I just got an item into the collection I did not know existed. It is an old matchbook cover from a pivotal diner from my youth, the Star Lite Diner, Worcester Lunch Car # 817, delivered in 1948 to its one and only operating address of 383 Mystic Avenue, Medford, Mass. It closed circa 1968 and was removed shortly thereafter reportedly to a salvage yard in Chelsea, Mass. I was totally surprised and happy to get this rare piece into the collection.
Back in May the Prospect Mountain Diner of Lake George, NY had a devastating fire. It was a 1950 vintage double-wide Silk City diner in almost original condition at the time of the fire. The diner was so badly damaged it was immediately torn down. Art Leonhard, who had owned the diner since the late 1960’s had attempted to locate a suitable used diner to replace what he lost and finally settled on a brand-new Diner-Mite diner. Although I particularly am not fond of Diner-Mite’s product, a new Diner-Mite is better than no diner at all. The new diner was projected to be finished and ready for delivery by October but as these things go it looks more like the early part of December as reported in the November 26, 2007 Glens Falls Post Star. The Mayor of Lake George is quoted as saying there will be some sort of celebration when the new diner is delivered although scaled down from the original plan for a parade as the weather is too cold now for that type of festivity.
Check out the new Diner links in the Blogroll…. Glenn Wells’ Roadside Fans website, John Baeder’s website featuring his wonderful paintings and the website for Diners: Still Cookin in the 21st Century a fantastic exhibit on the history of diners from the collection of Richard J.S. Gutman author of “American Diner Then & Now”. This exhibit is located at the Culinary Archives and Museum, Johnson & Wales Harbor Campus in Providence, RI.
Our old friend Gary Zemola, owner of the Super Duper Weenie Restaurant in Fairfield, CT bought the former DeCoven Diner last operated in Duncannon, PA (near Harrisburg) a couple of years ago. He has been slowly cleaning up and readying this stainless steel beauty for a new life in his hometown. It has been in storage in Monroe, CT since its move and Gary is almost ready to relocate it to some land behind his dad’s lighting store just off U.S. Rte. 1. This has been a dream of his for close to 20 years.
He actually bought another diner, the former Gina’s Diner from Meriden, CT a while back but never could get all the pieces to fall into place, (money & time to restore, etc.) and he ended up selling it to another buyer, it is now George & Sally’s Blue Moon Diner at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, MI.
He saw the DeCoven on ebay and was able to swing the deal but as I recall there was probably some red tape he had to get through to get it moved into the state of Connecticut. The Decoven was originally across the Susquahanna River in Harrisburg, its original name was the Harrisburg East Diner prior to relocating to Duncannon.
Gary has brought his proposal to the Zoning Board of Appeals because of some parking issues and it also would need approval from the Town Plan and Zoning Commission. He hopes to have the diner opened next year dba Zemo’s Diner.
As I stated last Sunday, the Lunch Box Diner, Worcester Lunch Car #690 was slated to appear on a new segment of Boston’s Fox 25 Morning show. It seems that every Tuesday, Fox 25 personality V.B. is, instead of shooting live from in front of the Massachusetts State House, trying something new. It is called Diner Tuesday and each week he is supposed to be visiting a local diner to do his regular spots from. This past Tuesday was the inaugural segment and it went over well! So well in fact that business has increased every day since and Scott, Kristen, Dave and the rest of the crew couldn’t be happier. There is some streaming video of the visit on Fox 25’s website. The Lunch Box Diner is located at 906 Eastern Avenue (Rte. 60) in Malden, Mass. This is my usual Sunday morning breakfast stop.
The Farmington Diner in Farmington, Maine is sort of in limbo these days as Rite Aid is slated to take the property the diner is sitting on along with 2 adjacent parcels for a new pharmacy that would replace a nearby smaller Rite Aid located in a strip-mall. The diner remains open but the owner wants to sell the diner and get it moved hopefully to live again in another location. His plans are on hold as there seems to be a delay with the pharmacy chain’s plans. Guess we will have to wait and see what happens.
Another diner, this one in New Rochelle, NY is also going to become history. The Thruway Diner, a large DeRaffele diner just off Interstate 95 is going to be torn down and replaced by a Wallgeeens. It seems that older diners are not the only ones to be threatened by development. This diner dates to 1990 when it replaced an older diner that had been there since possibly 1960, (that diner was a space-age DeRaffele with a folded-plate roof). There has been a large outcry from the local population about this and some people have started a Facebook.com page called “Save the Thruway Diner” which I have not found. Maybe someone else can find that link as I am unfamiliar with Facebook. From what I read, one of the owners was going to try to back out of the deal but had already signed the contract and now she has to honor it. It currently looks like more and more diners are disappearing for large big-box pharmacys.
Anyone in the Boston Area can see Malden’s Lunch Box Diner on Fox TV Channel 25 this coming Tuesday from 6-9 am. I had breakfast there this morning and Dave Lane (the short order cook/chef) told me the TV station had already did some taping this past week interviewing owners Scott & Kristen Drago. These taped portions will be shown (possibly as early as 5 am) along with live pieces featuring on -air personallity V.B. doing his normal segments for the local Fox morning show. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch a little of this before I go to work!
I received an email yesterday from Susan Norman. She is best friends with Cindy Faulk Baker. Cindy is the daughter of Bill & Nancy Faulk who were the owners of the Rosedale Diner of Pottstown, PA (see the mention of this diner below, it is the one in my header). As I said below this is the diner depicted on Daryl Hall and John Oates’ second album circa 1973 entitled “Abandoned Luncheonette”. Susan contacted me to let me know that Bill passed away on Tuesday and his wake and funeral were being held today in Pottstown.
I will be writing a story soon that will update the one I wrote for Roadside Magazine back in 1991 on the history of this diner and how it ended up on this record album cover, and of course my quest to find it!
I grew up in Medford, Mass., 5 miles north of Boston. In the late 50’s and early 60’s there were many diners in the area still doing business. It seems every city or town had at least one or more diners. Medford had at least 5 diners around 1958.
There were 2 Valentine diners that had started out as part of a short lived chain called Howard Rust’s Radamat. They featured an early version of microwave cooking. This chain did not last long and the 2 in Medford became separate entities, one became the Humpty Dumpty Diner and was located on Riverside Avenue @ the corner of River Street in Medford Square (demolished circa 1960) and the other had various names such as the Jumbo Diner (for the Tufts University mascot) and the White House Cafe among others. This one was on Boston Avenue across from the Tufts campus and lasted into the early 1970’s. Personally, I do not remember the one in Medford Square but do remember the one on Boston Avenue. I have a color xerox of the actual postcard for the chain (front view only) and it depicts the Medford Square location.
There were 2 diners on Mystic Avenue, the Star Lite Diner was located close to the Medford/Somerville line and was a 1948 vintage Worcester Lunch Car (#817). It was where the Burger King is now. It closed abruptly in 1968 (I believe), I was a semi-regular customer along with my dad and brothers and remember Jim & his son Richie. They closed for their usual 2 -week vacation and never reopened. I heard years later that they may have lost the diner through gambling (not substantiated). This was my first big diner loss.
The other diner on Mystic Avenue was located at 33 Mystic Ave. and was called Bobbie’s Diner. This diner was originally located in Haines Square in Medford and was known as Jack’s. This was a mid-to-late 1920’s vintage Jerry O’Mahony diner. It operated at Haines Square prior to WWII and was moved into storage for a few years prior to being relocated to Mystic Ave. by the early 50’s. It was still called Jack’s after the move. I started working for my dad at his meat market circa 1965 as a delivery boy and this is when I started frequenting diners with my dad for breakfast. The Star Lite and Bobbie’s were definite stops and we also supplied hamburg and italian sausages to Bobbie’s. Bobbie’s survived until the early 1980’s.
The longest running diner in Medford was Carroll’s Diner. Located on Main Street diagonally across from the beginning of Mystic Avenue, there were historically 3 different versions of Carroll’s. The first from 1930 – 1948 was a Brill Diner which stood in front of an existing building that had an attached section to the rear that were formerly stables for the Medford House, an old Inn that use to sit next door at the corner of Main & South Sts. The building behind the diner housed Maurice Carroll’s other business, the Medford Battery Company.
In late 1948 (around the same time the Star Lite Diner was delivered to Mystic Ave.) A brand new stainless steel Jerry O’Mahony diner was delivered to Main Street. At this time the building behind the first Carroll’s was altered by removing 10 or 15 feet of the front so they could push back the old diner on the lot, making room for the new one. The old diner became the kitchen for the new diner and the new combined entity of Carroll’s was advertised on a matchbook cover as a “Modern diner in Historic Medford”. By this time it was being run by brothers Maurice, Jr. and John F. (Jack) Carroll.
This diner was replaced by 1962 when a brand new 3-piece Swingle Diner was delivered (August, 1961) and set-up nextdoor along with a large on-site kitchen and function room complex. When the new diner was open for business, the 1948 diner was brought back to Swingle’s factory in Middlesex, NJ to be rehabbed. It was resold in 1964 and moved along with an add-on diningroom to Umbria Street in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia where today it is operating as the Domino Diner. The original Brill diner was more than likely demolished along with the front part of the older pre-existing building. The back section was completely rebuilt in brick to match the kitchen/function room behind the new diner and became added space for functions.
The 1961 vintage Swingle, billed as Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car was the diner I recall going to for breakfast after church with the family on Easter Sunday for a couple of years. It operated until the early 1970’s when the Carroll family decided to remove the counters and stools of this “L” shaped diner and renamed it Carroll’s Restaurant. A new building was added to the right side of the diner that housed a diningroom with offices on the second floor and another function room downstairs in the basement. It was during this point in time that I was hanging out with my friends at Carroll’s, it was centrally located and open 24 hours. It was very convenient.
After I started photographing diners in 1980, I would occasionally patronize Carroll’s as it became the last survivor in Medford. I was there one day in 1985 and talking with Maurice Carroll, Jr. as well as his sons Tom and Paul. I was attempting to get copies of old pictures from them for my collection (I eventually did get some). During this conversation with Maury, I was explaining my facination with diners and said after all, this is the last diner in Medford, and he said “oh, it’s not a diner anymore”. I then said to him, you can call it what you want, but both you and I know this was built in a diner factory in New Jersey. In fact when the diner closed in 1986, Maury was quoted in the local newspaper that no matter what they did to the restaurant to try to get away from the diner image, everyone still referred to it as Carroll’s Diner!
One more Carroll’s memory I have is that in early 1986 I was interviewed for an article that was published in the November, 1986 edition of Smithsonian Magazine. This was one of the first major articles on diners and I was honored to be a part of it. I met the writer, Donald Dale Jackson at Carroll’s where he conducted the initial interview. I found out that he was also interviewing John Carroll, Jr. for the article. John and I later became friends from around 1992 until his untimely death from cancer in 1996. I have to say Carroll’s is still missed by a lot of people, including myself!
Some readers may wonder about the diner in my weblog header, others may know. FYI, this is the former Rosedale Diner of Pottstown, PA which appeared in 1973 on Daryl Hall and John Oates’ album entitled “Abandoned Luncheonette”.
I found it in 1982 and was able to get some good shots of it. I wrote a story about this that appeared in Roadside Magazine back in 1991. Since then I have been getting more info and been in touch with people who know a lot about the diner. I am planning on writing an updated account in the near future that will appear here. Stay Tuned!!!