Daryl Hall & John Oates’ Abandoned Luncheonette,
1973 Atlantic Records Album Cover
Not long after I started the Diner Hotline Weblog, I mentioned that I would write about the “Diner in my Header” (the photo at the top of my blog), see…
I know a lot of “Diner People” were familiar with a similar image that dates back to 1973 and was the inspiration for my 1982 photo. So now I am finally going to keep my promise to my faithful readers and tell the story in its complete form, with the help of my friend Matt Simmons!
Back in 1991, I was asked by Randy Garbin of Roadside Magazine (now RoadsideOnline) to contribute a “Diner Hunting” story for the fourth issue of his fledgling publication (Roadside, Summer, 1991). At first I thought, which of the hundreds of diners I had documented up to that point in time would make a compelling enough tale for Randy’s faithful readers? Then it came to me in a New York minute (OK, a Pennsylvania minute) that it had to be the story of how I found the “ABANDONED LUNCHEONETTE” !!! The next part is basically what I wrote for Roadside, with a few new tweaks……
For those of you readers not familiar with it, Abandoned Luncheonette is the title song of an LP record album by recording artists Daryl Hall & John Oates, released in 1973 on the Atlantic Records label. The album cover featured a photograph of an abandoned diner. This cover had always intrigued me whenever I came across it in music stores. I used to say to myself, “Wow…what a great idea for an album cover.” Every so often, I would even hear the song on the radio, but I never paid much attention to the lyrics.
It wasn’t until November 1980, the same weekend I had taken my first photograph of a diner in Harrisburg, PA, that I actually came closer to finding the Abandoned Luncheonette. I was driving through New York City and had the radio tuned to an FM station. Between tunes, the DJ mentioned how he liked diners, which definitely got my attention, and then he played the Abandoned Luncheonette song. For the first time, I really listened to the lyrics. I couldn’t believe it – what a great tune! The words spoke to me and stirred something within me. I had to have this record. Needless to say, I bought this album – the first of around 15 albums in my collection with images of diners featured on the covers.
A year later while I was again visiting Harrisburg, I was sitting in my friend Steve Repucci’s living room, looking at a map of Pennsylvania and trying to locate a small road in the Philadelphia area. You see, there is a clue to the Abandoned Luncheonette’s location on the inner sleeve that mentions “the man on Route 724.” I knew that Daryl Hall & John Oates both were raised in the Philly area and figured that the diner may be located near there. I couldn’t find Route 724 anywhere on the map. There were just too many small roads with~3 digit designations to see it. But wouldn’t you know, the next morning while driving home on Route 222 through Reading, PA at around 4:30 a.m., I came upon the junction of Route 724. I couldn’t believe it! I pulled over and checked out the map. The road went only a few miles to the west, but went 30 or so miles to the east, towards Philadelphia. I knew this had to be the right road and decided that on my next trip, I would go exploring.
On February 26, 1982, I returned to Pennsylvania with Steve’s brother Scott to help get Steve moved back to Boston. Since we had some time to kill on the trip down, we bypassed through Reading and headed down Route 724. We had traveled about 20 miles or so to the east into the outskirts of Pottstown (actually Kenilworth, PA) when there it was – the Abandoned Luncheonette – sitting about 25 feet off the side of the road. This was really exciting, almost like finding the Holy Grail. It was still recognizable and looked very similar to the album cover, albeit with nine years worth of over-grown foliage. Luckily, it was the middle of winter, and I was able to duplicate the album cover photo without the bushes and trees getting in the way.
I have since found out the diner was formerly the Rosedale Diner, operated for years at the corner of High Street and Rosedale Drive in Pottstown. The diner was probably moved sometime in the early 1970′s to Route 724, but was never put back into service. It was certainly in sad shape when I found it and on a subsequent visit April 3, 1983, it was completely unrecognizable having had all of its stainless steel exterior stripped away. In fact, The Man on Rte. 724 himself (Bill Faulk) asked us to leave the premises.
Although it’s a shame this diner met with an untimely death, I feel lucky that I was able to find it with the slimmest of clues and document it prior to it becoming almost completely unrecognizable. Now if I could only get the original Rosedale Diner linen postcard into my collection!
Well, since I wrote that story in 1991, I was able to obtain a copy of the Rosedale Diner postcard for the collection (thanks Art Goody!). Also, within the last 5 years or so, I have become acquainted with some key people who were able to impart some more facts and info on the Abandoned Luncheonette. One of the facts I had wrong in the earlier story was when I guessed the time period the diner got moved to its final resting place. Not sometime in the early 1970’s as I surmised, but actually in 1965.
One of the people that I have managed to make contact with was Susan Norman of the Pottstown, PA area. She was able to give me some first-hand info on the diner and its history. Susan is good friends with Cindy Faulk Baker. In fact they have known each other most of their lives. Cindy is the daughter of Bill Faulk who was the owner and operator of the Rosedale Diner. In my correspondence with Susan, she was able to fill me in on some of the facts about the diner and also put me in touch with Cindy. In fact, Susan sent a nice little “care” package to me with some photos as well as an old menu cover from the Rosedale Diner, which I greatly appreciated!
Ironically, not too long after I started corresponding with Susan, Brian Butko put me in touch with Matt Simmons, around the time I started this blog in 2007. Matt was himself trying to find info on The Abandoned Luncheonette. Matt is from the Detroit, MI area and is a big fan of Daryl Hall & John Oates’ early music. He was trying to piece together info on his favorite album cover from H&O and Brian knew that had been a passion of mine for a while. So thus began a trading of info back and forth between Matt and myself.
In the mean time, it was brought to my attention by Susan Norman that Bill Faulk passed away on November 6, 2007, (I wrote about it in the blog) and within the same week a drinking glass with the Rosedale Diner logo silk screened on it went up for auction on ebay. What a coincidence! I immediately bid on it and was determined to get it for the collection. I watched over the auction for the last hour or so of bidding and managed to squeak by in the last 2 minutes for the winning bid!
Since then, I have continued to post all sorts of “Diner related” posts as well as other roadside topics in the almost 3 intervening years. In the back of my mind, the story of the Abandoned Luncheonette/Rosedale Diner was always lurking. Also, Matt Simmons was making inroads in gaining more info and insights while making friends with Cindy Baker and her sister, Marla LaBelle as well as their friend Susan Norman.
Recently, when I did a post on Abandoned Diners, I renewed my promise to finally do something with the story of the Rosedale. Matt contacted me at this point and said he was making another trip to Pennsylvania and after the trip, would document everything he’d learned and send it to me. Well, the middle of July came and with it an email from Matt with the promised story. I read it over and got back to him to let him know that it was a fantastic piece! I told him he was getting co-authorship of this post. (In fact, his text makes up most of it)! So here is Matt’s part of the post……
It was a summer day in 1973, and Bill Faulk was musing to his 26 year-old daughter, Cindy, about a peculiar recent event. Two young men, or “hippie boys”, as Bill described them, had walked into his restaurant, Toggs, with an unusual request.
“He said they told him that they wanted to enter some contest,” Cindy recalls.
According to Bill, the hippie boys informed him that if they won this contest, they would get to record an album of their music. A photo of the dormant diner across the street, which Bill also owned, would be perfect for the cover.
“I told them they could take a picture of it, but not to go inside,” Bill would tell a newspaper reporter, ten years later. “They went inside, anyway.”
After Bill called the local police, the hippie boys, along with their college-aged female photographer, abruptly scurried from the diner.
Fifty-two summers earlier, long before hippie boys and girls came to prominence, Talmadge William Faulk’s introduction to the world came in Prattville, Alabama. The simplicity of southern farm life was shaken at the age of seven, when his beloved mother, Annie Pearl, passed away. Formal education was forsaken shortly thereafter, stalling short of the fourth grade. Following a laborious youth and adolescence, the twenty-one year old known as “Toggs” to some and “Bill” to most, enlisted in the army at Fort McClellan. While serving in World War II, he earned promotions to the level of Sergeant and often fulfilled cooking duties for his fellow soldiers.
While on furlough in Atlantic City in the autumn of 1944, Bill became acquainted with Nancy Scheeler—a lovely twenty year-old from Pottstown, PA. Their relationship quickly blossomed, driven by a flurry of love letters penned by Bill. Having recently discovered and read the letters, Cindy declares, “My Dad was very, should I say—suave.”
A few months after meeting in Atlantic City, Bill and Nancy were married on Christmas Day of 1944.
Following the Allies’ victory, the newlyweds settled in Nancy’s hometown. Situated forty miles northwest of the Liberty Bell, the borough served as residence for roughly 22,000 others. In August of 1946, Nancy gave birth to Cindy. When Bill’s daughter was three and a half, he took a symbolic step toward fulfilling a longtime dream. Registering as a business owner with the State of Pennsylvania, Bill secured the name “Rosedale Diner” for his new venture. He opened his restaurant at the corner of East High and Rosedale streets. High Street, a.k.a. Route 422 at the time, was the bustling main drag in Pottstown. In addition to the cross-street namesake, the surrounding collection of homes was known as the “Rosedale neighborhood”—the most prestigious in the borough. Manufactured by Fodero Dining Car Company, Bill’s diner sparkled with a stainless steel exterior and red trim. A kaleidoscope of pink and burgundy tiles lined the interior floor and walls, and the forty-three seat restaurant featured a significant luxury: air-conditioning.
The Rosedale operated just a mile and a half down High Street from the Sunnybrook Ballroom, a popular dance hall in which jazz and big band musicians performed. Consequently, the likes of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington sporadically inhabited the diner’s booths. But no famed swing-master of the time would ultimately wield as great of an impact on the diner’s fortunes as a young boy named Daryl. The youth from nearby Cedarville was often brought to the Rosedale by his parents, Walter and Betty Hohl. Betty was a local music teacher, whose son was among her pupils.
Open twenty-four hours, six days a week, operating the Rosedale required a complete family effort. Bill typically labored until at least 9:00 P.M., with Nancy joining him at 4:00 in the afternoon. Cindy spent many evenings of her youth at the diner, and at age twelve, she became part of the daily staff. She performed just about every task required at the Rosedale, until earning her high school diploma. During those six years of six-day work weeks, Cindy’s father never provided her with financial compensation for her efforts.
Of course, the Rosedale Diner did have paid staff, as well.
“Dad hired lots of pretty waitresses,” Cindy recalls.
Among them was Jean Harner, who Cindy believes was eighteen when she accepted a waitress position at the Rosedale. However, when asked if it’s possible, Cindy acknowledges that perhaps Jean actually was twenty when the diner was a baby. Jean would quickly become significant in Bill’s life, and remain so until the end of hers.
Aerial view of Rosedale Diner prior to obtaining an entryway vestibule
from Fodero Diners. (the diner came from the factory sans vestibule, I believe that Fodero designed it to have a vestibule but due to construction and set-up costs, Bill put-off having one initially. I suspect that after the diner was paid-off, Bill went back to Fodero and had one made) - LAC
photo courtesy of Cindy Baker, Marla LaBelle & Susan Norman
From the Rosedale’s opening day, Bill merely leased the land on High Street. He declined opportunities to buy it more than once, balking at the asking price. In 1965, Nagle Motors, the company that held the parcel, found another party that didn’t flinch at the cost of procurement. A new franchise of a fledgling fast-food chain known as McDonald’s moved in. The Rosedale was relegated to being towed out.
As fate would have it, the dislodging of the diner was not the biggest Faulk family event of 1965. In July, three days after Bill’s forty-fourth birthday, he and Nancy welcomed their second daughter, Marla. One month shy of turning eighteen, Cindy was no longer an only child. The challenge of having a bigger family to support was compounded by the newfound uncertainty and upheaval in Bill’s professional life. The proliferation of McDonald’s had been no surprise to him. He had been telling a variety of people for years that fast food was the future of the restaurant business. With his diner now homeless, Bill decided the time to join the future was now.
He purchased land on each side of Route 724 on the southeastern outskirts of Pottstown. Bill secured several rural acres on the north side, and enough space to open a new restaurant directly across the street on the south side. Bill claimed to have paid $6,000 to have the Rosedale towed from its bustling High Street locale and moved two miles to his new spread. He directed the diner be placed near the north edge of Route 724. And in that spot, the Rosedale sat. Empty, quiet, dark and dusty… the Rosedale sat. Bill raised cattle on the surrounding acres, as the Rosedale sat. And sat.
Bill had his new fast food restaurant, Toggs, constructed directly across the street. Unlike the High Street location, Bill’s new eatery was isolated from the vibrancy of Pottstown life. It turned out that the most significant structure in its proximity was a private residence—Daryl Hohl’s grandmother’s house.
To enhance his pursuit of a music career by easing pronunciation, Daryl changed his surname to Hall. He met fellow southeast Pennsylvania native John Oates while they were each students at Temple University. Together, they signed with Atlantic records and released their first album in 1972. After “Whole Oats” faded with little radio play, meager sales and lukewarm reviews, the duo began writing songs for what would become the most critically acclaimed album they would ever release. One of the songs, composed by Daryl, was inspired by the diner that had transformed from a sparkling childhood memory to a dormant and downtrodden relic. So, at least one thing Daryl said on that summer day at Toggs in 1973 was true. Bill Faulk’s defunct diner would be perfect for his and John’s album cover.
On November 3rd, 1973, Daryl Hall and John Oates released their second album, entitled “Abandoned Luncheonette”. The front cover featured an exterior photo of the Rosedale, encompassed by the tall grass and shrubs of eight years of inactivity. The back cover featured a photo of the duo that was taken moments before the police arrived at the scene.
The inner album sleeve contained head shots of Hall and Oates against the stainless steel interior of a different diner, indicating that Bill’s call to the police had initially prevented the hippie boys from getting all the snapshots they wanted.
Among the acknowledgements read: “Luncheonettes courtesy of The Man on Rt. 724 and Imperial Shell Homes, Inc. (better known as ‘The Diner Graveyard’)”. Bill was sent a Hall & Oates t-shirt and what was promised to be the first copy of the album off the presses. Daryl and John inscribed the back cover, right over the picture that had been taken against Bill’s wishes.
“’Mr. Man’, your cooperation was wonderful and we love you and your family. – Daryl Hall, John Oates”.
Despite widespread critical acclaim, the LP would not be a commercial success for Hall and Oates for several years. “She’s Gone”, from Side A, initially fizzled as a single, only to hit number #1 on the R & B chart when covered by Tavares. The first song on side B was the title track. Its lyrics painted a somewhat pitiful picture of an antiquated couple, sitting in an empty diner, clinging to the distant days in which their youthful energy had brought the building to life. To anyone who ever knew Bill, it would be obvious that the lyrics were about him. But the song’s other fallen hero was not his wife.
“I have no doubt that the woman in the song is Jean,” Cindy asserts.
After all, by the day Daryl, John, and their photographer walked into Toggs, Bill and Jean had long been a couple. For quite some time, the marriage between Bill and Nancy had merely existed on paper. The husband and wife had moved on, mutually.
After receiving the autographed copy of “Abandoned Luncheonette”, life went on in typical fashion. According to Marla, Bill listened to the album once, and then never again removed it from its sleeve. But in 1976, Bill started to notice something surprising and disturbing. The locks on his diner’s doors had been broken, and items were vanishing from within. Random strangers were stopping by, even in broad daylight, and attempting to go inside the Rosedale. Not coincidentally, Hall and Oates had recently scored their first top ten hit with “Sara Smile”. Atlantic records quickly reissued “She’s Gone”, and it went top ten as well, drawing significant attention to the album from which it had come three years prior.
At first, the corresponding deterioration of the Rosedale was gradual. Then came the 1980’s. Hall and Oates began the decade with separate multi-platinum-selling albums in three successive years. The local hippie boys, who had dropped by Toggs with a peculiar request nearly a decade earlier, were now arguably the second most popular musical act in the world behind Michael Jackson. People came from all over the world, in search of the special spot on Route 724 at Peterman Road. The Rosedale was ravaged.
By January of ’83, township officials had informed Bill that his dilapidated diner was now an eyesore that had to be eradicated. Bill saw little choice but to plan its demolition. News of the impending doom spread quickly, from papers in Pottstown, Reading and Philadelphia, to the city of brotherly love’s NBC affiliate. Terry Ruggles came to the site on Route 724 with microphone in hand and cameraman in tow. Bill told a story about one man who had chained the door of the Rosedale to the bumper of his car, in an effort to drag away a unique souvenir. The bumper lost the tug of war. Bill listened unsympathetically, as the man lamented his fate.
News of the Rosedale’s numbered days also reached Hall and Oates themselves. Daryl decided that he wanted to rescue the endangered relic, and he prompted Randy Hoffman, a member of his and John’s management team, to negotiate with Bill.
“I’d love to sell it,” Bill told Michael Sangiacomo of the Pottstown Mercury. “They might as well buy it.”
But they never did. Why the transaction never took place is not entirely clear. Hoffman, through a spokesperson, insisted that he “honestly could not remember”. Nor could John Oates, nor could Betty Hohl. Daryl Hall could not be reached for comment. Rumor has it that Bill demanded a ridiculous amount of money, and Daryl emphatically declined.
“I honestly couldn’t have seen Bill ever being willing to sell the diner, not unless someone offered him a million dollars,” mused longtime Faulk family friend, Sue Norman. Although Bill expressed in print that he would like to sell the Rosedale, Cindy highly doubts that her father meant it.
“My Dad never wanted to sell anything. Once he owned something, it was his.”
Toggs had not survived the 70’s on a rural roadside, and Bill had used his fleeting moment on the TV news to try to promote his newly remodeled restaurant across from the fading Rosedale, known as Pizza World. On March 25th, 1983, Jean was busy at the new establishment when she noticed a large bus pull up next to the Rosedale. Nine men emerged and began to pose for a picture in front of the diner. Jean charged across the street. She angrily insisted that the group leave immediately. One of the men approached her in an effort to calm her down. Jean listened as he said something along the lines of, “Wait, it’s us. You know, the guys who immortalized the place.”
Jean had not recognized him. It was John Oates. Daryl Hall was standing right behind him. The duo were on their way to perform in Philadelphia. Although no longer hippies, the boys had returned. To see the Rosedale one last time.
“That’s when she really flew off the handle,” said John.
Jean wove her central message of “I ougtha sue your asses!” with a tapestry of profanities.
“We laughed and headed on down to Philly,” John recalls.
Shortly thereafter, the Rosedale was gone. Bill received neither compensation nor consolation. Any scrap value merely made a dent in the back taxes he now owed on the massive parcel of land. Once upon a time, Bill had invested years of savings and sweat in a sparkling diner in order to become a successful businessman and provider. That sparkling diner had now been reduced to dirty, scattered debris on land he would soon no longer own.
“Dad had talked about moving back to Alabama and reopening the diner there,” Marla once offered.
“He talked about going back to his watering hole in Alabama,” Cindy said. She then added that it never seemed a legitimate possibility.
Pizza World suffered the same fate as Toggs, only faster. At age 70, as Bill was gearing up to re-open it for his last hurrah in the restaurant business, he suffered a stroke. Bill survived, but retired reluctantly.
Two years later, on yet another summer day, Bill was driving on Route 724 with Jean alongside him. They were having a routine conversation—until Jean didn’t answer. She died moments later, from a massive heart attack.
“I think Jean was the love of my Dad’s life,” Cindy once opined.
Bill soldiered on, and three years later, he was elated by the arrival of Marla’s son, Nash.
Bill had long regretted that he had not forged a closer relationship with his first grandson, Shawn, who had arrived slightly more than three years prior to that fateful day the hippie boys dropped by Toggs. Bill’s path to grandfatherly redemption seemed to have fallen off the map when Cindy had moved to North Carolina in 1977. But with the arrival of Nash, “Pop Pop” enthusiastically devoted his time to atoning for past mistakes and making the most of his second chance.
Proving Cindy’s declaration that he could never willingly relinquish ownership, Bill still stopped by a long-dormant Pizza World, into the early years of the new millenium. One day, while tidying up the parking lot, Bill noticed a man across the street, who was obviously struggling to find a particular spot. Bill approached him, and pleasantly asked him if he was looking for the diner.
“I used to own it,” Bill said proudly, launching into a story.
With help from family and friends, Bill continued to live by himself at his longtime home in Pottstown. By the age of eighty-six, his physical state required the constant care of a nursing home. Eleven days after checking in, and thirty four years and three days after “Abandoned Luncheontte” was released, Talmadge W. Faulk passed away on November 6th, 2007. Nancy joined him two months later, each of them leaving behind two daughters, two grandsons, and one—as John Oates described—immortal diner.
It is logical to assume that had Hall and Oates never approached Bill with their peculiar request, the Rosedale would have stood intact until his death. At the very least, the world was deprived of a rather unique estate sale. Instead, the diner crumbled under the weight of a record album cover. An album, that ironically (t-shirt notwithstanding), is the only tangible thing Talmadge W. Faulk ever received for his trouble.
Yet, with more than one million copies of Abandoned Luncheonette sold, along with countless pairs of eyes who have merely seen the cover, Bill’s Rosedale is indisputably one of the most famous diners in history. And that distinction has value—even though the diner owner himself was mystified by the worldwide appeal of two local hippie boys.
Pennsylvania Route 724 spans thirty miles, and passes through more than a dozen municipalities. Only one person in this world will ever be THE man on this considerable stretch of asphalt. And that man was Talmadge W. Faulk. Today, forty-five years after closing forever, Faulk’s diner still has significance, even to people who never once set foot in it. People like me.
On June 12th, 2010, I traveled six hundred miles from my home for what has become an annual visit with recently made, but dearly held friends. Marla’s husband, Mike, stepped several feet into thick woods, rummaging around the large infertile rectangle emblazoned by the Rosedale. While Marla, Nash, and I spotted several tiles from the floor and walls on the outskirts of the woods, Mike emerged with something I had never come across in my previous visits to the site. He extended it to me. It was a plate, nearly 50% intact. “Would you like this?” Mike asked.
I wanted to smile, but my jaw had dropped. I hope that somehow, somewhere, The Man on Route 724 was smiling for me.
I want to thank Matt Simmons for the great job he did writing the major portion of this piece. He did what I would have liked to accomplish myself. But due to time & travel constraints as well as a myriad of other reasons on my end, I was unable to do. I also want to thank Cindy, Marla & Susan for their part in telling this story. Without their assistance, none of this would have come to fruition. Finally, thanks to Daryl Hall & John Oates for inspiring me with that long-ago album cover that intrigued me so much through the 1970′s! - Larry Cultrera
The content of this story was greatly enhanced with information contributed by:
Cindy Baker, Marla LaBelle, Sue Norman, Betty Hohl, John Oates, Tim Hufnagle, Michael SanGiacomo, Nick Tosches and WCAU TV in Philadelphia.
They each have my sincere gratitude.
As does Daryl Hall, for writing the song that has led me on this remarkable journey.
…A journey that may have stalled in my corner of the world, were it not for Larry Cultrera. Larry, thank you for sharing your Diner Hotline Weblog so that I may share my favorite story.” – Matt Simmons