Today marks 36 years since shooting my first “Diner” photograph!

November 29, 1980 is a very significant date in my life. I was visiting my pal Steve Repucci in Harrisburg, PA on the long Thanksgiving Day weekend. We had moved Steve down to Harrisburg on the previous Labor Day Weekend, which happened to be my first trip to that city and Pennsylvania as well. On the previous visit I noticed there were quite a few diners although I do not recall eating at one then. So this Thanksgiving trip was purely more of a pleasure trip. We arrived on the Friday after Thanksgiving (November 28th) and probably mellowed out after the 8 (or more) hour trip, which had been very tiring due to the heavy fog we encountered on I-81 between Scranton and Harrisburg. The next morning we drove over to the Bypass Diner which was fairly close to where Steve lived. I am not sure when I actually took this first tentative photo of the diner but am inclined to think it was after we had breakfast.

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The Bypass Diner, Herr Street, Harrisburg, PA
November 29, 1980 photo by Larry Cultrera

With this one photo, I started a 36 year trek that has continued for many miles and quite a few vehicles. In the process, I have made countless friends along the way and by my estimate photographed over 860 diners! This process eventually included the creation of my long running regular column for the Society for Commercial Archeology Journal magazine (Diner Hotline) and this blog of the same name after I retired the column. The blog led me to the authoring of my two books… Classic Diners of Massachusetts and New Hampshire Diners, Classic Granite State Eateries, both published by The History Press.  I am currently attempting to scan all the 35mm prints and slides of diners I shot from November of 1980 until 2008 when I stopped using 35mm film and went totally digital with the purchase of my Pentax digital SLR.

New Hampshire’s Mary Ann’s Diner – three locations – great food and service!

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Roadside sign for Mary Ann’s Diner, Salem, NH.
August 28, 2016 photo by Larry Cultrera

36 years ago (November 29, 1980), when I first started documenting diners with my photos, I was pretty much a “Diner Snob”. By this I mean that I wanted  to ONLY take photos of “real diners”, not what I considered “fake diners” – AKA on-site built ones. They had to be the classic prefabricated railroad car styled buildings that those of us in the northeast grew up with. I certainly gravitated to the older ones built by Worcester Lunch Car Company, also Sterling diners built by J.B. Judkins and representatives from the mid-Atlantic region like Jerry O’Mahony, Fodero and DeRaffele along with the occasional Silk City and Paramount diners! At first I also for the most part resisted photographing the “newer styles” of factory-built diners that came after 1960. But as my previous post has shown I did manage to get some of the local ones here in Massachusetts.

Mary Ann’s Diner – Derry, NH

As time progressed, I modified my feelings toward the newer style of diners when I got a clearer view of the big picture and realized that these too were a huge part of diner history, I started documenting more of those and appreciated them for what they represented, although in hindsight, I wish I had not passed by a number of them in the early days without shooting a photo or two. I had also relaxed my standards by the end of the 1990s and started including diners that were built on-site or into existing commercial structures, mostly because they represented in spirit, a true diner experience enhanced by good food, service and atmosphere.

This brings me to my subject of this post – Mary Ann’s Diners of New Hampshire. Starting out in 1989 with the downtown Derry location and later expansion to include the locations in Windham (2013) and very recently Salem (2016). This little chain is now a contender along with the three (soon to be four) locations of The Red Arrow Diner and the offerings from the Common Man family of restaurants that include the Tilt’n Diner, Route 104 Diner, Airport Diner and the two Hi-Way Diners, which are helping to make the Granite State a true “diner destination”.

I had first caught wind of Mary Ann’s Diner in Derry sometime in the early 2000s, probably from seeing it on the locally produced Phantom Gourmet television show. I knew from what I had seen, that this new diner was located in an on-site commercial building. I also saw that the owners (the Andreoli family) had attempted the retro look with kitschy 1950s nostalgia decorating the interior as well as the waitresses wearing poodle skirts, etc. Now I must confess that this has historically been a “turn-off” for me personally as I firmly believe that a good diner should not have to resort to kitsch to attract customers. Whether it is in a factory-built model or an on-site “wanna be”, the restaurant only needs to have good food and service, along with a friendly staff to flourish. The atmosphere should grow and be enhanced from these qualities and the regular clientele will appreciate it and help to create the true “diner feeling” or vibe that would make that diner the “go-to” place in town!

That being said, I want to go on to say that even though all three of the Mary Ann’s Diners have this element of kitsch to their interior decor, in this case it does not hurt so much because the excellent food, service and hospitality helps to enrich the atmosphere, making it a great diner experience which more than makes up for these retro decorations that in other places might be a distraction.

According to my “Diner Log” database, I made my first visit to Mary Ann’s in Derry on March 2, 2002. I have since learned that they may have previously operated at a nearby location prior to inhabiting this store front at 28 East Broadway. This existing commercial building was decorated on the outside with a neon “Mary Ann’s” sign topped with three back-lit signs – the center one featured cartoon figure of Mary Ann holding a “Coke” bottle (the restaurant’s logo) which was flanked on the left side by a “drink” sign and on the right by a Coca Cola” sign. Above the windows on either side of the front door were two other back-lit signs, “diner” on the left and “restaurant” on the right. The only other decorations that gave a nod to the retro restaurant on the inside were the “red & white” checkerboard design under the windows and some mirror finish quilted stainless steel on either side of the front door. The two following photos show it from that visit.

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Mary Ann’s Diner in Derry, NH. March 2, 2002 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Mary Ann’s Diner in Derry, NH. March 2, 2002 photo by Larry Cultrera

At that time the interior featured (and still does) a lot of kitschy 1950s memorabilia, some formica surfaces as well as ceramic tile and stainless steel trim and panels. It already had a counter and stools along with many tables & chairs as well as booth seating. Between that first visit to Mary Ann’s and my second one, I had seen a unique transformation taking place in Amherst, NH when an existing structure that had housed two or three restaurants previously was being rehabbed to look like a post modern retro diner. It was obvious that the company doing the on-site work were well versed in building and renovating diners. The materials and design elements told me this. Also, one of the workers who was there told me the contractor was based in New Jersey. Unfortunately, I did not get the name of this contractor at that time. Suffice to say, this place then known as the Timeless Diner was going to be a showplace.

Fast forward to 2004 and my next visit to Mary Ann’s in Derry. I guess I did not recall what the exterior looked like from the first visit and failed to notice a change on the outside when I got there. Anyway, once I walked in and sat at the counter, I looked around the interior and saw some changes that immediately caught my eye. There were some elements added to the interior that I knew had not been there before. Chief among the changes that were noticeable to me was the new “cove” ceiling over the back-bar area behind the counter. I asked the waitress who was serving me (I believe it was Mary Ann Andreoli herself) if they had had work/updating done on the place and she affirmed this fact. I then asked if it was the same company that did the Timeless Diner and she said an emphatic yes! The “cove” ceiling was a dead giveaway as it was pretty identical to the one at the Timeless Diner. The next two photos were taken in anticipation of writing my New Hampshire Diners book…

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Interior of Mary Ann’s Diner in Derry. August 3, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Interior of Mary Ann’s Diner in Derry. August 3, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

The changes were not only on the interior but also the front facade got a newer treatment under the windows with some vertically fluted blue enameled panels with stainless steel trim! Another change happened to the rear of the building which had previously been just a brick wall and back entrance from the rear parking lot. The contractor added on a post modern entryway along with a small dining room addition that would be used for overflow seating and private functions. That whole rear facade was covered in horizontal red enameled panels alternating with stainless stripes. There were also stainless steel panels along with some blue vertical elements and a red roof topper, effectively giving the back of the building a completely different look than the front. Now historically, I seemed to always stop there for breakfast and never managed to get really good photos when I was there early in the morning. That of course didn’t stop me from trying! The next photos were from a visit in February 24, 2008 which were not half bad considering it was not the perfect light…

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Mary Ann’s Diner in Derry, NH. February 24, 2008 photo by Larry Cultrera
showing the redone front facade.

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Mary Ann’s Diner in Derry, NH. February 24, 2008 photo by Larry Cultrera
showing the redone rear facade.

These were decent photos (acceptable but not perfect) but when I was taking photos for the book in 2013 and 2014, I was determined to get better ones. Well this happened on a trip back from the Lakes Region south of the White Mountains. We were heading home in the mid-afternoon and I detoured off the highway between 2:45 and 3:00 pm to see what the place looked like. Also, I was counting on the fact that the diner had closed for the  day at 2:00 pm making it almost certain the there were no vehicles blocking the shots! When we got there I was immediately excited to see the place in perfect light and finally got the definitive photos I had been looking for!

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Mary Ann’s Diner in Derry, NH. April 19, 2014 photo by Larry Cultrera
This one ended up on the cover of my New Hampshire Diners book!

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Mary Ann’s Diner in Derry, NH. April 19, 2014 photo by Larry Cultrera
Rear view of the diner…

While researching for the NH Diners book, I knew that I would be including Mary Ann’s Diner as well as Joey’s Diner (formerly the Timeless Diner) in my chapter on “On-site and Homemade Diners”! The one important (at least to me) piece of information I was missing for both of these places was the name of the company that did the retro renovations to them. I knew the current owner of Joey’s might not know and had no luck after multiple attempts in getting in touch with Bill Andreoli Sr. of Mary Ann’s (who certainly would know) either.

So, armed with a suggestion from a friend, I decided to do and end run and try to find out from a different direction. I finally contacted Sharon M. Jensen, the Department of Public Works executive secretary for the Town of Derry who was extremely helpful. Within a short amount of time I received a copy of the building permit dated October 23, 2003 that described the renovations and other work that was done to Mary Ann’s Diner. But most importantly it had the name of the contractor – Designer Diners, Inc. of Newark, NJ.

Even though Mary Ann’s Diner in Derry is only open for breakfast and lunch on the weekdays and breakfast only on the weekends, this place has been such a wild success, the Andreoli’s decided to branch out with a new location in Windham, NH which opened in 2013. The new location did get a mention in the diner listings in my NH Diner book.

Mary Ann’s Diner – Windham, NH

I finally got around to visit Mary Ann’s Diner in Windham, NH just last weekend (October 30, 2016) in anticipation of doing this blog post. This version of Mary Ann’s Diner is located in a strip mall just off Route 111 west of I-93, about a mile or so – at the corner of Cobbetts Pond Road and Lowell Road. The actual storefront is narrow and quite deceiving as to how large the diner is. There is a barber shop to the left of the diner but the shop is not as deep into the building. The diner actually makes a left turn behind the barber shop. Designer Diners again did the whole interior of this place and it looks great! I have yet to eat here but I have no doubt it is as good as the other two locations! The Windham one has the same hours as the Derry location.

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Exterior of Mary Ann’s Diner in Windham, NH.
October 30, 2016 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Interior of Mary Ann’s Diner in Windham, NH.
October 30, 2016 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Interior of Mary Ann’s Diner in Windham, NH.
October 30, 2016 photo by Larry Cultrera

Mary Ann’s Diner – Salem, NH

Earlier this year a report came out that the Andreoli’s, the owners of Mary Ann’s Diner were rehabbing a former Bickford’s Grille on Veterans Memorial Highway at the corner of Route 28 in Salem, NH to be their third location. I received word from Bob Higgins that it was getting close to opening around the beginning of August. So I made a trip up to Salem on August 14, 2016 to see what the place looked like. Even though it was a Sunday afternoon, things were hopping with workers doing various tasks to get it ready for a soft opening. The Exterior of the building received small changes. The formerly wood shingled large mansard surrounding the brick building got a metal covering with white trim and the window frames were now mirror finish stainless steel. The pediment over the front entryway already had the signage but was waiting for some decorative stainless steel panels that would arrive that week. I was invited inside to photograph the restaurant and was happy to see that Designer Diners did not disappoint, they pulled out all the stops and the place looked fantastic!

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Interior of the new Mary Ann’s Diner in Salem, NH.
August 14, 2016 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Interior of the new Mary Ann’s Diner in Salem, NH.
August 14, 2016 photo by Larry Cultrera

While I was there, one of the workers gave Bill Andreoli  Jr. a call and handed me the cell phone. We spoke for a few minutes and he told me that the father and son team who make up the Designer Diner company are basically retired from the business. But because of their history with the Andreoli’s other two diner projects, they agreed to come back for this project and do the work in their spare time.  The new Mary Ann’s was slated to hold their grand opening on August 18th but it was put off for a couple of days. I managed to get there on August 28, 2016 for breakfast.

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Exterior of the new Mary Ann’s Diner in Salem, NH.
August 28, 2016 early morning photo by Larry Cultrera

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Exterior of the new Mary Ann’s Diner in Salem, NH.
August 28, 2016 early morning photo by Larry Cultrera

The place has been getting huge crowds and is already very popular. This location is open longer hours than the other two and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner! We tried to get there for lunch on a Sunday (September 4th) but found out after a 30 minute wait that the full lunch menu is not served until 2:00 pm on weekends. So hopefully sometime in the near future we can check out the full lunchtime menu.

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Exterior of the new Mary Ann’s Diner in Salem, NH.
September 4, 2016 early afternoon photo by Larry Cultrera

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Exterior of the new Mary Ann’s Diner in Salem, NH.
September 4, 2016 early afternoon photo by Larry Cultrera

 

Contrary to popular belief, Diners in the Bay State did enter the modern era…

I recently posted a group of photos on my Facebook page which gave me the idea for this Diner Hotline blog post! Back in the late 1950s, the designs and size of diners were evolving past the railroad car imagery of the previous decades. The manufacturers were highly influenced by modern design and quite possibly zoning regulations that may have restricted what type of building the cities or towns would allow.  Some of the newer diners were being designed with larger windows, flared-out or folded plate roof lines similar to the modern California Coffee Shops and even fast food restaurants. Other designs were looking back to “colonial revival-influenced” and other historical adaptations using brick or form-stone  for exterior surfaces with less stainless steel.

As history has shown, the central and northern New England region is known more for their classic smaller diners dating from the 1920s thru the 1950s. These states including Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont & Maine seemed to have held onto their older diners a lot longer then other places. Connecticut is basically the only state in the region that managed to continually get newer diners over the decades and the reason for this was that it was closer to the existing diner builders in New York and New Jersey. For the most part, people here in this region are not familiar with the post modern diners that were being built by the diner manufacturers at the end of the 1950s thru the 1970s and right up to the present.

These style of diners were prevalent in the mid-Atlantic region more so than central & northern New England as the price for building the larger diner-restaurants and transporting them to the area became pretty much restrictive to the conservative New Englanders. We were used to seeing the smaller older diners built by local manufacturers like the Worcester Lunch Car Company and J.B. Judkins (Sterling Diners), with product from the occasional mid-Atlantic builders like O’Mahony, Tierney, Fodero or Mountain View diners thrown into the mix. Once the local manufacturers went out of business, the purchasing and transporting of diners dwindled considerably.

Well, this post will prove that Massachusetts actually did not quite stay with the status quo and in fact did receive more than a handful (although scattered throughout the state) of these more modern diners and I will attempt to show these chronologically to give an idea about these standout examples of modern diners in the Bay State!

Whately Diner Fillin’ Station, 372 State Road, Routes 5 & 10,
exit 24 off I-91,
Whately, Massachusetts
circa 1960 Kullman Diner

The diner currently operating in the town of Whately known as the Whately Diner Fillin’ Station was delivered to Chicopee, Massachusetts circa 1960 (although the website says it was built in 1958). Built by the Kullman Dining Car Company as a showcase Princess model, its first operating name was in fact the Princess Diner. In the early 1970s, the diner was bought by F.L. Roberts, a local company that had convenience stores, car washes and gas stations in the area. They moved the diner to the current location where it became part of a 24 hour truck-stop. The diner was operated here originally as the Maverick Diner prior to the current name.

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Exterior view of the Whately Diner Fillin’ Station
April 18, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

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another exterior view of the Whately Diner Fillin’ Station
April 18, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

This diner was undoubtedly a great example of the space-age influenced designs the manufacturers were using at the dawn of the 1960s. The large canted-up-& out windows with a flared out roof-line along with the shallow wall below the windows was cutting edge for its time!

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Interior view of the Fillin’ Station Diner
April 18, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

The interior of this place still evokes a beautifully appointed modern feeling and those light fixtures that looked like flying saucers (I refer to them as “George Jetson” light fixtures) are totally fantastic and one of my favorite features! This place has been operating for decades and serves the local area residents as well as long-distance truckers. I read a report just last week that stated the Roberts company recently divested itself of some of its businesses and the diner/truck-stop is in fact one of them. Hopefully the new operators can see the value in maintaining the integrity of this diner and not make any drastic changes!

Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car, 101 Main Street,
Medford, Massachusetts
1961 Swingle Diner

This is one diner that I basically grew up with since I was 8 years old and frequented it right up until it closed and was demolished in the late 1980s. Growing up in the city of Medford, I recall the diners we had in the late 1950s through to the 1980s. We had the Star Lite Diner (a 1948 Worcester Lunch Car – #817), Bobbie’s Diner (circa 1925 Jerry O’Mahony) and just barely, Howard Rust’s Rad-a-Mat (two 1948 or 49 Valentine Diners, part of a short lived chain). We were also lucky to have Carroll’s Diner, located just outside Medford Square – the first Carroll’s Diner was a late 1920s vintage Brill Diner that Maurice Carroll Sr. bought used circa 1930 to add to his Main Street business, The Medford Battery Company and adjacent gas station. A new generation of the Carroll family, brothers Maurice Jr. and Jack, Maurice Sr’s sons just back from WWII took over operation of the diner in the late 1940s and decided to upgrade the diner at this time. The Brill was superseded in 1948 by an up-to-date modern streamlined Jerry O’Mahony Diner with a stainless steel and red striped exterior. The Brill diner was retained as a kitchen for the newer diner. Business was booming by the end of the 1950s and the Carroll brothers again decided to upgrade. In the years between 1948 and 1960, they had acquired adjacent parcels of land giving them room to expand to an even larger diner. This is when they brought in the 3 section colonial style Swingle Diner in August of 1961.

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Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car – 1962 post card exterior view

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Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car – 1962 post card interior view

I can recall the 3 sections of the new diner sitting in what would be the new parking lot adjacent to the 1948 O’Mahony Diner awaiting installation on the new foundation. After the diner opened I recall going there with my family after Easter Church services for breakfast at least a couple of years in a row. During and after my high school years, I started frequenting Carroll’s and for a while it was a hang-out for myself and my friends. This place was great for being a meeting place as it was open 24 hours a day as well as centrally located. Not long after I started photographing diners in the early 1980s, I started shooting the occasional image of this place. The following photo is quite possibly my favorite!

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Carroll’s Restaurant – August, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera

By the mid 1980s, Carroll’s was the lone survivor in the city as Howard Rust’s Medford Square location (at the end known as the Humpty Dumpty Diner) was gone by 1960, and their Hillside location (later known as the White House Cafe & at the end Bacigalupe’s Diner) near Tufts University lasted until the early 1970s. The Star Lite was gone in 1968 and Bobbie’s demolished circa 1981 or 82. Carroll’s Restaurant closed in December of 1986 when the large parcel of land it occupied was sold for redevelopment. The restaurant was demolished in June of 1987 to make way for a large professional building with an underground parking garage. I wrote a more detailed history of Carroll’s  a few years ago when the next generation of Carroll’s opened a new place 2 blocks away from the old location of the diner in 2012. That history can be found at this link… https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/carrolls-bar-grille-looking-at-spring-opening-in-medford-mass/

Olympian Diner – 38 Hancock Street
South Braintree, Massachusetts
1964 Fodero Diner

When I started photographing diners in November of 1980, I was aware of many of the existing diners from earlier explorations around the Boston area. I also knew of other places from word of mouth, my own memory, as well as newspaper articles  and books that had appeared around that time. But the Olympian Diner was one I just happened to stumble across one Saturday afternoon driving from Quincy through Braintree.

Not knowing anything about its existence, I was very excited to come across this place in May of 1981. I do not have the exact date as I had not started documenting the places in what became my Diner Log book. That log book came into existence a little over 2 months later at the end of July. (I converted the log into a computerized data base to help in the organizing of my 35mm slides & negatives archive of diner images in the early 2000s).

As I said I was very excited to see this example of a newer diner located on the South Shore and immediately parked my van and shot two or three photos. The following two photos are from that day…

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The Olympian Diner, South Braintree, Mass.
May, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

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The Olympian Diner, South Braintree, Mass.
May, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

I have since learned that the diner was originally bought and operated by Angelo & Mary Fasano who appropriately called it Fasano’s Diner. They operated it from 1963 until 1975 when it was sold to another couple, Paul and Collette Ricciarelli who ran it for 5 years as Collette’s Diner. The Ricciarelli’s in turn sold the diner in 1980 to Paul and Helen Margetis who renamed it the Olympian.

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a matchbook cover advertising Fasano’s Diner from when the diner was brand new

The Olympian Diner operated until 1998 when the owners of some adjacent parcels of property decided to sell out to a chain pharmacy. The Margetis family was left with little choice but to do the same. They attempted to find another location nearby to relocate the diner to, but were unsuccessful. Seeing that the fate of the diner was in limbo, Ralph Fasano, a member of Angelo & Mary’s family offered to buy and move the diner. The Margetis’ in turn gave it to him as they knew it would be in good hands. The diner was moved and placed in storage by Fasano and eventually was purchased a few years later by Dave Pritchard of Aran Trading Ltd. of Salisbury who stored it on his property until 2014 when he sold it to a man who moved it to Leominster, where it sits today on private property. The Olympian Diner as a business was resurrected a few years after the diner closed when the Margetis family rehabbed a storefront almost across the street from the old site to become the new Olympian Diner, still in business today.

Victoria Diner-Restaurant – 1024 Massachusetts Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts
1965 Swingle Diner

I was 12 years old in the summer of 1965 and one day I was enjoying my summer vacation from school. The next day I was drafted into helping out at the family business, a small meat market and grocery store. My job was primarily to deliver orders to customers using an old bicycle with a large basket. I also waited on customers and sliced deli meat/cold cuts as well as stocking shelves, sweeping floors and whatever else my dad wanted me to do. Bye bye summer vacations! It was an adventure to work with my dad and my grandfather (Papa) who was still alive at that point. Papa passed away suddenly that fall at the young age of 66.

Anyway, from the first day I got to go with dad to work, I learned that his morning ritual was to stop for breakfast at a local diner on the way to the wholesale meat markets in Boston to get some needed supplies prior to going to the store to work. Papa was the one who would open the store and greet the first customers before we got back from Boston. Around noon time Papa would go home for the day and my dad & I would stay until closing time, usually by 5:00 pm or 5:30 pm.

I am telling you this as a prelude to talking about the Victoria Diner-Restaurant. As the early days of my new working life progressed, I soon found out that dad did not always stop at the same place for breakfast. One day it might be the Star Lite Diner and the next it might be Bobbie’s Diner (both in Medford). Other times he might stop at the White Tower in nearby Somerville or one or two places near Faneuil Hall Market/Quincy Market when that place was in fact the old location for these wholesale meat purveying establishments, prior to it being cleaned up and made into a tourist destination.

The one place that dad stopped for breakfast that is still in existence today is the Victoria Diner-Restaurant. Now known as Victoria’s Diner and under new ownership. The place was brand-new in 1965, owned and operated by brothers Charles & Nicholas Georgenes, it replaced a 1949 vintage Jerry O’Mahony diner that their dad George had bought brand-new. So, I got to experience the Victoria  when it was newly delivered and have been going there ever since.

Richard Gutman noted in his book, American Diner Then & Now, that when the Georgenes’ were looking to buy a new diner, they were lobbied hard by Fodero Diners but opted to go with Swingle Diners. In fact they especially liked a particular “Colonial style” that Fodero offered, so Joe Swingle said that he in fact could manufacture a similar diner for them.

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a publicity still from Swingle Diners featuring the Victoria Diner-Restaurant at the factory
courtesy of Richard J.S. Gutman collection

The diner came from the factory with white form stone  “posts” on the exterior with beach pebble panels under each window. The diner also had two small decorative cupolas which were removed in the late 1980s when some new heating & ventilation duct-work was installed on the roof. The white form stone was replaced by red brick possibly in the 1970s and the roof-line stainless steel trim was covered with a brown standing-seam treatment possibly at the same time.

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Victoria’s Diner, Boston, Massachusetts
June 26, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Victoria’s Diner, Boston, Massachusetts
June 26, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

The Georgenes family sold the diner in the early 2000s and the current operators are in fact the third to do so since the Georgenes’ sold out. The diner is still popular and does a decent business from all acounts!

K’s Diner D.B.A. Pizza Pub, – 2391 Boston Road,  U.S. Rte. 20
Wilbraham, Massachusetts
circa 1965 vintage DeRaffele Diner

I am not exactly sure when this diner was delivered to this location personally, but have heard recently from Jen of the Dinerville website and Facebook page… https://www.dinerville.info spoke with the owners of Gregory’s Restaurant (current name) who claim the diner is from 1965. I would have guessed earlier myself. Be that as it may, this is the only example of this far-out space-age diner with a zig-zag roof-line (AKA folded plate) that made it this far north. Built by DeRaffele Diners out of New Rochelle, NY, this place was still snazzy looking until the mid-to-late 1980s when it was expanded and covered over. I have been told that not much of the original diner exists today and I believe it. I am happy that I got the photos I did shoot before it was completely redone.

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Known as K’s Diner, D.B.A. Pizza Pub back in the early 1980s.
September 5, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

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another view of K’s Diner, D.B.A. Pizza Pub, Wilbraham, Mass.
September 5, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

New Market Steak House, 274 Southampton Street
Boston, Massachusetts
1971 Fodero Diner

This is another diner-restaurant that I also was pretty much unaware of when I started photographing diners circa 1980. Even though it was within walking distance of the Victoria Diner, I guess I never knew it was there because I never drove down that section of Southampton Street. Also, I might not have recognized the brick building as being a late model, factory-built diner. Originally called the Supreme III Diner-Restaurant, it was owned and operated by the Passanisi family. This large “colonial style” diner is the third diner on this site. I do know the first one was in fact a Fodero from around 1940 or so but have no idea what the second diner was (I am guessing Fodero as well) as to my knowledge, no photos exist of the second one. Sometime before I first photographed it, the name had been changed to the New Market Steak House, probably by the end of the 1970s. It continued to be operated under this name until it closed in 1984.

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New Market Steak House, Boston, Massachusetts
June, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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New Market Steak House, Boston, Massachusetts
June, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

The building still exists but has been altered somewhat and has not been used as a restaurant since it closed. For many years it housed the Beckwith Elevator Company. It is currently being used for other purposes.

Bickfords Grille, 37 Oak Street Extension
Brockton, Massachusetts
1970s vintage Kullman Diner

And yet another newer diner I did not know existed until my friend David Hebb informed me about it. I believe I may not have been moved to photograph it the first time I saw it in the early 1980s. I recall it did not have a mansard roof like it has now and I know I do not have photos of it that way. I think it had the wooden railing on the top edge of the slightly flared-out roof-line that Kullman usually used on this design. I also recall that the foundation under the building was not finished off with brick at that point. According to my records I managed to photograph it on March 1, 1984 which may have been my second visit there and actually had a meal. I do recall it still had a counter and stools that first time I went in. By the next visit, they had been removed. I understand the building had a fire within the last 20 years and the interior has changed more. These group of four photos will demonstrate how the building has looked over the years…

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Bickford’s Restaurant, Brockton, Massachusetts
March 1, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Bickford’s Restaurant, Brockton, Massachusetts
February, 1991 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Bickford’s Restaurant, Brockton, Massachusetts
June,1998 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Bickfords Grille, Brockton, Massachusetts
October 10, 2016 photo by Larry Cultrera

The Bickford’s chain started out with cafeteria style restaurants and was known for years as Hayes & Bickford’s. They even had a small chain of diners from the late 1920s thru the 1970s in Boston. Denise and I recently visited this place for lunch back on Columbus Day and as evidenced by my new photo, the exterior has been updated again. The whole chain has been upgrading the menu and look of the restaurants and the name has changed to reflect this. They dropped the “apostrophy” in Bickfords and it is now called a “Grille”. This ouitlet has the distinction of housing their corporate offices. I hope to find out sometime in the future waht the original name for this diner was and when it first got here…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diner Hotline back from 7 month Hiatus

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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…

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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!

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Marking 35 years of documenting Diners!

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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!

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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.

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

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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.

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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!