A little glimpse into my Diner postcard collection

I have been collecting old (and new) postcards for around 30 years or so. It started with some old postcards of my hometown of Medford, Massachusetts. After that I expanded into some postcard views of things like the former Pleasure Island Amusement Park, an early “Disneyesque” theme park that operated from around 1960-69 and was located in Wakefield, Mass.

I started photographing diners in November of 1980, and it was only logical to start collecting diner postcards. One of the first cards I found was a chrome view of the Olympia Diner from Newington, Conn. I only had this card for a short time and actually gave it away, but not just to anyone. You see, I made arrangements to meet Dick Gutman & his wife Kellie at the old Apple Tree Diner when it was still operating in Dedham, Mass., (Dick co-wrote American Diner, the first “history book” on diners).

We met in February of 1981 and I brought the Olympia postcard with me. I was planning on giving it to Dick (if he did not already have it) because on the dust jacket of the hardcover edition of American Diner (as well as the cover on the paperback edition) there was a partial night-time image of the Olympia on it. Needless to say he did not already have it and I presented it to him as a token of our burgeoning friendship. It took me years to get that postcard back into the collection, I actually obtained a reprinted version at the Olympia Diner about 6 years ago.

Anyway, I thought I would post a few of my favorite diner postcards from the collection on Diner Hotline for my faithfull readers to view.

I will start out with some early lunch wagon views…

Nite Lunch next to Broadway Theatre, Derry, NH

This is a postcard of the Broadway Theatre of Derry, NH and just to the left is a small Nite Lunch Wagon. This probably served food to the patrons of the Theatre as well as anyone else out and about in downtown Derry.

Vienna Lunch,
AKA “Never Touched Us” Diner, Chelsea, Mass.

This diner as the postcard says was one of the only buildings in the fire zone to be spared in the April 12, 1908 conflagration in Chelsea, Mass. Originally known as the Vienna Lunch, after the fire it became known as the “Never Touched Us” Diner.

Lunch Wagons at the Taunton (Mass.) Green
Christmas time, 1954

Although this is fairly new as far as Lunch Wagons go, this card shows that some late model Worcester Lunch Car Company motorized Lunch Wagons operated into the age of Stainless Steel diners.
In the foreground you can see Sully’s Diner (which may have started out as Behan’s Diner as seen in earlier shots) and just to the right of the Christmas Tree toward the top of the shot is Hickey’s Diner. Hickey’s operated until the mid-1980’s, in fact I was one of the final 6 or 7 people in the diner when Mike Hickey shut the lights out at around 2 in the morning on the last day of service under the Hickey family.

Lackawanna Trail Diner, Stroudsburg, PA

I have been aware of this card since John Baeder published his book, “Gas, Food and Lodging” back in 1982. He featured this postcard image as well as a more contemporary photo he shot for the book. At that time the diner which was operating as Besecker’s Diner, had wooden shingles below the windows but otherwise was in decent shape. When I visited the diner shortly after, the Besecker family had moved to a newer Silk City diner not far from the Lackawanna Trail Diner. The older diner was operating as Jerry’s Diner and the shingles were removed.

Fast forward to the late 1990’s, Jerry’s Diner was for sale when my old friend Gordon Tindall bought it. Tindall had previously restored the old Clarksville Diner from Clarksville, NJ. He had bought and moved that diner to Decorah, Iowa where he operated it for 6 years. He sold the Clarksville to a Television Network in Paris, France, where that diner is located today. He was on his way back from Port Newark after delivering the Clarksville there for shipment to France when he stopped in at Jerry’s Diner. After purchasing it he transported that diner to the Lancaster, PA area hoping to get a desired parcel of land to operate it at when the restoration was complete. In fact because he thought the diner would be operating in Lancaster, he named it the Red Rose Diner after the city’s nickname. This fell through and he eventually found a great spot in Towanda, PA and has operated it successfully for a number of years, (he is in the process of selling this one and moving out to the midwest to be closer to family). His restoration of the Lackawanna Trail/Red Rose was nearly perfect (by the way this is a rare 1927 vintage Tierney Diner). Gordon is quite the craftsman.

 I recently bid on this postcard and won it on Ebay. Ironically I bought it from another old friend, post card collector and dealer David B. Grubbs. My buddy Steve Repucci was living out in Harrisburg, PA for a couple of years in the early 1980’s and he went to a flea market and saw this guy with a huge selection of old postcards. He asked the guy (who turned out to be David Grubbs) if he had any “diner” postcards. He showed him where they were and Steve proceeded to by around 20 to 25 cards. This became my Christmas present from Steve that year and the beginning of my Diner postcard collection!

Red Arrow Diner, Nashua, NH

In the last couple of weeks I posted that the Red Arrow Diner of Manchester, NH was going to reopen the former Milford Diner in Milford, NH as a 2nd Red Arrow Diner. Back in the 1920’s and 30’s there was a chain of Red Arrow Diners in southern New Hampshire and it looks like there will be another chain now. Here is a postcard of the Red Arrow Diner that was located in Nashua, NH. It is a great example of a Brill Diner. The postcard had a post date of 1933.

Everett’s Diner, Groveton, NH

This is an interesting postcard. It is interesting because I have no idea who built this. It looks like it is more than one building put together to be one large diner. It is hard to tell as the signage hides any clues the roofline might have as to what this is. It does not exist anymore to the best of my knowledge.

Mayflower Diner, Quincy, Mass.

This is a unique example of one of only 2 fully streamlined diners built by the Worcester Lunch Car Company in the 1940’s. According to Dick Gutman, the workers at WLCC had called these models “Circular Diners” because of their round end walls. This diner was replaced by a large stainless steel Jerry O’Mahony diner in the early 1950’s. This one went on to a short lived existence as the Wonderland Diner in Revere, Mass. It is reported to have burned down at that location near the Wonderland Dog Track.

Heald’s Diner, Gardiner, Maine

Here is (as the postcard claims) Maine’s Most Beautiful Diner. A Worcester Semi-Streamliner that still exists today as the A-1 Diner. The diner is located next to a bridge and sits on steel framework so the front door is a the same level as the street. A very unique location!

Bostonian Diner, Meridan, Conn.

This postcard depicts an on-site building operating as the Bostonian Diner on the Berlin Turnpike in Connecticut. At some point, the owners gave the building a makeover utilizing sunburst panels of stainless steel as well as stainless steel moldings and created this fantasic on-site diner.