Boulevard Cafeteria Collection
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Background:

Oklahoma City was once crowed the cafeteria capital of the United States, a place home to such legendary eateries as Lady Classen, Queen Ann, Anna Maude, Adair’s, Dobson’s, O’Mealey’s and Boulevard. Boulevard Cafeteria is now the only one remaining.

The cafeteria craze started with Anna Maude Smith starting up her own cafeteria after operating one at the old downtown YWCA. Her partner was Bob Smith, who later partnered with Ralph Geist, a Norman restaurateur. Geist then partnered with Naomi O’Mealey and opened Classen Cafeteria at NW 23 and Classen. O’Mealey left the partnership and started her own cafeteria at NW 23 and Walker – O’Mealey’s. Geist hired a new cook for his Norman eatery, John Schroer Sr.

Garland Arrington opened the Boulevard Cafeteria in 1948 at 1111 Classen

Drive and then sold it in 1956 to Schroer and Pat Denham for $100,000. The Schroer family took over full control of the cafeteria after Denham was killed in an August, 1960 boat explosion.

In 1966 Oklahoma City was home to 23 cafeterias. And it was that year the Schroers launched an extensive renovation and promoted it as the first “restaurant-style” cafeteria with comfortable seating and a more formal design. John Schroer Jr. joined as a partner in the corporation and together the father and son duo enjoyed great success running Boulevard Cafeteria.

In 1973 younger son Robert joined as manager and 10-percent owner and John Schroer Jr. left to start up his own eatery, Queen Ann Cafeteria, at Founders Tower. In 1975 the cafeteria moved across the street from its old location to its current home at 525 NW 11 (the original location is now home to EMSA).

Robert Schroer became controlling partner and general manager at Boulevard in 1977 and then sole owner in 1979 when John Schroer Sr. retired. Younger brother Bill joined the staff in 1978 and worked as manager until opening his own restaurant, Hudson’s in Edmond, in 1984.

The Collection:

Bill Schroer purchased Boulevard upon Robert Schroer’s death in 1989. Bill continued the operation until his death in 1998, at which time his wife Malin Schroer took over the business. Bill and Malin Schroer’s son Harrison now runs the business and he generously allowed Retro Metro OKC to create a digital collection of photos displayed at the cafeteria by his grandparents and their customers over the past half century.


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19 Comments

  1. Did’t the Boulevard Cafeteria use to be across the street from where it is now???????

  2. Yes Mike – it was in the building that is now home to EMSA.

  3. Steve – I remember a cafeteria in the very early 60’s a little farther North on Classen. Memory serves that the name was Classen Blvd. Cafeteria. I remember it being due North, across 23rd from the Gold Dome, which back then I believe was a bank.

    I also fondly remember Adair’s Cafeteria and their famous chocolate icebox pie.

    Nice article – thanks.

  4. You’re right about Classen Cafeteria Pat. The Oklahoma Historical Society has several great photos of the Classen Cafeteria on its Star archives online. I can’t tell whether the building is still standing or not.

  5. Yes. It is CVS on that location. I happened to see it yesterday on our way to the State Fair.

  6. Does anyone have an image of the billboard on Classen Blvd. in the late 1950’s that said “Anna Maude Fricket eat lunch every day at Adair’s cafeteria. Come to Adair’s and tell ’em Anna Maude sent you.”

    I think it was one of the best ad in Oklahoma City History!

    Joe Crosby

  7. Does anyone have an image of the billboard on Classen Blvd. in the late 1950’s that said “Anna Maude Fricket eat lunch every day at Adair’s cafeteria. Come to Adair’s and tell ’em Anna Maude sent you.”

    I think it was one of the best ad in Oklahoma City History!

    Joe Crosby

  8. I love all of these pictures!!! I’m hoping somewhere there are pictures of John A. Brown’s, and the shops adjoining it, and Anna Maude Cafeteria, which was down stairs. I loved going to all of those wonderful places as a child. I remember shopping for Christmas presents one year, and trying to include more of our family, so we spent more time shopping and I loved that! I hope someone has actual pictures of Anna Maude Cafeteria. I also remember most of the other cafeterias and loved them all!

    • Randy Harrington

      As a teen ager I worked at John A Browns during summer of 1970 71 and 72. Great memories of eating lunch in cafeteria in John a Browns. great foood have not had anything as good since then . John a Browns was the store to go and was very classy. If I remember right there was a Kip’s Big Boy restaurant right next to the store on the main street side. across the street was Green’s Drug store and Soda Fountain.upstairs from Kip’s was where during lunch you could use the Poool Table for 75 cents an hour. amazing back then making one hundred dollars a week working at John a Browns.

    • Randy Harrington

      As a teen ager I worked at John A Browns during summer of 1970 71 and 72. Great memories of eating lunch in cafeteria in John a Browns. great foood have not had anything as good since then . John a Browns was the store to go and was very classy. If I remember right there was a Kip’s Big Boy restaurant right next to the store on the main street side. across the street was Green’s Drug store and Soda Fountain.upstairs from Kip’s was where during lunch you could use the Poool Table for 75 cents an hour. amazing back then making one hundred dollars a week working at John a Browns.

  9. We used to eat at Queen Ann’s frequently and thoroughly enjoyed the cherry cobbler. I would like to locate the recipe for the cobbler if it is available. Thank you.

  10. I’m not 100%, but I believe my grandfather, Dick Gilpin did the lettering for the Boulevard Cafeteria signage. It’s very similar to his signature style and typography. He owned Graphic Art Center which was located in 1330 Classen Building in the 50’s.

    I asked my dad about the signage and he’s pretty sure it was his dad’s work, but said it might also have been Burt Rosamond.

    Any information about it would be great…Thanks!

  11. Randy Harrington

    I remember my Grandfather Max Harrington telling me that he and my Grandmother used to employ anna maude and I remember meeting her when I was about 6 or 7 years old. it would have been around 1959 or 1960. I also ate at one of the anna maude cafeterias in downtown okc. thanks for a way to keep these memories alive!

  12. Great, fantastic food from Anna Maude’s downtown OKC to Boulevard. Wish that was still available all over the metro. My Mom somehow acquired the recipe for the pink salad dressing that was put over a wedge of lettuce and this has been handed down in my family. We call it Anna Maude’s salad dressing. We have many many great memories of yummy eating experiences. A trip downtown shopping always included a meal at Anna Maude’s Cafeteria.

  13. Was there any family relationship between these parties and the owners of Lady Classen on May Avenue?

    Much like TG&Y did in discount retail, the abundance of quality locally owned cafeterias kept the national chain cafeterias at bay for many years.

  14. My grandfather, A. Cooper Lyon, owned the Anna Maude Cafeteria for over 30 years (1956-88). He was a great man!

  15. Mark A. Gelhaar

    I moved to Okc on my own in 1967 from the cold climate of Wisconsin. I was 17 and finishing H.S. and working in a auto body shop and washing dishes at a brand new Kip’s Big Boy restaurant at SW 59th St. and S. Western Ave. I also worked (as needed) at the May ave. Kip’s and downtown Kip’s with their offices above I believe it was 24 Hours and 122 W. Main St. There were not very many restaurants of any type open all night in 1967! I do remember the many fine cafeterias in OKC at that time. A young bachelor had to eat at a cafeteria on his payday because it was a treat from the same restaurant food you worked at 40 plus hours weekly. I enjoyed the Queen Ann Cafeteria and many others. I liked Furr’s Cafeterias and Luby’s and even the new Mall cafeterias comming in the next few years. I guess I always enjoyed a pleasent atmosphere and “home cooked taste” in my meals! I never had a young lady turn me down for a cafeteria date! I worked for Kip’s for several more years and even into store management at the Kip’s Big Boy on SE 15th and Air Depot Blvd. Midwest City, OK. The Big Boy Restaurants went through financial changes from the Marriott Corp. to Elias Bros. Group and now Big Boy Restaurants LLC Int’l headquartered in Warren, Michigan. I since retired to south MS and had a extended career in law enforcement and private industrial and commercial security services industry. I miss OKC and all the great people I worked with and knew from Kip’s and to mention all the great cafeteria breaks I enjoyed! Thanks Mark Gelhaar markgelhaargelhaar@gmail.com

  16. Does anyone know the name of the lady who made the tapioca pudding and chocolate icebox pies. She was there up until they closed.

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