Some more drive-in restaurant images and info

As seen in the Boston Globe today

Wilber Hardee, 89; founded hamburger stand franchise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Circa 2006 Photo, copyright by Larry Cultrera

D’Andrea’s 3 Acres Drive-In Restaurant

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


Unidentified Drive-In restaurant, Lake Region of New Hampshire

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

Notes from the Hotline, 6-24-08


Parkway Diner, photo copyright 2005 by Larry Cultrera

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


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

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

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


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

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


Carrol’s Hamburgers, Stoneham, Mass., 1967

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

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


Henry’s Diner, photo copyright 2005 by Larry Cultrera

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

Diner Hotline makes it to 10,000 Hits today (since 10/31/07)

I am happy to announce that I finally broke the 10,000 hit mark today. In the last month and a half viewership has increased quite a bit. I emailed Michael & Jane Stern (of Roadfood.com) yesterday to let them know that my former Society for Commercial Archeology column has morphed into a blog. Michael got back to me to say he placed a link in Roadfood.com digest section of their website. All of a sudden things went nuts and veiwership went thru the roof! Between yesterday morning and today at noon, approximately 460 people have checked out my blog! Thank you to everybody, it makes it all worthwhile.

Larry Cultrera, Diner Hotline

Interesting Roadside places I have photographed

Over the years, I have photographed many diners. But also, being a member of the Society for Commercial Archeology since 1981, I have been moved to document other roadside places that were interesting. These included what is generally known as “Programatic Architecture”, basically buildings in the shape of what they sell or in the shape of other things such as “ships” and “boats”. Anyway, here are a few images of places that I had included in a power point slide show I did a couple of years ago I called “Local Roadside Memories”.

The Clam Box


Route 1A in Ipswich, Mass.

 Bayrd’s Indian Trading Post


Located on Route 129 in Wakefield, Mass., photo circa 1980’s
(now demolished)

The Ship Restaurant 


U.S. Route 1, Lynnfield, Mass.

 Sailor Tom’s House


Franklin Street, Reading, Mass. (Demolished 2007)

Sailor Tom’s house was part of a unique roadside restaurant that was a destination from the 1940’s through the 1950’s. The restaurant closed by the 1960’s and the house was the only structure that remained to remind anyone of what had been there. A new housing development is now being built there.

 The Big Duck


Riverhead, Long Island

The Big Duck was built by a local farmer to sell duck eggs in the 1930’s. It is currently in it’s third location and is a local landmark, used to sell souvenirs.

 The Milk Bottle


Route 138 in Raynham, Mass.

 Frates Dairy (another Milk Bottle shaped building)


Achushnet Avenue, New Bedford, Mass.

 Gallon Measure Gas Station


Route 9A, Albany Post Road, Buchanan, NY

 Salvador’s Ice Cream (Milk Can)


460 Smith Neck Road, South Dartmouth, Mass., photo circa 1980’s.

 Nipper (on building)


Broadway, Albany, NY. Just down the street
from the Miss Albany Diner

Prince Pizzeria and Restaurant 


U.S. Route 1, Saugus, Mass.

Originally part of a small chain of resaturants opened by the Prince Spaghetti Company, operated as the Prince Spaghetti Houses. The chain broke up by the early 60’s and this unit was taken over by an employee who through hard work and perserverance made it a huge success. The restaurant has been enlarged over the years.

 The Leaning Tower


Route 3A, Quincy, Mass. photo circa 1980’s (since demolished)
This was also part of the Prince Spaghetti House chain.
Notice the small section of building to the left, this is the first
Dunkin’ Donuts store.

Mister Donut 


Route 53 in South Weymouth, Mass., photo circa 1992

 Mister Donut


Route 3A, Weymouth, Mass., photo circa 1992
I shot both this one and the one above just prior to the chain being absorbed totally by Dunkin’ Donuts.

 Gary’s Remember When Drive-in Restaurant


Marlboro Street, Keene, NH, photo circa 1995
Since converted to auto dealership.

Diners from my youth, part 2

Back in early November, I wrote about “Diners from my youth”. I mentioned all the diners I remember from my hometown of Medford, Mass, from the 1950’s and 60’s. In this post I am going to expand upon this subject and show images of those diners, but also of all the diners that I know were located in Medford through the years.

Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car

A month and a half ago I showed some pictures and shared some info on Medford’s longest running diner, Carroll’s Diner. So I won’t get into that except to show the exterior and interior postcards that they put out after the last version of the diner was installed. This was a 1961 vintage Swingle “Colonial” style, made up in an “L” shape with corner entryway.


Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car, exterior view circa 1962 post card


Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car, interior view circa 1962 post card

Bobbie’s Diner (originally Jack’s Diner)

Another diner I knew fairly well was located down the street from Carroll’s. It was called Bobbie’s Diner, a 1925 vintage Jerry O’Mahony diner located at 33 Mystic Avenue. It was at that location from the early 1950’s until it was torn down in the early 1980’s. Here is my one and only shot of it before it was dismantled and placed in a dumpster.


Bobbie’s Diner, copyright 1981, by Larry Cultrera

This same diner had been at another location in Medford for a number of years prior to World War II.
It was in the Haines Square section of Medford and operated as Jack’s Diner. Here is a shot of it when it was being moved into storage right before the war.


Jack’s Diner being moved from 1st location to storage, early 1940’s

Riverside Diner

Ironically Medford had another O’Mahony diner from the same vintage known as the Riverside Diner. This diner created quite a stir in 1948 when developers were creating the Medford Square Shopping area. The developers were the Mugar family, owners of Star Markets (a super market chain). Apparently, the businesses that were located on the section of Riverside Avenue in Medford Square that was being developed were given eviction notices a year or 2 before. The developers started enforcing the evictions in the summer of 1948. The Riverside Diner was located partially on city owned land and the rest of it was on a parcel that was owned by the developer.

According to reports from the Medford Mercury newspaper, the owner of the diner was holding out for some money because he had some debt. Basically he resisted the eviction. It went before the Board of Aldermen at one point when the developer fenced in their part of the diner. The Aldermen voted to be hands-off because they felt the problem was between the diner owner and the developer and they were not going to get into the middle of it. Anyway, by the end of August, 1948 the situation was resolved and the diner closed, which I believe at that point it was torn down. Here is a shot from my collection of the old Riverside Diner.


Riverside Diner, circa 1948

Star Lite Diner

The diner I frequented the most (besides Carroll’s) was the Star Lite Diner, Worcester Lunch Car #817. It was located further down Mystic Avenue from Bobbie’s, close to the town line with Somerville. It was installed in 1948 and closed abruptly in 1968. The reports are that the owners may have lost the business through gambling (unsubstantiated). It was removed from it’s site, possibly to a salvage yard in Chelsea never to operate again.

After I started photographing diners in the early 1980’s, I began my search for a photo of this diner, looking through newspaper microfilm and historical societies in Medford and Worcester without any luck. Finally in late 1991, a photo surfaced in a sponsor booklet put out by the Medford Police Relief Association with some old photos found in of all places, the Medford Police Headquarters. These photos were part of traffic studies done periodically over the years. Here is the photo of the Star Lite Diner right after installation in December of 1948.


Star Lite Diner, WLC # 817, December, 1948

Howard Rust’s Radamat

There were 2 unique diners for this area located in Medford from the late 40’s into the 1970’s. Built by Valentine Manufacturing Company out of Wichita, Kansas, they were part of a short lived chain called Howard Rust’s Radamat. From what I can tell there were supposed to be upwards of a dozen or more of these proposed for the immediate area but only 2 were known to actually exist.  One was located on the corner of Riverside Avenue and River Street in Medford Square, diagonally across from the Riverside Diner. This one lasted until circa 1959 or 60 when a professional building was built on the site. It last operated as the Humpty Dumpty Diner. The other was on Boston Avenue near Tufts University and had several names prior to being torn down by the early 1970’s. A very rare post card exists of the Medford Square diner. Steve Lintner, a diner buff from New Jersey sent a color xerox of it to me years ago and I identified it a year or so after I got it as being the one from the Square.


Howard Rust’s Radamat postcard circa 1950

Sherwood’s Diner

Another Worcester Diner (#755) was located briefly in Medford, circa 1940. It was called Sherwood’s Diner and it was located in the Wellington Circle area of Medford. The word is it was taken back by the Worcester Lunch Car Company after a couple of years and it then replaced another diner in Worcester. It operated until the early 70’s when the area it was in was developed for other uses. It went into storage briefly and then was moved to Route 12 in Auburn and was used as an Ice Cream stand for a short period. It is currently being rehabbed in Rhode Island for possible future use. Here is a shot of it from the 1980’s in Auburn.


Sherwood’s Diner, early to mid 1980’s, by Larry Cultrera

Misc. Medford Diners

I have found evidence of other diners located in Medford over the years. My dad use to tell me of a small diner that was located across Main Street from the Blue Eagle Market (our family business from 1932 to 1970). I cannot remember what it might have been called but my friend Steve Repucci came up with an old photograph that shows just a small piece of it. The photo was taken from the middle of Main Street at the intersection of Harvard Street looking south. The main focus was on the trolley that was in the shot.

 

If we look closer as we do in the following photo, just above the girl’s head and just below the “bowling” sign, you can see a little of the diner’s sign and a couple of windows of the diner sitting end-wise from the street. It is very frustrating but this is the only image I have found that sort of shows it was there.

Finally, here are 2 shots from the Tufts University archives showing a very small Worcester Lunch Car next door to Curtis Hall on the corner of Boston Avenue and College Avenue. The first photo taken from a distance shows the wagon with a bright paint job.

The second photo, a close up shows it with the paint worn off.

Neon Signs that I have photographed, old & new shots

Every so often I have photographed neon signs, mostly because either they have survived or I feel like the next time I drive by, they will be gone. Recently I have been more aware because of my newly found passion for checking out other people’s photos on flickr (shout out to Jeff at Vintage Roadside and others). So today I thought I would post some of my own recent shots as well as some from years past.

Here is one that I have been looking at since I was a kid, the reason is obvious why it is in such good shape,
it belongs to Batten Brothers Sign Company located on Main Street in Wakefield, Mass.


This was taken on Memorial Day Weekend, 2008

This was what was left of the old roadside sign/marquee for the old E.M. Loews Pinehust Drive-in Theater in Billerica, Mass. taken in the 1980’s before it disappeared.

Another sign shot in the 1980’s before it too disappeared was the old OK Used Car sign at the former Porter Chevrolet car dealership in the Fresh Pond area of Cambridge, Mass. The place is currently doing business as Cambridge Honda.

Another one still in Cambridge is the old Shell Oil sign

Here is one that is about a mile from my home in Saugus, Mass located on U.S. Route 1
The famous Hilltop Steak House cactus

I just took this last shot below this past weekend of a sign that still exists but I don’t believe is actually ever turned on anymore, the Roberts Cleaners sign located on Summer Street in Lynn, Mass.

Former Edgemere Diner now known as “The Edge” gets good reviews

After 13 years of limbo (and being closed for over a year), the former Edgemere Diner of Shrewsbury, Mass. has finally gotten a new lease on life, so to speak. This 1940’s vintage Fodero diner with “art deco” broadway style lettering baked into the porcelain panels is now simply called “The Edge” and serves up mainly hot dogs. The diner, taken by the Town of Shrewsbury for taxes back in 1995 has had a series of operators who due to the short one year leases offered by the town have not been able to develop any sort of viable business over the intervening years.

The Edgemere has been at this location since the 1960’s I believe when it replaced the former Glenwood Diner, a reconditioned 1930’s vintage Worcester diner with monitor roof that had previously operated on the site. It was originally one of two Englewood Diners in the Boston area before moving to Shrewsbury.

Shrewsbury finally decided that they had to revisit their plan for the vacant diner and property and revised it so that a new operator could purchase the building and rent the property for 20 years. Last fall David Kupstas bought the diner, cleaned it up and re-equipped it in preparation for a reopening. After consulting with family members it was decided to not open it as a traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner type diner.
As he put it “I want to make this the best hot dog place around”.

Serving homemade condiments along with Hot dogs, regular or extra-long, jumbo all-beef hot dog, Italian sausages smothered with peppers and onions, maple chicken sausage, smoked kielbasa with grilled onions, pale ale bratwurst with sauerkraut, a side of baked beans, as well as dessert featuring Gifford’s Ice Cream, made in Maine.

Here is a review by Barabara M. Houle, Food Editor for the Worcester Telegram and Gazette that appeared yesterday in the newspaper…..

Hot Dogs from The Edge

I first heard about The Edge at a Cinco de Mayo party hosted by friends in Shrewsbury. One of the guests asked if I had eaten there yet, and if I hadn’t, why not. The place has great hot dogs, he said. Later, I received an e-mail from a retired PR guy from Westboro who said he had a hot dog at The Edge and it was fabulous. “If you’re interested in doing a story, I don’t think they have a phone yet,” he added.

He was right.The Edge has no phone, and it’s going to stay that way, according to owner David Kupstas of Worcester, who said he doesn’t want to have to answer calls while he’s waiting on customers. Last fall, Kupstas bought the Edgemere Diner, 51 Hartford Turnpike, Shrewsbury, for $5,000 and agreed to rent the Route 20 property on which it is located for 20 years. He opened The Edge in March after spending months sprucing up the place. All the kitchen equipment was gone, Kupstas said, but the counter, stools and booths were kept intact. Everything has been repainted and refinished, he said.

Kupstas, who grew up in Auburn, previously worked as a financial adviser, and before that he was general manager for Panera Bread in Arlington and assistant manager for Host Marriott. He and his wife, Paula, have two children, Kayla, 9, and Nicholas, 5. When Kupstas solicited a bid to purchase the diner, he said he didn’t know exactly what he would do with the place. He tossed around ideas, he said, and with the help of his family came up with a business plan for The Edge.

“I want to make this the best hot dog place around,” Kupstas said. The diner is fun to be in, and you get a nostalgic trip into the past with a quick, reasonably priced lunch or dinner, he said. “I’m not planning on changing a thing. It’s hot dogs for the next 20 years.”

Kupstas’ brother, Christopher, and his father, Robert Kupstas, both of Auburn, help out in the business. His cousin Ryan Kupstas will work during summer break from college. “Everyone in the family likes to cook,” said David Kupstas. Robert (Bob) Kupstas makes the relishes, sweet cucumber, pineapple and jalapeno, which are rated “awesome” by customers. Cucumber relish is sold in half pints as a result of consumer demand. The business also makes its own barbecue and chili sauces. Homemade condiments are key to the success of the business, Kupstas said.

So what constitutes a great hot dog?
Kupstas said a natural casing gives the best hot dogs their snap and bite. He prefers and serves only Kayem hot dogs. The name is recognized by anyone who has lived in Central Massachusetts, he said. “We all grew up on Kayem.”

Kayem, a New England food company, is headquartered in Chelsea.

On the menu: Hot dogs, regular or extra-long, $1.75; jumbo all-beef hot dog, $4. Italian sausages smothered with peppers and onions, $5; maple chicken sausage, $4.75; smoked kielbasa with grilled onions, $3.75; pale ale bratwurst with sauerkraut, $5.50; a side of baked beans, $1.25. June is salsa dog month at the diner.

Gifford’s ice cream, made in Maine, is available in assorted flavors. A strawberry, chocolate or vanilla frappe is $4.

The Edge is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. There are picnic tables for outside seating.

You can people watch at noon Sunday when a local car club meets in the diner’s parking lot. Kupstas said owners want to take photos of their ’50s and ’60s classic cars in front of the diner.

The Edge also will offer free ice cream from 3 to 5 p.m. June 15, Father’s Day.

We say, drop on by.

Summer is known for its dog days, after all.