My father-in-law was a pretty good chef and he taught my mother-in-law, Pauline, to cook after they married. In fact, he had his own restaurant for a while. It was right across the street from Cudahy’s Meat packing plant located at 2300 N. Broadway Street in Wichita, Kansas – an awesome place for it. Cudahy’s is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was the largest packing plant in the country at the time with over 13,000 employees. That might have meant a lot of lunches for Noah to fix!!
My husband pointed out the cafe to me many years ago before the buildings along there were torn down. It was a simple little frame structure. I wish I had taken a photo of it.
Noah Ahijah Johnston had a system figured out so he could feed people rapidly – bacon and eggs, biscuits or hotcakes for breakfast – hamburgers, hot dogs, and fries, or chili for lunch. He had fast food before fast food was cool! (As I am writing this his firstborn is in our kitchen whipping up a batch of chili.)
Hamburgers, French fries, and a Coke was the iconic date night meal for Bob and I when we were young. It still makes for some pretty tasty munching. The oldest hamburger chain was White Castle, also in Wichita, established in 1921. Noah was just ahead of them. They undoubtedly got the idea from him…
As the new bride of his eldest son in 1958, I was slicing some onions for him at a family dinner and he said, “Blankety, blank, you call that thin?” I never could slice them to suit him, so he did it himself. He could be a grouchy old goat, but I loved him anyway.
He liked to fish but never was successful at it. If you wanted a day of futile fishing, getting his line out of a tree, using one of his newly purchased gadgets guaranteed to catch fish, and listening to his colorful vocabulary, you would want to go with Noah. He always had lots of thinly sliced onions to go on the sandwiches he packed for lunch. I think he wanted to put fish on his café menu but it didn’t work out.
I never knew the name of his restaurant but I’d say there was a good chance it was simply called “Noah’s Café.” He didn’t operate it very long because he usually had a new adventure in mind. In the spring of 1920, he traded the business for a 1919 Studebaker along with some cash and went on his way. No one seems to know what his next endeavor was.
The building is long since gone and so is my father-in-law, but I’ll be chuckling about his onion comment until the next time I see him. He’ll probably be slicing onions somewhere…
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