Kitchenette Diner aka The Diner on Wheels

Kitchenette Diner, First & Rogers Streets, Cambridge, Mass.
Photo by Doug Yorke from March 1977 Yankee Magazine

I recently purchased a book entitled Big Screen Boston (subtitled From Mystery Street to The Departed and Beyond), written by my new friend Paul Sherman. In this book Paul lists all the movies that were filmed either totally or partially on location in the Boston area. He details subjects like cities and towns that were used for locations, whether authentic  “Boston accents” were used and how much “Local Color” was seen. Check out his website at….

Cover of Paul Sherman’s Big Screen Boston

Some of the movies are documentary-type while others were filmed by major studio production companies. One of the movies mentioned is The Brink’s Job, a 1978 film directed by William Friedkin and starring Peter Falk, Peter Boyle, Allen Goorwitz, Warren Oates, Gena Rowlands and Paul Sorvino. Paul does a good job detailing this film in the book but failed to mention an appearance by the former Kitchenette Diner of Cambridge, Mass.

The diner was operated at the corner of First & Rogers Streets in the Lechmere area of East Cambridge by Russ Young from 1934 until he lost the lease to the property in 1978.  The diner was a late 1920’s vintage Worcester Lunch Car, No. 594 that originally operated on Ipswich Street in Boston as the A&M Diner prior to being moved to East Cambridge. I recall going by the diner in the 1970’s. I always thought it was not operating, there was no signage per se and with all the trees growing up around it, it really looked abandoned.

When it was announced back in 1978 that the diner would have to close and might be demolished, a man named Tony Bosco (owner of the unique House Restaurant in Allston, Mass. heard about this and offered to buy the old diner and move it out of harms way. When he started the process of extracting the old lunch wagon from the site, he discovered the building was not on a foundation per se but it was actually sitting on the wooden and steel wheels it was manufactured with!

When Bosco saw the wheels still attached to the diner, he went for a photo-op and hired a team of horses to move the diner. This proved almost unworkable as the wheels had rotted somewhat (after being embedded in the sandy soil for decades) and did not roll well, not to mention the horses could not handle the load. I believe they only moved it a few blocks in this fashion before they realized a truck was the way to transport it.

Meanwhile with all the publicity generated by the move, the producers of the Brink’s Job movie saw an opportunity and contacted Bosco. They wanted to use the diner in a scene for the movie! The movie company paid for having the diner transported to an empty lot off Birch Meadow Drive/John Carver Road near Reading Memorial High School in Reading, Mass.  (I drove by this site yesterday and believe it is now fairly grown over and currently marked by a sign for town conservation land). After the diner was on the location, the movie company painted the diner white and then dirtied it up a little with oil and dirt to make it look like it had been there forever.

photo shot off of a TV screen showing the diner located temporarily in Reading, Mass. for its scene in the Brink’s Job movie.

After the diner was done with its star turn it was transported back to Allston on property adjacent to the House Restaurant. Over the next few months Bosco did a thorough cleaning of the diner and partial restoration. He then used it to serve Emack & Bolio’s Ice Cream out of the now renamed “The Diner on Wheels”.

The Diner on Wheels sitting next to the entrance to the House Restaurant in Allston, circa 1981

One day not too long after I shot the photograph above, I was driving past the diner on Cambridge Street and saw that they had a tow truck attached to the diner and were about to move it. These next few shots show the move….

Diner being moved to a different spot on the Allston site April of 1981

They were moving it to a different spot on the property for whatever reason. I stopped to get a bunch of photos of it.

Diner being moved to a different spot on the Allston site April of 1981

Diner being moved onto Cambridge St., April of 1981

Diner being moved onto Cambridge St., April of 1981

During the move, traffic had to be stopped as the truck with diner came out onto busy Cambridge Street. When they moved the diner back into the lot they hit a soft spot in the gravel base and the diner lurched and fell off the tow truck.

The diner sitting on the ground after falling off the truck.

Workman preparing to get the end of the diner hoisted back up to continue the move.

Finally moving the diner into its new spot on the property.

Settled again!

Well the diner only stayed there a few months and was moved again, this time to New York City!

 The Diner on Wheels at the corner of 39th Street and 9th Avenue, NYC

Here is the Diner on Wheels at the corner of 39th Street and 9th Avenue in NYC, May 31, 1982. Notice the sort of mural on the wall of the building behind the diner. That was actually one of the props used in the Brink’s Job movie when they were filming in Boston.

On a side note, this is the day I met John Baeder face to face for the first time. He was in New York City to do a major re-write for his upcoming “Gas, Food and Lodging” book on that long holiday weekend 28 years ago and Steve Repucci and I were passing thru NYC from Harrisburg, PA. I called John from Rosie’s Diner in Little Ferry, NJ and told him we would be in the city shortly. He met us at The Diner on Wheels where we talked diners. I showed him my photo albums that I had with me and we had a great visit before I gave him a ride back to where the re-write was happening.

 The Diner on Wheels at the corner of 39th Street and 9th Avenue, NYC

It was moved twice again within Manhattan in the next 2 years. I found it abandoned at its last location in 1984, completely trashed, it was later demolished.

The Diner on Wheels, NYC just prior to demolition, 1984

I am not sure what happened in New York City to Tony Bosco or the Diner but it did unfortunately end up in the scrap heap. The diner did get some recognition again in the mid 1990’s when the independent film produced by David Sutherland,  “Down Around Here” was shown on WGBH-Boston for PBS. 

Here is a quote from Matt Ashare of the Boston Phoenix…. 
It’s been 20 years since documentary filmmaker David Sutherland took his Super-8 camera into East Cambridge’s Kitchenette Diner and began work on his first project. But it wasn’t until earlier this year that the footage he shot over a two-year period was restored and edited into the 27-minute Down Around Here. Sutherland’s film … for all its grit, succeeds as a poignant and remarkably resonant sketch of Boston’s rapidly fading past.

This little film won some awards as well…

* First Prize, Super-8/Film Award, New England Film and Video Festival, 1996
* Finalist, USA Film Festival, 1996
* Taos Talking Picture Festival, 1996
* Metropolitan Film Festival, Detroit, MI, 1996
* Big Muddy Film Festival, 1996

Check it out at David Sutherland’s website….

Thanks to Paul Sherman for jogging my memory on this almost long forgotten diner!

Changes happening at Gilley’s PM Lunch

Photo of Gilley’s PM Lunch by Larry Cultrera had a piece on the proposed expansion of Gilley’s PM Lunch of Portsmouth, NH. Gilley’s is the last operating Lunch Wagon built by the Worcester Lunch Car Company, (WLC #744) and was originally built-in 1939 for Al Mac of Fall River, Mass. who operated it as the White House Cafe.

Al Mac sold the diner in 1941 to William Kennedy of Portsmouth, NH. The Worcester replaced a very old (and rare) Closson Lunch Wagon (built in upstate New York). It operated for many years as Kennedy’s Lunch Wagon before being renamed for Ralph “Gilley” Gilbert who was the long-time night shift man at the old Lunch Wagon.

A few years ago the diner was modified with the addition of a utility trailer that was accessed by a new door cut into the wall where the former “take-out” window was located. This became much-needed kitchen and storage space. According to the piece, now that the diner is more of a permanent fixture, it does not meet code and licensing guidelines.

Here is the text of the story by Charles McMahon…

Gilley’s eatery plans an update

Health department requires changes

PORTSMOUTH — Gilley’s PM Lunch, the iconic downtown diner/late night burger joint, is slated for a face-lift. According to plans on file with the city, the popular eatery owned by Steven and Gina Kennedy is scheduled to go before the city’s Planning Board on Thursday.

Listed under Robert and Pearl Revocable Trust, the application is for site plan approval to construct a one-story, 365-square-foot addition to the existing structure at 175 Fleet St. Steven Kennedy said Monday he was unable to comment about the application, but paperwork on file with the city’s Planning Department indicates the scheduled construction involves a variety of kitchen improvements mandated by the city’s Health Department.

City health officer Kim McNamara said her department made the request for improvements based on a complaint from a concerned patron. McNamara said the complaint was not related to food handling and was not a “negative” one, but drew attention to a problem with the existing facility. Calling the owners “very cooperative,” McNamara said the problem involved the fact that the business was originally licensed as a mobile unit, which she said involves different requirements than a full-time restaurant facility.

An inspection of the business found clean working conditions, McNamara said. It also revealed the facility was far out of code regarding its refrigeration equipment and the fact it did not have an employee bathroom. McNamara said the business needed “significant upgrades” involving the installation of new commercial refrigeration equipment of adequate size.

Given the small footprint at Gilley’s, McNamara said the business did not have enough room for the new equipment as well as an employee bathroom. McNamara said the city conducts a license renewal on July 1 annually. Gilley’s would not have been re-licensed without proper plans to address the deficiencies, she said. “We very much don’t want to harm Gilley’s business in any way,” she said.

Plans on file with the city indicate the project will involve a 22-by-26-foot expansion to accommodate the inclusion of a new cooking area, an employee bathroom that is handicap accessible, an office and a grease trap. The cost of the project is estimated to be around $60,000 and will involve no increase in seating capacity. The project already has gained approval from the city’s Historic District Commission and Technical Advisory Committee. The TAC voted unanimously to approve the application on May 4, but included three stipulations:

  • Removal of a truck body that rests behind the business. The truck body is part of the original truck that towed the diner when it was a mobile hot dog cart.
  • The addition of an automated grease trap removal unit in the kitchen area, rather than an underground tank.
  • A construction management plan must be prepared and approved by the city prior to a building permit being issued.

 The business was established in 1912. According to Gilley’s Web site (, the lunch cart was built in 1940 by the Worcester Diner Co. of Worcester, Mass. It’s named after longtime employee Ralph “Gilley” Gilbert, who died in 1986. In its early years, the diner was hauled into Market Square each evening and parked in front of the North Church in preparation for the evening’s business. The diner was originally towed by horse, then tractor and finally by the truck currently on the property. Gilley’s was moved to its present location in June 1974, and its last-known improvement was a wing added to the cart in May 1996.

Steve Heller on the Empire Diner closing

I wrote about the changes coming to New York City’s famed Empire Diner back in a November 14, 2009 post (see… ) . Well the Empire served its last meal on Saturday May 15th. I really hope the new operators who are planning to change the name of the place do not destroy the classic looks and feel of this iconic diner. I was talking with my pal John Baeder yesterday and the Empire was brought up in the conversation.

John’s paintings of the Empire helped to make this diner into the icon it became and he sent along this piece written by his good friend Steve Heller (reprinted from May 17, 2010,…..

John Baeder’s first painting of the Empire Diner (courtesy, John Baeder)

The Empire Diner, a landmark of Manhattan’s Chelsea district (which is now home to gentrified art galleries, restaurants, clubs and parks) is no more. On Saturday, the famed eatery immortalized by John Baeder in the paintings above and below (top), closed its counter, forced out by rising commercial rents and rapacious commercial landlords. It has gone the way of another famed NYC heartburn heaven, The Second Avenue Deli, which although reestablished in a new locale, just isn’t the same. Loosing this establishment is truly a crying shame. So, let’s take a moment to bid adieu to and reflect on another victim of excessively rising costs in an age of wage freezes and unemployment.

John Baeder did this painting a few years later from an earlier image of the Empire Diner prior to it becoming one of the first upscale diners.
(courtesy, John Baeder)

Photo courtesy of

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Audio Tribute to the Empire Diner being closed

Ron Dylewski has put together a great audio tribute on the closing of the Empire Diner. The story is a co-production of Ron’s and our friends at the terrific food-oriented site, (Thanks to Glenn Wells of Roadside Fans for the heads-up to the link)……
(To play the report, click “Listen” and then click the arrow to the left of the title “The end of an Empire by Ron Dylewski”)

Notes from the Hotline, 5-16-2010

Breakfast visit to the Miss Worcester Diner

Yesterday was a fine day to take a short road trip out to Worcester, Mass. Picked up Steve Repucci in Acton, Mass. and headed out to the Miss Worcester Diner for breakfast.

Miss Worcester Diner, WLC No. 812, May 15, 2010 photo by Larry Cultrera

I did not feel guilty for not going to my current favorite…  Blanchard’s 101 Diner (Denise and I had been there 2 weeks ago). I felt it was time to hit another Worm-town diner and picked the Miss Woo because I have been trying to get a t-shirt from this place for at least 2 years. Every time I go there, they are out of stock (this time included). Proprietor Kim Kniskern said she is planning on getting some new ones ordered soon.

Miss Worcester Diner, WLC No. 812, May 15, 2010 photo by Larry Cultrera

I had not eaten there in a while and was impressed by the menu, a really huge selection for breakfast and lunch including specials for such a small diner. I went with the “Italian” breakfast which seems like a specialty of most diners in Worcester. I’ve gotten this at the Boulevard Diner, the Parkway Diner, and Blanchard’s 101 Diner. Basically eggs, homefries, Italian sausage, red sauce and Italian (scali bread) toast, the Miss Worcester’s version was as tasty as any of the others and they gave you 2 sausages (these are really long) and they slice them length-wise for cooking faster.

We were disturbed to see the window on the extreme right front of the diner was smashed. Someone had broken into the diner the night before and stole some change out of the register. (Luckily Kim does not keep cash overnight at the diner. Now she has to get the window glass replaced.

Checking the progress of the Blue Belle Diner installation

After breakfast we drove out Lincoln Street to see what’s happening with the Blue Belle Diner installation at Dinky’s Restaurant in Shrewsbury. This diner is a sister diner to the Miss Worcester as the Car No’s will attest.

Blue Belle Diner, WLC No. 814, May 15, 2010 photo by Larry Cultrera

It looks like the exterior of the diner is finalized since the last time we were there. It is now raised up a foot with a row of concrete blocks on top of the poured foundation and the building linking the diner to Dinky’s has been built along with the addition behind the diner.

Blue Belle Diner, WLC No. 814, May 15, 2010 photo by Larry Cultrera

A glance inside the rear building as well as thru the diner into the atrium that connects to Dinky’s reveals that not much has been done to the interior since the exterior was buttoned up. I will have to email owner Bruce Trotto to find out what the delay is. Hopefully it is not stalled for long.

Blue Belle Diner, WLC No. 814, May 15, 2010 photo by Larry Cultrera

Kane’s Donuts of Saugus, Mass. is being expanded

Kane’s Donuts prior to expansion and renovation

Kane’s Donuts last August after preparation started for construction to the right of the building.

It has been in the works for a while and construction was started last summer. The legendary Kane’s Donuts of Saugus is finally getting closer to having a larger store (including an expanded kitchen/bakery). The Delios family’s plans called for the relocation of the entrance (which is now handicapped accessible) to the right in the addition that accesses a new parking area. The new addition has included handicapped restrooms as well.

Kane’s Donuts with expanded building in progress.

The Kane’s Donuts “sign” has been moved to a pole about 10- 15  feet from where it had been mounted on the building. The window where the newspaper machines are currently located was the former entrance. The Delios’ also are planning to open other stores in the future. In my humble opinion these are the best donuts anywhere!!!!

Class of 1957 visits their old Hang-out

Murphy’s Diner in storage, Haverhill, Mass. – 1981

Here is an update on my post from November about Murphy’s Diner….
where I mentioned that the (North Cambridge, Mass.) Matignon High School class of 1957 classmates were slated to visit their old hang-out, Murphy’s Diner now operating as the 50’s American Diner in England this month.

I got an email from Maryellen McCarthy last week informing me she and 10 of her classmates were flying over to England on Friday, April 30th. They were meeting a relative of one of their classmates who lives in England and taking a train from London to the South Derbyshire station on Monday May 3rd, where they were greeted by the local Antique Car club who ferried them approx. 6 miles to the diner in an impromptu parade.

50’s American Diner, South Derbyshire, England

Check out this piece from the BBC….

According to Maryellen, Jeff Laight and Trish Whitehouse were gracious hosts and their staff were courteous and friendly. Also the food was really good and the 2 hours that the classmates were there flew by.

I am a little proud to say that if Maryellen had not attended my Local Roadside Memories slide presentation last June, this little adventure would not have happened.

Route 125 Road Trip, circa early 1980’s

When I first started documenting diners in 1980,  it gave a new purpose for driving the older state highways, basically I was now using a fresh eye in looking for diners on roads I had driven on many times before. One of these roads was Route 125. Rte. 125 is a state road that starts in Wilmington, Massachusetts and heads roughly northeast through the communities of Andover, North Andover and Haverhill before crossing the state line into Plaistow, NH. It continues thru a handfull of Granite State towns such as Kingston, Epping and Lee before coming into the larger city of Rochester.

In fact, as I recall, Rte. 125 used to end at it’s junction with Rte. 16 near downtown Rochester. But the last time I was there it looked like the route may have been extended. A recent look at the map tells me that the extension of Rte. 125 goes up the older alignment of Rte. 16 north of Rochester to just south of Sanbornville where the newer Rte. 16 joins the old road (this is now the new northern terminus of Rte. 125).

Aqua Dream Pool Store

Anyway, back in the early 1980’s, there were still a few old diners along this road. The first one I encountered was in North Andover, Mass. At that time (early 1981) operating as Aqua Dream, a pool supply business, this diner was Worcester Lunch Car No. 767. According to Gary Thomas’ “Diners of the North Shore” book, this diner originally was located on Rte. 28 in Methuen, Mass. and operated as Solak’s Diner. It moved to North Andover in 1956 and traded as Joe’s Diner and later as Maggie’s Diner, gaining a couple of additions and a brick facade before morphing into the Aqua Dream Pool Store.

Aqua Dream Pool Supply, North Andover, formerly Joe’s Diner.
Photo circa 1981 by Larry Cultrera

Not too long after I photographed it, the diner section in the middle of the expanded building was torn down to the floor and a new “greenhouse” was placed there as part of the store’s showroom. The whole place was leveled circa 2005 and replaced with a strip mall.

There were no other operating diners along Rte. 125 in Massachusetts by the early 1980’s. Even though Haverhill was once loaded with diners and Rte. 125 was a major route through the city, the last diner that was located in Haverhill on Rte. 125 (Arthur’s Diner) was gone by the time I started photographing them. I can at least say that I ate at Arthur’s once on Labor Day weekend of 1971!

Eggie’s Diner

Crossing into New Hampshire on Rte. 125, about 3 miles north of the state line is a small Mountain View Diner currently operating as Eggie’s Diner. It has had quite a few names since it moved here from North Reading, Mass. I’m not sure when it moved here but Gary Thomas says the diner originally operated as Pent’s Diner was not in North Reading too long. I do recall as of the early 1970’s it was still covered in stainless steel and according to Richard Gutman’s photos it was called Hope’s Diner. By the early 1980’s it had been covered in T-111 wooden panelling on the exterior and was called the Plaistownian Diner and later the Rte. 125 Diner. At this point it is now the only operating factory-built diner on Rte. 125.

Eggie’s Diner, Rte. 125 in Plaistow, NH – Photo by Larry Cultrera

June Bug Diner

Farther north in Epping, NH,  just off Rte. 125 at the intersection of Rte. 27 was the June Bug Diner. I believe this was originally the Parkway Diner of Lawrence, Mass. (Worcester Lunch Car No. 717). It is the right size and configuration. It was not in business in early 1981 when I photographed it But I do recall it was operating in the 1970’s.

June Bug Diner, Epping, NH – Photo circa 1981 by Larry Cultrera

June Bug Diner, Epping, NH – Photo circa 1981 by Larry Cultrera

June Bug Diner, Epping, NH – Photo circa 1981 by Larry Cultrera

From these photos you can see the large porch-like addition off the front of this diner. From what I could tell the diner itself was fairly gutted on the inside and was used for the kitchen of this establishment. The “porch” was used for seating of the patrons. It looked like the waitstaff may have accessed the food thru the front windows of the diner to serve the patrons out front.

June Bug Diner, Epping, NH – Photo October, 1983 by Larry Cultrera

June Bug Diner, Epping, NH – Photo October, 1983 by Larry Cultrera

From what I remember, this diner did not make it to 1985. The lot is still empty today.

Sunset Diner

Travelling north into Lee, NH you would have seen the Sunset Diner on the left side of the road, another small Worcester Lunch Car. This one was modified with an added on diningroom and newer windows.

Sunset Diner, Lee, NH – Photo circa September, 1983 by Larry Cultrera

Sunset Diner, Lee, NH – Photo circa September, 1983 by Larry Cultrera

By the mid-1980’s this was replaced by a stick-built building calling itself the Sunset Diner. The last time I drove by (2004) this newer building was not being used as a restaurant.

Back in the early 1980’s, when Rte. 125 ended at Rte. 16 near downtown Rochester, at that time, if you hung a left toward downtown on the old Rte. 16 you would have immediately seen Leo’s Diner a 1946 vintage Worcester Lunch Car (No, 796) on the right.

Leo’s Diner, Rochester, NH – Photo circa 1981 by Larry Cultrera

Leo’s was moved in the late 1980’s and is now the Harley Diner at South East Harley-Davidson in Cleveland, Ohio

Also in the early 80’s there was Harold’s Diner in downtown Rochester. Harold’s was a rare 24 hour diner.

Harold’s Diner, Rochester, NH – Photo circa 1981 by Larry Cultrera

By the mid-1980’s Harold’s was moved briefly to Newton, NH on Rte. 108 and was placed on a foundation. The installation was never completed and it reportedly was moved to Barrington, NH

Skee’s Diner project seeking support to raise funds

I wrote about the news that Skee’s Diner of Torrington, CT was slated to become a Welcome and Information Center for the Northwest Connecticut Chamber of Commerce back on January 21st of 2008, see this link….

A few months ago John Baeder got me in touch with Edward Cannata who has gotten involved with this project. Edward has shared some great images and info about this 1920’s vintage O’Mahony diner that he has accumulated in his research. Ed being a novice to the “world of diners” has taken a crash course in diner history (especially where Skee’s is involved) and is determined to get this project moving in the right direction. This includes the moving of the diner to a new, highly visible location where the diner will under go a very sympathetic restoration (in my opinion, it doesn’t need much other than cleaning and updating of utilities and such).

There is now a live website detailing the project with plenty of information, historical and otherwise along with photos and plans. Check it out at…

The Northwest Connecticut Chamber of Commerce is seeking support and donations to help in the project. There will be a kick-off event on May 10th
(Northwest Connecticut Welcome Center Launch Party) at 5:00 pm hosted at PSam’s, 1301 Torringford West Street, Torrington, CT and I understand that Richard Gutman will be the featured speaker. Call the Chamber for details at  860- 482-6586.