Posted by: dinerhotline | August 1, 2008

Notes from the Hotline, 8-1-08

I have not been too active this week on the blog as I have been on Vacation from my job. Denise and I have been in and out all week doing different things but I have managed to get to a few places.

Breakfast at the Fish Tale Diner

Saturday we went up to Salisbury, Mass. and had a great breakfast at a diner with one of the most scenic locations anywhere, the Fish Tale Diner. This is the original Agawam Diner built in 1940 for the Galanis family (Worcester Lunch Car No. 762) and was originally operated in Ipswich, Mass. until they replaced it with a larger Worcester Lunch Car (No. 797) in 1947.

The first diner was then redone with new porcelain panels and placed at the intersection of U.S. Rte. 1 and Mass. Rte. 133 in Rowley, Mass. where it operated until 1970 when they moved the current diner (a Fodero diner) in to replace this one. The Galanis’ sold this diner and it was transported up to Brunswick, Maine but reportedly never was set up there when the new people defaulted on the sale and it reverted back to the Galanis’. It came back briefly to Rowley and was stored on an empty lot across Rte. 133 from the current diner until it was resold and placed in Salisbury.

The location in Salisbury is just off U. S. Rte. 1, directly on the banks of the Merrimack River adjacent to a marina/motel complex overlooking Newburyport. The current owners have added an outdoor deck for expanded seating with tables. They do a great business and it can be very relaxing eating inside or out. Certainly a good stop for breakfast or lunch  anytime of year but especially so in the summer.

We also got over to The Lunch Box Diner in Malden, Mass. on Sunday and I hope to have more news on this one shortly.

Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe photo circa 2006

Breakfast at Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe

Thursday morning I went to visit Royal Label Company in Dorchester (a section of Boston). I was employed there for over 8 years before I left for another position 2 and half years ago. I wanted to stop in and see what was going on, it seems like I get to do this once a year. On the way in I decided to stop for breakfast at Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe, a venerable neighborhood institution located on Columbus Avenue in the South End section of Boston for over 80 years. Whenever I go to Charlie’s I cannot resist their “Cape Cod French Toast”. This is regular French Toast with warm fresh cranberry compote drizzled on top. It is delicious!

Tolman Mfg. & Supply Company

On the way back from Royal Label I was bypassing expressway traffic and cutting through South Boston. I decided to finally investigate Tolman Mfg. & Supply Company located at 61 Dorchester Avenue across from the Gillette Company Headquarters. They sell and service Welding Equipment Supplies and Industrial Gases.

Part of the building Tolman is located in is the remains of an old Worcester Lunch Car. It is fairly covered up and almost unrecognizable. If you get up close to it you can see behind the sign that runs along the roof. The old barrel roof of the diner is discerned from this close up view. You can also see the front left corner of the diner (just a piece). The interior is completely gutted but the barrel ceiling is still visible. The end walls are gone as well as the extreme right section of back wall.

Original corner piece, left front elevation

I talked with Brad Bankman, the president of Tolman and he told me that they have been there since 1960. He also said that it had previously operated as the Donut Dugout prior to his company taking the building over. I do not know what the original name of the diner was. An interesting thing I discovered was that the diner had an addition on the right hand end that also was twice as deep as the diner structure. I don’t exactly know what this was but this section has unique “cove ceilings” covered in metal as well as a large skylight. It almost looked like someone was trying to emulate a diner interior on an on-site structure. Brad thought it might have been an old railroad car but I am not so sure.

Inside of building looking down the length of the old diner,
the light fixture is mounted to the barrel ceiling.

Interior of addition on right end of diner with unique cove ceiling
with skylight, now used as office/service desk.

Thanks to Brad Bankman for his taking time out of his busy day to talk with me as well as allowing me to take photos of the interior and exterior of his establishment.

Palace Diner, one of only 2 Pollard Diners in existance.

Biddeford, Maine’s Palace Diner For Sale

I heard from Bob Higgins the other day and he reports that the Palace Diner, a 1920’s vintage Pollard Diner is for sale. The current owner, Kyle Quinn is seeking to sell the business, lock, stock and barrel (roof of course). Here is what Bob said in his email…

The diner is actively for sale by owner Kyle Quinn,
1-207- 332-6001
I have been there a couple of times in the last couple of weeks. The diner has 15 seats and comes with the land it sits on and a few feet of land around it. He appears to be doing some business, but is not open beyond 10:30 am, breakfast only. He has owned the diner for 3 years. Maybe you could place a note on your blog and see if there is any interest.                                                                                                                      Bob Higgins

Consider it posted Bob!

Old postcard of HoJo’s clone, Mary Hartigan’s Famous Restaurant

Newest addition to my postcard collection

I finally broke down and got a decent postcard of a restaurant I remember (although I never ate there). It was from “Mary Hartigan’s Famous Restaurant” (not my words, that is how the back reads). This place was located on Route 1A, Washington Street in Dedham, Mass. hard by the edge of Route 128. I always thought it might have been an ex-Howard Johnsons Restaurant by the looks of it. I was wrong according to some info I have found. In fact there is a possibility that this place actually evolved from a former Dutchland Farms Restaurant which had similar styling to HoJo’s.

The building still exists but is completely encased within a much larger structure since it was Hartigans. It has operated as at least one other restaurant and is now currently became part of an upscale chain called “Finz”. There is another one in Salem, Mass.

Posted by: dinerhotline | July 24, 2008

Notes from the Hotline, 7-24-08

Richard Gutman and Culinary Arts Museum mentioned in TV clip

My friend Dick Gutman was recently featured in an ABC News piece from their network affiliate Channel 6 in Providence, RI. The piece was entitled…..

Things That Just Aren’t There Anymore: The Ever Ready Diner on Charles Street

John Eagan
Story Created: Jul 22, 2008 at 10:56 AM EDT
Story Updated: Jul 23, 2008 at 10:35 AM EDT

They are no ordinary restaurants, they are American classics…we’re talking about the old-fashioned diner. The first diner in Providence was a horse-drawn wagon.  The idea caught on, and through the decades dozens of meals -on-wheels popped up in New England.

But once fast food restaurants came along, many diners failed to compete.  Others like ‘The Ever Ready’ kept buzzing until the street land became too valuable. The once famous local diner on Charles Street finally found a resting place The Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson and Wales where Richard Gutman is giving the old treasure a makeover.  ABC 6 reporter Julie Ruditzky takes us back in time…
Here is a link to the video…..

Co-owner of Milford Diner (Milford, NH) succumbs from injuries sustained in car accident

Milford Diner, photo by Larry Cultrera, 9/29/07

I saw the sad news out of New Hampshire today about the death of Gordon “Sput’’ Maynard, co-owner with Debbie Flerra of the Milford Diner in downtown Milford, NH. Here is the text from the article….

‘Sput’ fought a hard battle
Friends remember Merrimack man who died from injuries

Published: Thursday, Jul. 24, 2008
MILFORD – If Gordon Maynard wasn’t at the Milford Fish Market he was at the Milford Diner, greeting customers with his famous smile. “He loved the restaurant business – the elderly people especially, and they loved him,” said his partner Debbie Flerra. “He would park their cars so they wouldn’t have to walk far.”

Gordon “Sput’’ Maynard, 50, of Merrimack, died Friday at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center after sustaining massive internal injuries in a car accident nearly two weeks ago. He fought until he couldn’t fight any longer, his family said. Karen Walker, who owns Karen’s Kollectibles across the street from the diner, said she knew Maynard as a neighbor. “He had a lot of people who cared about him,” she said. “It’s a tragedy.”

Flerra, who lost her husband to a heart attack 10 years ago, said she is grateful she was able to speak to Maynard for several days before he passed away. Maynard, who co-owned the Milford Diner with Flerra, was one of four people injured in a three-car crash that began when a Subaru Outback hit a Volvo near the Bartlett Street intersection with Concord Street, injuring a Merrimack couple, before speeding off and slamming into Maynard’s Oldsmobile near the Hills Ferry Road intersection. Police believe the driver of the Outback suffered a seizure while at the wheel.

Maynard’s car was struck with such force that he was ejected from the vehicle and police found him lying in the middle of Concord Street. Even after suffering such devastating injuries, Maynard was trying to pick himself up when emergency personnel reached him, a doctor who was at the scene told his family.

“Even after the initial accident, and he was ejected from the car, he was still trying to get up,’’ his daughter, Erika, 19, said. “They told him, ‘No, no, stay down’ but he was still trying to get up, and when I heard that story I said, ‘That’s my Dad.’ ” Maynard was a real-estate appraiser and served for a time on the state board of appraisers.


Posted by: dinerhotline | July 23, 2008

Bridgeport Flyer Diner of Bridgeport, CT demolished

Bridgeport Flyer Diner, photo courtesy of Randy Garbin/Roadside Magazine

The Bridgeport Flyer Diner, a Swingle colonial style diner that replaced a Sterling double-ended streamliner in the 1960’s was demolished this past week according to reports. The diner had been operating under various names for a few years but remained fairly intact will be replaced by a car wash, a gas station and a Dunkin Donuts. The other Bridgeport Flyer Diner in Milford, CT remains in operation so the name will be carried on. Below is a photo of the original diner from 1941.

The “old” Bridgeport Flyer diner in 1941
(courtesy Bridgeport Public Library Historical Collections/Mary Witkowski))

Here is the text from a Connecticut Post Online article from July 18, 2008…..

Landmark Bridgeport diner leveled

Car wash, convenience store coming

BRIDGEPORT — The building that once housed the Bridgeport Flyer Diner — for decades a fixture in the city’s West End — was demolished Friday to make way for a car wash, gas station/convenience store and doughnut shop. The long-neglected structure, near Fairfield Avenue’s intersection with State Street, has been vacant four years.It was the La Carreta Restaurant for the last two years that it was occupied, but from 1942 until about 2002, it was the home of the Bridgeport Flyer Diner. “My grandfather, Anthony Rountos, came from New York with his brother-in-law, and they went up Route 1 and saw that that’s where all the factories were, so that’s where they spotted the diner,” said Dennis Kokenos, who now owns the Bridgeport Flyer Diner in Milford.

“It looked like a train car,” he said of the original structure, which had been altered with different siding and other features over the years. “It’s a shame. I swear to God, tears were in my eyes yesterday when I pulled into the parking lot.” He worked there from 1983 until it closed in 2003 — a year after his mother, Coy Rountos Kokenos, died.

Dennis’ father, Perry Kokenos, married into the business, he said. He added that the opening in 1991 of the McDonald’s restaurant just down the street didn’t affect the diner’s business in the least. The diner was the site of a brazen stickup on Nov. 1, 1980, when three bandits shot and wounded the cook, Lincoln Tirado, and roughed up and robbed a few of the customers. One of the gunmen was armed with a double-barreled shotgun. Tirado was shot when he tried to throw a kitchen knife at one of the thieves.

The Milford Flyer diner — in the city’s Devon section — opened in 1974, and it remains a thriving business. “That was a family place — my mother was in the front all the time,” Kokenos said. “So when she died, we tried to run it with an outside manager, but it just didn’t work. It was a nice stretch that we had in Bridgeport. I really do miss it, but I had to make a decision.”

The new owner, Sohan Johnson, said that he purchased the parcel about a year ago. “It’s going to be a car wash, a gas station, a Dunkin’ Donuts outlet and a convenience store,” he said, adding that it should be open at some point next year. Johnson was at the site Friday morning to speak with Craig Capozziello of Industrial Wrecking, his giant Caterpillar power shovel at the ready to knock down the structure. Johnson wanted Capozziello to set aside some of the structural steel from the old building. Before Johnson arrived, Capozziello waited in his red pickup truck. “I wish he would come. I could have had the thing down by now,” he said. “We’ve been tearing down buildings for a hundred years.”

It looks like after months of uncertainty the Sunrise Diner, a late 1940’s Jerry O’Mahony diner located in Jim Thorpe, PA will be saved after all. At one point a few months ago, I reported a news story I found on-line about the possibility that this diner was going to go to Montpelier, VT. But the story turned out to be premature and nothing came of it.

Well now it looks like Steve Harwin of Diversified Diners (Cleveland, OH) has come to the diner’s rescue and has transported the diner to his company yard in Cleveland. The following is a piece I saw this morning from’s website reporting the move.

Landmark Diner Leaving Jim Thorpe

Posted: July 17, 2008 04:24 PM EDT
Last Updated: July 17, 2008 05:18 PM EDT

By Bob Reynolds

A diner that has been a landmark in Carbon County for more than 50 years  will soon be gone. Two years ago the Sunrise Diner in Jim Thorpe was in full operation.  Thursday workers were jacking it up from its foundation. It’s going to rolled onto a truck and hauled away.
The reason they didn’t bring in a crane and lift it onto the truck is that diner is weak and lifting it could split it like an egg, according to the former owner. “It’s going to be saved. That’s what we wanted in the beginning,” said former owner Noel Behn. He had hoped to sell it to someone in the area but no one wanted it, even when it was free.

“We tried to give it away to the vo-tech or for kids to learn tin smithing or whatever they wanted to do with it but they had no use for it. We had people interested in it but transportation was always a problem,” Behn added. There are memories there.  Ed Walck used to eat there when he returned from the service more than 50 years ago. “Steve had it. It was called Steve’s down there and then it changed hands I don’t know how many times after that,” Walck recalled.

Some said the landmark will be missed. “A real relaxed atmosphere where everybody knew everybody and you don’t find that down-to-earth restaurant,” said Leslie Solt of Mahoning Township. The diner will get new life. It will be taken to Ohio, refurbished, sold and grace another community.

Here is a link to the website where you can see some video…

I have written about this diner before, not on the blog but back when Diner Hotline was in print form for the Society for Commercial Archeology’s Journal Magazine. The Big Dig Diner, a 1940’s vintage Silk City Diner was located in the Seaport District of Boston for just over 10 years. It was used as a training facility for the Log School. They trained at-risk youth to work in a food service environment and were open maybe 3 days a week for a few years. The program eventually left the diner (I don’t know if they still exist) and the building sat idle for quite some time. The city of Boston who owned the property eventually wanted to use the site for something else.

Along came Steve Harwin of Cleveland’s Diversified Diners to the rescue. Steve knew this diner all too well as it was he who had rehabbed it back in the 1990’s and sold it to the Log School people. He had bought the diner and moved it from it’s last operating location on U.S. Route 22 in Ono, PA where it was known as the Windmill Diner. It had been closed as a diner for a few years at that time and had briefly been used by a construction company as an office if I remember correctly. It is believed that it originally operated as the Exton Diner in Exton, PA before being transported to Ono.

Steve moved the diner out of Boston last year and has found a new owner, Denise Shutek who has been wanting to buy a diner for years. Here is the text from a report off the website talking about the upcoming transition for this well travelled diner.

Big Dig Diner comes to town

CLEVELAND — Diners were invented in America and in some areas, they are historical landmarks. One of those landmarks is here in Cleveland. A local man restores diners right here in Cleveland and transports them all across the country. Steve Harwin specializes in rescuing diners that are on death row.

One such resurrection project he saved from the Big Dig in Massachusetts. When the tunnel there was closed for repairs, the diner was set to be demolished. “Nobody wanted it, which is surprising. They called me,” Harwin said. “I sent my riggers out. I didn’t even look at it. I knew it well enough.” The Big Dig Diner was the first diner he has ever restored. So, Harwin rescued it a second time.

The first time he bought it from a small town in Pennsylvania. It was made in the 1940’s in New Jersey. It will soon find a new home in Grafton. Nancy’s Diner will officially have the Big Dig Diner on Monday. Owner Denise Shutek is ready. “I have car hop trays from the 50s,” she said. “I have all kinds of stuff. I have people coming in now to give me records.”

For years, Shutek has been wanting to buy a diner and because of Harwin’s love for them she now can. Harwin said folks love for the classic’s is a natural draw. “You park a diner on any highway and people would see it and they would be drawn into it.” Harwin is currently the only man in the world that restores dying diners.

Here is a link to the piece with video footage…

© 2008 WKYC-TV

Posted by: dinerhotline | July 14, 2008

New Rochelle’s Thru-way Diner closes

Sunday, July 13th was a sad day for loyal customers as well as the owners and waitstaff of the Thru-way Diner. A large 1990 vintage DeRaffele diner located just off Interstate 95 in New Rochelle, NY, this diner and it’s earlier incarnations served many people over the years. In the 1980’s I recall seeing the diner this one replaced (although I never stopped in or photographed it) from the highway, it was an early 1960’s DeRaffele diner with a zig-zag roof. The current diner was of the early to late 90’s style DeRaffele built with a lot of dark green glass for the body and parapet and large plate glass windows all the way around.

Denise and I stopped at the Thru-way Diner for a coffee and desert break around 11 years ago on the way back from Wildwood, NJ. I really liked the place and knew that it was a local landmark. Unfortunately, the diner is closing because the owners decided to sell the property to the Wallgreens Pharmacy chain. Another case where money talks. There was a nice article online today written by Ken Valenti from

Here is the text from that story….

Thru-way Diner serves last meal

NEW ROCHELLE – On its final day, the Thru-Way Diner bustled so busily, with waitresses shuttling plates of eggs and pouring cups of coffee, that the regulars who grew up there could almost forget that the icon was about to close.

But the servers and the patrons knew – or learned when they arrived – that they were ordering their last meals yesterday at the dining institution that served food near Interstate 95 for more than a half-century. It’s to be replaced by a Walgreens drugstore.

“I’ve been crying all day,” waitress Diane Potente, 60, said in the afternoon. From a pocket in her uniform, she pulled a card, still in its envelope, that she had gotten from a customer. Now, she’ll work at the Larchmont Diner, and customers will find meals there or at other eateries.

“But there ain’t nothing like the Thru-Way Diner,” she said. The Thru-Way was a place for churchgoers to socialize after worshipping, a haven for late-night revelers who would swallow coffee after leaving the bars, and a reasonably priced eatery for families dining out. It’s where friends who called themselves the Southside Boys would come after racing their muscle cars, where waitress Brenda Mauro brought her two daughters in the 1970s to do their homework and be doted on by other waitresses. It’s the first place where Army veterans Robert Savaideo and Lou Vaccaro stopped after returning from the war in Vietnam. Vaccaro came then with enough family members to fill a section of the place.

“I was still in uniform,” he said yesterday at the diner. Months ago, when word got around that the diner would close, fans rallied to save it. About 5,000 people signed a petition to City Hall, and hundreds joined group Save the Thru-Way Diner. But the sisters who owned the diner, Donna Vaccari and Joanne Zappavigna, signed a contract to lease it to the Walgreens developer after their father, Don Zappavigna, the original owner, died in 1996. The sisters did not talk publicly about why they made the deal. They were not available for comment yesterday.

Even some of the youngest patrons questioned the move. “They do great stuff and they make a lot of money,” said Alexa Garcia, 7, who ate with her family at the diner yesterday. “There’s a CVS around here, and now they’re going to make a Walgreens? Why should they do that?” Sam Mauro, no relation to Brenda Mauro, ate at the diner as a child with his family and, later, as a teenager with his buddies, including Savaideo and Vaccaro. They called themselves the Southside Boys. When Mauro married a neighborhood girl and they had children, they all ate at the Thru-Way. Now 60, he was still coming about every month and a half with his old friends.

The DeRaffele-designed building where they dined yesterday, with polished stone and windows tinted and slanted, is at least the third incarnation of the diner at 810 Main St. Mauro remembered the building before the current one was put up in 1991.  “It was all orange and white inside,” he remembered. “The waitresses wore orange and white.” Brenda Mauro said she wore that attire, jokingly called the “creamsicle uniform.”
“I still have mine,” said the New Rochelle resident who is no longer a waitress. “I wear it on Halloween.”

She remembered serving food before they used computers. For the meal she ordered yesterday, two eggs over easy with rye toast, she would have called out, “Fry 21 over, whiskey down.” She held countless memories, like one of the time in the 1970s when late-night regulars put up $20 for her to throw a pie at a fellow waitress, and for the other waitress to return fire with a cake. They did it. Yesterday, people wrote their sentiments on sheets of paper taped up by the entrance. One note read: “Yankee Stadium + the Thruway Diner in the same year!! Just shoot me now!!” By 4 p.m., the door was locked. Sam Mauro, Savaideo and Vaccaro were among the last ones there. “It’s official,” Mauro said. “What are you going to do? We all split the last apple turnover they had in the case.”

Posted by: dinerhotline | July 9, 2008

The Road Island Diner opens in Utah

Photo Copyright 2008 by Kenny Gregrich – Tooele, Utah

I’m a little late in posting this news but I am happy to announce that Keith Walker has opened the Road Island Diner in Oakley, Utah the weekend of June 28-29, 2008. After a year or so of a painstakingly complete top-to-bottom restoration this diner looks like it just came out of the Jerry O’Mahony factory!  From the reports I’ve read, people were happy with the food and service. I want to extend my congratulations to Keith and his crew for a job well done! I hope to someday check out the place myself.

Thanks to Kenny Gregrich for letting me use one of his photos from the opening weekend. If you want to see more of his photos, check out his flickr site at ….

I did get a comment from Maud and Bob Thurman who tried to visit the diner earlier this week. They live in the Salt Lake City area and apparently took the trip to check out the diner with out calling beforehand to find out their hours of operation. They got there and found out that the diner was closed Monday & Tuesday! I passed their message to Keith and I would always warn anyone that if you are planning to visit a diner (or any other type of business) whether you live in the next town or one or two hours away, it is best to call ahead to make sure they will be open. That way you won’t be disappointed or waste a trip.

Posted by: dinerhotline | July 3, 2008

Odds and Ends from the Hotline, 7/3/08

Sorry about being a little lax in posting this week. I did not have much to write about so I thought I would dig up some photos from my archives. Most of them are roadside related this time around (no diners), so  I hope people will like this post.

Local Donut Shops

The first couple of places are local donut shops.

Kane’s Donuts

The first is my all-time favorite….. Kane’s Donuts, located on Lincoln Avenue in Saugus, Mass. It has been around since the 1950’s I believe and has been currently operated by the Delios family since the late 1980’s. They make some of the largest and delicious hand-cut donuts I have ever had. Also, their neon sign is a one-of-a-kind.

Twin Donuts

The next place is Twin Donuts located at the intersection of North Beacon and Cambridge Streets in the Allston section of Boston, Mass. I need to check the donuts out here sometime soon as it has been years since I have patronized it. It has a great old neon sign as well (check out the great lower case letters) and maybe the donuts are as good as the sign, (new rule of thumb?).

More Drive-in type restaurants

As in last weeks post I have a few more drive-in restaurant/ice cream  stands documented, some are still with us and others are now gone.

Foote’s Drive-in

Foote’s Drive-in serves fried clams, hamburgers, hot dogs and ice cream. They are located on Rte. 1A in Salisbury, Mass. The building is straight out of the 50’s and 60’s with a kind of folded-plate roof. The arrow sign on top is a little rusted and hard to read in this photo, but it says “WOW”. That could just about sum it up.

Henry’s Root Beer

Henry’s Root Beer is a former A&W Root Beer stand located on Route 138 in Taunton, Mass. It still looks like an A&W but it does not have car hop service, it is all walk-up and order, then you either sit in your car or at picnic tables under the canopy. They serve hot dogs, hamburgers and all the usual stuff as well as their signature root beer.

Tom’s On West Grand

Tom’s On West Grand serves seafood and fried dough appropriately enough as it is situated in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. I snapped this shot a few years ago while Denise and I were walking around and seeing the sights. We did not eat there but it looks like it could be worth a stop someday when we’re back in the area.

Twistee Treat

This unique building was premanufactured for a chain started in 1983 in North Fort Myers, Florida. I do not believe they are being made anymore (although I could be wrong). I found this one a few blocks south of the Mayfair Diner on Frankford Avenue in Philadelphia the last time I was in the area (2005). Check out Debra Jane Seltzer’s webpage on these places.

Tony & Ann’s Pizza

This was around for a long time and stayed basically the same until recently. It has since been transformed into another restaurant and does not look exactly like this now. It is located on Rte. 3A in North Chelmsford, Mass.

former Neba Roast Beef

I do not know exactly how many of these buildings are left. I only know of 3, one in the Glens Falls, NY area on Route 9 (still a roast beef place, Mr. B’s Best) one in St. Louis, MO (a chinese resaturant) and this one located on Route 3A in Quincy, Mass. (currently a pharmacy). This one has also operated as a pet store and a Tech Hi-Fi Store in years past. The chain was headquartered out of Albany, NY and was partnered with Mike’s Subs. If anyone knows of anymore, let me know. Here is a link to Debra Jane Seltzer’s page with Neba’s

Here is an ad I got through an Ebay auction a while back selling franchises for Neba Roast Beef stands

Stinson’s Ice Cream

Stinson’s was located on Boston Street in Lynn, Mass. It used to have some great neon signage but when I shot my photos of it the signs were basically non-existant. In fact this was the last season it was open. It has since been replaced by a Dunkin’ Donuts store.

Montrose Drive-in

Montrose Drive-in of Salem Street in Wakefield, Mass. was a local place that served home-made ice cream and also breakfast and lunch. 30 years ago, I worked right around the corner from it and was a regular customer for breakfast and lunch. It was torn down in the last year and a half and replaced by a (guess what)
Dunkin’ Donuts again!

Skip’s Snack Bar

Skip’s Snack Bar (not to be confused with the soon-to-be closed Skip’s Restuarant on Route 110 in Chelmsford, Mass.) is also located on Route 110, but in Merrimac, Mass. It has been around since the 1940’s. The building itself is sort of a non-descript brick building. The food is better than average drive-in fried food, they are famous for their Suzy-Q french fries. Visually their roadside sign is (as it states) one of THE BEST anywhere!

Speaking of Signs

I felt this was a great segue into some other signs I have photographed in my travels, here are a few more.

Santoro’s Subs

This is a shot of a Santoro’s Sub Shop sign in Wakefield, Mass. Santoro’s was a chain of sub shops located in the suburbs north of Boston. There are still a handfull of them but none of them are related to each other anymore. They all seemed to have different signs and this one is a great example.

Sunnyhurst Farms Dairy Store

The Sunnyhurst Farms Dairy was located on Main Street in Stoneham, Mass. Like many dairies, they used to have a fleet of Divco Milk Trucks delivering dairy products to homes in the cities and towns surrounding Stoneham. They also had a chain of stores of which there is only one left (in Malden) with the name although it has no connection anymore to the former dairy. The dairy business itself closed up by the end of the 1970’s and the main plant building was subdivided into various businesses. There is also a strip mall located between where Carrols Hamburgers used to be and the old plant, appropriately named Sunnyhurst Plaza.  This sign was on the West Medford store until recently. The store itself had not operated as a Sunnyhurst Farms for quite a few years but the sign remained (probably because of a grandfather clause). The last incarnation of the store closed around 3 years ago and the Medford City Council (or some other city agency) moved to have the sign removed as they deemed it was a safety hazard.

Samoset Cabins

I have been going up to the Lake George, NY area since the late 1960’s. I have always noticed the many neon signs for businesses like motels and such. This is one of my favorites and is still kept in great shape. It is located on Route 9 between Lake George and Glens Falls.

Goudreault’s Trailer Sales

Goudreault’s Trailer Sales are long gone, probably closed up by the early to mid 1980’s. The sign was still there until recently. They were located on Route 125 in Plaistow, NH. I always loved the fact that the sign was in the shape of a camping trailer. It is amazing how long this sign remained on the site.

Misc. Roadside Images

I am including a couple of interesting roadside/urban buildings next. The first is a geat old neighborhood market with a porcelain facade and the second is an old building that housed an Italian Restaurant.

 West End Market

The West End Market is located in North Adams, Mass. directly on Route 2 as you are heading into Williamstown. When I photographed it a few years ago there was an antiques store operating out of this place. It is currently awaiting new use as a restaurant to be operated by the Garton family who used to run the Miss Adams Diner in Adams, Mass.

Monty’s Garden Italian Restaurant

Monty’s Garden was located in Leominster, Mass., just outside the center of town on Route 12. The building was fairly unremarkable with the exception of the signage. It was torn down recently. I was inspired to finally take a couple of shots of this after seeing a water color painting by my old friend Becky Haletky at a showing of her work in Fall River, Mass. last year.

Something Unique (not quite roadside related)

Cotton Candy Man

This is an old postcard of a interesting little piece from my family’s past. When my brother Steve was attending Tufts University, he got into a little business selling cotton candy from an enclosed motor scooter like the one shown in the image. My dad’s cousin Mike Gianfriddo from Connecticut had found someone selling one of these and inquired if my brother might be interested in using this unique vehicle to make some money on the side while attending school. He did end up getting it and actually used it for 2 or 3 years. I recall he found it easier to attach it to his car (like a trailer) to get to the different places and events where he would sell cotton candy, peanuts and soda. The large circullar canopy ended up getting removed because of the weight (it was steel). He ended up using aluminum angle pieces to build a frame and attached striped canvas to it in place of the old canopy. When he stopped using it Mike came back up and bought it back I believe, I do not know what happened to it after that. The motor scooter was a Lambretta. I always was disappointed that Steve never gave me a ride in this thing!

When I was in Yankee Magazine, circa 1991

One of the many articles I was involved in over the years was one published in 1991 by Yankee Magazine. It was entitled “Devoted to Diners” and included pieces about Richard Gutman (Diner Historian), John Baeder (Diner Artist), John Keith (Diner Restorer) and Randy Garbin (Roadside Magazine) as well as myself. I was honored to be on the opening page with a photo by Doug Mindell. It featured me holding my camera standing in front of a bunch of my photos mounted to a sheet of “boomerang” style Formica.

Posted by: dinerhotline | June 27, 2008

Some more drive-in restaurant images and info

As seen in the Boston Globe today

Wilber Hardee, 89; founded hamburger stand franchise

By Dennis Hevesi, New York Times News Service / June 27, 2008

NEW YORK – Wilber Hardee, a farm boy-turned-grill cook who opened the first Hardee’s hamburger stand in 1960, starting a chain that now has nearly 2,000 restaurants in the United States and overseas, died June 20 at his home in Greenville, N.C. He was 89.
The cause was a heart attack, his daughter Ann Hardee Riggs said.
It was on an empty lot in Greenville, near East Carolina College (now a university), that Mr. Hardee opened that first hamburger stand on Sept. 3, 1960. There was no dining room, no drive-up window. Charcoal-broiled hamburgers and milkshakes sold for 15 cents apiece.
There are now 1,926 Hardee’s restaurants, mostly in the Southeast and the Midwest, most of them franchises of CKE Restaurants, which bought the Hardee’s chain in 1997. Last year, the Hardee’s division, which specializes in Thickburgers weighing from one-third to two-thirds of a pound and costing up to $4.49, reported revenue of $1.8 billion.
Although he would hold an interest in more than 80 other restaurants during his career, Mr. Hardee did not make much of a profit as founder of the chain that bears his name. He sold his share in what was then a five-franchise operation in 1963, for $37,000. “Back in the ’60s, it was pretty good money,” his daughter said, “but not that much.”In addition to his daughter and wife, Mr. Hardee leaves two daughters from his first marriage, Mary Baker and Becky Eissens; a stepdaughter, Patricia Phelps; eight grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

Born in Martin County, N.C., on Aug. 15, 1918, Mr. Hardee was one of five children of Henry and Mary Hardee. Not interested in the family corn and tobacco farm, Mr. Hardee got a job as a grill cook at a local eatery. In World War II, he was a Navy cook in the Pacific. While home on furlough in 1945, he married Kathryn Roebuck. She died in 1980. In 1986, he married Helen Galloway.

After World War II, Mr. Hardee returned to Greenville and opened a restaurant; he and his wife lived in the back. By 1960, when he opened his first hamburger stand, Mr. Hardee already owned 15 restaurants.

He took on two partners, Jim Gardner and Leonard Rawls, in 1961. They opened a second Hardee’s, in Rocky Mount, N.C. But difficulties with his partners soon led him to sell his share. Mr. Hardee later started another hamburger chain, called Little Mint, which eventually had about 25 franchised locations in North and South Carolina.

The Hardee’s chain grew by leaps and bounds in the 1970s, helped in part by its jingle: “Hurry on down to Hardee’s, where the burgers are charco-broiled.”

Ann Hardee Riggs said her father never failed to get a kick out of seeing the red and white sign of the Hardee’s chain. “Anywhere he would go, he was proud to see his name up there,” she said.


The above photo of the first Hardee’s stand documents that Mr. Hardee was influenced by the early McDonald’s stands. Below is a modern version of the 50’s and 60’s McDonald’s stand, this one located on U.S. Route 1 in Saugus, Mass. was built 2 years ago.

Circa 2006 Photo, copyright by Larry Cultrera

D’Andrea’s 3 Acres Drive-In Restaurant

I have had an old black & white real photo post card of the 3 Acres Drive-In (night view) for over 20 years.  It was always a neat image. This place was off the Wilbur Cross Parkway near the West Rock Tunnel (don’t believe it is still there). I just got an even nicer color post card on ebay of the same place showing it during the daytime. I figured I would share these 2 images with my faithful audience.

Unidentified Drive-In restaurant, Lake Region of New Hampshire

I got this next image, a 1961 vintage snapshot of an unidentified Drive-In Restaurant. The person I bought this from on ebay could only tell me it was part of a group of items that came from the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. There is nothing, signs or otherwise to inform me what or where this was. I am hoping someone might recognize this and let me know. I got it because it was an interesting period photo.

Posted by: dinerhotline | June 24, 2008

Notes from the Hotline, 6-24-08

Parkway Diner, photo copyright 2005 by Larry Cultrera

I have been a little inactive these past few days as Denise and I took a little trip to Burlington, VT for a family wedding. I managed to visit 2 diners and one vintage roadside restaurant for meals while we were there. On Friday late afternoon we attempted to visit the Parkway Diner, Worcester Lunch Car #839, located on Williston Road (Rte. 2) near the airport. Unfortunately they do not start their evening hours until July 1st. So we ended up having breakfast there on Saturday. 

Al’s French Frys, photo copyright 2005 by Larry Cultrera

Friday afternoon’s second choice was a block away from the Double Tree Hotel where we were staying and was I ever happy! It was Al’s French Frys, a true roadside fan’s treat! This place started out in the 1940’s as a small building with an open counter and no inside seating. Famous for their French Frys as well as the typical fast food choices of hamburgers, hot dogs, etc., it has become famous across the country according to the history gleaned from their website, .  The building and menu choices have been expanded over the years and there is now inside seating. There is still a take-out window but primarily for Ice Cream.

The expanded exterior has had a newer facade applied with diner-like materials including stainless-steel trim with rounded glass block corners and neon. The menu has grown to include a large amount of sandwiches and even a couple of wraps, overall a great place to eat when you are in the Burlington, VT area.

Al’s French Frys, photo copyright 2005 by Larry Cultrera

The thing I was most impressed with at Al’s (and completely surprised with) was their “Grilled Cheese” sandwiches. Now anyplace can make a standard Grilled Cheese with any kind of bread and I would be happy. But Al’s were a blast from the past, let me explain…. back when Carrol’s Hamburgers were around (they were a 1960-mid-1970’s McDonald’s clone), I used to frequent the Carrol’s stands that were in the Boston area as well as Up-State New York. I personally do not eat hamburgers but Carrol’s was the only chain that featured “Toasted Cheese” sandwiches on their menu. They were made with what appeared to be 2-slices of flat, round shaped bread, basically what I always thought were the bottoms of a hamburger roll with orange cheese. They were inexpensive (I remember 20 cents and just before the chain closed 30 cents) and I used to buy 4 at a time with an order of fries and a pepsi. I was disappointed when the Carrol’s Corporation decided to become a Burger King franchisee (as of 2008, one of the largest in the country with 330 units) and closed up all the Carrol’s branded stands. You can check out their history at

Carrol’s Hamburgers, Stoneham, Mass., 1967

So when I ordered 2 Grilled Cheese sandwiches along with a medium fry at Al’s, I could not believe my eyes when the order was delivered. I was really freaked out (and still am). The Grilled Cheese sandwiches were highly reminiscent of Carrol’s Toasted Cheese sandwiches! They tasted just the way I remember them! I only wish I did not live 3.5 hours from where they are.

I got in touch with Lee Bissonette of Al’s French Frys and asked him about the Grilled Cheese sandwiches and he told me the secret (Carrol’s probably did it the same way). Here is what Lee said…
Larry,  We’re so glad you enjoy those Grilled Cheese!  But it is a hamburger roll smoosched together.  What a combo!  We’ve been cooking them this way since the 50’s. Nothing to do with Carrol’s, not even aware that they did that.  Just Al’s.  Glad you enjoyed it.
Hope to see you again!  -Lee

Henry’s Diner, photo copyright 2005 by Larry Cultrera

The other diner we ate at was Henry’s Diner on Bank Street in downtown Burlington, possibly the oldest diner in the state of Vermont, it is a Jerry O’Mahony built diner circa 1925. It has had quite a few additions over the years and also a bad fire in 1969. So from the outside it does not look like a regular factory-built diner but once you walk inside, you can see the basic shape of the old barrel-roofed diner within the larger building. While on Bank Street we went down a block and checked on the former Oasis Diner now operating as Sadie’s Deli. It looks to be in good shape with very little changes to the interior. The exterior is great with the exception of the sign that used to be on a pole at the corner of the diner, that is gone (including the pole).

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