Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Have You Ever Eaten at a Woolworth’s Lunch Counter?

The Best Food In the World!

My mother, Creola Kincaid Lewis, worked in the Fish, Pet and Plants department of the Woolworth store in Arkansas City, Kansas, in the 1950s and 1960s. Every dime she made went to support our family, so eating at the lunch counter was a rare treat. But, sometimes my brother and I were given that treat! When we did, my favorite thing was a Grilled Cheese Sandwich and a Vanilla Malt or a Deluxe Baked Ham Sandwich and a Strawberry Malt.

I once asked my mother, “Don’t you think this is the best food in the world?” I doubt that she did, especially since she was a tremendously good cook. However, I know she liked eating at the lunch counter as much as I did, because we planned those special lunches as if they were big events.

Not long ago a seller on e-bay, scram85, offered a 1964 menu and used the photos shown here. 1964! I would have held a menu just like it, as a teenager. I wanted it very much and bid it up to $205 before I dropped out. It sold for a little over that. I was probably lucky someone else was more impulsive than me. However, I may always regret not going just a few dollars more in an effort to buy it.

Incidentally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the wonderful food I enjoyed at the Woolworth lunch counter couldn’t have been enjoyed by black children or adults until the mid to late 1960’s. Sadly, it took sit-ins by black college students, and a willingness to go to jail and face sometimes unsupportive local justice systems, for that to change. ( In 1998, Lisa Cozzens–at the time a student at Brown University–published an  excellent online resource about those events and others related to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.)

Nowadays I eat at restaurants more than I want to, although none of them have counter service. If they did, I probably would rather sit at a table and I would probably think the food was edible but not wonderful.  Nevertheless,  I wish I could ask Ms. Lucille, who managed the lunch counter at Woolworth’s,  to fix me a sandwich and a malt. And, I wish Mom and I could sit together at the counter and enjoy it.

Have you ever eaten at at Woolworth’s lunch counter?

October 9th, 2013 Posted by | Food, Fitness, Fun, Life and Work | 8 comments