Old Manila: The Plaza Lunch Plaza Goite, Escolta – ( Fred Harden Proprietor)

The Plaza Lunch was one of a small number of popular pre-WW2 eating places. Location was Plaza Goiti, the bustling transportation hub of Manila. Electric street cars (Travias) met there coming from north and south. Commuters wanting a quick snack or refreshment dropped into the conveniently located American style counter lunch and soda fountain.. Proprietor was Fred M. Harden a young American from the State of New Jersey. There his family operated a dairy farm. Apparently an adventurer, Harden joined the merchant marine. He came ashore in Manila before WWI. Like many he saw business opportunities. In 1914 he and his Filipina wife opened the Plaza Lunch. The place was a slice out of America; a counter lunch and soda fountain set around a horseshoe shaped counter. About 50 fixed stools provided seating. In the center was a display of confectionaries and a soda fountain.

US Army and Navy men were major customers. Homesick soldiers from the Philippine Division based at Intramuros and sailors assigned to the Asiatic Fleet flocked there to buy cigarettes and snacks.   Harden secured the franchise for popular brand Camel Cigarettes and Prince Albert Pipes and Tobacco. American newspapers and periodicals were available at the news stand.

Plaza Lunch gained in popularity throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s. Outbreak of WW2 in December 1941 spelled its closure. Harden was reportedly in the U.S. at the time and escaped internment by the Japanese. Plaza Lunch quarters were destroyed in the February 1945 battle of Manila. It reopened in new quarters at Sta. Cruz in 1946. What happened after that is another story.  BB