home     about     gas station pizza     contact

Sep 29, 2022

70s & 80s memories of Shakey's Pizza Parlor

As a young boy living in California during the 70s, my absolute favorite pizza parlor to visit was Shakey's. I have such great memories of dining there as a kid, and truly miss the atmosphere and food enjoyed at their many establishments. 

Shakey's set me on course for a lifelong love affair with themed restaurants. And you'll soon see why..

Upon walking into Shakey's for dinner, you were instantly greeted with live rag time music via banjo players, and a pianist pounding out tunes on an upright piano. The employees wore striped shirts, arm bands, skimmer hats, and were all super lively. 

There was a very welcoming, vaudevillian feel to the restaurant, and whether you were young or old, it was nearly impossible not to have your spirits immediately lifted.

Back in the 1970s, we had a big family that was very social. Shakey's was one of the only places we could visit that easily accommodated families as big as ours, with around 20 people in tow. 

They had these long rustic wooden tables with benches that could seat the multitude of cousins, aunts, and uncles we brought with us. I remember as the pitchers of soda and dark Bavarian beer would hit the table, my stern old man and all the parents would suddenly become more relaxed and jovial. 

The kids would quickly settle into the loud and festive surroundings, progressively getting louder, going literally unnoticed. 

I do remember my 5 year old cousin overdoing it once however. She got so caught up in the merry making us kids were enjoying, she stood up on her chair and screamed as loud as she could just for the heck of it. She got a little smack to the mouth, but that didn't phase her. She just sat back down and started laughing at the silly things my other cousins and I were doing.

An item that was once synonymous with the old Shakey's franchise, was the Shakey's skimmer hat. It is an endearing souvenir that I still love to this day. They were basically faux straw hats, sporting a red band with the Shakey's logo. 

You could obtain them by ordering a large pizza, or cutting out a coupon in the newspaper. Looking across the restaurant and seeing a sea of lively patrons donning these hats was a sight to behold.

I do remember generous servers gifting them to us kids from time to time. As the evenings progressed, my old man would inevitably get a hold of a skimmer hat and wear it for the rest of the evening, often acting like a southern gentlemen, or Desi Arnaz.


My old man in 1975 hamming it up in a Shakey's Skimmer hat after an evening out at Shakey's with the family. And.. me in 2005 in my 1970's vintage Shakey's Skimmer hat. 

  They really should bring these back!

And there was no shortage of stuff for the kiddo's to do while our moms and dads socialized and threw back some suds. There was a glass window that you could look through to watch the pizza chefs hand tossing pies. I recall the employees handing out kazoo's on occasion to the kids (and folks who were kids at heart) further adding to the fun. 

Between the banjo and piano players music sets, episodes of the Little Rascal's, Laurel and Hardy, and The Three Stooges would play on a big screen, at which point a hush would cover the room and quickly quiet us kids down.

In the 70's, many Shakey's restaurants had pinball rooms which evolved into arcades later in the 80's. The Shakey's we frequented near Pomona had a coin operated horse ride that worked off of tokens.

The tokens were always free for the asking from any Shakey's employee, and I swear my cousins and I practically wore that poor horse out. 

I was always excited to see what kinds of cool promo items Shakey's had, many of which I would try and convince my Mom and Dad to buy for me. I remember promotions offering branded items such as baseball cards, coin banks, glassware, miniature plastic football helmets, cameras, etc.  

I didn't realize it back then, but most of these promo items usually came free, or super cheap with any large pizza purchase. 

Many large pizzas were purchased during one of our evenings at Shakey's, so it was no wonder us kids were always heading out of the door with all kinds of goodies.

Rediscovering Shakey's
I knew Shakey's restaurants in this day and age couldn't possibly be a shadow of their former self, but out of curiosity and for old times sake, I gave them a try during a trip to California around 2010 or so. 

The banjo and piano players are obviously no longer present, nor were the old timey movies or shorts being played on rotation. Instead, there were plenty of big screen TV's broadcasting all manner of sports programming. 

There was a little arcade room however, that the kids and some Dad's were really enjoying. The new restaurants are family friendly with a bright open air atmosphere that feels upbeat and full of energy. To me, the pizza seems to have changed, but it was still incredibly good. 

I was happy to see their fried chicken and 'Mojo Potatoes' were still incredible, and I enjoyed them immensely.

So in the end, I had a pleasant experience, but sadly didn't relive the magic from my youth. I'm okay with that however, as I have plenty of great Shakey's memories that will last a lifetime. 

How about you?  Do you have memories of Shakey's from years gone by, or are you still making memories to this day?  If so, I'd love to hear about them! Visit Shakey's Online