Diner Hotline back from 7 month Hiatus

yours truly sitting at the counter at the original Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, NH

Well, I know it’s been a while, but I was thinking it is coming up on the 9th anniversary of starting this blog (October 31st), so I decided to resume posting on Diner Hotline! I have been busy attempting to scan the almost 30 years of 35mm prints and slides of Diners (I stopped using film around 2008, while also trying to write another future post about John Baeder (off-line in MS Word). I have pretty much completed the writing on that piece about John Baeder but it needs some tweaking, so it will wait just a little more. I am also gathering the images to be used to illustrate that one. Concentrating on the slide scanning, I was successful in completing the whole first of 3 shelves in my 1920s Jerry O’Mahony “Bun Warmer-turned 35mm slide storage unit”. This has involved in some cases, re scanning some of these slides scanned previously to the standards I have honed in the last couple of years.

So, short & sweet for this post, there will be another one either today or tomorrow featuring an idea I recently explored on my Facebook page about colonial and post modern style vintage diners that made it to Massachusetts after the 1950s.

Two more Author Events for New Hampshire Diners book, both in March, 2016

I have two more author events in March of 2016 for my book, New Hampshire Diners: Classic Granite State Eateries. The first one is a Power Point presentation/Lecture at the Nashua Public Library on Sunday, March 20th at 2:00pm. This is actually my second appearance at this venue. I did a 35mm slide presentation way back in 2003 I believe. I am excited to do this new presentation as the images shown will be so much better! I love Power Point! Here is the poster that the Library whipped up for the event…


The second Author Event is on Saturday, March 26th at Toadstools Bookshop in Peterborough, NH. Coincidently right next door to the Peterboro Diner which is featured in the book! This event was rescheduled from January when it was postponed due to inclement weather (snowstorm). The event will be held from 11:00am to 1:00pm. Toadstool Bookstore is located at 12 Depot Street in downtown Peterboro!


Marking 35 years of documenting Diners!

The very first photo I ever shot of a diner… The Bypass Diner of Harrisburg, PA
(now known as the American Dream Diner).
November 29, 1980 photo by Larry Cultrera

Well, it’s Thanksgiving weekend, 2015. This means I am marking 35 years of documenting Diners with my photographs! The date of the first diner photograph I shot was November 29, 1980 when I was 27 years old. What led me up to that point started when I was very young, probably when I was around 5 or 6 years old. I was very observant as a child whenever my parents would be driving around our hometown of Medford, Massachusetts as well as the Greater Boston area, I noticed the different buildings and signs located along the roadside, whether it was in the city or out in the more rural areas. I certainly knew some things by sight such as Howard Johnson’s Restaurants with their cupolas and bright orange roofs (The Landmark for Hungry Americans, like the commercials said). Gas stations also stood out but what really ended up catching my eye was the abundance of these small buildings that looked somewhat like railroad cars. In fact I distinctly recall driving down Mystic Avenue in Medford with my dad and I asked him about this bright blue building sporting a rounded roof set back from the street. I asked him what the place was, remarking that it looked like a railroad car. Dad said that it was a diner, a type of restaurant that was built in a factory and was in fact designed to look like a railroad car. I later learned that the diner in question was in fact Worcester Lunch Car No. 817, the Star Lite Diner. This diner was delivered to its site at 383 Mystic Avenue on November 9, 1948. Its only owner operator was James S. Theodore (I knew him as Jim). I recall both Jim and his son Richie running the place when I first started going there with my dad and brothers when I was around 12 years old. In the summer of 1968 I recall the diner closed for their usual 2 week vacation and unfortunately never reopened! I was totally disappointed by this situation! I know the diner stayed closed for a short while and then was moved. I never exactly knew what happened but the rumor is that it was brought to a scrap-yard in nearby Chelsea, Mass. and to my knowledge was never put back into service!

The Star Lite Diner, 383 Mystic Avenue, Medford, Massachusetts
December , 1948 photo courtesy of the Medford Police Dept. archives

I always noticed diners in my later travels and in fact continued to visit some including the Victoria Diner in Boston and Carroll’s Diner in Medford. In fact I used to hang-out at Carroll’s with a bunch of my friends in the early to mid 1970s. Both Carroll’s and the Victoria were more modern diners (in fact the most modern in the Boston area). Both of them were built by Swingle Diner Company out of Middlesex, NJ.

Carroll’s Diner, Medford, Mass. – August, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera

Victoria Diner, Boston, Mass. – July, 2004 photo by Larry Cultrera

Carroll’s closed in 1986 and was torn down in June of 1987 but the Victoria Diner is still operating!
Since 1980 I have personally photographed approximately 851 Diners! Not all are classic factory-built diners though. When I first started, I was sort of what I call a “Diner-Snob”. I only wanted to photograph the older ones that dated from the 1920s thru the 1950s or 60s. I know I may have passed up quite a few newer ones in my travels but that changed over time. I now document non-factory-built diners (built on-site) as well as the prefab ones! In fact, the last “new ” diner photo I shot recently was of a place I have been a patron of for quite a few years, The Hammersmith Family Restaurant in my current hometown of Saugus.

Hammersmith Family Restaurant, Saugus, Mass.
April 22, 2015 photo by Larry Cultrera

Hammermith is not diner-like in appearance and the place never had a counter or stools but the food, service and friendly atmosphere is very much like any local diner and has become a favorite stop for both myself and my wife Denise! Anyway, sometimes I cannot believe it has been 35 years since that first photo of the Bypass Diner! On my bucket list is a road-trip back to H’burg to visit friends and some of the diners I was going to back in the 1980s, hopefully on a Thanksgiving weekend again!

Diner Hotline weblog – 8 years old today!!!


October 31, 2015 is of course Halloween, but also the date marks the 8th anniversary of the creation of this blog! As some of my readers know, Diner Hotline started as the first regular column to ever appear in the publications of the Society for Commercial Archeology (SCA). It was suggested to me by Mike Jackson (then president of the SCA) in the Fall of 1988 during a phone conversation that I could possibly write a piece to appear in the SCA News Journal. The News Journal was the organization’s only regular publication at the time that was a combination newsletter/magazine.

When he suggested to me about writing a column, I first thought… I am not a writer, but then again I read a lot and could probably relate personal tales associated with diners and happen to have had some good info and sources at my disposal to possibly attempt something like this. I also thought that it was an opportunity to be one of the few “non-academic voices” (basically the average everyday roadside enthusiast) contributing to the publication. I even recall saying to Mike… I already have a name for the column, “Diner Hotline”, which had been a sort of inside joke between myself, David Hebb , Dick Gutman and John Baeder. I had been known to call any and all of these guys on the phone when I had some juicy tid-bits of news and other information about a diner. As soon as they answered the phone, I would preface by saying “DINER HOTLINE, DINER HOTLINE” and then impart the info!

Thus, Diner Hotline became a reality and the first short piece appeared in the Spring 1989 edition (Volume 10, Number 1) of the SCA News Journal continuing through to when the publication separated into two different entities, the SCA News (a newsletter) and the SCA Journal (a full fledged magazine) The News was published more frequently while the Journal was twice a year. I opted for Diner Hotline to continue in the Journal (only two deadlines a year). My Hotline contributions went though a whole host of Journal editors over the years and continued until  the Fall 2007 edition of the SCA Journal when I retired the column.

Shortly after I retired the column (almost immediately actually) my good friend Brian Butko mentioned to me in passing that I should start a blog! So I asked him some questions about how to go about doing this and by the last day of October of 2007, the blog was born!


So I want to mention that coming up really soon, I will be reviewing the new book about my pal John Baeder (John Baeder’s Road Well Taken). Written by Jay Williams, it is an extremely heavy book (figuratively as well as literally). It is filled with many of his paintings (diner and non-diner) and delves into John’s psyche and how all the influences in his life lead him to become one of the internationally renowned artists of our time.


Also, I have another Author event coming up on Friday evening, November 6th at Gibson’s Bookstore (Concord’s indie bookstore since 1898) in downtown Concord, NH. Starting at 5:30pm with a small slide presentation followed by a book signing for my New Hampshire Diners: Classic Granite State Eateries. Gibson’s Bookstore is located at 45 South Main St, Concord, NH 03301



Nashua, NHs Yankee Flyer Diner mural due for restoration

Yankee Flyer mural – August, 1997 photo by Larry Cultrera

Back in the mid 1990s I received some newspaper clippings in the mail about a proposed mural depicting the long-gone Yankee Flyer Diner. This mural was slated to be installed on the blank south facing side wall of Coronis Cleaners on Main Street in downtown Nashua, NH. The building situated right across from City Hall was next door to the long-time location of this iconic Sterling Streamliner, that was in business from January of 1940 until it closed and was removed in 1965. I am having a hard time recalling who sent the clippings – I know one of the articles came from Cynthia Burney, daughter of Chris & Maryann Kyriax who co-owned and operated the diner with Bill Reich. But I think it was Meri Goyette who was one of the people spearheading this effort back in the early 1990s that may have sent the other clippings. A couple of the articles were written by Marilyn Solomon, a writer for the Nashua Telegraph newspaper, who according to her husband Harold, was great friends with Mrs. Goyette, in fact I believe he described them as “partners in crime”!!!

Anyway, as the story goes (according to Meri Goyette)… In the early 1990s, Mrs. Goyette mentioned to Rob Wagner, the Mayor of Nashua about the possibility of getting a mural painted at a prominent Main Street location, to attract attention (as well as business) to the downtown area! Late in 1994, it was announced via a news article in the Nashua Telegraph that the city of Nashua was attempting to raise $28,000 in private funds to commission a Boston muralist by the name of Joshua Winer to paint a mural depicting the old Yankee Flyer Diner on one of the outside walls of the Coronis Cleaners building. Winer had initially been contacted by Meri Goyette who was familiar with his work during her 12 years spent in Boston, working with area artists.

Unfortunately, the news article incited some complaints from local Nashua area artists who were not happy that the powers that be went outside the city to commission a Boston artist for the proposed mural! Chief among the local artists mentioned was James Aponovich. Aponovich was quoted in a Nashua Telegraph article dated December 28, 1994 that he and his wife Elizabeth Johansson were asked the previous spring by mayoral assistant Georgie Lyons if either of them were interested in painting a mural on the Coronis Cleaners building. In fact he claims he suggested the Diner as the subject! Regardless as to who actually suggested it, a meeting was held and Joshua Winer, deciding to avoid any controversy bowed out of the proceedings.  It was summarily  decided that a competition would be held that would include local artists to submit renderings of what their murals would look like. Out of a field of twelve artists and art groups, in June of 1995, it was narrowed down to five finalists that the public had to choose from and Aponovich eventually won the commission and the mural was finally completed! I took a handful of slides back in August of 1997 (see photo above) one of which I re-scanned for this blog post.

The Yankee Flyer mural in James Aponovich’s studio.
Photo courtesy of Marilyn & Harold Solomon

Photo from the unveiling/dedication of the mural back in the mid-90s
Photo courtesy of Marilyn & Harold Solomon

I was contacted recently by Judith Carlson of City Arts Nashua about the current effort to raise money for the restoration of the mural which has deteriorated somewhat in the last almost 20 years of being exposed to the weather. I had seen something on-line about this and she directed me to her organization’s website for further details.

Close-up showing some of the deterioration that has happened over
the years to the mural. Photo courtesy of City Arts Nashua

Here is the announcement for the fund raising effort…

Help Restore Yankee Flyer Diner Mural

September 08, 2015 – City Arts Nashua is working to raise funds to restore the Yankee Flyer Diner Mural on Main Street across from Nashua’s City Hall before winter sets in to avoid further deterioration. We are looking for your help in restoring this NH art treasure, painted by NH Artist Laureate and Nashua native James Aponovich. There are two ways you can help:



Make a Match Donation – The Burbank Fund of the Nashua Public Library has donated $5,000 to the project. If we can raise an additional $5,000, they will match it dollar for dollar.  This means your tax deductible donation will be doubled.

Buy a Print of the Yankee Flyer Diner – James Aponovich has generously donated the concept painting of the Yankee Flyer Diner he painted for the mural contest, a 10 x 25 inch oil on canvas valued at $15,000, to help fund the restoration. A limited edition of 100 signed, artist quality Giclee prints are available for $250 each; the 100 numbers will go in a raffle and the owner of the print with the lucky number will win the original painting.

Just click on either of the above links to pay by check or credit card (with a processing fee). For an on-line donation, just use the DONATE TO YANKEE FLYER button above.

Thank you for your support if restoring this important piece of public art – the only public mural of a classic American diner anywhere in the United States. For any questions, contact:  Judith.carlson@cityartsnashua.org


James Aponovich donating the original concept painting for the
fund raising raffle to City Arts Nashua’s Judith Carlson.
Photo courtesy of City Arts Nashua

James Aponovich signing a Giclee print of the mural.
Photo courtesy of City Arts Nashua

A little background/history of this diner is in order…

On a visit to Nashua (on the way to Keene) William (Bill) Reich & Chris Kyriax had stopped to see Reich’s friend, Attorney Robert Early. Early took them to the Main Street Diner and as the story goes – they never made it to Keene. They decided to buy the 1928 vintage Worcester Lunch Car No. 616, which was a 12’ x 36’ barrel roof model and more than likely the current Joanne’s Kitchen & Coffee Shoppe. Within a short time, the partners bought another diner across the street that was originally operated by Arthur Ryan. They ran both until 1930 when they consolidated efforts in the newer location and bought a larger Worcester Lunch Car No. 657. Delivered on April 2, 1930, this was a 14′ x 36′ monitor roof model called the Yankee Flyer Diner. This diner became very popular and by 1939 they ordered a new diner from J. B. Judkins Company out of Merrimac, Massachusetts. This was a prototype of their soon to be new production model, the Sterling Streamliner! This diner opened in April of 1940 and continued until 1965. I have heard from several souces the stremliner was moved to Newburyport, Mass. and never put back into service.

Matchbook cover of the first Yankee Flyer Diner, a 1930 vintage
Worcester Lunch Car
The 1939 vintage Sterling Streamliner being installed in early 1940.
The 1930 vintage Yankee Flyer is still on site to the left.
Photo courtesy of Marilyn & Harold Solomon.
Matchbook cover for the newer Yankee Flyer Diner

Yann DePierrefeu Photo of the Yankee Flyer Diner.
Photo from the collection of Larry Cultrera


The former Fish Tale Diner of Salisbury, Mass. suffers fire damage

The restaurant currently known as The Deck, located at the Bridge Marina on Rings Island, hard by the bank of the Merrimack River in Salisbury, Massachusetts suffered a fire on August 22, 2015. Within sight of U.S. Rte. 1 where it crosses the river between Newburyport and Salisbury, the restaurant, formerly known as the Fish Tale Diner (until 2012) experienced heat, water and smoke damage from the fire that appears to have started outside the attached kitchen annex. At the time of this writing the fire was still of an undetermined origin.

Here is the text from an article written by Alexandra Koktsidis for the Boston Globe on August 22, 2016…

Salisbury restaurant damaged in fire
No injuries in early two-alarm blaze
By Alexandra Koktsidis


Conrad Audette, who co-owns The Deck with his father, woke up abruptly at 7 a.m. Saturday when his fiancée ex­claimed that the restaurant was on fire. “I leapt out of bed and ran outside to see smoke down the street,” Audette, who lives near the family’s restaurant in Salisbury, said in an e-mail Saturday. An employee who had spot­ted the fire from the Newburyport Turnpike bridge went im­mediately to Audette’s home to tell him.

A two-alarm fire severely damaged the kitchen of The Deck, a popular and recently renovated seasonal waterfront restaurant in Salisbury, offi­cials said. Located at 179 Bridge Road, The Deck features out­door seating and picturesque views overlooking the Merri­mack River. Reports of the fire were called in at 7:11 a.m., said Deputy Fire Chief Robert Cook, who said no injuries were reported. The fire had been extin­guished by 9 a.m., but fire- • fighters and investigators re­mained on scene into the af­ternoon, he said. “The restaurant opens at 11 a.m., so this was before em­ployees arrive,” Audette said.

“The inspectors still don’t know the cause, but it appar­ently began outside.”Audette said the kitchen and inside seating area of the restaurant were badly dam­aged, but the two decks were intact. The restaurant had made renovations over the past winter, adding a prep room and second deck to dou­ble its capacity. It reopened May 15. “We are a scratch kitchen with a simple menu, but take great care in supporting local ingredients,” Audette said. The Deck offers fresh seafood, pub food, and salads. “We grind our own burgers, bake our own buns, make our dressings and sauces,” Audette said.

Audette said that he doesn’t know how long The Deck, which would have shut for the season in October, will stay closed. “We plan on starting our rebuild as soon as we can,” he said. Susan Turner of Topsfield has dined at The Deck several times with her husband and friends, and she said she en­joys the restaurant’s burgers, swordfish — and Rum Bucket drinks, served in a sand pail with Swedish Fish. “I leapt out of bed and ran outside to see smoke down the street”. Turner heard about the fire on Facebook. “I just thought, ‘Oh, that’s sad!’ It’s a place we love to go, and we feel so badly for the owners,” she said over the phone Saturday.

The Deck opened in July 2013. A restaurant called The Fish Tail had been there. “We saved everything we could for historical respect,” Audette said, including stained-glass windows and hand-crafted cabinets. “Much of the damage was to the origi­nal structure unfortunately,” Audette said. On Saturday, the restau­rant’s Facebook page posted a message about the fire and re­ceived overwhelming support. “Thankfully nobody was in­jured during the fire this morning,” the message said. “We’re grateful and apprecia­tive of all the support.” Christi Maglio, 39, of New­buryport said she had just started going to The Deck this summer with her husband. “It’s just a very down-to-earth place to go,” she said. The nights with live music brought a sense of community, she said, and the view: “It’s beautiful.” “It’s devastating, but I know they’ll reopen as soon as possible;’ she said. Alexandra Koktsidis can be reached at alexandra.koktsidis @globe.com.
Follow her on
Twitter @akoktsidis.

Worcester Lunch Car No. 762 as the Fish Tale Diner.
March 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

The former diner, Worcester Lunch Car No. 762 was built in 1940 and delivered to its first operating location in Ipswich, Massachusetts where it traded as the Agawam Diner from 1940 to 1947 when it was replaced by a larger streamlined diner also built by Worcester. After the diner left Ipswich it was briefly located in Brunswick, Maine (1947-1950, although I am not sure it actually operated there) before moving back to Rowley, Mass. to become one of two locations of the Agawam Diner operated by the Galanis family. It stayed in Rowley until it was again replaced by a newer diner in 1970. It was then sold and moved to Salisbury, eventually becoming the Fish Tale Diner.

When I first started going to the Fish Tale in the early 1980s, it was open very long hours and I seem to recall going there once in the middle of the night! I always enjoyed the location, possibly one of the most scenic spots I know for a diner. When the last proprietors were running it, I recall going there one summer morning and they had the doors open. They were in the habit of feeding a small group of local ducks who lived by the marina. Apparently this particular morning they were in a hurry to open the diner and neglected to feed the ducks in a timely manner. One actually came walking into the diner looking for his oyster crackers!!! I am happy to say that I actually managed to eat at the Fish Tale on the last day they were open and wrote about the diner closing in Diner Hotline – https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/fish-tale-diner-1970-2012/

After the Fish Tale closed, Mark and Conrad Audette – the owners of the marina where the diner was located demolished the old attached kitchen and replaced it with a new building that included a new kitchen as well as rest room facilities. They also did some renovations on the interior keeping the counter, stools and hood intact. They removed the original booths and tables and changed the backbar area. Keeping the attached deck for outdoor seating. the restaurant was renamed “The Deck and opened in July of 2013 and was by all accounts a huge success.

To get back to the fire, it was reported very quickly by news media outlets and was on the internet fairly early. I know I probably shared something on Facebook about it and emailed Bob Higgins my intrepid friend who was more of a regular customer of the diner than I was (he’s retired and gets around more than I do). Bob did manage to get up there before I did and talked with the owner who is hoping to salvage the diner portion of the structure and eventually reopen. I made a quick trip on Labor Day to get some photos (of the exterior only), the following photos show the structure  with the fire damage.

The Deck Restaurant, Bridge Marina, Salisbury, Massachusetts showing
fire damage. September 7, 2015 photo by Larry Cultrera

The Deck Restaurant, Bridge Marina, Salisbury, Massachusetts showing
fire damage. September 7, 2015 photo by Larry Cultrera

The Deck Restaurant, Bridge Marina, Salisbury, Massachusetts showing
fire damage. September 7, 2015 photo by Larry Cultrera

The Deck Restaurant, Bridge Marina, Salisbury, Massachusetts showing
fire damage. September 7, 2015 photo by Larry Cultrera

The next few interior shots were courtesy of Bill Power who got up to the diner before I did and like Bob Higgins, got to go inside to inspect the damage…

interior photo showing fire damage, Sept. 2015 photo by Bill Power

interior photo showing fire damage, Sept. 2015 photo by Bill Power

interior photo showing fire damage, Sept. 2015 photo by Bill Power

interior photo showing fire damage, Sept. 2015 photo by Bill Power

I spoke briefly with Mark Audette when I was there on September 7th and he reiterated that they want to reopen the restaurant but it all depends on what the outcome is with the insurance investigation. Hopefully what is left of the diner is salvageable!

Another Author Event, August 15th at Barnes & Noble – Portsmouth/Newington, NH


I have another Author Event for my New Hampshire Diners book is slated for the New Hampshire Seacoast area, tomorrow – August 15th at the Barnes & Noble store at Fox Run Crossings, 45 Gosling Road (The Crossings), Newington, NH 03801 – Phone Number (603) 422-7733  or go online for directions. It is about a mile from the Portsmouth Traffic Circle convenient to U.S. Route 1, I-95 and NH Rtes. 4 & 16

The event is from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM.

I have heard since they started advertising it last month with a display, they have sold a bunch of books. I emailed them this morning and they asked me to bring extra copies if I have them and they will reimburse me with new copies if we have to get into my stash!