Covered with posters featuring elite entertainers from the halcyon days before there was a TV in every home, the walls of a nostalgic Burlington ice cream parlor come alive for visitors who drop in for a summer evening treat.
In a previous incarnation R.C.’s Boardwalk was the Victoria Lunch Restaurant, where legendary stars like Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe had a quick bite before working here, Sinatra crooning at the Brant Inn and Hollywood’s blonde bombshell filming on the set of the movie Niagara.
Ahmed Fahmy, an Aldershot high school alumnus who was born in Egypt, recently purchased the tiny spot, where ads for the Elvis Presley Show at the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville in 1956 and an appearance by The Beatles at New York’s Shea Stadium 50 years ago hover over one of the last genuine juke boxes in the Bay Area.
The Presley concert was the one in which Juvenile Court Judge Marion Gooding sat through the performance to make sure Presley’s body movements would not become too suggestive. He had warned the rock star in a private meeting beforehand.
Fainting girls kept medical personnel busy at the Beatles concert, which attracted a crowd of more than 55,000 in 1965. Seats in the high-rent district went for just $5.75.
Preserved under glass on the ice cream parlor’s tables are ticket stubs from appearances by the Glen Miller Orchestra and Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong at the Brant Inn more than half-a-century ago.
Sports fans revel in cards bearing photos of Babe Ruth as a boy, St. Louis Cardinals ace Bob Gibson striking out a World Series record 17 batters against the Detroit Tigers in 1968 and a full page from the vintage Maple Leaf Gardens calendar with color photos of the first and second NHL all-star teams in the 1970-71 season.
The moment he learned former proprietors Rick and Cynthia Ottaway had the joint up for sale, Fahmy jumped at the
opportunity. The Ottaways used the first letters of their names in selecting a banner for R.C.’s.
As a teen Fahmy hung out on that stretch of Lakeshore, which once was called Water St., and remembers it was always a meeting place for young people.
“I’m going to leave the place the way it’s always been,” Fahmy said. “I don’t want to take away from the memories.
“I’ve got people coming in here from as far away as Mississauga, Toronto and St. Catharines, just to get a blast from the past.”
On a recent Friday Toni Golfi of Hamilton brought her son Adam and daughter Jen to Burlington to have lunch at Spencer’s On The Waterfront. But they saved dessert for R.C.’s
“I love the retro effect,” Golfi said. “It reminds me of the old Millionaire Drive-In on Upper James.”
R.C.’s offers close to 40 different flavors of ice cream, as well as a free pop with every order of fries. It’s open seven days a week until 11:30 p.m.
Patrons with a few extra coins can punch in old hits like ‘At the Hop’ with Danny and the Juniors, ‘Blueberry Hill’ with Fats Domino and ‘Great Balls of Fire’ with Jerry Lee Lewis.
May Armstrong, a lifelong resident of Burlington, said Victoria Lunch was the only place you could go for french fries and gravy in the 1950s.
Victoria Lunch also was a favorite noon hour diversion for employees of Canadian Canners, Aylmer Factory No. 36, which was right across the street. The cannery was famous for its soup, tomato juice and catsup.
Burlington originals can remember the pleasant aroma of catsup emanating from the plant, which occupied the space where the Waterfront Downtown Hotel is today.
Local newspaper archives record that when an employee by the name of Tommy Thompson suffered a fall while working in the warehouse, he was given the job of sitting in a giant replica of an Aylmer tomato juice can in front of the factory, where he sold tomato juice to passersby for five cents a glass.
Victoria Lunch also drew a lot of tourist traffic because of its location on Highway 2, the Lakeshore Highway, which at that time was the main link between Montreal and Windsor. The completed Queen Elizabeth Way was not officially opened until 1956.
Right next door to Victoria Lunch was the Hume Theatre, which later became the Roxy and then the Odeon.
Armstrong recalls an instructional flick entitled ‘Mom and Dad’, which would be considered archaic in today’s world, hit the screen in 1946.
“It was supposed to teach you about sex,” she said. “There were two shows, one for males and the other for females. But they were not allowed to attend together!”
Written by: Denis Gibbons