Special to the Express
It is hard to imagine today, with 24 hour fast food restaurants, just how limited your options concerning “fast-food” were during the late 1940’s. I remember sometime during the summer of 1947, the “Pizza-Pie” truck came through Monponsett about twice a week around 7:00 on summer nights. Just as we had the “Ice Cream Man” with his musical jingle truck, so too did the adults or “grown-ups” wait for the “Pizza Pie” truck.
One of our neighbors who served in World War II, told us of the wonderful “cheese-tomato pie” which he had sampled in Italy during the war.
My father therefore bought one of the anticipated pies and I, who always equated “pie” with something sweet, nearly gagged on my first ever slice!
Therefore, during the spring of 1948, a small white frame building about the size of a small house, was constructed a few feet aside the Lake Theater.
I believe that the Gentile family, who owned the local supermarket, owned the land and building, but Al and Rose Cintrella took a long term lease on the building, and in the early summer of 1948, the Clam Hut opened for business.
Because the lakes drew a large “summer-crowd”, business in Monponsett was geared to the summer season. Therefore, both the Clam Hut and Lake Theater were seasonal businesses, and operated from early May to the end of October.
I remember the evening the Clam Hut opened. The first customer was Frank Purpura, and Al Cintrella proudly had the first dollar, which Mr. Purpura paid for a box of clams, framed under glass, and it stayed on the wall behind the counter for years. I remember my father buying me an ice cream cone (first time I tasted butter crunch ice cream), and to this day remember the creamy consistency.
The Clam Hut, as the name implied, specialized in seafood. Eventually the fried clams became a local legend. French fries, hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwiches and the rich, creamy frappes, which nowadays would cause the Cardiologists to quake in their boots, were the staples of the times. BUT, it was Al’s Pizza, the taste of which could not be equaled to this day, that was the special treat…They came in large and small sizes; the large was $1.25 and the small was $.75.
Because the ovens had to reach the correct temperature, the pizzas could only be ordered between 7:00 and 10:00 at night. Al worked as a cook at one of the Brockton restaurants during the day, so Rose ran the business until Al came in at 6:00 to fire up the ovens.
As it was generally very crowded at night, on a first come, first served basis, the wait could be, and often was, up to two hours before your pizza order was ready.
If you knew in advance, you could order the pizzas during the day to be ready at a certain time that night (paid-in-full, of course).
Then, as now, Friday night was the traditional pizza night. Friday was generally “payday”, so parents were always ready to “spring” for this wonderful treat. Many a summer Friday night I waited the counter, the juke box wailing the latest Hank Williams or Lefty Frizzell tune, eyes half closed as I nodded off to sleep.
Because of this extra crowd, Al & Rose hired a local summer resident, June Hudgins, to wait on the counter. I can always remember June kindly ensuring me, as I was half asleep, that it would not be “too much longer”. Finally, the pizza was ready. Served between two cardboard pie plates and inserted into a paper bag (no Papa Gino’s style lidded boxes back then!). It was worth the wait. Al’s Pizza had a special taste all its own. I have recently discovered that the Lynwood in Randolph makes a very similar tasting pizza-perhaps they use Al’s recipe.
The weekends were always busy, and to most of the older teenagers and young adults, a movie at the Lake Theater and pizza afterwards at the Clam Hut was the “height” of a 1950’s date night.
How content we were back then with so little.
As the summer drew to a close, and the “summer-crowd” went back to their homes, the day after Labor Day signaled the end of movies and pizza for another year.
What was a crowded active scene dwindled down and the Clam Hut and Lake Theater were open on weekends only, until the end of October.
After moving away in 1954, I lost track and during a visit in 1969 found Al & Rose Cintrella operating what was then called “Indian Head Restaurant” on Route 27 in Hanson. Since it was during the day, Al had not fired up the ovens so I made due with a hamburger. But to this day, I still have trouble believing that you can order a pizza 24/7, any day of the year!
Susan Basile, Halifax Town Historian, asks if anyone has a photograph of the old Clam Hut they would be willing to share, the Historical Society would love to make a copy of it, as they have none. Just contact her through the Halifax Historical Society.