Don Williams inducted into Country Music Hall of Fame

Some people may be wondering why I am posting about a performer being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on a Diner blog. Well let me assure you there is a “Diner” connection to this. In my collection of Diner Memorabilia, I have a sub-collection of 33 1/3 rpm vinyl record albums that feature “Diners” in their cover art, (case in point – the Abandoned Luncheonette album by Daryl Hall & John Oates). One of the other albums in the collection is actually a signed promo copy of Don Williams’ Cafe Carolina, see image below…..

In the photo on the album cover, Don is sitting at a table inside Loftis Lunch located in Nashville, TN. My pal John Baeder is credited with the “Art Direction” for this album and the photo was shot by John’s friend, “McGuire”. Right after John sent this promo copy to me circa 1984, I called John to thank him and also to ask him an important question about the photo, I asked him, was the photo on the album cover shot after the one John took of me in October of 1983. He said yes! It seems the photo below of me sitting in the exact same place may have been an inspiration for the album cover!

Larry Cultrera (me) sitting at the same table in Loftis Lunch
Photo by John Baeder, circa October, 1983

Loftis Lunch, Nashville, TN circa October, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera

Loftis Lunch was a site-built diner-type restaurant circa 1930’s. I’m not sure it is operating anymore but it certainly was a unique place.

Anyway, I’d like to congratulate Don Williams for getting inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. See the link below for more info.

Spencertown, NY’s Dan’s Diner to reopen

I have written about Dan’s Diner of Spencertown, NY twice in the past year and a half. The first was in my “Notes from the Hotline, 11/15/08” where I told about the diner finally opening after a lengthy restoration. See it here at…..

Then in April of last year I followed up with a report of its sudden closing, see it here at….

Within the last 2 weeks I received a comment on the second post from Dottie “Lou” Kratt about her hopefully happy news on what’s going on with Dan’s Diner. I asked her to elaborate with some more info for this post on Diner Hotline. Here is what she wrote…

Hi Larry,
As far as I know, Jennifer Strome opened the diner in November of 2008 and closed the second week in January 2009. It has remained closed until our opening, hopefully March 2, 2010. We will open Wednesday thru Friday 6am to 2pm and Saturday and Sunday 7am to 2pm. Serving breakfast from 6 to 11:00 and lunch 11:30am-2:00pm. We will be closed Mondays and Tuesdays. In the summer we will also be serving lunch on our patio. We will be serving daily specials, including soup-of-the-day. We are also developing a line of frozen home-cooked dinners under the label of
“What’s for Dinner?”. If you have any questions, let us know. Oh yeah, it will be under the new management of Jamie Abitabile and Dottie “Lou” Kratt.
Thanks for taking interest in our new venture.

I would like to wish Lou Kratt and Jamie Abitabile good luck with their new endeavor and I hope that they can make a go of it in this beautifully restored 1920’s vintage Jerry O’Mahony diner!

Notes from the Hotline, 2-9-2010

Worcester Lunch Car #850 now known as Route 104 Diner

Last year the diner located on Route 104 in New Hampton, NH was auctioned after being closed for a short time. The last diner completed by the legendary Worcester Lunch Car Company (WLC #850), had been operating as Bobby’s Girl Diner since it was placed at this site in 1994, was bought at the auction by Alex Ray and is now trading as the Route 104 Diner. 

Reopened October 8, 2009  after some cleaning and updating, the Route 104 Diner is actually being run as a venture between Plain Jane’s Diner of Rumney, NH and Alex Ray’s Common Man family of restaurants based in the Granite State. Besides Plain Jane’s Diner, The Route 104 Diner joins 2 others within this group, The Tilt’n Diner of Tilton, NH and The Airport Diner of Manchester, NH.

I have photos of this diner dating back to the early 1980’s covering almost its entire history. When this diner left the Worcester Lunch car factory in May of 1957, it was delivered to 2760 Hartford Avenue (U.S. Rte. 6) in Johnston, RI and the owner was Lloyd Hopkins (of No. Scituate, RI). It operated as Lloyd’s Diner until it closed in 1988.

Lloyd’s Diner of Johnston, RI circa 1980’s photo by Larry Cultrera

Lloyd’s Diner ready to leave Johnston, RI, circa 1988 photo
by Larry Cultrera

It then was moved to South Weymouth, Mass. to become part of Sh-Boom’s Dance Club. After a brief time, Sh-Booms closed and it morphed into a different night club and the diner was sort of disguised.

WLC #850 as the front of Sh-Booms Dance Club, Aug. 1989 photo
by Larry Cultrera

This did not last long either and the diner was again moved, this time into storage at O.B Hill’s yard in Natick, Mass. where it awaited possible sale to the Fat Boy’s Diner chain in England. 

WLC #850 in storage at O.B. Hill’s yard, June, 1991 photo
by Larry Cultrera

The deal with Fat Boy’s Diners did not pan out and the diner was actually sold to Alexis Stewart, daughter of Martha Stewart. Ms. Stewart had the diner transported to Bridgehampton, NY on Long Island where she hoped to get approval to set it up as The Delish Diner. Her plans ran into a roadblock when the town fathers basically dragged their feet and eventually nixed the concept. It did not fit into their town apparently. The diner ended up sitting in a field for 2 years.

WLC #850 sitting in Bridgehampton, NY, June 1992 photo
by Larry Cultrera

In 1994 Bob and Gloria Merrill decided to get back into the diner business. Circa 1990, the Merrill’s had successfully moved, set-up and operated the former Bell’s Pond Diner, (long closed in upstate New York) as Glory Jean’s Diner in Rumney, NH (now Plain Jane’s Diner). They sold that diner after a couple of years to operate a different business but within a year or so decided they missed running the diner and started looking for another one.

They finally settled on WLC #850 and purchased it from Alexis Stewart. The diner was moved ironically within walking distance of my wife Denise’s sister and brother-in-law’s home in New Hampton, NH where I photographed it right after it got on site……..

WLC #850, soon to be Bobby’s Girl Diner, circa 1994 photo
by Larry Cultrera

Not long after the diner got on it’s new foundation I stopped in to talk with the Merrills whom I had met a few years before. The attached buildings were being built and they were there with a contractor. They pointed out that the diner was missing 2 stools over on the left end of the counter. I told them when I saw it on Long Island 2 years before, it still had them. Someone had broken into the diner and ripped them right out of the floor!

They asked me if I knew where they could get 2 stools like that. They said that someone had told them that the stools in the diner were not original factory installed stools, and I would almost agree. They were not the typical stools that Worcester used. Ironically I told them that the person who told them that these were not factory installed was basically wrong. They wanted me to explain how I knew and I told them I had 2 just like them that had been removed from WLC #849, the former Georgetown Diner (now operating as Fat Boy’s Diner in London, England). They were being stored at my mother’s home in Medford, Mass. and I immediately told them I was willing to sell them for short money as I had no plans for them. Needless to say they were ecstatic! They were able to complete the diner and open it.

Bobby’s Girl Diner, photo by Larry Cultrera

The Merrills again operated this diner for quite a few years before selling it to new owners who ran it until recently. The diner was closed for a short time before the auction last year.

After learning of the new ownership, I had been planning on checking it out to see what changed. Denise and I went up to her sister’s home in Laconia for a couple of days (this past weekend) and we finally got over to The Route 104 Diner for breakfast on Saturday. The first thing I noticed was that the awnings were removed and they did something else that surprised me, they extended the parapet above the windows! Normally this is something I hate to see but this modification was done very sympathetically.

The Route 104 Diner, photo Feb. 6, 2010 by Larry Cultrera

The Route 104 Diner, photo Feb. 6, 2010 by Larry Cultrera

The Route 104 Diner, photo Feb. 6, 2010 by Larry Cultrera

We had a decent breakfast with wonderful service from our waitress, Althea! I went back to the diner mid-morning to shoot these photos and met the General Manager, Mark D. Grotheer. The diner was packed at that point (as the amount of cars in the parking lot can attest). You can check the Route 104 Diner out on the web as well as the other diners and restaurants in The Common Man chain at the website,
I highly recommend this place!

The Airport Diner, another part of the Common Man family

To continue on this theme, I also got a chance to stop by The Airport Diner in Manchester, NH. This as I stated above, is also part of The Common Man chain. Opened since 2005, it is not a factory-built diner like The Route 104 Diner or The Tilt’n Diner. This is built on-site as part of the Holiday Inn on Brown Avenue just off exit 2 of I-293 near the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. Unfortunately they were completely packed at noontime on Sunday when we stopped there on the way home. There was a line of customers waiting to get in. So I will have to check it out some other time but at least I got some decent photos!

The Airport Diner, Manchester, NH, Feb. 7, 2010 photo
by Larry Cultrera

The Airport Diner, Manchester, NH, Feb. 7, 2010 photo
by Larry Cultrera

Paugus Diner of Laconia, NH now operating as
The Union Diner

We also got to check out the Union Diner on Union Avenue in Laconia. It had changed hands last year after being operated as the Paugus Diner since arriving from it’s first location in Concord, NH many years ago. This is Worcester Lunch Car # 831 and was originally named the Manus Diner. I had heard from Bob Higgins recently about his recent visit to this diner and as I recall, he was not impressed. I have to say that I did not have any problems with the food or the service but of course, we usually get to these places first thing in the morning and as was the case here, we were the first customers of the day.

The diner still seems to be in great shape and is 95% original. I stopped by a couple of hours later to shoot some photos and the place was mobbed!

Union Diner, Union Ave., Laconia, NH, Feb.7, 2010 photo
by Larry Cultrera

Diner Hotline (& me) are mentioned in a Philadelphia Inquirer article on the upcoming reopening of Camden, NJ’s Elgin Diner

Elgin Diner photo circa June, 1993 by Larry Cultrera

While  Denise and I were visiting her sister Sarah in Laconia, NH on Saturday evening. I borrowed Sarah’s laptop computer to check my email. Among the emails was a post from Glenn Wells on his Roadside Fans Yahoo Group message board with text from a Philadelphia Inquirer article. The article was about Camden, NJ’s Elgin Diner. It said the diner was soon to reopen which is welcome news to classic diner afficianados who know this diner. As I was reading, I was surprised to see that myself and this blog were mentioned!  Matt Katz the staff reporter who wrote the Phiily Inquirer article must have seen my post from March of last year, see it at….. Thanks to Matt Katz for the mention!

You can check it out at

Update on Virginia’s Triangle Diner

The Triangle Diner, notice the t-111 plywood box w/roof covering the original diner roof.

I mentioned the Triangle Diner of Winchester, VA in a post, Dec. 25th, 2009.
See here… . It had recently received Landmark status from the Commonwealth of Virginia and is being nominated for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

In the post from last week where I updated my list of diners that are on the National Register, I had a question on the amount of diners that were listed in Virginia. You see I was aware that Marc C. Wagner, (Architectural Historian for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources) had done the research for the Diners of Virginia, MPS survey back in the mid-1990’s. His research covered all the diners that were located within the state and provided the basis for future nominations for listing on the Register. The Tastee 29 Diner was previously listed in the Register a few years before but only 2 diners, the converted Trolley Cars in Chatham, VA were listed in the Register since the Diners of Virginia, MPS was authored.

I corresponded with Marc right after I posted the update last week and he sent me some info basically verifying what I had discovered and also brought me up to date on what’s happening with the Triangle Diner. He told me that they were hoping to get the paperwork sent to the Federal folks within a week or 2 and that the listing in the National Register could be as early as April, 2010.

Regular readers of this blog might recall in my post from Dec. 25th that I mentioned in passing about my hopes that the new owner Mike Lessin would have the roof (and t-111 box) masking the original roof removed from the diner. Well guess what? Marc just sent these photos and I am really glad to see this!

Workers removing plywood box and roof from the Triangle Diner
Photo courtesy of  Mike Lessin by way of Marc C. Wagner

Workers removing plywood box and roof from the Triangle Diner
Photo courtesy of  Mike Lessin by way of Marc C. Wagner

Workers removing plywood box and roof from the Triangle Diner
Photo courtesy of  Mike Lessin by way of Marc C. Wagner

Workers removing plywood box and roof from the Triangle Diner
Photo courtesy of  Mike Lessin by way of Marc C. Wagner