Working at Arlington Hall Station, a government facility near the intersection of Route 50 and Glebe Road in Arlington VA, I was new to Washington ways. Starting early at Arlington Hall was a given in the intelligence trade, so I needed to find coffee for the road. A colleague mentioned that the Hot Shoppe, just down Columbia Pike from my apartment was open very early and had "decent Joe," in the vernacular.
I pulled in the Hot Shoppe parking lot very early, it was still dark in mid December. There were a few decorations for Christmas in the windows, but the clientele was right out of Edward Hopper's Nighthawks painting, lots of fedoras, folks hunched over their coffee cups, and ladies wearing neat, starched uniforms. I approached the long counter and had a cup poured before I could tell the lady that I wanted to fill my Thermos with coffee.
"What'cha need hon," she said with a smile. "Got coffee, are you gonna eat something?"
"Nope Ma'am," I said clearing my throat, "just wondering if you could fill this for me?"
She took my Thermos, unscrewed the lid, apparently looking for any stray something inside, and then rinsed it under the faucet beneath the counter. Shaking it hard she filled it to the top with black, delicious smelling coffee.
"If you wanted cream there's no room sorry, maybe you could sip a little and then..."
"Nah," I said. "I am good to go. How much is that gonna be?"
"A buck, how about that, sound about right?" She smiled.
I handed over the dollar, and got up to leave. "Hey, I also had some here at the counter, what about that," I asked, reaching in my pocket.
"On the house hon, just come back sometime and eat, how about that?"
"Sure will," I said. I walked out the door to my cold frosted car.
I went back to that and other Hot Shoppes many times during my Arlington Hall Time in the 1960s. I did eat something when I went, eating a lot of Mighty Mo hamburgers, with fries of course. It was a good place to go after a date, sometimes with the date. It was a beacon for me and others who toiled at Arlington Hall. And, it was my last meal in the DC area as I was about to drive down to Fort Benning for Army Infantry School.
I recently read that the last Hot Shoppe closed in 1999. I did not know that by 1960, there were 70 Hot Shoppes in D.C. and seven states. Or that Jazz musician Duke Ellington and his band recorded seven versions of the Hot Shoppes theme song, which aired in radio ads from 1967-1968.
One snowy Christmas in the 1960's and even after it was a place to savor and to regret that it and the time are long gone..