We are fascinated by Automats, those self-serve restaurants that asked diners to drop nickels in slots in order to raise one of dozens of small glass doors to access a serving a meatloaf or apple pie.
Horn and Hardart opened the United States’ first Automat in Philadelphia in 1902, but they are mostly closely associated with New York City, where they thrived for decades before dying off in the 1980s and early ’90s. There were only a handful remaining when we arrived in the Big Apple in 1982, and we just made it to the last one before it closed in 1991.
But the Automat lives on in old (and not-so-old) movies, and we’ve devoted a playlist on the Cladrite Radio Youtube channel to scenes depicting these grand old eateries.
The most recent addition, from a 1925 silent called The Early Bird, can be viewed below, but if you wish to see full playlist of a dozen clips (and you do, take it from us), just follow this link. You’ll enjoy scenes featuring Joan Crawford, Ray Milland, Jean Arthur, Doris Day, Cary Grant, Debbie Reynolds, Sylvia Sidney, and many more.