after Tick Tock. In Tea Rooms the portions were quite large and the food seemed home cooked. It is like many of the Dinner on the East Coast.

One day the original owner of the Laurel Crest Tea Room came back to take his sign and the ketchup bottles (to save money many restaurant operators saved their old ketchup bottles and poured ketchup in them from a gallon can). He pulled out the contract to show my parents that these items belonged to him.

Now my parents had to think fast about a new name for their restaurant since they were going to open in a few hours. The Tick Tock was the last restaurant in which they ate in Minneapolis before coming to California, so they hurried up and made a new sign with the name Tick Tock on it. They kept "tea room" in the name for many years after this. Finally "tea rooms" went out because many men thought tea rooms served very small portions. Then the name was changed to Tick Tock Restaurant.


Even though there was a very serious depression, my parents business boomed. After six months they kept this first restaurant. So Tick Tock now was in an old house right off Hollywood Boulevard. It also was ale to seat 75 people.

But they only stayed there for six months since it was infested with cockroaches. My mother spoke of spending many hours at night lighting newspapers the running them up the wood paneling to kill the cockroaches.

Also during this time the people who bought their first restaurant went bankrupt and my parents had to take the restaurant back until they were able to sell it again. For a short time they had two restaurants.


In 1931 they sold this second restaurant and moved to their third restaurant on McCadden Blvd. and Wilcox Street (two blocks from their restaurant on Cahuenga Blvd.). This restaurant was originally an old apartment house. The first floor was a restaurant seating 125. The second floor became their living accommodations. My older brothers, the twins, came here after they were born.

The prices for a complete lunch was 35, 45 and 55 cents and dinner cost 65, 75 and 85 cents. The menu was the same as when I worked at Tick Tock. A dinner would include soup or appetizer, salad, entree, vegetable. potato, those famous gooey rolls plus clover leaf rolls, sherbet with the dinner, beverage and dessert. People would eat so much that they would roll out of the restaurant.


In 1934 the restaurant was moved to the final location at 1716 North Cahuenga in Hollywood where it remained until it was closed in 1988. This restaurant seated 250 people. During the difficult years of the depression, my parents expanded their business from a restaurant that seated 35 people to one that seated 250 people. They opened with a standing line of customers waiting to get in and this line stayed most of the day. They were very good business people.

The reason for their success was simple. They were very hard workers. They knew what they wanted and were a stickler for quality of food and service. They worked with their employees and always helped them out. They were very friendly and outgoing people. I guess it was the Minnesota down country hospitality that won over many people - both employees and customers.

THE WAR YEARS 1941 to 1945

Business continued to remain very good as the depression ended and the boom began. When the US entered the war in 1941, their business took off. There were a lot of businesses in southern California that were contributing to the war effort. One was Lockheed in Burbank, which was just over the hills from Hollywood.

People made a lot of money during the war from their work, but they had no place to spend this money - everything was either rationed or not available. Every manufacturer was geared up for the war effort so cars, appliances and ect. were not being made. Also during this time many food items like meat, butter, ect. were rationed. So everyone had to use a ration card to buy these items in the market. Customers in restaurants did not have to use their ration cards and so many people ate out.

During this time some government inspectors thought they caught my father in a serious crime. In the back room were bails of sugar stacked from floor to ceiling. The inspectors thought it was cane sugar which was rationed, but it turned out to be corn sugar that was not rationed. One had to use twice as much corn sugar to sweeten the same as the cane sugar. My father had to be very inventive to stay in business.

The war years were very difficult for my father. He had to work a lot during those years. But he was able to play golf to get some relief from the pressure of work. He would go to the restaurant early in the morning, check on how things were progressing, make all his orders for the day, and do anything else that was needed to keep the restaurant going. When everything was set up for lunch, Dad would head out for the golf course several times a week. He would play his round of golf, talk to the guys and head back to the restaurant for the dinner time.

Then he would finally close the restaurant before coming home at night. Needless to say we did not see much of Dad when we were growing up because he would get home around 9:30 at night and by then we all were in bed.


A customer once told me that during the 1940’s she called many restaurants in Los Angeles to find one that she could take her black friend to for lunch. Tick Tock was the only place that permitted her to bring in her friend. There was a lot of prejudice at that time. I admire my father for his courage to accept a black person as a customer into the restaurant.


I worked at various jobs during my high school and college days. Sometimes I would go to night school at college and my brother Jim would go to day school. I took a job from 11AM to 3:30PM and Jim came at 4PM and worked to until closing. it worked out well for me, but not for Jim. We did not do it for the next semester.

My first job was filling the water pitchers. Then I was a bus boy. I also worked in the kitchen on the dishwasher, dishing out deserts as well as food when I was on the steam table. I remember that the kitchen was always a hot in the summer.


After finishing college, I started managing the restaurant. My father had divided the responsibility. I managed the front, Richard, managed the morning crew and Jim managed the kitchen. Richard started at 4AM and worked until 11:30. Jim and I started at 11AM and took turned closing the restaurant. Looking back at my work hours, they were as bad as my father’s were as for raising a family.


Restaurants provided health insurance benefits, but one benefit that employees could count on at Tick Tock was that they could work there as long as they wanted. During that time few people thought about retirement benefits

Sally worked into her 70’s on weekends even though she was bent over carrying all those dishes for years. We had one complaint that stated, “Hire younger waitresses,” but Sally could hold her own. Nothing could stop Sally and we would not even try.


Tick Tock gave us children one thing - immediate identification with something important. Tradition was very important in our family. For us Tick Tock was larger than life. When there were two Tick Tock restaurants, my mother would always quiz my father each night by asking, “How many did you serve tonight?” As if there was a big rivalry between the two of them. When Mom worked in the restaurant, her concern was always to get a turn over of the tables as fast as she could. She was even clearing off the tables in her 80’s


The business survived 58 years and they still is talked about it as one of the famous old restaurants in the history of LA.

Reasons why Tick Tock finally closed:
- I wanted to serve Jesus with my life.
- The IRS forced our hand. They said that we owed the government thousands of
dollars in back taxes because my mother’s estate was undervalued.
- For years the restaurant had been struggling. Hollywood had deteriorated and the
same customers were not coming back to Hollywood.
- Other old restaurants were closing because of competition with influx of immigrant
- Most family member died; this included my parents and brothers Jim and Richard.
At the time we closed I ran Tick Tock with my sister-in-law, and her children.

The day that we told our employees that Tick Tock was closing, a restaurant critic wrote a glowing report about Tick Tock in the Los Angeles Times. Now that was something. Tick Tock was so important part of our heritage and we felt good that it remained the same until the end.

We stayed open for three weeks before closing because we did not want to go out in an whimper, lock the door on our employees and say that we were sorry. They were an important part of our heritage.

Closing Tick Tock was very difficult for us because everyone wanted to come to eat at the restaurant before we closed and many or our employees left us to find jobs elsewhere, but we made to the end. I remember placing a large home made large calendar on the wall in the kitchen and marked off each day for the last three weeks. It helped me a lot to do this.


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