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….

http://www.capecodonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20101002/NEWS/10020316

New Bourne diner opens a decade after arson fire

By Heather Wysocki
hwysocki@capecodonline.com
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…

Timeline

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

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