Posted by: ktzefr | January 18, 2011

Memories in a Matchbook…

I don’t smoke, but I collect matches.   It’s not that I have much of a need for matches.  We used to have a grill that had to be lit by hand, but the new one has an automatic clicking/lighting device.  However, I do love candles, so a light comes in handy on occasion.

I was cleaning out cabinets the other day when I came across my useless “tin of lights,” but I couldn’t bring myself to throw away all those great little matchbooks.  Most of them still had the matches intact and I was pleasantly surprised by the memories they held.

Many of the covers are yellowed with age.  They’ve been around a long time.  The one from Pineapple Hill, a restaurant in Napili, Maui, Hawaii says: gourmet dining; beautiful sunsets.  I remember that sunset from the top of a lush, green hill…the way the yellows, oranges, and rosy purples bled together, a sky that is a rare sight in most places but is commonplace in the islands.  My dad had died the previous spring and I felt at loose ends, like I was running in place and getting nowhere.  My husband and I took six years worth of savings and went to Hawaii for three weeks.  It was one of the best decisions I/we have ever made.  The lesson we carried forward with us:  when there’s a choice between material things — furniture, drapes, “better” clothes — or a trip somewhere…anywhere…go for the trip.

One pretty matchbook is from Coco Palms, a place by the sea at Wailua Beach on the island of Kauai.  On the cover is a picture of a man blowing into a conch shell, the traditional call to dinner every night.  I can still hear the sound of that conch call and see the waterlilies blooming on the ponds outside our window.

I have matchbooks from restaurants that have been closed for years.  Wah Ying was the first place I tasted Chinese food.  Likewise, Chalet de la Paix was one of my first experiences with good French cooking.  Garibaldi’s, the Black Angus Steakhouse, and the Boar’s Head Inn mark family dinners and graduation celebrations.  Le Lion D’or…we went once a year to celebrate our anniversary; one night we sat across the room from Tony Randall.

Over the years I have collected many matchbooks from trips to the Eastern Shore.  Fisherman’s Inn in Grasonville, Maryland offers a cream of crab soup that is so good I can almost taste it.  The Bonfire in Ocean City, Maryland used to have a great brunch buffet and probably still does though we haven’t been there in many years.  But some places at the shore have also disappeared.  The White Marlin at Somerset Street on the Bay in Ocean City had wonderful seafood and you could walk along the pier and check out the prize marlin the fishermen had brought in that day.   FishBones, a favorite little place in Bethany Beach, Delaware, closed too, but I still have three matchbooks that claim they are “open year round.”

I have matchbooks from the Bahamas and the Virgin Islands, from places (Morton’s, Old Budapest, Piccadilly) that we went to only once or twice, and the Alpine restaurant, which was a popular place in Virginia for more than 40 years.  I have not used any of the matches from the Cafe Tatti matchbook and only a couple from L’Auberge Chez Francois, two of my favorite French restaurants.  And there’s a slim, little hotdog-shaped matchbook from a place called Hot Diggity Dog in Georgetown, DC.  I don’t think that cafe is around anymore either.

The most unique matchbook in my collection is from the Alpha Hotel on Europa Boulevard in Amsterdam.  There are two rows of matches and they are actually made of a very thin wood instead of cardboard.  I picked up these matches the year after graduating college, and I marvel that the little book managed to move each time we did — at least 4 times to our own places and a couple of times living for short periods with relatives — and not get lost.   How can I throw away something like that?

Then there are the matchbooks from places I don’t even recall: JJ Mellon’s, the Catalina Steakhouse, Metro 29 Diner, Vincenzo’s, Blossoms…they all sound like fun restaurants and I’m sure I had a good meal and a good time at each one.  I just don’t remember it.



  1. Cool collection. Unusual.

    • Thanks, CultureChoc!

  2. Oh, what fun, Katie! You have inspired me to go hunt for the huge apothecary jar filled with my own matchbook collection. Years ago, I had a frame that was made specifically to display matchbooks. I’m wondering whatever happened to it …

    • Framing would be fun — a collage of matchbooks. What can I say, Stacy? Great minds think alike…

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