Notes from the Hotline, 10-29-2010

Former Lynn, Mass. Diner opened in New Hampshire

The Riley Bros. Diner formerly located in Lynn, Mass. was moved within the last 5 years to the Ossipee, NH area. I had frequented the diner in the early 1980’s when it traded under names such as The Boston Street Diner and Serino’s Diner. I even recall it was known as Buster’s in the 1970’s.

Boston Street Diner, Boston Street – Lynn, Mass.
November, 1980 photo by Larry Cultrera

 This 1941 vintage Sterling Diner had not served food since the mid-1980’s when a new owner gutted the almost original interior and began running a Balloon & Flower Shop out of the building, until he moved the business around the corner to a larger storefront near the corner of Chestnut Street and Western Avenue a few years ago.

the diner operating as a Balloon & Flower Store, photo by Larry Cultrera

The diner after the Balloon & Flower Store moved out, that is Steve Repucci on the right, checking out the diner not long before it moved to NH!
Photo by Larry Cultrera

The diner stood empty for a short time until the property surrounding the diner and other adjacent buildings was developed for a new branch bank. In 2006 the diner was sold and moved to Madison, NH and is owned by the Silver Lake Railroad (a heritage railroad).

Riley Bros. Diner at new location, circa 2006 photo by Brian Page

Here is a blurb from Wikipedia about the SLRR….  The Silver Lake Railroad opened on July 7, 2007, operating from Madison Station (aka Silver Lake Depot) in the town of Madison. This station was a stop for the Boston and Maine Railroad from 1872 until passenger service ended on the line in 1961. The station has been restored over the period from 2002-2007, and much of its original features are intact. The original order boards and stationmaster office were undisturbed, as well as the interior of the station (now housing the Silver Lake post office), which displays its original varnished woodwork. Check out their website at….

I received word from Bob Higgins not long ago that the diner had undergone a retrofitting and been reopened for limited food service at the Silver Lake Railroad. My pal Steve Repucci was in the area this past weekend and checked the place out (his first time seeing it since that time I shot the photo above with Steve in it) . Steve took the next group of photos…….

October, 2010 photo by Steve Repucci

October, 2010 photo by Steve Repucci

October, 2010 photo by Steve Repucci

October, 2010 photo by Steve Repucci

Steve tells me they are not operating as a regular diner possibly due to town Board of Health regulations and of course the SLRR is only open seasonally, in fact the season has just ended. So this means the diner is now closed until spring!

Richard J. S. Gutman to give new “Diner” Lecture

Diner Historian Richard J. S. Gutman is giving a brand-new lecture at
The National Heritage Museum in Lexington, Mass. 
on Saturday, November 20th at 2:00 PM.

Part of the Museum’s Lowell Lecture series, the presentation is called…

“What Is It about Diners? More Than a Meal, That’s for Sure”

Richard J. S. Gutman, director and curator of the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI, will hold an illustrated lecture entitled, “What Is It about Diners? More Than a Meal, That’s for Sure.” Gutman will elaborate based on 40 years of eating and research. The lecture complements the exhibition, “Night Road: Photographs of Diners by John D. Woolf.”  The lecture is Free and open to the public.

The National Heritage Museum is located at……..
33 Marrett Road (At the intersection of Route 2A and Massachusetts Ave.)Lexington, MA 02421

Diner Hotline Weblog celebrates 3rd Anniversary

Yours truly at Lunch Box Diner in Malden, Mass.
Photo by Denise Cultrera

This Sunday, October 31st marks the 3rd anniversary of Diner Hotline being on the Web! I cannot believe 3 years have gone by since I retired the old hard copy column from the SCA Journal and shortly thereafter, with prodding from Brian Butko, this blog was born! As I write this, the blog has gotten 134, 819 hits and I am hopeful that more and more people are discovering Diner Hotline through internet search engines as well as from connections like Facebook and the like! Thanks to all my faithful readers!

Diners of Lowell, Mass., circa early 1980’s

Back when I started documenting diners in the greater Boston area with my photographs in the early 1980’s, I discovered an interesting fact. The older mill towns still had the greatest concentration of diners still in existence. This fact holds true to a certain degree today only with diminished numbers. Attleboro, Lawrence, Lynn, Worcester and Lowell, Mass. stood out at that time.

Attleboro had four factory-built diners downtown (although one of these was closed) as well as one being used for other purposes on U.S. Rte. 1. Also, the Service Diner was still on U.S. Rte. 1 in Attleboro operating as Eddie & Myles’ Diner at that time.

Lawrence also had at least four spread out along Route 28 (again one was closed).

Lynn had four diners and all were still fairly original (and in operation).

Worcseter had the most with sixteen diners (not surprisingly) and all of them were open for food service (with the exception of  three), one being used as a real estate office and another sitting in a large garage unfinished while still another was being used as a residence.

This post will be dedicated to all the diners that were in Lowell at the beginning of the 1980’s. By my count there were at least seven factory-built diners (actually one was home-made, but this fact only came to light in recent years).

Owl Diner, 244 Appleton Street

The Owl Diner is Worcester Lunch Car No. 759 that dates to 1940 and originally operated in Waltham, Mass. as the flagship of the Monarch Diners (a chain of diners owned by the Decola brothers). It moved to Appleton Street in 1950 when it was replaced in Waltham with a large new stainless steel Jerry O’Mahony diner.

Owl Diner before the Shanahan’s owned it.
circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

In the early 1980’s it was being run by the Zouikis family and looked like the photos above and below. Take note that the wonderful neon sign mounted on the street pole was working at that time!

Owl Diner before the Shanahan’s owned it.
circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

A couple of years later the Shanahan family took over the reigns of the Owl after running the Peerless Diner on Chelmsford Street for a number of years. They were only leasing the Peerless and were able to purchase the Owl Diner. They renamed it the Four Sister’s Owl Diner and by all accounts it has been a huge success. They recently added a new large vestibule to the front of the diner (see photo below).

Four Sister’s Owl Diner today. 2010 photo by Larry Cultrera

Club Diner, 145 Dutton Street

The Club Diner is a 1933 vintage Worcester Lunch Car (No. 703) that was remodelled in the 1960’s. It has retained its basic shape but has an added-on diningroom which facilitated the exterior changes, making the whole building look more unified. The interior was updated a little as well but the footprint remains the same with the counter and stools on the right-hand end of the diner. There are also deuce booths (tables for 2) along the windows in front of the counter section and four large booths on the left end of the original building which is complimented by the add-on diningroom beyond and behind. It was originally owned by Arthur Turcotte but has been owned and operated by the LeVasseur family since 1938.

Club Diner circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

Club Diner circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

Club Diner (more) recent photo by Larry Cultrera

Arthur’s Paradise Diner, 112 Bridge Street

Arthur’s Paradise Diner is a 1937 vintage Worcester Lunch car (No. 727) and one of at least 3 diners with the Paradise name. Originally owned by John Decola and John Korsak, it has gone through countless different owners/operators since it was brand-new.

Arthur’s Paradise Diner circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

Arthur’s Paradise Diner circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

Arthur’s Paradise Diner (more) recent photo by Larry Cultrera

Gorham Street Diner, 984 Gorham Street

This diner was actually not built by a diner manufacturer but it certainly fooled the “diner experts” and “aficionados” for many years. It was not until Gary Thomas was researching for his “Images of America” book “Diners of the North Shore”, that the unique history of this diner came to light.

Thomas found out that this diner was constructed off and on during roughly a  five-year period between 1945 and the early 50’s in Salisbury, Mass. by Donald Evans. Evans was the brother of Jimmy Evans who ran first the Strand Diner in Salisbury and then two versions of Ann’s Diner in the same town.

Gorham Street Diner circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

In fact it was his brother Jimmy who actually paid Donald to complete the construction. It was located for a couple of years on Broadway in Salisbury where it traded as Evans’ Streamliner before being sold and moved to Gorham Street in Lowell in 1956 by Edward G. Bryer who operated the diner as Bryer’s Streamliner. According to Gary Thomas, the stainless steel covered front door you see in my photos came from the 2nd Ann’s Diner (WLC No. 824). He also said the diner had equipment and material that were purchased from the Worcester factory including stools and the hood with bill of fare menu boards that confused later “diner experts’ prompting them to think this was in fact built by Worcester.

Gorham Street Diner circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

I unfortunately never got to go inside this diner when it was operating. In the last few years of its life as a regular diner it went through a few operators and names. In John Baeder’s painting of it, it was called the Chateau Diner and as can be seen in my photos, the Gorham Street Diner. Shortly after I took the first photos as seen here, I made a return trip to find it undergoing a complete remodelling! (see below)

Gorham Street Diner in process of remodelling to become
Trolley Pizzaria, circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

They had stripped the exterior completely eliminating the slanted end walls and building new “rounded” end walls as well as adding the raised “trolley-like” clerestory making it look like a trolley car. They also relocated the entrance from the middle to both ends of the front facade and gutted the interior. The diner building itself is now just used as a dining area for the Trolley Pizzaria.

Trolley Pizzaria, 2010 photo by Larry Cultrera

Cupples Square Diner, corner of Westford Street
& Osgood Street

The Cupples Square Diner was a barrell-roofed Worcester car that was actually installed under the overhang of a store block. It probably dates to the 1930’s but I am not sure of its production number. It was an economy model without a lot of frills. I did manage to eat there a few times in the 1980’s but it was gone by the 1990’s. I assume it was dismantled as there is a regular storefront now where the diner used to be.

Cupples Square Diner, circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

Cupples Square Diner, circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

Ray and Paulette’s Diner, Gorham Street

Ray and Paulette’s Diner was located just a couple of doors down the block from Dana’s Luncheonette which sits at the corner of Appleton Street. It may have been a Worcester Lunch Car but I am also thinking it is roughly the same size as a diner pictured in Richard Gutman’s “American Diner Then & Now” book on page 79 (see below). This photo shows a diner (named Bob’s Diner) built by Pollard & Co. Dining Car Builders of Lowell being moved by truck. I am using a gut feeling and going out on a limb to say that these two diners are one and the same!

Ray and Paulette’s has certainly gone thru some changes (windows and exterior covering) so it is entirely possible. I was in this diner once although I never had a meal (kicking myself) but it seemed fairly intact on the inside. I do recall the tile wall on the front had a good-sized crack running through it. This diner was gone by the mid-1980’s.

Ray and Paulette’s Diner, photo circa 1981 by Larry Cultrera

Ray and Paulette’s Diner, circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

Bob’s Diner built by Pollard & Company of Lowell, photo that appears on page 79 of American Diner Then & Now. Courtesy of Richard Gutman (photo by George of Lowell)

Peerless Diner, Chelmsford Street

The Peerless Diner was originally located at 190 South Union Street in Lawrence prior to it being moved to Lowell. Worcester Lunch Car No. 764 dates to 1940. In the early 1980’s it was operated by the Shanahan family (see Owl Diner above). They only leased the building and when the Owl Diner became available they bought that and moved their business there. The Peerless was operated by someone else until it was moved to Worcester. It was bought by the late Ralph Moberly who also owned Ralph’s Chadwick Square Diner.

He stored it briefly next to the Chadwick Square Diner and made plans to move it to Key West, Florida. To facilitate this, he had to cut the diner length-wise so it could be transported over the bridges to Key West. It ended up being stored down there and unfortunately got picked apart by souvenir hunters and was eventually destroyed.

Peerless Diner, circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

Peerless Diner, circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

Peerless Diner next to Chadwick Square Diner in Worcester
circa late 1980’s photo by Larry Cultrera

Just to let you know there was in fact another diner in Lowell in the early 1980’s (photo not included here) but I never photographed it until the 1990’s. The Cameo Diner (which is still very much alive) has been around for many, many years although the current building is not factory-built. The story is it actually evolved from an old lunch wagon that was on its site. Maybe I’ll do another post that will include a “Cameo” appearance in the future!

Pantazis family celebrates 50 years at Chet’s Diner

The Pantazis family is celebrating the 50 year anniversary of their ownership of the venerable Chet’s Diner in Northborough, Mass.  The diner was open this past Sunday for a private party so all their long-time regular customers could come and mingle, tell stories and reminisce with matriarch Nancy Pantazis, her daughter Ann Fidrych and granddaughter Jessica Fidrych, as well as current and former employees of this 1930’s vintage diner.

Chet’s Diner, Northborough Mass. photo by Larry Cultrera

It has been reported over the years by various sources including the owners themselves that this is a Worcester Lunch Car built diner. But from all indications this was built on-site with a typical Worcester Lunch Car configuration. The windows and size of the diner, including its rather long barrel roof overhangs as well as materials for interior and exterior surfaces do not conform to what would have been produced by the factory. The owners have a framed sheet of paper that appears to be a list of costs in what looks to be Charles Gemme’s handwriting for certain equipment that was more than likely purchased from Worcester Lunch Car Co. (Gemme was the longtime vice president and superintendent of the company).

Regardless of its pedigree, this is still a quintessential diner in all senses, a community gathering place where regular customers as well as transient ones travelling along U.S. Rte. 20, can stop to eat a great meal and join in the conversation.

Here is an article from the Worcester Telegram & Gazette by staff writer Lisa Eckelbecker on the celebration this past Sunday…….

Chet’s at 50


NORTHBORO —  Not much changes at Chet’s Diner.

Yes, the stools at the counter got a face-lift recently, but the worn Formica counter remains. The menu, which may add a few new specials now and then for the breakfast and lunch crowd or the Friday night fish fry, still features the diner’s popular homemade hash. And the décor is vintage diner, including a brown-edged sign on one wall warning, “Prices subject to change according to customer’s attitude.”

Yet ask Ann E. Fidrych, daughter of the couple who bought the diner 50 years ago, what’s kept the business going for so long, and the first thing she mentions isn’t the food or the surroundings, it’s the people.

“People come here, and they know they’re remembered,” she said. “And if we don’t know your name, we know what you eat,” added waitress Selene M. Melanson, who has worked off and on at Chet’s for 10 years.

The Pantazis family yesterday celebrated 50 years of ownership at Chet’s with a private party for friends and regular customers. Instead of hash, they dished up hot dogs, chili, lasagna, salad and bread.

Nancy A. Pantazis, 87, who bought the diner in 1960 with her late husband, James, with a $2,500 mortgage, sat at a table and greeted old friends, her gray hair swept up with a tiara and a white rose corsage fixed to her right wrist. Ann Fidrych, widow of former major league pitcher Mark S. Fidrych, mingled with the crowd. Her daughter and the new president of Chet’s, Jessica L. Fidrych, tended bar.

U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester, showed up with a congressional certificate recognizing Chet’s, but much of the party was without speeches. Regular customers rubbed elbows with former employees.

Carleen E. McKinstry of Northboro eats breakfast every day at Chet’s, usually Egg Beaters and toast about midmorning. Her husband is an early diner, usually arriving about 5:30 a.m.

“I come here six days a week,” Mrs. McKinstry said. “I’d come seven days a week if it were open.” It’s more than food, however, that draws her to the long, low dining car, manufactured in 1931 by the Worcester Lunch Car Co.

“I love the family,” Mrs. McKinstry said. “Nancy and I were close. When my mother passed away, she started talking about her mother. We cried together.”

The Pantazis family represents the third set of owners of the diner. The original owner was believed to be Chet Warren. About the mid-1930s, the Strazero family took over.

Ann Fidrych said her father, a Greek immigrant and former Army sergeant, wanted to cook. Cook, he did, with his wife at his side peeling potatoes. Nancy Pantazis, asked how many potatoes she peeled over the “40-something” years she worked at the diner, said, “tons and tons.”

When they needed help, they drafted trusted young people. Arthur E. Boucher of Boylston and four of his five siblings worked at the diner, sweeping the parking lot and cooking at the grill. If he needed money for a date, young Arthur would grab change from the cash register and leave “Jimmy” a note.

“Jimmy and Nancy were like parents to all the kids in our family,” said Mr. Boucher, who worked at the diner for about 10 years.

His younger brother, Michael J. Boucher, now of Harvard, never even had a formal interview when he started his four-year stint at Chet’s Diner. “Jimmy didn’t say, ‘Do you want a job?’ He said, ‘It’s time,’ ” Michael Boucher said.

Jessica Fidrych, 23, the third generation to run the diner, uncapped bottles of beer yesterday for party guests, mixed drinks and posed for pictures. She described the diner as her “calling.” “This is my life,” she said. “I was born here. It was in my blood.”

But would she change Chet’s? “Things are always up our sleeve,” she said.

Diner Hotline extends congratulations to  the Pantazis/Fidrych family on their 50 years at the helm of  Chet’s Diner, as well as good wishes hopefully for the next 50 years!

A (sort of) Mountain View Diner weekend

Sunday Breakfast at Mountain View Diner No. 428

After I posted last weekend about the Patriot Diner opening in Bourne, Mass.  I had it in the back of my mind to take a short ride down to Cape Cod and check it out in person! So Denise and I went down on Sunday (yesterday) and had breakfast at this 1950’s Mountain View Diner.

As mentioned in a previous post, I first wrote about this diner (formerly the Berlin Diner) which was moved from Berlin, NJ to East Hampton, CT (back when Diner Hotline was in the SCA Journal magazine). I had heard from Steve Gasior who was an SCA member. He was already running a restaurant in Connecticut and thought the diner would be a great addition to his operation.

the former Berlin Diner moving to Connecticut, courtesy Steve Gasior

After the diner was moved to the Nutmeg State, Gasior started to have the diner installed on a foundation and even utilized the services of a so-called restorationist to bring the diner back to a reasonable appearance. You see when the diner was in New Jersey, it had been updated over the years with the facade under the windows being stripped of its stainless steel skin for a different look. The restorationist went as far as having new stainless steel skin made for the diner.

Sometime right after that things went sour and the work was discontinued, the diner project for Gasior was now in limbo. The diner sat there for a while (a couple of years at least) until he was able to unload it.

Otis Rotary Diner, Bourne, Mass. March, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

My Tinman Diner, 1996 photo by Larry Cultrera

During this period, The 1941 vintage double-ended Sterling Streamliner operating as “My Tinman Diner” at the Otis Rotary in the Pocasset section of Bourne, Mass. had been burned by an arsonist (circa 2000). That diner was eventually moved off the property and Claire Bergeron (the property owner) was thinking of finding a classic diner to take the place of  the old streamliner. She found out about the former Berlin Diner being available and arranged to purchase it and have it installed on her property in Bourne.

Unfortunately she also utilized the same restorationist that Gasior used and ran into similar problems! So again the diner sat idle until Ms. Bergeron contacted Richard Gutman of the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales University. He put her together with Steve Spencer the Operations manager at the Museum who completed the installation of the exterior stainless steel skin (as mentioned in the last post) and the diner opened for business in the last 2 weeks. Here are a few of my photos from yesterday…….

Patriot Diner, October 10, 2010 photo by Larry Cultrera

Patriot Diner, October 10, 2010 photo by Larry Cultrera

Patriot Diner, October 10, 2010 photo by Larry Cultrera

We had a decent breakfast at the diner but I was a little concerned as to how they set-up the interior. The original counter was there along with the stools that had back rests (these stools may not be original although they do look good). What bothered me about the set-up was that there were no booths in the diner, just table and chairs which would have been ok if they were set up by the windows against the wall, but they were not. They were moved away from the wall and set at angles with the 4 related chairs on all sides. This might work in a large room but within the fairly narrow confines of a 1950’s diner, forget about it! There was hardly any room to walk between the tables and the counter stools!

Also, they installed built-in wooden benches against the side walls that have access to tables along the side. A 1950’s diner would have had upholstered benches and these wooden ones looked out of place and did not look comfortable. I would suggest they revisit their configuration by doing something different with the side benches and placing tables for 4 against the front walls with 2 chairs on each side.

OK, that’s enough of my bitching (of which I do very little here) and onto the next Mountain View Diner I visited this weekend!

Mountain View Diner No. 317 gets new operators

Eggie’s Diner, Route 125 in Plaistow, NH, photo by Larry Cultrera

Recently I mentioned that the people who ran Eggie’s Diner on Rte. 125 in Plaistow, NH had moved their business from the 1950’s Mountain View Diner they had occupied for many years to new digs in Atkinson, NH. This left the future of the old diner building in question. Well that question was answered within the last few days by an article from the Lawrence Eagle- Tribune (Lawrence, Mass.). This article mentioned the new people who would be operating the diner now called Diner 317.

Originally known as Pent’s Diner on Route 28 in North Reading, Mass. in 1952, it was moved to Plaistow by owners Jim & Hope Pentalerios in 1961 when I-93 opened and took a lot of north and southbound traffic from the old road.

When I first photographed the diner in Plaistow in the early 1980’s, it was being run as the Plaistownian Diner. Its exterior had been altered sometime in the mid-to-late 1970’s with all the stainless steel exterior skin being removed and covered with some type of siding (either wooden or vinyl). All the other stainless steel (trim & panels) by the windows were painted over.

I recall the diner looking all original circa 1971-72 but after that I guess I did not pay attention. Luckily, Richard Gutman at least had photographed it in his early days in Boston and had some decent shots of it as Hope’s Diner from back then.
Here is the article from the Eagle-Tribune that was brought to my attention by Glenn Wells of……..

By Cara Hogan The Eagle Tribune
Sun Oct 10, 2010, 12:03 AM EDT

Plaistow gets a new diner

The former site of Eggies diner in Plaistow has a new name and new owners, who hope to revitalize the local landmark. Eggies has moved to a new location in Atkinson.

John Woods, originally from Rye, has renamed it Diner 317, taking the number from an old metal plaque on the wall of the classic diner. Woods is a chef and just moved back to New Hampshire from Boulder, Colorado.
“I had a restaurant in Colorado, but I sold it to come back here,” Woods said.

He said his two good friends from Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston, Justin Behling and cousin Chris Woods, asked him if he wanted to go into business together. “They were looking into building a restaurant, and I had been in the business for 20 years,” Woods said. “We’ve known each other forever and we all trust each other. Chris is running construction, Justin and myself are operating the restaurant.”

Cook has already written the menu. Prices will range from free for kids under age 10 to $12.50 for all-you-can-eat. “We’re going to continue to do diner food and comfort food, serving breakfast all day,” Woods said.

The menu includes dishes like Backwoods Benedict: turkey, bacon, two poached eggs with chip sausage gravy over buttermilk biscuits, and the Breakfast Bomb Burrito: two scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, hash browns and choice of ham, bacon or sausage wrapped in a large flour tortilla smothered with green chili. The menu also will feature a regular assortment of french toast, waffles, pancakes, burgers and sandwiches.

Woods and his partners are leasing the diner from the owners, but are doing significant construction to improve the building and parking lot. “We are redoing a lot,” Woods said. “We’re doing mainly cosmetic changes in the front, keeping it as original as possible. We’re going to fix the parking lot also, pave over the potholes and get everything up to code.”

He said he hopes construction will be completed in the next few weeks. Plans call for opening the diner Nov. 1. The diner will open at 5:30 a.m. every day. Woods said he is proud of the diner’s long history, including the story at the bottom of the new menus.

“This diner was built in 1951 in New Jersey by the Mountain View Diner Company,” Woods said. “It moved from Jersey to North Reading and was there until 1961. Then it was brought up here.” The Pentalerios family owned the diner, calling it Pents, then Hope’s Diner, before leasing it Eggies. “We’re only the third people to (run) it since 1951,” Woods said. “It’s virtually a landmark.”

The new diner will be a green operation. “We’ll be recycling, composting and selling our fry oil for biofuel,” he said. “We’re also thinking about doing farm to table in the spring, maybe planting a box garden in the field out back. We have so much space. It feels good to be respecting the environment and cooking fresh, delicious foods. It’s a win-win.”

Woods said he hopes people will try the food and support a local family business. “My cousins and other family are volunteering, doing construction for free,” he said. “Everyone working here is family.”

After reading this article I decided because I had today off (Columbus Day) I would take another quick ride to Plaistow where I met both John Woods and Justin Behling. They really do have an appreciation of the diner and have pledged to keep as much of it as they can original. They have stripped the paint from all the stainless steel surfaces that remain on the exterior and are busy completely rebuilding the on-site kitchen.

John told me something I was not aware of, namely that the Pentalerios family still owns the diner! This was a total surprise! I wished them luck and hope to be at the diner again shortly after it reopens (next month I believe).

Here are some photos from this morning…..

John Woods (L) and a contractor (R) in front of Diner 317
October 11, 2010 photo by Larry Cultrera

Diner 317, October 11, 2010 photo by Larry Cultrera

Interior of Diner 317, October 11, 2010 photo by Larry Cultrera

Interior of Diner 317, October 11, 2010 photo by Larry Cultrera

Notes from the Hotline, 10-2-2010

Saturday Breakfast at the newly opened
Dinky’s Blue Belle Diner

Dinky’s Blue Belle Diner, Shrewsbury, Mass. – Photo by Larry Cultrera

As promised in the last post, Denise & I took a ride out to Shrewsbury to check out the Blue Belle Diner which has finally reopened at a new location after it was uprooted from its old long-time operating location on Prescott Street in Worcester 12 years ago. The Blue Belle is a 1948 vintage Worcester Lunch Car (No. 814) and was originally located on Chandler Street in Worcester prior to moving to the Prescott Street site.

Dinky’s Blue Belle Diner, Shrewsbury, Mass. – Photo by Larry Cultrera

We had a great breakfast and were served by pleasant waitresses. I missed getting to see owner Bruce Trotto probably by just a few minutes but left my card to let him know I was there. The Blue Belle which was added on to Trotto’s Dinky’s Diner (an on-site building) looks fantastic, especially on the exterior! I was even surprised to see the diner had all its original exterior light fixtures which have not survived on other Worcesters of this vintage. The diner, along with a large kitchen, entryway/diningroom was grafted onto the existing building. I am told the old Dinky’s section which is currently closed is going to be made into a bar by the end of the year.

Dinky’s Blue Belle Diner, Shrewsbury, Mass. – Photo by Larry Cultrera

I recall visiting the Blue Belle Diner back in the 1980’s and at that time I wondered why the interior seemed different (from other Worcesters of the same period). I have figured out that sometime along the way between when it was first built and when I first saw it, there had been a fire. As I noticed in my 1980’s visit, the hood was missing over the cooking area which to my eyes made it look sort of empty, devoid of some character.  It also now has a wooden ceiling which replaced its original Pearlescent Formica ceiling after it was damaged (I assume) by the fire.

In fact upon today’s inspection while sitting at the counter, I gave it a good looking over and the whole back-bar area (behind the counter) is not original. From left to right every piece of original equipment and cabinetry is gone. In its place are some commercial stainless steel cabinets, tables, pastry cases and griddle area. The griddle area is just used for display as all cooking is done out back in the new large kitchen.

On the bright side everything on the other side of the counter is pretty original from the marble counter-top and ceramic tile counter apron and walls to the stools and booths although it does have new ceiling lights as well as smaller light fixtures between the windows by the booths.

Overall, I highly recommend that if you are in the Shrewsbury area check out Dinky’s Blue Belle Diner located at 70 Clinton Street (Rte. 70) about a mile or so from the Worcester town line. Its phone is 508-981-8007. Say hi to Bruce if he is there, tell him Diner Hotline sent you!

The new entryway/waiting area at the Four Sister’s
Owl Diner is pretty much complete

Regular readers of Diner Hotline should recall that I was involved in a collaboration with Richard Gutman in the creation of a large entryway/waiting area that was built on to the front of the existing Worcester Semi-streamlined diner known as the Four Sister’s Owl Diner in Lowell, Mass. Because a major portion of the front wall of the diner was going to be covered by this new entryway, it was decided to make all new porcelain steel panels with baked in graphics similar to the old panels for the whole front wall (including the entryway).

The panel that has the “R” took the place of the original “Booth Service”
panel on the right side of the front wall.

My part was to translate Dick Gutman’s hand drawn mechanical drawings to vectorized computer files that the Cherokee Porcelain Enamel Company requested. Using the images that Dick sent me as templates I recreated then in Adobe Illustrator. One of the panels I did not have from Dick was the “Booth Service” panel which I photographed to be used as a template.

New panels showing the rest of the graphics.

The panels with graphics included the “Booth Service” panel on the front left corner of the diner and the panels that “The Owl” in old english font on the front of the entryway and the new “Diner” panels in an italicized font on the right side of the diner. These included stripes at the top as well as the small arrow stripes at the bottom of the 2 end panels. Because the entryway went past the front door of the diner, the panels with the word “Diner” had to move to the right . This meant sacrificing the “Booth Service” panel on the right end.

Diner from the left side showing the new entryway.

Anyway, the exterior was mostly done earlier this year but the interior of the entryway took a little longer. But the wait was worth it as the custom tile work on the floor and walls successfully replicated what the Worcester Lunch Car Company’s tile people (Bianchi Brothers I believe) did in 1940.

Interior of entryway showing a fantastic custom tile job on the floor and walls replicating the interior tilework of the diner.

Patriot Diner opens in Bourne, Mass.

Patriot Diner with newly installed replacement stainless steel skin
Photo courtesy of Richard Gutman and Steve Spencer of the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales University

10 years ago a devastating arson fire destroyed the My Tin Man Diner, an extremely rare double-ended Sterling Streamliner diner built by J.B. Judkins Company of Merrimac, Mass. This diner originally operated as Jimmie Evan’s Flyer on U.S. Route 6 in New Bedford, Mass. for many years until it was moved to the Pocasset section of Bourne near the Otis Air Force Base.

The diner was run under quite a few names over the years including The Otis Rotary Diner and Mary’s Muffins prior to Claire Bergeron’s purchase of the property circa 1985. In 1990 she leased the diner to Barbara Lind who changed the name to My Tin Man Diner. It was the estranged husband of one of Barbara’s employees who set the arson fire that burned the old diner.

The burned remains of the old Sterling Streamliner diner was moved off the property a number of years ago and currently sits in storage at the Handy Hill Creamery Ice Cream stand in Westport, Mass. Since then Claire Bergeron ended up purchasing the former Berlin Diner (Berlin, NJ) from Steve Gasior who had moved the 1950’s Mountain View Diner (No. 428) from New Jersey to East Hampton, CT where he had hoped to put it back in business.

Gasior’s plans had fallen thru due to various reasons and the diner was never put into service in the Nutmeg State, thus the purchase by Ms. Bergeron a few years later. Ms. Bergeron subsequently got the diner moved to the former site of the My Tin Man Diner and installed it on a new foundation where its restoration stalled.

Eventually she contacted Richard Gutman at the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales University about her dilemma in finishing the diners exterior restoration. He put her in touch with Steve Spencer, the Museum Operations manager who contracted to install the new replacement stainless steel skin on the diner with the assistance of his son earlier this year.

I had heard from a few people recently that the diner now being called the Patriot Diner was preparing to open and in fact there came reports a couple of days ago about the diner was in fact now open for business. Here is an article from Cape Cod Online about the diner….

New Bourne diner opens a decade after arson fire

By Heather Wysocki
October 02, 2010
The Cape’s longest wait for a short stack of pancakes is finally over. Nearly 10 years after a devastating arson fire destroyed the diner that had sat just off the Otis Rotary in Bourne for nearly a half century, the property’s owner has opened a new eatery on the same spot.
Now called the Patriot Diner, the stainless-steel throwback opened its doors Monday to serve up old-fashioned food and helpings of nostalgia for patrons who remember coming to the spot for years dating back to the mid-20th century.

“It was a landmark to people,” said Claire Bergeron of Wareham, who has owned the property since 1985. “It had served different generations. I felt responsible for bringing it back.”

In November 2000, the diner, then called My Tin Man Diner and run by Barbara Lind, was destroyed in a fire set by the estranged husband of a restaurant employee. “There was nothing left. I walked into where the kitchen was and I could look up at the sky,” Bergeron said.

A series of misfortunes, including having an unreliable restoration expert and insurance woes, made the wait for a new diner drag for years, she said. Diner patrons got another chance at pancake-and-patty-melt bliss in 2008, when Lind and her daughter, Susan Kettell Lind, opened the new incarnation of My Tin Man Diner at 70 County Road in North Falmouth.

But it wasn’t until Bergeron met longtime Cape restaurateur Don Cox that she could fulfill her promise to bring back a diner at the Otis Rotary. “This was a long journey,” said Cox, who operates the new Patriot Diner. “I just helped her get across the finish line.” Cox opened the diner last week with little fanfare and abbreviated hours, he said, but the community is already showing enthusiasm.

“It’s so nice to have it back here,” said customer Carol Goss of Bourne, who ate breakfast at the diner Wednesday morning. Goss said she had frequented the restaurant when it was My Tin Man Diner. Others remember the place just as fondly. “It was always a hot spot,” said Anita Landers of Pocasset, a waitress at the diner whose mother and two sisters worked at the eatery decades ago. “You can hear a hundred stories a day about the history of this place,” Cox said.

This time around, the diner’s theme pays tribute to the military men and women from the nearby Massachusetts Military Reservation. Many armed service members have already become some of the restaurant’s most loyal customers, Cox said. “We were kind of inspired by the people that we’ve met … and the sacrifices they and their families make,” he said.

The tiny hallway leading to the new diner’s bathrooms is decorated with beach and dune scenes, but it also features a sign listing the distances to Middle Eastern and South Asian cities where Cape soldiers are currently stationed. A Blackhawk helicopter model with a Red Sox logo on its nose, painted to resemble those from Camp Edwards flying in Afghanistan and Iraq, hovers over the sand, and the restaurant’s handicapped-accessible bathroom has hand-painted images of Coast Guard boats and helicopters.

A few things will stay the same as they always were at the old diner: Cox’s menu includes old-fashioned comfort food favorites, and Bergeron made sure to replicate her original restaurant’s look by purchasing a defunct circa-1955 diner car from a small town in Connecticut. And, in a nod to the diner culture of earlier years, when area teens would grab a bite to eat after a night on the town, Cox plans to extend the diner’s hours to 24 hours a day on Fridays and Saturdays, he said.

Bergeron feels the new diner will be just as special to Bourne residents as its predecessor. “So many people were asking when it was going to reopen, I just felt it was my obligation,” she said. “I’m 65, I’ve never broken a promise in my life, and I’m too old to start now.”

Here is a timeline that the article put together about the diner…


1985: Claire Bergeron buys the diner that has operated at the same location for decades.

1990: Bergeron leases the restaurant to Barbara Lind, who names it the My Tin Man Diner.

2000: Arson fire set by estranged husband of a diner employee razes the eatery.

2002: William R. Taylor of Bourne is sentenced on federal arson charges to five years in prison.

2008: Lind and her daughter, Susan Kettell Lind, open a new My Tin Man Diner in North Falmouth.

2010: The Patriot Diner opens at the MacArthur Boulevard location.

Source: Claire Bergeron and Times archives