You Just Can't Steal Waitresses' Tips

Stickney’s at Town & Country in Palo Alto.  I remember the last time I ate there.  It was after my grandfather’s  80th birthday celebration and I went driving around with my cousins and aunts and uncles and we stopped at Stickney’s.  I remember sliding into the faux leather booth and admiring that the were still as good as new.  No worse for the wear after all these years.

It wasn’t a Lyon’s or Denny’s… it was different-- older and more “vintage”.  I barely remember the décor other than the maroon booths, but I remember the cakes and pies as you entered.  And the waitresses that I think had worked there since it opened in 1953.  As a child, I remember eating there as much as at any other restaurant, but I don’t remember any particular times but I know I always ordered a burger or the chicken soup.  The burgers were delicious, large and predictable.  The barbecue sauce was super smoky and tangy (more sweet than anything) and the chicken soup had thick, doughy noodles that made it more like a wet casserole than a soup.  And the cakes and pies… oh dear lord the cakes and pies.

Sometimes a memory sneaks up on you as you write about something.  I remember eating there with Diane before finding my wedding dress at Nordstrom.  I sat on the burgundy bench annoyed and bemoaning the hideous sights of horrible dresses we’d been presented with all day.  I didn’t know at the time that after enjoying the usual delicious and gigantic burger, Norstrom would give me my future bride attire and so all my whining was for nothing.  I also ate a huge slice of lemon merange pie, without worrying about which hip it would settle into for the long haul.. ah the joys of being in your 20s.

The history of Stickney’s is one that goes back to a year before the opening at Town & Country.  Adrian “Red” Stickney and his wife, Kay, opened Hick’ry House on El Camino Real in Redwood City in 1952.  A year later, Stickney’s was the first tenant in the new Town & Country Village in Palo Alto.  Soon there were six Stickney Hick’ry Houses from San Mateo to San Jose, California.  The only one not on El Camino Real was in Valley Fair, San Jose.

El Camino Real, for those who are not from here, was called the King’s Highway.  It was the only way to travel between San Francisco and San Jose back in the day.  Along this highway in the years after Red opened the restaurants, his face could be seen on billboards and on the restaurant signs lining “Restaurant Row,” the strip of El Camino in Southern Palo Alto, where travelers would need to “fill up”  and over a mile and a half from Stanford University (thereby allowing alcohol to be served).  Here is where you’d find the old Palo Alto staples—Rickey’s Studio Inn, Rick’s Swiss Chalet, Dinah’s Shack, Ming’s, Villa Lafayette, Rudolpho’s, and drive-ins such as John Barnes Drive-In, the Carousel and Bonander’s.

Stickney’s also was known for their support of Stanford University’s athletes.  Chuck Taylor, Stanford coach (yes, the Chuck Taylor of shoe fame), was a close friend of Mr. Stickney.  Mr. Stickney had been a great athlete, but had to quit when he had to go to work for himself.  He had a big heart for athletes, often employing them so they they could work for meals and extra cash.  He sponsored a number of scholarships and Little League teams, as well.

But the best thing ever about Stickney’s was that it was at that Town & Country restaurant that my dad had his first job. For one day.  He was about 15 or so and he was hired on as a bus boy along at the recommendation by a friend, who already worked there.  If I had been better prepared, I would have found the friend’s name before writing this, but I’m not sure I ever wrote it down.  Hopefully, one my my aunts or uncle will be able to fill this in. 

Dad was learning the ropes and his friend said, “Harry!  Follow me!”  Dad followed him to the men’s room and the kid poured his apron on the sink top and a bunch of money came tumbling out.  “Look!  I got all their tips!”  Just then, Red walked in and caught them.  He fired them both on the spot.

“You just can steal the waitresses’ tips and expect them to not notice!”

Dad told that story every time we ate there and I relished it each time. Miss you, Dad.



  • DC Corso | April 7, 2018 at 6:44 PM

    OMG the Stickney's at T&C Village! I went to the Hickory House on the way to Sacramento often with my Dad and Grandma. I don't know where it was, exactly, but the theme of tipping more than my grandmother would leave was kind of a repeating one.

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