Sherwood Johnson was an American G.I. when he caught malaria in the Pacific during World War II. The illness caused him to have the "shakes" and earned him the now famous nickname "shakey". When the war was over, Shakey came home to California, and together with a group of friends, discovered their common love of dixieland jazz and RagTime. Gathering regularly to play this lively music, the group also discovered Shakey Johnson's home cooking, especially his pizza. Needless to say, the group got larger and met regularly at Shakey's home--and nowhere else.
The fame of his fine cooking sparked an idea. Shakey and a college friend, Ed Plummer, pooled their savings together and bought an old grocery store at the corner of 57th and J street in Sacramento. On April 30, 1954, with a mere $1.85 in the till, the remodeled grocery store became the first Shakey's Pizza Parlor. Actually, no pizza was served because the oven weren't ready yet that Friday evening. Nevertheless, Shakey played the piano and Ed served the beer for their customers. With the money from the weekend, Shakey and Ed fired up their ovens on Monday and served the very first Shakey's Pizza. By 10 o'clock that evening, they were out of food, but people were still lining up to get in! From this modest beginning, Shakey and Ed's business grew, and they started to open more stores in the U.S. Word get around about Shakey's thin, crisp crust with delicious toppings.
I recall great memories of the Shakey's Pizza Parlor in Ventura on Santa Clara street. As a child in the early/mid 1970's our perents would hold special pizza parties for us kids there. They had great pizza and old time root beer poured right out of the tab from old wooden barrel taps. But best of all they had a movie screen and projector from which they played a constant roll of classic comedies from the earliest silent film days of KeyStone Cops, Buster Keaton, and Charlie Chaplin to Laural & Hardly, Our Gang,Marx Brothers and Three Stooges. It was here that I grew a love of the old classic comedies. My perents and siblings tell me that before my time, in the 60's the Shakey's Pizza houses used to play live banjo and piano music Dixie land Jazz and RagTime.The Shakey's on Santa Clara Street still in there but sadly by the 1980's the movie screen and projector had been removed and replaced with a big tv. screen that just played sports. There is no entertainment there anymore and sadly, it seemed all of these old time pizza houses have been simply replaced by home delivery services. It time to bring together Vaudeville, homemade pizza and rootbeer!