Diner Hotline marking 30 Years of documenting Diners!

I always consider the weekend of Thanksgiving, specifically the Saturday after the Holiday, the anniversary of when I tentatively shot my first 35mm photo of a Diner. The actual date is November 29th (this coming Monday) but who’s counting? Me of course! It seems almost unbelievable that 30 years has gone by since that gray Saturday in Harrisburg, PA. I was with my brother Rick and old friend Scott Drown and we were visiting Steve Repucci whom we had helped moved to H’Burg the previous Labor Day Weekend.

The three of us had driven down from Massachusetts the day before and as I recall, our route down took us out I-90 to I-86 (a few years later I-86 was to be absorbed by I-84 in MA & CT), then I-84 all the way out to Scranton, PA, where we headed south on I-81.

I also recall the highway was shrouded in the thickest fog I have ever driven through, between Scranton and Harrisburg! I am glad it was the middle of the day, still it was one of the scariest rides I have ever been on!

Anyway, I do not recall what we did that Friday after we got down to Harrisburg but I know the next morning we drove down the street from where Steve and his room-mate Ed Womer were residing to the Bypass Diner on Herr Street (Rte. 22 bypass) in Harrisburg for breakfast. After the meal we went outside and I took out the old 35mm Mamiya camera and shot a photo from the left front of the diner.

Bypass Diner, Harrisburg, PA – Nov. 29, 1980 photo by Larry Cultrera
The diner has been operating for many years as the American Dream Diner

That is my 1979 blue Chevy Van in the parking lot. I drove that 271,000 miles between April of 1979 and December of 1988 and needless to say, a huge portion of that mileage (and time) was spent hunting Diners!

Since that day I have shot probably into the thousands of photos of diners throughout the northeast states as far down as Virginia and Tennessee, (skipped the Carolinas) and been able to document at least one in Georgia (Marietta Diner, Marietta) and then down to Florida to shoot a few more. I’ve also documented diners as far west as Ohio, Michigan and Illinois. According to my database diner log I have documented 815 diners with negative, slide and digital photography.

I have met some interesting people in the last 30 years including Richard & Kellie Gutman, John Baeder, David Hebb, Brian Butko, Randy Garbin, Glenn Wells, Mike Engle and Beth Lennon. I also want to acknowledge Diner owners who have become close friends…. Bob Fennell of the Capitol Diner,  Lynn, Mass. and Bill Nichols of the Rosebud Diner, Somerville, Mass. and Phil Paleologos of the Shawmut Diner, New Bedford, Mass.

I cannot forget to include the late Warren Jones, former owner of the Apple Tree Diner of Deham, Mass. as well as the late Owen Abdalian, former owner of the Main Street Diner of Woburn, Mass. who each passed away way too early and hold a special place in my memories.

Most of all I also want to acknowledge my wonderful wife Denise, who puts up with me, the collection of memorabilia and the obsession! Hopefully, I will continue this quest and be able to document more diners, although the long road trips have dwindled to a very few as years have gone by, and I will continue my efforts of passing along info to you my faithful readers with this blog, Diner Hotline!

Disclaimer: to be clear, this is not the 30th anniversary of the creation of Diner Hotline, just the 30th anniversary of shooting my first Diner photograph, the beginning of my efforts to document the American Diner, which of course spawned the creation of Diner Hotline in 1988 – LAC

Notes from the Hotline, 11/21/2010

Diner 317 opens in Plaistow, NH

New sign for Diner 317, photo by Larry Cultrera

I got an email from the intrepid Bob Higgins on Thursday. He let me know that Diner 317 opened on Rte. 125 in Plaistow, NH. This was the location of Eggie’s Diner for many years. Eggie’s Diner (the business) moved to a new location in nearby Atkinson, NH earlier this year leaving the early 1950’s Mountain View diner empty. The new partnership of John Woods, his cousin Chris Woods and Justin Behling embarked upon a much needed sprucing up of the building which included completely gutting and then installing a new kitchen. In the diner proper they insisted on  keeping any original details that remained original, installing new lighting and custom made tables with benches!

Sunrise at Diner 317, photo by Larry Cultrera

Denise & I went for breakfast on Saturday morning and I was impressed with the cleanliness as well as the extensive menu. I had a great breakfast and Denise enjoyed the home-made biscuits (almost like dinner rolls) that came from John’s grandmother’s recipe.

Front view of Diner 317 showing the new handicap access ramp leading to the side entrance, photo by Larry Cultrera

Right now, their opening hours are 5:00 AM to 8:00 PM Monday thru Friday. Also they are going to see how 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM hours work for Thursday, Friday and Saturday as well. This of course may change. Diner 317 is located at 127 Plaistow Road (Rte. 125) in Plaistow, NH.

Richard Gutman’s Slide lecture well attended

My brothers Steve and Rick and I attended Dick Gutman’s slide lecture yesterday at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, Mass. (my sister-in-law Ann also popped in). It was as usual, well attended! The presentation was the latest in the Museum’s Lowell lecture Series and a coming home of sorts for Mr. Gutman who has assisted the Museum on a slew of different projects many times over the years as well as guest curated along with his wife Kellie two major exhibits there. The first being the landmark “American Diners Then & Now” (1995) and the second “Summer Camp” exhibit (2000).

Dick Gutman’s lecture was called “What Is It about Diners? More Than a Meal, That’s for Sure”, but it could easily have been entitled “Dick Gutman and his Diner Adventures”. It sort of gave a loose account of his personal odyssey researching the history of diners as well as the many memorable characters he has met in his travels!

I was interested to run into 2 people at the lecture that had attended my own slide presentation in Easton this past July. I also met a long-time reader of Diner Hotline – Stefanie Klavens, who had contributed a major article entitled “Art of Movie Theaters” for the Fall, 2003 edition of the SCA (Society for Commercial Archeology) Journal Magazine. This magazine of course is where my own Diner Hotline column ran for 19 years. In fact that particular edition of my column featured “The Origin of Diner Hotline”!

Also attending was John Margarita of Gardner, Mass. who I had not seen in probably 15 years. John had made a video on Diners (that I appeared in) that became a thesis for a graduate degree he received from Cambridge College.

The biggest surprise for me came after the lecture when most of the audience had left. A young man came up to me and called me by name and introduced himself, he said Larry? I’m Mike from the Triangle Diner! I was floored! Mike Lessin who is in the process of completely restoring the Triangle Diner of Winchester, VA, had actually flown up to Boston just to attend the lecture!

We talked for a few minutes then I brought him over so he could meet Dick Gutman who was also amazed and delighted that Mike had made this extreme effort to attend.

New Links in my Blog Roll

Matt & Andrea Simmons’ Clash of the Palates blog

My good friend Matt Simmons and his wife Andrea just started an interesting blog that is appearing through Randy Garbin’s “Riding Shotgun” feature at Roadside  Online. Matt co-wrote with me my post entitled “The Story of the The Abandoned Luncheonette, AKA the Rosedale Diner” post (from August 14th). See…… https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2010/08/14/the-story-of-the-the-abandoned-luncheonette-aka-the-rosedale-diner/.

Anyway, Matt and Andrea’s new blog is called “Clash of the Palates” and is basically a review of different restaurants that they check out and usually they each have opinions that differ, making for a point/counterpoint type of  review. Check it out at…..http://www.roadsideonline.com/clash-of-the-palates.

The Diner Project by Warren Green

I recently heard from Warren Green who told me he had also attended my recent slide presentation in July. He sent me a link to his new Website called “The Eclectic Light Company”. This website features his photographs but more important here, he has a page called “The Diner Project”. Check it out at….. http://www.eclecticlightcompany.com/Other/Statement-Diner-Project/14372321_wH8XH.

Theatre Historical Society website and readerboard

Karen Colizzi Noonan recently sent some sample copies of the Theatre Historical Society’s “Marquee” Magazine (Karen is the President of this organization). This was brought to my attention by Beth Lennon of Retro Roadmap http://retroroadmap.com/ who had made a mention in her blog about this and told her readers that for a limited time they could also get some free copies of this magazine as an introduction to this organization that has been around since 1969. So I took advantage of the offer.

Karen emailed me and said she had seen Diner Hotline and wanted to put a link to it on her readerboard. I of course said please do, and that I would reciprocate. So here are 2 links, one to the Website and one to the readerboard. check them out at…. http://www.historictheatres.org/
and…. http://theatrehistoricalsociety.wordpress.com/

Capitol Diner exterior improvements complete!

Bob Fennell of the Captiol Diner (Lynn, Mass.) every few years has to get his 1929 Brill diner repainted. This year was the year it needed to be done. The place was scraped down and some imperfections were corrected and the whole building was primed and then painted. This was all done by the end of August. The only thing that did not happen was the lettering on the outside walls were not repainted. He decided to have new vinyl “decal” type lettering made by the same sign company that used to paint the lettering.

Capitol Diner with primer paint, June 2010 photo by Larry Cultrera

Capitol Diner with new paint job and vinyl lettering
Photo November 21, 2010 by Larry Cultrera

flagship Silver Diner reopens at new location

When the Silver Diner opened its flagship location at 11806 Rockville Pike (Rockville, MD) in 1989, it not only marked the beginning of this new venture between restaurateur Robert Giaimo and  master chef Ype Von Hengst but also the rebirth of an old concept…. a chain of Diners.

Silver Diner, 11806 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD
March 1993 photo by Larry Cultrera

Diner chains had existed sporadically over the years, some examples being the Monarch Diners in Massachusetts and New Hampshire started by the DeCola brothers of Waltham (circa 1940 thru 1970)and more recently the chain of Dempsey’s Diners in Pennsylvania (roughly 1960 thru 1990).

The first Silver Diner was the only outlet of the chain that was built in a factory. A collaboration between diner manufacturer  Kullman Industries, award winning restaurant designer Charles Morris Mount, diner historian Richard J. S. Gutman (as design development consultant), Mike Collier of Uniwest Construction and Cini-Little International, Inc. (food service consultants), this diner brought back and updated the classic look of gleaming stainless steel, porcelain enamel and neon, a trend that caught on universally throughout the diner industry.

Nowadays, the Silver Diner has 16 locations in Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey. Check out their website at …… http://www.silverdiner.com/. Last year on the occasion of their 20th anniversary Silver Diner announced their plans to relocate their Rockville headquarters to a brand new on-site built diner at 12276 Rockville Pike. As of November 2, 2010, they closed the old location and opened the new one.

rendering of the new Silver Diner at 12276 Rockville Pike
courtesy of Silver Diner

Good friend Michael G. Stewart had a quick meal last week at the new diner and reported that the place is very clean and the food was good but service seemed a little slow which could be attributed to the staff getting used to the new layout. Check out Michael’s website at… http://www.michephoto.com/

An interesting sidelight to this story happened around last weeks opening of the new diner. You see I belong to the Silver Diner fan page on Facebook and a few weeks ago they announced a contest where they asked people to share their favorite personal story of the Rockville Silver Diner. They would draw a winner once a week until the November 2nd opening. The winners would receive a Tabletop Juke Box replica.

Masthead on Silver Diners facebook page (Rockville memories tab)

I myself visited the diner twice over the years, once in 1990 and also another time in March of 1993. I decided to share an experience I had during my second visit. Here is what I wrote…….

The last time I was there was either 1992 or 93. I was buying a new t-shirt to replace my first one from 1990. I wanted to get a decent photo of the diner that was not blocked by parked cars so I got up on top of a newspaper dispenser box on the sidewalk next to a light pole to get the shot. A lady customer had just come out of the diner and saw me taking my photo, her car was right there and she went into the glovebox and took out a camera and took a photo of me taking my photo of the diner.

Here is the photo I shot of the Silver Diner from the top of a newspaper dispenser box.
(I believe the lady who took my photo is in the blue mini-van)

Well it was coming up to November 2nd and I thought they did not pick my story as a winner, boy was I wrong! On Wednesday, the 3rd I saw on Facebook that I won the last drawing for the contest! I was surprised!

They contacted me and wanted to make arrangements for me to pick up my prize. I realized this might present a problem as I live in the Boston, Massachusetts area and let them know about this. They asked if I knew someone in their area that might be able to pick the prize up for me as they would not ship it.  

I immediately thought of Michael G. Stewart and contacted him. I gave him the lowdown on my predicament and he said he would do me the favor and pick up my prize. 

The Juke Box replica arrived at my place of employment on Wednesday in good shape and I want to thank Michael Stewart for shipping it, and also Iffat Khan of the Silver Diner and Katie Conlon of the Silver Diner Facebook page for being so helpful and gracious. 

Iffat Khan informed me that the other winners had their photo taken when they picked up their prizes and asked me to send along one of myself with my prize.


Me with the Juke Box replica, photo by Denise Cultrera

Diner Slide Presentation set for Dec. 6th, 2010

I am doing a new streamlined version of my Diner Slide Presentation at 7:00 pm on Monday, December 6th. It will be held at the Thomas Crane Public Library 40 Washington Street, Quincy, Mass.
(617-376-1301   –   http://www.thomascranelibrary.org)

Ironically, the main building of this library was designed by the noted architect H.H. Richardson making this the second slide show in a row I have presented in a Richardson designed building. The last one was at the end of July at the Ames Free Library in North Easton, Mass.

Built in 1881 by noted architect Henry Hobson Richardson — who also designed Boston’s famed Trinity Church — the Thomas Crane Public Library’s original building is a masterpiece of 19th century Romanesque architecture. Its ornate woodwork and LaFarge stained glass windows are truly works of art. Since the library opened in 1882, several additions have been constructed, including a multimillion-dollar addition in 2001 that combines the architectural spirit of the original Richardson building with the technological capabilities of a 21st century library.
(info from Quincy Green Map)

This slide presentation is sponsored by the Friends of Thomas Crane Public Library

In Memoriam, Cliff Brown, owner of Miss Albany Diner

I was saddened to learn that old friend Cliff Brown had passed away on Monday, November 1st. Cliff was the owner along with his wife Jane of the wonderful Miss Albany Diner since 1988. I had heard from various people that Cliff was sick but I guess I did not know how far along his illness was.

Cliff Brown conversing with customers at the Miss Albany Diner

It was always a pleasure to stop in at the Miss Albany and talk with Cliff. Even though I personally live at least 3 hours away from the Empire State’s Capitol city, Cliff made you feel at home and treated you like you were a regular customer!

Here is what Cliff’s son Bill posted on the Miss Albany Diner’s Facebook page Monday……

Early this morning, November 01, 2010, Clifford H. Brown, owner of the Miss Albany Diner passed away at his home in his own bed. Before he died, he became part of the Anatomical Gift Program at Albany Medical Center so his body could be used for training the next generation. A memorial service will be announced in the future. In accordance with Cliff’s wishes, the diner will remain open as usual.

Diner Hotline would like to extend condolences to Jane and Bill Brown on their loss. Cliff was one of the greatest!