Mike Engle locates rare Valentine diner in Gardiner, Maine

A Valentine Double Deluxe model. This image is from an article
published in the Summer 2003 issue of Kansas Heritage entitled
“Nothing Could Be Finer Than A Valentine Diner”.

A while back entrepid diner hunter Mike Engle ( co-author of “Diners of New York”) clued me in to a pdf file of an old newspaper clipping that was found in a search at an online Newspaper Archive. It was from Page 20 of the Kennebec Journal out of Augusta, Maine dated December 3, 1965. It featured a small article about the grand opening of a brand-new Valentine Double Deluxe Diner on the Brunswick road in Gardiner, Maine.

This was a surprise to me as I did not know that any late model Valentine’s made it into New England. These “portable steel sandwich shops” as Valentine Manufacturing Company out of Wichita, Kansas billed their product, looked nothing like the diners built on the east coast. I was aware that at least 2 smaller Valentine’s (Little Chef models) made it to my hometown of Medford, Mass. in 1948 or 1949. The “Double Deluxe” models were much different even from the “Little Chef” models. For one thing, the Double Deluxe models were usually built in at least 2 sections and the facade was made up of large windows and a flat roof that slanted up and overhung the front and sides of the building.

I stored the pdf file in my computer and sort of forgot about it until today when I read on the RoadsideFans Yahoo Group post about Mike’s recent journey to Central Massachusetts and into the State of Maine. He talked about visits to the Kenwood Diner in Spencer, Mass. as well as the Boulevard Diner of Worcester and Tim’s Diner in Leominster.

He then ventured up into Maine to check out the newly reopened Miss Portland Diner. From there he got up to Gardiner to have a meal at the A1 Diner. As he was driving out of town he purposely looked for and found the Valentine diner that was mentioned in the 1965 newspaper article.

I contacted Mike and he reminded me of the newspaper article and I promptly found it in my archives. He also was nice enough to send me 3 photos of the diner now known as Dave’s Diner.  As seen in the photos below, the exterior is unrecognizable as a Valentine but the interior seems to be fairly intact.

exterior of Dave’s Diner, photo courtesy of Mike Engle

interior of Dave’s Diner, photo courtesy of Mike Engle

interior of Dave’s Diner, photo courtesy of Mike Engle

Here is the text of the old article from the Kennebec Journal…..

Modern Pat’s Diner Opens,
Housed In Unique Building

The new Pat’s Diner, replacing a smaller wooden building, will have its grand opening this weekend, beginning today, in the new facilities on the Brunswick road.

Business growth during the eight years that the J. A. H. Miville family have operated the restaurant has led to the move. Miville explained that the building’s design is unique, the first of its type in Maine and only the second in New England.
Of pre-fabricated design, the building is all steel and has special insulation. Basic exterior design is of steel and glass. The interior has baked enamel finish and stainless steel fixtures. The restaurant includes a modern ice making machine, full refrigerator facilities and air conditioning. It is gas heated.
Manufactured in Wichita, Ka., the restaurant was transported in two sections the 2,000 miles to its Gardiner location on trailer trucks. It arrived here about three weeks ago at 9 o’clock in the morning and by 4 that afternoon, Miville said, it was in place on the special foundation which had been installed on the site of the former wooden building. Miville said the restaurant lot has been surfaced providing large parking areas.

Hours are 7 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Wednesday and 7 a.m. to 1 or 1:30 the following morning Thursday through Saturday. Eventually the restaurant may remain open all night. Miville said presently about eight are employed.

The cook is Henry Levesque, Gardiner, who with his wife operated the former Pat’s Diner on a lease basis for the Miville’s for about a year.
 The diner’s name comes from Miville’s wife’s name. She and the sons have general charge of the operation. In addition to his association with the family business, Miville is also employed here.

The page also contained ads congratulating the Miville’s on the opening of the new diner from different companies that provided services, food and equipment for the diner as well as one from the diner itself touting the Grand Opening. In fact at the top of that particular ad, the owners stated… “We Invite You To Visit Our New.. Valentine’s Double Deluxe, The Ultimate In Diners. The Only One Of Its Kind in Maine, Seats 35, Air Conditioned, Modern”. It also had a small menu of Opening Specials that were dirt cheap as far as prices go, but remember, this was 1965.