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

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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!

Ralph A. Corrado Jr, long-time owner of Rosie’s Diner passes away

Throughout the last almost 35 years of documenting diners with my photographs, I have made a lot of friends. A huge portion of those friends are kindred spirits who are also traveling the great American roadside documenting with their own photographs the commercial-built environment that developed and grew with the advent of the automobile. A smaller but no less cherished group of friends I’ve met have been various diner owners from quite a few states in the northeast region of the country. I am honored to say that a couple of those friends include the father & son team of Ralph & Arnie Corrado, who were the long-time owners of Rosie’s Farmland Diner (AKA Rosie’s Diner), formerly of Little Ferry, NJ. I became friendly with them in January of 1990, in fact the last weekend that the diner was open for business in New Jersey (more about that later in the post)!
I am sorry to report that Ralph Corrado has just passed away this past Thursday, August 6, 2015.

Ralph-C-1
Ralph A. Corrado standing in front of Rosie’s Diner
Photo courtesy of the Corrado family.

A brief history about the diner that became known as Rosie’s… At one time, this diner was arguably one of the most viewed diners in the USA, if not the world! Rosie’s had been used as the location for many commercials over the years including quite a few for New Jersey Bell, which usually had the famous actor James Earl Jones featured! The most famous commercials shot at the diner were for Bounty Paper Towels. These commercials featured the late actress Nancy Walker as “Rosie the waitress”  who was forever cleaning up spills made by her clumsy customers with Bounty – The Quicker Picker-Upper!!!!

Well this sort of all began back when Ralph was a little boy in Hoboken, NJ. His dad Raphael (Tex) Corrado operated a small Kullman Diner as Ralph recalled. He also recalls when his dad decided to upgrade with a brand-new 1946 Paramount deluxe stainless steel model that was built in 2 large sections and placed at the Traffic Circle on Route 46 in Little Ferry. The new diner was named the Silver Dollar Diner. Tex continued to operate the diner until the early 1960s with Ralph Jr. working along side him and learning the ropes! Ralph took the diner over and eventually renamed it the Farmland Diner. Ralph’s son Arnie who had a short recording career as a pop singer in the mid-to-late 1960s also worked at the diner, eventually becoming Ralph’s right hand man. The diner started becoming noticed by art directors for major New York City ad agencies who noted that this quintessential  stainless steel diner was perfect for shooting commercials and print ads, inside and out! After the Bounty Paper Towel commercials put the diner on the map (so to speak) Ralph decided to take advantage of the publicity and renamed the place “Rosie’s Farmland Diner, Home of the Quicker Picker-Upper”!

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Ralph Corrado with Nancy Walker and Arnie Corrado
Photo Courtesy of Arnie Corrado

I originally learned about Rosie’s Diner through the wonderful 1980 book “Diners of The Northeast” authored by Allison Bellink and Donald Kaplan and published by the Berkshire Traveller Press. In this book they visited a whole slew of diners from New Jersey, New York and New England! This was the catalyst for my burgeoning interest to take hold! They featured Rosie’s in the New Jersey section and I finally got to visit the diner on Memorial Day – May 31, 1982. Steve Repucci and I were on the way back home from a visit to Harrisburg, PA via Baltimore! We stopped at Rosie’s in the early afternoon for some photos and a quick break from the road. Another reason was to use the public telephone at the diner to call John Baeder who was actually in New York City to do a massive rewrite for his upcoming book “Gas, Food & Lodging”. I had become friends with John earlier that year through correspondence and phone conversations. During a conversation just before the Memorial Day Weekend I mentioned to John that we would be coming through New York on the way home and that maybe we could hook-up briefly!

Well, I called John from Rosie’s and he said to give him another call when we got to another diner in Manhattan, this was the Kitchenette Diner that had been moved from Boston not too long before. So when we got to the Kitchenette, I again called John who was ready for a quick break. He cabbed it over to where we were and we spent a good hour or so together before he needed to get back to work! We gave him a lift to where he needed to be and headed home to Boston!

I also revisited Rosie’s a few times over the years including a little over a year later on the way to a meeting of the Society For Commercial Archeology in Wildwood, NJ. The following photo is from that visit.

Rosie's-Diner_June-1983-2
Rosie’s Farmland Diner at the Route 46 Traffic Circle in Little Ferry, NJ
June, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera

Fast forward to late 1989 – I received a phone call from my new friend, ceramic sculpture artist Jerry Berta who told me he was buying Rosie’s Diner and was going to move it to Rockford, Michigan next door to his Art Studio/Showroom “The Diner Store”. The Diner Store was housed in the former Uncle Bob’s Diner, formerly of Flint, MI. Jerry saved that one from the wrecker’s ball and moved it to some property he had in his hometown. To make a long story short (sort of) I arranged to meet Jerry and his pal Fred Tiensivu in New Jersey in mid-January of 1990 for the last 3 or 4 days that Rosie’s Diner was open. It was quite the experience as the place was completely bombed with customers. We all lent a hand where it was needed – I recall giving people directions on how to get to the diner when they called on the phone and even bussed tables! I had showed up early for breakfast on that last Sunday morning and Ralph asked me if I would do him a favor, it seems a lady (who did not speak much English) was stranded earlier that morning, being basically “dumped” by the guy she was with near the diner. Ralph asked me if I would give her a ride to her neighborhood in the Bronx, which I did – my good deed for the day!

The following text was written by me for the original “hard copy” version of Diner Hotline
that appeared in the summer 1990, volume 11, no. 2 edition of the Society for Commercial Archeology’s News Journal. This piece told the story about the last weekend that Rosie’s Diner was open for business in New Jersey and the subsequent move to Michigan (I have also included the original photos that ran with it in full color here)….

Rosie’s Diner Saved by SCA Member

Jerry Berta of Rockford, Michigan, has accomplished something that few preservationists can claim. He has saved not one, but two classic diners from destruction. Berta, who first created a name for himself by fashioning ceramic and neon replicas of his favorite subject — diners – moved Uncle Bob’s Diner of Flint, Michigan, to Rockford in 1987 and restored it to its original appearance. But instead of selling food, he converted it into a combination gallery and studio, called “The Diner Store.” After opening for business, the Diner Store proved to be a big success, but frequently people driving by would stop, thinking it was a restaurant. Jerry was forced to put a new sign in his window proclaiming: No FOOD, JUST ART. Due to the number of people who stopped to seek food and the lack of functioning diners in the state of Michigan, Jerry started thinking about finding another diner and setting it next to his store, where he could lease it to someone who would run it as a classic diner. In November 1989, Jerry was attending a crafts show in New York City, and decided to drive across the George Washington Bridge and revisit Rosie’s Diner in Little Ferry, New Jersey. He had visited this diner years before, and describes it as a pivotal moment in his awakening interest in these classic eateries. After shooting some photographs and videos of the diner, he began talking to the owner, Ralph Corrado, about diners and Jerry’s connection with them. Corrado informed Jerry that Rosie’s was for sale, and that if no one bought the diner, it would be tom down. Jerry and Ralph negotiated for approximately ten minutes, and made a hand-shake deal that was finalized by Christmas. Rosie’s is a vintage 1945 Paramount Diner, which was purchased brand new by “Tex” Corrado, Ralph’s father. It was originally named the Silver Dollar; when Ralph took over operations about 1960, he renamed it the Farmland Diner. Around 1970, Ralph was approached by Proctor & Gamble, which was interested in using the diner as a location for a series of commercials for Bounty paper towels. These commercials featured the actress Nancy Walker as Rosie, a street-smart waitress who was forever wiping up spills with “The quicker picker-upper.” Ralph decided to take advantage of the publicity, and renamed the diner “Rosie’s,” the home of the “Quicker Picker-Upper.” Ralph and his family decided to sell the diner when Ralph retired and his son, Arnie, needed to spend more time with his wife and young children. Ralph was able to sell the land and diner to his next-door neighbor, an auto-glass company. 

Rosie's-Diner_June-1983-5
Rosie’s Diner in Little Ferry, New Jersey
June, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera

Unfortunately, the diner itself did not fit into the new owner’s plans. When Jerry appeared on the scene, Ralph was delighted to know that the diner would have a new home with someone who loved it as much as he did. Both Jerry and Ralph used all their contacts in the media, and they created a publicity blitz from coast to coast. Both Cable News Network and the Associated Press ran stories on the closing, which took place January 13-15, 1990. Hundreds of people came by to have one last meal at the famous diner, including several SCA members. With the Massachusetts contingent were Dave Hebb from Cambridge, Gail Rosen from Newton, and myself. Steve Lintner and Christine Guedon from Gloucester City, New Jersey, were there on Saturday, and Bill McLaughlin came up from Paoli, Pennsylvania on Sunday morning. There were also many diner aficionados in attendance. I returned to Rosie’s the following weekend to assist in and to document the move. I watched with interest while the diner was split in to two sections and placed on flat-bed trucks for the move to Michigan. Rosie’s arrived safely in Rockford three days later. Special thanks go to the crew who helped in the move: Fred Tiensivu, Ian McCartney, John Boucher, and Charlie Green, along with the guys from Superior Transit. If things go according to schedule, the diner should be re-opening at the end of the summer. We’ll keep you posted. For more information about the Diner Store or Rosie’s, call Jerry Berta at 616/696- CLAY.  

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SCA members pay a farewell visit to Rosie’s in January, 1990
(left to right – David Hebb, Christine Guedon and Steve Lintner)

Rosie's-final-days_Jan-1990-34
Jerry Berta, Bill McLaughlin and June Roberts at Rosie’s

I had managed to maintain contact with Arnie and his wife Jeanne for a few years but eventually we lost touch as our lives got busy after 1993 or so. I am happy to say I got back in touch with Arnie & Jeanne within the last 2 years and we talk to each other at least twice a month! I also spoke with Ralph once since Arnie and I resumed our friendship and I knew that Ralph’s health was in decline.  So I was not surprised when Arnie contacted me this past weekend to let me know that his dad had passed away! If the wake had been on Saturday and not Sunday, I would have made every effort to be there for the family! Ralph was a true gentlemen of the old school and I can still hear his soft voice with that great New Jersey accent in my mind! Rest in Peace my friend, you are certainly missed!
Here is the obituary for my friend Ralph Corrado…

Ralph Corrado Jr. of Hoboken, NJ passed away Thursday, August 6th.  Ralph was the proprietor of Rosie’s Farmland Diner in Little Ferry, NJ, which operated from 1946-1990.  Ralph was extremely proud of his Italian-American heritage and Hoboken roots.  He loved the Yankees, Joe DiMaggio, and Frank Sinatra whom he personally assisted backstage at the Paramount Theater in New York in 1943.  Known for his quick-witted sense of humor and street-smart mentality, Ralph’s greatest legacy is the unwavering love and devotion that he possessed for his family members and close friends (especially his life-long friend who pre-deceased him, Alfred Avitable).

He will be fondly remembered by his devoted wife, Bonnie Corrado (nee
Bittner); faithful sons, Arnold Corrado and Marc Antonuccio; loving daughter-
in-law, Jeanne’ Corrado (nee LaForte); cherished grandchildren, Matthew Corrado,
Jenna Corrado, and Rowan Antonuccio; and admiring nieces and nephews,
including Lucille Corrado.
Ralph is rennited with his parents, Raphael “Tex” and Carmella
“Milly” Corrado; sister, Mildred Casella; and brothers, James “J.J.”, Johnny, and
Carmen “Sonny” Corrado.

A Funeral Mass was offered on Monday August 10, 2015 – 11:00 AM at St.
Ann’s Roman Catholic Church, Hoboken. Entombment will follow at Holy Cross Chapel
Mausoleum, North Arlington, NJ. Continuous visitation was held on Sunday
August 9, 2015 beginning at 4:00 PM and concluding at 8:00 PM. There was to be no
gathering at the funeral home prior to the Funeral Mass. Relatives and friends were
asked to gather directly at St. Ann’s Church no later than 10:45 AM. Valet parking
was available in rear of memorial home off Sixth Street. Arrangements by Failla
Memorial Home, 533 Willow Avenue, Hoboken, NJ 07030

Author Event @ Barnes & Noble – Nashua, NH

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This coming Saturday, June 20, 2015, I am doing an author’s event for my book New Hampshire Diners: Classic Granite State Eateries at the Barnes & Noble store located at the corner of Daniel Webster Highway and Spit Brook Road in Nashua, NH. I will be holding forth between 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM. Signing books and talking about diners!

New Roadside related books in my library…

I have recently added 3 new (to me) books to my ever increasing personal “Roadside related” library that I highly recommend to anyone who has an interest, whether in passing or as an avid aficionado!

The first title I want to recommend is…

Remembering Roadside America

I came across this one by happenstance two or three months ago. I happened to “Google” my name and clicked on “books” and a reference came up to this new book with the subtitle “Preserving the Recent Past as Landscape and Place”  published by the University of Tennessee Press (Knoxville, TN) and written by coauthors John A. Jakle, Emeritus Professor of Geography at the University of Illinois, Urbana- Champaign and Keith A. Sculle, the former head of research and education at the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. They have coauthored other roadside related titles already in my personal library such as; Fast Food: Roadside Restaurants in the Automobile AgeThe Motel in America and The Gas Station in America. Being familiar with these past titles and the scholarly approach the authors used, I was spurred on to purchase this book and see for myself how I ended up being mentioned within the context of this book, (I was definitely curious, to say the least)!

Remembering-Roadside-America-cover
Cover of John A. Jakle and Keith Sculle’s book, Remembering
Roadside America

The blurb on the back cover on the book is a good synopsis describing the content…

The use of cars and trucks over the past century has remade American geography-pushing big cities ever outward toward suburbanization, spurring the growth of some small towns while hastening the decline of others, and spawning a new kind of commercial landscape marked by gas stations, drive-in restaurants, motels, tourist attractions, and other retail entities that express our national love affair with the open road. By its very nature, this landscape is ever changing, indeed ephemeral. What is new quickly becomes old and is soon forgotten.

 In this book, a summation in many ways of the authors’ decades of combined research, John JakIe and Keith Sculle ponder how “Roadside America” might be remembered, especially since so little physical evidence of its earliest years survives. In lively prose supplemented by copious illustrations, they survey the ways in which automobility has transformed life in the United States. Asking how we might best commemorate this part of our past-which has been so vital economically and politically, so significant to Americans’ cultural aspirations, yet so often ignored by scholars who dismiss it as kitsch-they propose the development of an outdoor museum that would treat seriously the themes of our roadside history.

 Museums have been created for frontier pioneering, the rise of commercial agriculture, and the coming of water- and steam-powered industrialization and transportation, especially the railroad. Is now not the time, the authors ask, for a museum forcefully exploring the automobile’s emergence and the changes it has brought to place and landscape?

OK, so this is in keeping with their particular style of writing and gives you a good idea about what the book is like. Upon receiving my copy of the book I found the mention pertaining to me in the “Preserving Roads and Roadsides” chapter! It turns out that I was not mentioned here by name but I was referred to in the text on Page 122…  “one aficionado who wrote and illustrated a column on diners for the Society for Commercial Archeology’s publications for 19 years recalled how he first became interested in diners when he was six years old and how he had continued this interest throughout his life” (Index note 70). That was a mind blower for sure, so I turned to the Index notes on Page 258 for that chapter and here is where I was mentioned by name along with “Diner Hotline” (the original print version that preceded this blog)…
70. Larry Cultrera, “Diner Hotline”, SCA Journal 25 (Fall 2007): 36; and Larry Cultrera, “Diner Hotline”, SCA Journal 21 (Fall 2003): 24-25.

I spoke with Keith Sculle after reading the book and conveyed my gratitude for he and John Jakle mentioning myself and Diner Hotline in their book! I told him that I felt extremely honored by the gesture! He expressed his personal disappointment in my discontinuing the Diner Hotline column in the SCA Journal back in 2007 and often wondered as to why I did that. I told him that I thought I felt that I had brought the column to a point where I was not enjoying the writing and the deadlines any longer and needed a change. I also said that this event gave birth to this Weblog shortly thereafter and it became the Diner Hotline it was finally meant to be (in my mind).

Coauthors Jakle & Sculle also went on to mention my friend Brian Butko and his efforts with the Lincoln Highway in the same way on Page 125 (same chapter)… “The Lincoln Motor Court, astride the Lincoln Highway at Tulls Hill, PA, enables one to peer over a long time into the time travelers’ transcendent quest. Built in 1944, the Lincoln Motor Court was off the beaten path by the 1970s. Jakle & Sculle mention that the current owners Bob & Debbie Altizer had purchased the motel in 1983. By 1993, nostalgic yearnings and boosterism amid the nationwide culture of leisure gave birth to a new Lincoln Highway Association. This is where the authors refer to Brian Butko – “A historian and photographer engrossed in his work on a travel guide of the (Lincoln) highway in Pennsylvania and an eager proponent for combining heritage tourism and road and roadside preservation counseled the owners of the Lincoln Motor Court on the possibility of reviving their business by appealing to travelers seeking to re-enact a trip on the Lincoln Highway. Advertising its historical qualities made the retro business profitable, and other entrepreneurs near the Altizers also successfully adopted the strategy” (Index note 76). Turning to the Index notes on Page 258 … 76. Ibid., 8-9; Brian A. Butko, “Historic Highway Preservation: Not a Dead End Street!” CRM16 (1993): 36; and Brian A. Butko, Pennsylvania Travelers’ Guide: The Lincoln Highway (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1996), 188-90.

I will say that Jakle and Sculle’s books are not your typical “coffee table” variety of roadside history tomes and are fairly heavy reading owing to both of the author’s educational/historic preservation backgrounds. But they certainly have a wealth of information within their books and that those readers willing to read thru them will be rewarded with a new perspective in how they look at preserving or at the very least documenting the American Roadside which in the long run will benefit future generations!

The second book I acquired was a book with a much more local focus…

New England Notebook: One Reporter, Six States, Uncommon Stories

This book was published in 2013 by Globe Pequot Press and written by Ted Reinstein. For those who might not be familiar with Mr. Reinstein, he is best known around New England as a longtime correspondent for “Chronicle,” the equally longtime and celebrated nightly newsmagazine which airs on Boston’s ABC affiliate, WCVB-TV. I have been watching Chronicle from its inception in the early 1980s and have always enjoyed the show. In fact, I was actually on a Chronicle show back in the July 25, 1991 along with Richard Gutman and Randy Garbin among others in a show called “Devoted to Diners.  More recently I was featured in a segment of New Hampshire Chronicle (WMUR-TV’s version of the show) highlighting my latest book “New Hampshire Diners: Classic Granite State Eateries”. Anyway, to get back to Ted Reinstein, he signed on to Chronicle as a correspondent in the late 90s and he quickly became one of my favorite people to watch as his segments seem to be among the most enjoyable to me. I was certainly aware that his book had been published and had actually thumbed thru it once or twice at the local Barnes & Noble but did not purchase it until he came to do a slide lecture/author event at the Saugus Public Library March 30, 2015!

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Cover of Ted Reinstein’s book New England Notebook

I met Ted at his author event and immediately found him to be as entertaining in person as he comes across on television! He engages his audience thru the TV show or in the book as well as at one of his author appearances, and when he talks about a person, place or thing, you know he has done his homework. Not only because it is his job, but because he has a genuine interest and therefor keeps his audience interested in the subject at hand! I was informed about his upcoming event at the Saugus Public Library by a friend Bob Teal back in mid-March. Ironically, Ironically Ted’s Saugus event followed another author event/lecture he did for the Parker Lecture Series up in Lowell, Massachusetts on March 19th as well – exactly one month before I did one ending the season for that series!

New England Notebook features some of Ted’s favorite stories that he has covered over the years… the people and places that stood out in his and respectively, the viewers minds! Just from watching him on the show I knew he was a kindred spirit and has a love of diners. He has a better than average grasp of New England diner history which gives his reporting on the subject a huge amount of credibility! In the final chapter of this book (Chapter 10 – The Foods) there is a section called “Diners: A New England Specialty” and features the late lamented Rosebud Diner of Somerville with a great night-time photo by my friend Elizabeth Thomsen (OK, I know the Rosebud building is still there but the classic interior is completely gone and the menu offered is not even close to a diner).  Other diners included are Becky’s Diner of Portland, ME, the Boulevard Diner and Miss Worcester Diner of Worcester, Mass., the Deluxe Town Diner of Watertown, Mass., and Agawam Diner of Rowley, Mass., as well as the Main Street Station Diner of Plymouth, NH and the Red Arrow Diner of Manchester, NH. I hope to someday join Ted for a decent Diner “Breakfast” in the near future, maybe even at Tim’s Diner in Leominster, I know Ted has not been there yet! This book is filled with other entertaining stories flavored with Ted Reinstein’s wit & wisdom and well worth the read!

So if you are ever in the Boston area, check out Chronicle on WCVB-TV (Channel 5), it is on Monday thru Friday at 7:30pm. Even if Ted is not on, it is an award winning show that always seems to offer something for the discerning viewer!

The third book I purchased and read was recommended to me by Debra Jane Seltzer…

Road Trip: Roadside America From Custard’s Last Stand
to the Wigwam Restaurant

Published by Universal Publishing – this book is written & illustrated by Richard Longstreth, an architectural historian and professor at George Washington University. Longstreth directs the graduate program in historic preservation at the university and is the author of numerous books and articles including “The American Department Store Transformed 1920-1960″ and Looking Beyond the Icons: Midcentury Architecture, Landscape and Urbanism”. In fact Mr. Longstreth is quoted quite a bit by John Jakle & Kieth Sculle in pretty much all their books on the American Roadside, so I was certainly familiar with his name over the years but this is the first book of his that I have actually bought! This book is chock-full of color photos that he shot from the late 1960s into the 1980s in his travels!

Roadtrip-America_Lonngstreth-cover
Cover of Richard Longstreth’s book, Road Trip, from Custard’s
Last Stand to the Wigwam Restaurant

A lot of these places in Longstreth’s photos are either long gone or partially to extremely altered at the time of this books publishing. But we are certainly the lucky recipients of his foresightedness in his documenting these roadside treasures that are somewhat reminiscent of John Margolies best work. The difference is that Margolies has been known to remove litter and debris from his subject matter prior to shooting the photos and Longstreth, like most of us, does not! The one thing he does like Margolies is wait for the right “light” to take the shots of his subject (in most cases, but not all), something I always wished I had the luxury of doing back in the 1980s!

The places he photographed are from pretty much all over the country! From motels, to gas stations, to diners – Mr. Longstreth covers it all! There are period supermarkets, Drive-In Movie Theaters and other roadside attractions. The one drawback to the book is the choice of small type/font that was used for the text as well as captions (kind of small in my opinion) but in fact, the photos are what truly shine in this book and I can certainly overlook that little drawback! This is the kind of book that makes me wish that I should have started taking my own roadside photos much earlier than 1980! I sort of wish that there was such a thing as time travel, I would take my camera and go back in time to take the photos I never had a chance to!

Well, be that as it may, Mr. Longstreth did take all these shots and we can certainly appreciate and admire them!

Embassy Grille, AKA Market Square Diner (with Brill diner primer)

This blog post is ultimately about the Embassy Grill (or Grille), a diner that lived most of its operating life fairly close to the factory that built it. But before I get into the details (as I know them) about that diner, I want to relate a little history (a primer if you will) about the company that built it and how few of these diners survive today!  The info for the history of Brill Diners comes from the research of my friend Dick Gutman…. The Embassy was built by Wason Manufacturing Company of Springfield, Massachusetts, one of two subsidiaries of the J.G. Brill Company which was based out of Philadelphia, PA.  Brill was noted for their line of trolley cars and train trucks (the wheel assemblies for railroad rolling stock). The other subsidiary being the G.C. Kuhlman Car Company out of Cleveland, Ohio, which presumably served a more mid-western customer base. For a period of time in the late 1920s and early 1930s they also produced a line of steel diners. There were countless examples of Brill Diners located in the eastern U.S., especially in the northeast. We had many in and around the Boston area. Places I personally know about such as Caverly’s Diner in Charlestown, the Pine Tree Diner in Somerville (both gone by the end of the 1970s) as well as the very first version of Carroll’s Diner in my hometown of Medford. The lone surviving Brill diner currently operating in the northeast is the Capitol Diner in downtown Lynn, Massachusetts. In point of fact, the Capitol may be the only operating Brill diner left anywhere!

Brill diners all had monitor style roofs with the raised  clerestory highly reminiscent of railroad cars. The exteriors were covered in painted steel panels and had cast iron light fixtures with round white globes affixed to the curved section on the roof hanging just over the windows.  Most if not all Brill diners featured glass-topped counters where the diner operators would display pies and other baked goods and the cooking was done right behind the counter, short order style. The next few photos will show you some of the distinctive features of a typical Brill Diner…

capitol2
The exterior of the Capitol Diner in Lynn, Mass. The exteriors almost
always had a door situated at the corners of the front facade flanking
at least 8 windows. Some may have been built with a door centered
on the front facade.

Capitol-2_6-5-11
The interior of the Capitol Diner showing the glass-topped counter. This diner’s interior
has been altered mostly due to a fire in the late 1970s but still retains the original feel.
(photo by Larry Cultrera)

restored-exterior-light
An exterior light fixture from my personal collection. It was removed from the Capitol
Diner when the roof was recovered in the early 1990s. Some were broken and in fact
they had not been used in years. I removed several layers of paint and restored what looked
to be the original dark green finish. The white globe was obtained by the National Heritage
Museum in Lexington, Mass. when the light fixture was loaned to them for a major diner exhibit.
(photo by Larry Cultrera)

The next few photos are of other examples of Brill Diners here in the northeast that lasted past the middle of the 20th century…

carroll1
The original Carroll’s Diner of Medford, Mass. (1930-1948). This diner actually lasted until
1961, being used as a kitchen annex for a newer version of Carroll’s Diner that replaced this
one in 1948.

Carrolls-#1-interior
Interior view of Carroll’s Diner prior to 1948.

Caverly's-diner_exterior-2
Caverly’s Diner, Charlestown, Mass. lasted into the 1970s. This was in pretty much original
condition (albeit fairly worn out) by the time this photo was taken. (source – Life magazine archives)

Pine-Tree-Diner_Snowstorm
The Pine Tree Diner of Somerville, Mass. also lasted into the 1970s. By the time this was
demolished for the MBTA Red Line subway extension, it was pretty much disguised.
(photo courtesy of David Guss)

Brill-diner_Arlington-Heights
An old photo from my collection featuring a Brill diner located on Massachusetts Avenue
at Arlington Heights – Arlington, Mass. This diner would later be replaced in the 1950s by
a large stainless steel Fodero diner that operated briefly here as part of the Monarch Diner
chain before moving to Cambridge to become the Kendall Diner. The site was then occupied
by a Worcester streamliner known as the 
Pullman Diner until that closed in the mid-1970s.
(photo from my collection)

1st-Walsh's-Diner
Walsh’s Diner looks to be an earlier & larger Brill diner that was located on the corner
of West Water Street & Main Street in Wakefield, Mass. until the early 1950s when it
was replaced by a streamline modernistic Jerry O’Mahony diner. This diner went on to
another operating location on Bridge Road – U.S. Rte. 1 in Salisbury, Mass. as Bossy Gillis’
Diner for an unspecified amount of time. (photo from my collection)

Miss-Troy3
The Miss Troy Diner of Troy, NY though somewhat altered, lasted until the early 2000s
before it was demolished. (photo by Larry Cultrera)

Deluxe-Diner_Brill
A little further afield was the Deluxe Diner of Pomona, CA. This Brill diner was longer and
wider than most and had the rare center front door configuration. Notice the cast iron light
fixtures here with the white globes. (photo from my collection)

Well, now that you know a little about Brill Diners, I will get down to the nitty gritty on the Embassy Grill. What got me to think of this diner was that a friend from Facebook & Flickr (Greg MacKay) had pointed me toward a link to the website Masslive.com that featured a bunch of photos of restaurants in the greater Springfield area that no longer exist. The Embassy Grill showed up in 2 photos!

Masslive-1
photo of the Embassy Grill in Chicopee from the late 1970s, possibly right after the diner closed at
its original location. (Masslive.com)

Masslive-2
photo of the Embassy Grill at its second location in South Hadley adjacent to the Riverboat Restaurant,
circa 1980s. (Masslive.com)

After seeing those two photos, I decided to revisit this  diner (so to speak) and dig up info including my own involvement in documenting this place and any other facts I had in my archives. Some of those facts came from some great detective work by Will Anderson. Will wrote about this diner in his book “Lost Diners and Roadside Restaurants of New England and New York” (2001). According to what Will dug up, this diner was originally located at 253 Front Street in the Market Square area of Chicopee, Massachusetts, the next town to the north of Springfield (where Wason Manufacturing was located). Opened in 1928, it was operated as the Market Square Diner by owner Bill “Winkie” Theroux. Ironically I was speaking on the phone to John Baeder about this upcoming post and mentioned Will Anderson and John informed me that Will had recently passed away on March 7, 2015. I was saddened to hear this and later spoke with Will’s wife Catherine Buotte to reminisce as well as express my condolences.

Market Square Diner MB
old matchbook cover from page 86 of “Lost Diners and Roadside Restaurants of New England
and New York”, Will Anderson, 2001

I personally first knew of this diner through an image that was depicted on page 73 in John Baeder’s 1978 book “Diners”. John photographed the diner back in the 1970s. He normally would have done either a watercolor or oil painting of the image but had decided to expand his horizons by looking at other mediums. In this case he teamed up with master printer Donn H. Steward (1921-1985). A plate was created to be used in the printing of the soft-ground etching (the black & white image in his book). Ironically, years later I would become the guardian of a number of “Artist’s Proofs” of the soft-ground etching of the Embassy that had been stored for years in John’s “walk-up” apartment in New York City. When he was cleaning out the old apartment in 1988, I helped him pack up the rest of his belongings and the Trial Proofs were there. He asked me to take care of them for a period of time, which turned out to be close to 20 years or so. After finally sending off the proofs to John a few years ago, he sent an autographed one back to me and is a treasured part of my collection!

Embassy-Grille_soft-ground-etching
John Baeder’s soft-ground etching of the Embassy Grill from 1976
Embassy-Grille-letter
The letter of Authentication for the soft-ground etching Artist print

The-Embassy-15-43-42-13
A more recent painting by John Baeder more than likely from the same image that
the soft-ground etching came from. EMBASSY, “24 x 36” oil on canvas, 2011
(Courtesy, John Baeder)

When I first saw the image of the diner in John Baeder’s book, I had no idea if it even still existed. After becoming friends with John in 1982, I learned John was residing in Nashville, Tennessee after moving there from New York City. He’d been there for a couple of years already but had recently bought the house he now lives in. He was planning on coming back to New York City to pack up a portion of his belongings and truck them down to Nashville. I ended up offering my services to him so in October of 1983, I met John down in NYC and helped him load a rental truck with a huge amount of books, memorabilia and other personal objects. I actually stayed at his old apartment for 2 or 3 days and at one point found an old Kodak slide carousel box that was being used for storage of some papers and memorabilia, etc. I saw 2 or 3 yellowed news clippings (from the Springfield Morning Union newspaper) someone had sent John that were dated from 1979 or so and they were all about the Embassy Grille (that’s how it was spelled here) being moved to South Hadley, Massachusetts by Anthony W. Ravosa Sr. Mr. Ravosa was known around greater Springfield as a band leader (Tony Ravosa Orchestra), Attorney and the owner of restaurants and real estate. In 1969, he purchased a small ramshackle bar on the banks of the Connecticut River in South Hadley called the River Lodge, which he would later remodel and expand dramatically over many years into the storied Riverboat, a celebrated, four-star restaurant of wide renown.

Back to the Embassy… the Theroux family continued to operate the diner under its original name (Market Sqaure Diner) until 1966 according to Will Anderson. At that time it was mostly being run by Bobby Theroux, Winkie’s son. Theroux decided to expand the diner by building a brick addition on the right end of the building to increase seating in the establishment. This was when the name change occurred “to something a little more classy”… the Embassy Grill! If you look at the old images of the Embassy you will see that the diner has a barrel roof instead of the monitor that a Brill diner always had. I believe when the annex was built, it was decided to add the newer barrel roof over the original monitor to make the connection to the new building work better. Though not common at least it was better than a mansard roof!

The Embassy continued to operate until 1978 when Bob Theroux sold the property the diner was on to the city of Chicopee for a street widening project. This is when Theroux sold the diner to Anthony Ravosa. Those news clippings I got from John Baeder spelled out the problems that Mr. Ravosa unfortunately ended up having when he moved the diner. He ran into a roadblock briefly when the Town of South Hadley claimed that Ravosa moving the diner to his property adjacent to the Riverboat Restaurant violated zoning laws and that it needed special building permits, etc. Be that as it may, Ravosa ended up doing what he needed to do to get the old diner situated on the new location. Unfortunately his plans did not include using it as a traditional diner but an oyster bar connected to the larger restaurant!

After helping John Baeder pack up a rental truck and move his belongings down to Nashville that Ocotber, 1983 – (what a roadtrip that was!), I was now armed with a location to finally document with photographs the Embassy Grill! So on November 13, 1983, Dave Hebb  and myself took a ride out to South Hadley to locate the old diner. After a little hunting we did find the location on River Lodge Road and found the restaurant complex by then operating as DeLuca’s Riverboat Restaurant! After recently speaking with Anthony Ravosa Jr., I learned that his father had given up daily operation of the restaurant and started leasing the place to other operators. In fact at one point it was a dance club and may have been known as Mark Twain’s.

Embassy-Grille-3
Exterior view of the Embassy Grill being used as an Oyster Bar in South Hadley, Mass.
It looks like they attempted to make the diner look more like a caboose.
(November 13, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera)

Embassy-Grille-2
Emabassy Grill in South Hadley, Mass. The interior of the diner had been stripped and just had tables
and chairs if I recall. Curiously, the Belding Hall refrigerator was still where it always was – for some
reason, they kept it. (November 13, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera)

Embassy-Grille-7
My photo looking from across the Connecticut River using a telephoto lens – DeLuca’s Riverboat
with the Embassy Grill. (November 13, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera)

From speaking with Anthony Ravosa Jr. as well as Randy Garbin, it looks like the complex lasted here in South Hadley until the early 1990s when the property was redeveloped into townhouse condos. So there is no trace of the former Embassy Grill or the Riverboat Restaurant left! The diner could have ceased to exist back in 1978 or so but lived a fairly short second life not too far away from its long-time operating location and probably still within 10 miles or so of where it was manufactured, making it the second to last operating Brill diner in Massachusetts! On a final note the former owners of the Embassy Grill passed away in the last 5 years, Anthony Ravosa Sr. on May 10, 2010 and Bobby Theroux more recently at the age of 100 years on August 26, 2013.

Classic Diners of Massachusetts Presentation/Lecture – Sunday April 19th 2:00PM, Lowell, Mass.

Parker Lecture Series blurb
I will be doing another slide lecture/presentation this coming Sunday for the Parker Lecture Series in Lowell, Massachusetts. It will be held at the Lowell National Historical Park Visitor Center 246 Market Street in Lowell, Massachusetts. The lecture starts at 2:00 PM
Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 2.30.37 PM
Here is a link to their website that explains about this long running lecture series…
http://www.parkerlectures.com/?page_id=150

Victoria Diner’s Nicholas Georgenes passes away, Rest in Peace

Nick-G_026
Nick Georgenes standing behind the bar inside the rear addition
to the Victoria Diner (Cafe George). Photo courtesy of Chris Georgenes

My old friend Nick Georgenes passed away last week at the age of 78, after years of declining health. Nick along with his brother Charles were the owners of Boston’s Victoria Diner for decades. They grew up in the diner business and carried on the tradition started by their uncles James and Peter as well as their dad George. The Georgenes family along with some friends and relatives operated a chain of diners in the Boston area from the late 1920s into the 1940s. Some of the diners were operated as United Diners, Inc. but the flagship location was the 60 foot long Old Colony Diner in Boston. Other locations were Weymouth, Roxbury Crossing and Somerville. According to Dick Gutman’s American Diner Then & Now book, after James and Peter passed away in the 1940s, the chain splintered and Nick and Charlie’s dad ended up with 2 diners until selling them in 1947. He ended up buying a brand new stainless steel Jerry O’Mahony diner and opening at 1024 Massachusetts Avenue in Boston as the Victoria Diner in early 1949. Nick & Charlie took over the daily operation after George passed in the mid-1950s and 10 years later were ready for a new diner. They ended up buying a large colonial style diner from Joseph Swingle (who had sold their dad the O’Mahony in 1948-49). The Swingle diner is still operating today. Nick and Charlie Georgenes wanted to retire a dozen years ago and sold the diner to Jay Haj in 2003. I became a semi-regular customer of the diner at the age of 12 when the diner was brand-new in 1965. I have seen a lot of changes to the area as well as the diner, which the Georgenes’ continually updated periodically to keep up with the times! I became friendly with the brothers in the early 1980s when they knew of my interest and count them among my friends. They were always gracious hosts, embodying the true definition of the word “gentlemen”! I was somewhat saddened when they sold the diner as I knew I would not see them on a regular basis. But I have stayed in touch, more recently speaking with Charlie back when I was writing Classic Diners of Massachusetts. Both Nick & Charlie are mentioned in my acknowledgments for that book! I am also in touch with Nick’s sons Chris and George through Facebook! Chris was nice enough to send a photo of Nick for this post and I also spoke with George last week who filled me in on details for the upcoming wake, etc.

victoria4
The Victoria Diner, 1024 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Mass.

Here is Nick’s obituary…

Nicholas Georgenes, 78, of Walpole died suddenly and peacefully on Tuesday, April 7, 2015 at The Ellis Rehabilitation & Nursing Center in Norwood, Massachusetts. He was born on July 20, 1936 in Boston, Massachusetts. The son of George and Victoria (Athanasopoulos) Georgenes, Nicholas spent his childhood in Roxbury, before becoming a longtime resident of Jamaica Plain for most of his adult life. In his retirement, Nicholas became a resident of Walpole, Massachusetts. After graduating high school, Nicholas and his brother Charlie went to work with their father at the family restaurant, The Victoria Diner which was founded in 1949. For over half a century Nicholas tirelessly served patrons of Boston and beyond as The Victoria Diner stood as a landmark in the hearts and minds of all who frequented the family owned business. Between being a full time restaurateur and dedicated family man, Nicholas never hesitated to give back to his community. Some of the charities and organizations that have benefitted from Nick’s generosity include, but are not limited to, the West Roxbury-Dorchester Masonic Lodge AF & AM, Shriners Hospital, Perkins School for the Blind, Rosies Place and the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral of New England. Nick also served as past president of the Newmarket Business Association. Nicholas sense of civic duty was rivaled only by his sense of humor. He never hesitated to don a Santa Claus suit in July to bring smiles to the young patients at the Shriners Hospital. He happily obliged when asked to dress up as a Burlesque dancer and prance around a stage at a musical revue for the spectacle and benefit of his church. Community always came first for Nicholas even at the expense of his dignity. His spirit for community and helping others remains inspiring. Nicholas enjoyed playing tennis with friends, cooking, good restaurants, traveling, the beach and sitting down with a good book. Combining several of these activities into a single experience was often successful for Nicholas. Nicholas is survived by his wife Mary; daughter, Ann; sons, George and Chris; sister, Helen; brother, Charles; his grandchildren Zoe, Robert, William , Andrea, Theodore, Nicholas and Alexander and many close friends. If you measure the quality of life based on the love of friends and family, then Nicholas lived a very blessed life. Relatives and friends can attend his funeral service on Tuesday April 14 – 10AM at Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Weston. Interment will be at Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain. Visiting hours will be held on Monday, April 13 – 4-8PM at the Folsom Funeral Home in Westwood. In Lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Shriner’s Hospital for Children, 51 Blossom St., Boston, MA 02114.

For guestbook please visit www.folsomfuneral.com

Folsom Funeral Service Inc Westwood Chapel

649 High St Westwood, MA 02090

Rest in Peace Nick!