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

10 thoughts on “Route 125 Road Trip, circa early 1980’s

  1. Interesting how the Harley Diner reused the Leo’s Diner sign, only upside down!

    The inset photo looks much like the one on the cover of first edition of “American Diner Then and Now.” Of course, both are Worcesters from the same time period (except Lamy’s is the semi-streamliner model.)

    I visited here with Mike Engle in Summer 2006 (photos only.)

  2. After seeing your photos of the June Bug Diner I think you are right about it probably being the Parkway. The picture from my book of the Parkway in Lawrence from just a few years before it was moved is in color and the June Bug is the same color! Like you said, same configuration too.

  3. It’s too bad these diners are gone, I have lived all my life in Rochester, NH and I miss those diners, they served great food. Where today do we have a restaurant open 24 hours…. no where.

  4. Hi Larry,
    My grandfather, John M. Solak, owned Solak’s Diner in Methuen hat you mention in the post. Thanks for the photo of the pool store and the information on what happened to the diner after it was sold.
    Great blog!
    Jeffrey Solak

  5. Great pics, Larry. We’re nostalgic Rochester fans ourselves. Do you happen to have a photo of Larry’s Donut Shop? Used to sneak out of Sunday Mass and hang out…..hiding from the nuns! Would love to see it again.

  6. I’ve been trying to identify Harold’s, but no luck so far. I do know that the address was 16 Wakefield St. and it had been listed in 1950 as “Gil’s Diner” under Gilber E. Shaw and Eugene Dubois. the 1939 and 1941 directory has the name as one of two Eddie’s Diners in Rochester, the other Eddie’s being at 129 No. Main. looks to be a 12′ 6″ X 23′ 6″ worcester but can’t be sure.
    The name Harold’s shows up in 1960 but that is as late as the directory listings I have go.

    • I have since determined this to be Worcester #738, Eddie’s Diner. it replaced #390 here which went to Waterbury, CT and was repossessed and sold to become Mike’s in Providence in 1943. #738 was last owned by Harold Hildreth who died in 1982, which explains why it changed hands in the 1980s. too bad, Harold was only about 56 when he died.

  7. I was curious Larry, was the Sunset Diner at about the intersection of Rt. 4 and 125? I have been looking into a “Harley’s Diner” which was at the traffic circle and was moved to another side of the traffic circle in 1960. I wonder if they could be the same. Harley’s was in Lee as early as about 1950.

  8. The June Bug in Epping, New Hampshire was a restaurant that my Aunt opened years after Peter’s Restaurant was sadly burnt down. She had worked at Peter’s as the head waitress. I have very fond childhood memories in the late 1960’s of going to Peter’s while staying with her and my grandmother Ester several blocks West on Rte. 125. Peter, the owner was of Greek descent and I remember his welcoming smile and cigar smoking. Food tasted great there! My brother and I were always allowed to order anything from the menu when we visited and my Aunt would usually cook it. As for the June Bug, I never had the privilege of seeing it while it was open or taste it’s food. My father was in the military and we were relocated to many different states. But, knowing my Aunt, I’m sure it was great diner food! She later remarried and ran the food court at a local race track nearby. Now she resides just north of Tampa, Florida.

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