Diner Hotline Weblog 2 years old today!

From  a 1991 Yankee magazine article called “Devoted to Diners”

Today marks the 2 year anniversary of this blog being on the internet! The time has gone by so fast. Of course the blog follows just about 19 years of the hardcopy version of Diner Hotline featured as a regular column in  the SCA’s (Society for Commercial Archeology’s)  Journal magazine. In fact, if I think about it, towards the end of the coming month, I have been photographing diners 29 years.

Whoo!!!! Time really has flown! I was a mere 27 years old when I shot my first diner….  the Bypass Diner of Harrisburg, PA (now the American Dream Diner), see below……

The very first Diner photograph I ever shot!

Some stats from the blog since 10-31-07…

Total Views = 71, 727
Posts (including this one) = 190
Approved Comments = 481
Busiest Day = 511 views, 1-16-09

Thank you to everyone who are regular readers of this blog! I know I’m having fun writing it!

Larry Cultrera

Sunday morning visit to the Red Arrow Diner in Milford, NH

Red Arrow Diner, Milford, NH
photo copyright October 25, 2009 by Larry Cultrera

Well, I’ve been wanting to get back to Milford, NH to see the newest outlet of the Red Arrow Diner. I reported a while back (Sept. 25, 2008 to be exact) that Carol Sheehan of the wildly successful (and popular) Red Arrow Diner of Manchester, NH was going to reopen the former Milford Diner as a second outlet for the Red Arrow. See  this post….. https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2008/09/25/new-hampshires-milford-diner-to-become-2nd-red-arrow-diner/ 

In fact, I was thinking of trying to get to Milford for their annual Pumpkin Festival two weeks ago but the stars were not aligned or something and it did not happen. Then last week Randy Garbin (of RoadsideOnline) and his family made a visit to Milford and as anticipated left there with glowing reviews of the diner. This spurred me to finally get back to one of my favorite New Hampshire towns for breakfast. Saturday was out of the question as it was rainy and gloomy pretty much all day, but Sunday was promising to be a perfect autumnal weekend and probably the last one with any significant folliage to view.

Red Arrow Diner, Milford, NH
photo copyright October 25, 2009 by Larry Cultrera

Kuppy’s Diner of Middletown, PA from my collection.
The Red Arrow Diner in Milford, NH should look more like this.

Denise and I got up to Milford around 7:30 am and the diner was not too busy which was alright with me. Probably a lull as we overheard the day before the diner was jammed a good portion of the day. Denise got a freshly baked coffee cake muffin and I had the eggs, sausage, hashbrowns and toast. We were both very happy with our food and the service was quick and the waitress attentive.

This diner has been a favorite of mine for at least 15 years. I love the setting and always have loved eating here, but now more so as it is a Red Arrow Diner now! I recall driving by it in the 1980’s and wondering if it was a real diner. You see, the place is covered with a regular peaked roof with a gable on the left side and the other end is married into the attached building.

This was done long before I had ever seen it. I was not sure if it was a factory-built diner, so I never logged it or photographed it until the 1990’s. But I actually did go in it one day back in the early to mid 1980’s to have a cup of coffee and more importantly to check it out! I noticed it had what appeared to be a monitor roof with a very narrow clerestory. Being a novice back then I was not as familiar with some of the diner manufacturers as I would later become.

Red Arrow Diner, Milford, NH
photo copyright October 25, 2009 by Larry Cultrera

By the time the 1990’s rolled around, my expertise in these matters was fairly rounded out and I realized that this was possibly a rare (for these parts) Ward & Dickinson diner out of Silver Creek, NY. I have since learned from New York diner maven Mike Engle (co-author with Mario Monti of Diners of New York, Stackpole Books) that this may actually be an even more rare Liberty Diner (which has direct lineage to the Ward & Dickinson Co.).

New red standing seam roof at the Red Arrow Diner, Milford, NH
(by the way, I got to sit at my favorite stool, the last one on the left),
the last couple of feet of the diner actually hang over the river as the diner was longer than the piece of land. 
photo copyright October 25, 2009 by Larry Cultrera

One thing that is different since the last time I was there, the roof over the diner has been redone with a red standing seam covering. It also has a new sign next to the right hand addition. Most of the other changes they made were just tweaks to what former owner Debbie Flerra had already done to bring the diner back to life after it had been stripped by the last owner (before Debbie and her late partner Gordon Maynard bought it).

new sign at the Red Arrow Diner, Milford, NH
photo copyright October 25, 2009 by Larry Cultrera

It looks like as Randy said Carol Sheehan has struck gold again with this 2nd Red Arrow Diner and is now actively seeking people to buy franchises. She hopes to have many more Red Arrows located throughout New England (and probably beyond) before too long! Check out their website at…
http://redarrowdiner.com/home  for more info on the diners and their plans for franchising!

new sign at the Red Arrow Diner, Milford, NH
photo copyright October 25, 2009 by Larry Cultrera

Notes from the Hotline, 10/20/09

New blog  for Culinary Arts Museum

I received this email recently about the newly launched Blog from The Culinary Arts Museum (Richard Gutman is the Director of the Museum).
Here is the text of that email……

Greetings from the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales! 
We’re excited to present you with two new ways we’ll be keeping
you better informed about all the engaging events and exhibits
here at the museum.  We have started a museum blog to bring
you up-to-date information.  Check with us regularly for details
about our upcoming exhibits, book signings, art openings and
activities we offer throughout the year.  In addition to the blog,
we will be sending you a short musEumNEWS letter about once
every two months.  Feel free to send us an email with any questions
or to let us know what you think, and remember to stop by to visit
when you’re nearby! You can get to the blog at……… www.culinaryartsmuseum.blogspot.com

Culinary Arts Museum Blog page


Updated Info on the preservation effort for NJ’s Forum Diner

Forum Diner, Paramus, NJ photo courtesy Michael Perlman

Michael Perlman sent along the latest Press Release on his efforts to save New Jersey’s Forum Diner. Here is the piece…..

Committee To Save The Forum Diner


Effort to Spare “Endangered Species” from Oblivion!

PARAMUS, NJ & NEW YORK (Oct 13, 2009) – A multi-faceted, creative preservation movement is underway by the Committee To Save The Forum Diner, to spare the historic Forum Diner (211 East State Route 4, Paramus, NJ) from demolition, and is calling upon parties of interest to come forward ASAP, and spare this gem from oblivion.  Shortly after the diner’s former owners retired in 2007, Kevin Ormes’ Jeep 17 dealership was slated to rise on premise, but has since fell through. As a result, there are more preservation options than before, but time is of the essence for a diner attributed with a “series of firsts.” Reopening and restoring the Forum Diner to its former glory would become a dream come true to devoted fans, on the basis of memories made within its walls and its unique architectural style for a diner. It merits a new lease on life, so future generations can have a chance too.
(thanks to an agreement with Kevin Ormes):

1. Purchasing the Forum Diner structure at the low cost of $15,000 ($1K per sq ft), in which the buyer would be responsible for rigging costs. All or most of the diner’s 7 sections can be transported elsewhere, and saved along the lines of Preservationist Michael Perlman’s other projects, NYC’s Cheyenne Diner transported to AL in Oct 2009 & NYC’s Moondance Diner to WY in Aug 2007. Rigger Mel Brandt of M&M Rigging, transported over 50 diners countrywide, & took dimensions of the Forum Diner. Also, a deal can be worked out with Al Suwara, who is willing to accommodate anyone seeking land to move the Forum Diner to. He owns a 15 acre property in Cairo, NY with an 800 sq ft frontage on Route 23, a heavily-trafficked main road that leads to Ski Windham and Catskill Park. 

2. The Forum Diner at its current property can be purchased for $3.9 million. The diner has a history of great business, which is marked by its convenient location on a major intersection with a school and shops nearby. 
3. The Forum Diner can be leased at $55,000/month.

**For the above options, it is very likely that grants and tax
credits are available to help finance future historically-sensitive
restoration & renovation work, through the State & National Register
of Historic Places.

Forum Diner History:    The Forum Diner is an architectural gem, and rare for 60s style architecture. It was prefabricated by the Fodero Dining Car Co, and was announced that “money was no object” when it came down to detail, shortly after it first opened. Joseph Fodero of Bloomfield, NJ was the mastermind of diner manufacturing (also manufacturing NYC’s famed Empire Diner). The Yannitsadis brothers were the original owners of the Forum Diner. The exterior borrows from the Environmental style, and features stainless steel, wrap-around windows, groovy gold frame doors, corner entryway with stone & colored mansard roof, & decorative ornamentation gracing the top. The interior is elegant, featuring fine Greek wood fluted columns & moldings and coffered wooden-paneled walls (rare for a diner), wood ornamentation, recessed areas for chandeliers, etched mirrors with regal logos, stone, curtains, counter & stools with backrests, kitchen out back, terrazzo tiles and wave-patterned terrazzo distinguishing circular wooden booth areas. Pat Fodero, son of Joseph Fodero, came up with the idea of circular booths to seat more patrons per table, and it was first popularized at the Forum Diner. It became the norm to build large to boost business. The interior portrays the Colonial style. 

Forum Diner Photos:  http://www.flickr.com/gp/8095451@N08/okNvP5  (Can be enlarged by clicking on each photo and then “all sizes” to view small, medium, or large. Some photos appear to be slightly larger, since they were taken with a super wide-angle lens)   

Review of Specifications
Address: 211 Route 4 East, Paramus, NJ
Circa 15,000 square feet 
10 ft ceilings
Historic/Rare architectural features
Lot size: 2.05
Heat: gas
Parking: 200 spaces
Seats: 220
Property with diner sale price: $3.9 million 
Leasing: $55,000/month
Purchasing the structure only: $15,000 one-time fee
      Perlman explains: “Diners are amongst the ‘ultimate public institutions’ which harbor countless memories and bridge the generations. During the 30’s – 60’s eras, freestanding diners numerously dotted the tri-state area, and brought together individuals of various occupations in a cozy & striking ambiance. Today, they are becoming an endangered species at an alarming rate, and their loss is often most heartfelt. It is essential to preserve & reuse all remaining classic freestanding diners. Despite time constraints, we are committed to doing all we can for a noble cause.” The Committee’s consensus is that “A steady market for such nostalgic gems, coupled by the fact that they were manufactured to move; can ensure a victory for the Forum Diner.”

Parties of interest can contact Committee To Save The Forum Diner
Chairman Michael Perlman at unlockthevault@hotmail.com &
(917) 446-7775, and all information will be relayed to the
property owner.

The story of how I drove into an old postcard

Back in the early 1980’s, February of 1982 to be exact, I first had contact with John  Baeder. As many people know, John Baeder is considered along with Richard J.S. Gutman one of the founding fathers of this diner appreciation movement that dates to the late 1960’s to early 1970’s. Of course their respective books Diners (Baeder, 1978) and American Diner (Gutman, Kaufman, Slovic, 1979) helped lead the way for the rest of us.

I had already become friendly with Richard Gutman in early 1981 and it was not quite a year later that I finally got up the nerve to contact John. As I recall it was probably within a month or so of my dad’s passing away suddenly at the young age of 59. John & I talked (in that first phone call) for a while and started corresponding as well. He sent postcards of some of his prints as well as black & white xerox copies of some of his diner postcard collection. These copies usually were 8.5″ x 11″ sheets containing at least 6 postcard images.

One of the packages I received had about 3 of these letter size copies stapled together and had an image that depicted a street scene. The scene was entitled… Fort Dix Road, Wrightstown, NJ. In the scene the photographer was standing on the east side of the street looking across the street and back to the left. In the foreground of the shot was the Victory Diner, looking to be a late 1940’s to early 1950’s Master Diner. The diner was situated end-wise to the street with a parking lot in front. To the left of the diner was a business block housing 2 or 3 other establishments and toward the end of the block a neon sign was visible that said “Town Diner”. Beyond these businesses a small stone bridge spanned a waterway and the road sort of swung to the right, out of the photo.

postcard image from John Baeder collection

In reading John’s book (Diners) I recall him mentioning about doing a painting from an old postcard image of a street scene. How he had a fantasy of going into the image and say, walk down the street and maybe go into one of the stores or buildings in the scene. Well I had an experience that came close to what John had fantasized about. I should also mention that both John and I have talked about our shared belief in a sort of sixth sense.

Back in June of 1983, I attended the Society for Commercial Archeology’s meeting at Wildwood, NJ. I started the drive down on Thursday evening June 23, 1983 and got as far as a rest area on I-684, just north of White Plains, NY where I slept in my van for a few hours. The next morning I had breakfast at the Star Diner, a 1950 vintage Silk City diner in White Plains. Another highlight of that morning was visiting the Kullman Diner Company factory, then located in Avenel, NJ before proceeding down to the Wildwood area.

Souvenir booklet from the SCA Wildwood meeting 6-25-83

On the 25th, I visited most of the diners in the Wildwood area and walked a little of the boardwalk before meeting up with the other attendees of the SCA meeting at the Wildwood Diner. When the initial meeting festivities were concluded, I decided to start the drive back, opting not to participate in the scavenger hunt they had planned.

By this time it was probably just past 2:00 pm and I started driving north. I went as far as Atlantic City, where I photographed the Columbus Diner and started to head west on Rte. 30. As I recall, I travelled Rte. 30 as far as Pomona, NJ, where I photographed the South China Restaurant, a stainless steel Jerry O’Mahony diner. This was on a side road just off Rte. 30. I decided to continue north on this road, I believe it was unmarked (no route number). I should probably mention that I had decided I would rely on my sense of direction and not use any roadmaps for this particular roadtrip thus having a heightened sense of adventure and discovery.

So, I drove for many miles into and through what I realized was the middle of the Pine Barrens. I started to get nervous as this area was sparsely settled with hardly any roadside businesses and I was getting extremely low on gasoline. I started talking to the van saying we could make it to the next town to get gas. I had no idea where I was, and in fact found out as most people do who drive through New Jersey, there are few signs telling you what particular town you are in, at any given time. Well finally I was approaching civilization, more and more houses and such were appearing along the road.

Then something strange happened, I started getting a feeling that I was approaching the town that I remembered from that postcard image that John Baeder had sent me previously. I don’t know why but it popped into my head and the feeling was extremely strong! Wouldn’t you know, the road went around a curve to the left and I crossed a stone bridge into a town. I was amazed! It WAS the same town as in the postcard! I pulled over to the side and looked and there it was, the former Victory Diner now called the Super Diner. It had gained a stucco facade under the windows and the parking lot in front of it was now a lawn. It also appeared to be not in operation.

Super Diner, Wrightstown, NJ

Super Diner, Wrightstown, NJ

This was one of the more interesting things that had ever happened to me on the road, in fact I do not believe any other experience comes close. After taking my photos of the diner I went down the street and got gas for the van. Then I continued on to the Mount Holly area and had dinner at the Crossroads Diner a late model brick Fodero diner with mansard roof. The rest of the trip consisted of staying at a motel adjacent to the Premium Diner on U.S. Rte. 1 in Avenel. I believe the next morning I had breakfast at the Avenel Diner up the road and drove home through New York and Connecticut arriving home in Medford, Mass. in the middle to late afternoon. What a trip!

Interesting article from Denton, Texas

I just read this article from the Denton Record Chronicle out of Denton, TX. It was about the passing of  Jim Smith the former owner/operator of Jim’s Diner of that town. Apparently this was a storefront type establishment, (not a factory-built diner) that was much loved and appreciated for a number of years. The story tells of  Mr. Smith’s commissioning of a wall mural on the side of his establishment. It looks to me that the artist (Shawn Dell Joyce) based her mural on John Baeder’s painting of the Lemoyne Diner once located near Harrisburg, PA.

Jim’s Diner is shown in the 1990s on Fry Street. Jim Smith, owner of
the former restaurant, died Monday at age 75.
(Photo courtesy of  Denton Register Chronicle)

Here is the text of the article ……..

A legacy of taste and art

Jim’s Diner owner dies at age 75

08:20 AM CDT on Thursday, October 15, 2009
By Les Cockrell / Region Editor

The idea surfaced one day in the late 1970s when Jim and Judy Smith were driving through Denton. “He said, ‘I’ve always wanted to have my own restaurant,’” Judy Smith recalled, adding that she encouraged her husband to act on his dream. “Let’s do it,” she told him. “Let’s jump off the bridge.” The result was Jim’s Diner, an iconic eatery that became a fixture on Fry Street and endeared itself to many.

“He opened his diner in ’78 or ’79,” Judy Smith said. “I’m so glad he did. “He got to do his dream, and not many men get to do that.” Jim Smith owned the diner for only about 10 years, his wife said, but the identity he gained from
the business endured until his death early Monday at age 75. “I went to wake him up, and he was dead,” Judy Smith said. “He died in his sleep.”

Born in Newton Falls, N.Y., in 1934, Jim Smith grew up in Wellsville, N.Y., where the couple married. A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Smith worked for Bausch & Lomb and then Xerox, his wife said. In 1973, the couple and their four sons moved to Texas as part of a corporate relocation. He was working for Xerox when he decided to open Jim’s Diner, his wife said, and the business at 110 Fry St. soon became a neighborhood fixture. But it was a decision Smith made in 1987 that secured his place in local history.

That was the year Smith commissioned a 22-year-old student at the University of North Texas to paint a mural on the outside wall of his building. After much discussion, and some disagreement, Smith and the artist settled on an idea and work began. “He had a lot of faith in me and my work,” said Shawn Dell Joyce, who now lives in New York, where she owns a studio, art school and gallery. “He was a very generous and giving man.”

The final result — a depiction of a 1930s streamliner dining car — brought a lot of attention to Jim’s Diner and to Denton. It was the characters posed in the windows of the dining car — John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, Wally and “Beaver” Cleaver and the Beatles — who really captured the public’s imagination. The artist also worked as a baker at Jim’s Diner, she said. “When Jim commissioned me to do the mural, I would bake biscuits at the diner
in the wee hours of the morning,” Joyce said. “I had a key, and I would go in there and bake for hours.”

The mural painted on the facade of Jim’s Diner is shown in its original glory. (Photo courtesy of  Denton Register Chronicle)

Smith was particular about the mural, Joyce said. “My concept was to put great works of art in each window,” she said. “He said, ‘You’re going to put in Denton greats and John Wayne.’ I was happy to oblige.” Thus, the finished mural featured diner regulars Sheldon Newman and Dennis Swilley, along with the pop culture figures.

“That [mural] was his way of helping me get on with my career,” she said. “I had been working there to put myself through school. “He was probably the best boss I ever had. He ran a pretty tight ship, but I knew that inside the gruff exterior that he really loved me.”

John Baeder’s painting of the Lemoyne Diner (courtesy John Baeder)
I believe Shawn Dell Joyce’s mural for Jim’s Diner was based on this

Jim’s Diner was a favorite hangout for many locals, especially artists and musicians, Joyce said, and many Denton visitors made sure to stop there. “When I was working there, the Talking Heads came through and had breakfast at Jim’s Diner,” she said. “There were many notables who ate there.” Joyce said she has many fond memories of the Smiths. “They were really integral people in my life and helped shape my success,” she said. “They probably kept a good dozen of us from starving.”

Jim usually worked at the diner seven days a week, Judy Smith said, and she was relieved when her husband decided to sell the business. “It would have killed him,” she said. “I don’t think he hardly took a vacation in all those years.” Smith sold the name of the diner along with the business, Judy Smith said, so Jim’s Diner continued to serve customers for a while. “We were happy that someone bought it and kept the name,” she said.

Eventually, the property was sold again and later demolished along with other Fry Street buildings in 2007. Three of the mural panels were salvaged and can be enjoyed today at the Center for the Visual Arts, at 400 E. Hickory St. “It [the mural] became a wonderful, iconic part of Fry Street and, consequently, Denton,” said Margaret Chalfant, executive director of the Greater Denton Arts Council. “I think it’s wonderful that someone in the restaurant business had the vision to do something that unique.”

It was important to preserve the mural, Chalfant said. “To be able to preserve that landmark was wonderful for the arts council and for the citizens of Denton,” she said. “We didn’t realize how far-reaching the memories attached to this mural were. “We’re preserving some of our artistic history.”

A memorial service for Jim Smith is scheduled for 11 a.m. Nov. 11 at the Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, his wife said. After selling Jim’s Diner, Smith worked for another local restaurant and then became food service manager at UNT’s University Union. “He was pretty ill the last few years,” Judy said.

Judy Smith owns Rose Costumes, located at 5800 N. Interstate 35, Suite 508, but the business once was located next door to her husband’s diner. The costume business grew out of a vintage furniture and clothing store called Secondhand Rose. She and a former partner suggested the name for Jim’s Diner, she said. “We thought it should be something simple,” she recalled.

The couple celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary in June, and Judy Smith said her husband will be remembered as someone who was always ready to help. “He helped me,” she said. “He didn’t like to work at the store, but he was the best sounding board. Our businesses were tied together. We supported each other.

“He had a pretty good life.”

LES COCKRELL can be reached at 940-566-6887. His e-mail address is lcockrell@dentonrc.com .

Unique Diner Miniature of Collins’ Diner

Marcie Miller contacted me recently with this comment….
My name is Marcie Miller and I make small scale architectural installations.  I was recently commissioned to make a funky replica of Collins’ Diner in Canaan, CT.  It’s just stunning and the family cried when they saw it.  When you open the door, the song “You Send Me” by Sam Cooke plays.

If anyone is interested in seeing my work and commissioning my services, please email me directly:  MARCIESMILLER@SBCGLOBAL.NET





Marcie’s efforts are certainly unique, not something I have ever seen before. Created from an old Toaster Oven, I would almost classify it as a diorama in miniature.

For those not familiar with this diner Collins’ is a 1942 vintage Jerry O’Mahony Diner in relatively original condition. Although they claim to be on the National Register of Historic Places this is a little misleading. The diner is located in a designated historical district that is on the Register, but it is not an individual listing or part of a multiple listing like Massachusetts has. Below is a photo I shot back in the 1980’s of Collins’ Diner.


Blue Belle Diner one step closer to reopening after 11 years

The freshly re-painted  Blue Belle Diner installed on it’s new
foundation adjacent to Dinky’s Restaurant in Shrewsbury, Mass.

This is a follow-up from 2 posts I did earlier, the first post was dated May 8th, 2009 and mentioned Bruce Trotto of Dinky’s Restaurant and Cafe of Shrewsbury, Mass. buying the former Blue Belle Diner (Worcester Lunch Car # 814) and moving it from its storage location in Princeton, Mass. to his restaurant’s parking area at that time. See it here at https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2009/05/08/notes-from-the-hotline-5-8-2009/

The second post was dated June 7th and featured my photos of the Blue Belle on the flatbed trailer at Dinky’s. See that here… https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2009/06/07/notes-from-the-hotline-6-7-09/

Yesterday, Steve Repucci and myself had breakfast at Blanchard’s 101 Diner in Worcester (again) and Chris Blanchard told us that the Blue Belle was placed on its new foundation the day before. So on the way back home we stopped to check it out. We were very surprised to see the whole diner had been repainted and looked brand-new.

The freshly re-painted  Blue Belle Diner installed on it’s new
foundation adjacent to Dinky’s Restaurant in Shrewsbury, Mass.

Owner Bruce Trotto came out and we introduced ourselves. We mentioned the new paint job and he explained what came about. If you view my photos from June you can see how the 1948 vintage diner’s old porcelain covered panels were a little worse for the wear. He said he had them sand blasted with a very fine grit to even things out and give the new paint something to adhere to. He then had them powder-coated painted. The colors were close to the original and everything looked nice with just some touch-up left to do.

One interesting thing I noticed right away is that he had the front left side corner panel as well as the corresponding panel on the right side were lettered with “Booth Service”, matching the corner panels on the front. Bruce is very enthusiastic about the addition to his existing business and told me it has been in the planning for the 2 years since he bought the diner.

The new “Booth Service” lettering on the left side corner panel.

Bruce also said even though the diner is on the foundation, the installation is going to be tweaked by raising the diner up a few inches taller so there will be more headroom under the end overhangs. Also, the diner will be moved forward  a couple of  inches as well to accomodate the diner’s newly squared up frame to fit the wall of the rear addition (the diner’s rear wall had been slightly bowed prior to the squaring-up).

Proud owner Bruce Trotto in front of the newly installed diner.

As the photos reveal, it will be a while until the diner is open but it certainly is well on its way. We will keep you posted when the diner is open for business. It is located at 70 Clinton Street (Rte. 70), Shrewsbury, Mass. and it’s website is www.dinkys.us