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O Cremora, O Mores

O Cremora, O Mores

When I was growing up on Long Island several decades ago, Chock Full o’ Nuts seemed the height of sophistication. From their advertisements, I knew that in Chock Full o’ Nuts coffee shops it was always the 1940s, with women wearing white gloves and men in sharp fedoras stopping in for a quick cup and a smoke before an evening at the theater. The soundtrack to these fantasies, of course, was the unforgettable Chock Full o’ Nuts jingle, sung in a lilting alto by Page Morton Black, the wife of the company’s founder:

“Chock Full o’ Nuts is that heavenly coffee 
Better coffee a millionaire’s money can’t buy.”

(Originally, I’ve read, it was “Rockefeller’s money,” until the family made them change it.)

When I moved to New York to attend Columbia University, reality turned out to be a little different. There was a Chock Full o’ Nuts at 116th Street and Broadway, across from campus, and it was anything but elegant. The kind of people you find in most coffee shops at two in the morning hung out there around the clock. The one time I ate at Chock, after trying vainly for five minutes to make the slow-witted waiter understand that I wanted tea (I was not yet a coffee drinker), I remember looking around at my fellow customers and thinking, “Gosh, I hope these people aren’t students.”

Now the Chock Full o’ Nuts is long gone, replaced by a trying-to-be-funky Chinese restaurant. In fact, almost all the scuzziness has been expunged from Morningside Heights, and in true New York fashion, we affect to miss it. (The college has changed too—they have girls now and everything.) Today the neighborhood is too hip to have just one Starbucks, so there are two within a few blocks of each other. But you can still buy Chock Full o’ Nuts coffee in the supermarket, and the company has started advertising again. They’re even using the same jingle. It’s been updated, of course, with a vaguely “world” beat and an Enrique Iglesias type doing the vocal. The lyrics have been altered a little bit too—after all, it is the twenty-first century. Now it says:

“Chock Full o’ Nuts is that heavenly coffee
Better coffee a billionaire’s money can’t buy.”

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