Another “Author’s Event” for Classic Diners of Massachusetts

I just booked a second “Author’s Event” for November 19th at the Somerville Public Library, 10:00 am to 11:30 am. This will be at the main branch of the Library, 79 Highland Avenue in Somerville, Mass.  and held in conjunction with the Harvard COOP/Barnes and Noble. Here is a link to the Library’s event page…..

I will be doing a short slide presentation to go with the book signing at this event. This of course follows the event in Westborough at Tatnuck Booksellers on November 12th (announced in the previous post).

I am also getting some positive feedback from people who have already received their copy of the book. Philomene Belair at the Miss Adams Diner tells me she has sold quite a few copies of the book. David Bergstrom from Lynn says…. Larry just finished your book, love it, love it, great job! I love the way you laid it out !! Really good read. I was talking with Perry at Don’s Diner they have your book on sale there ! I bought mine on line at Barnes and Nobel. I have to catch up and have you autograph it for me !! Congrats and much success .

Thanks David!

Classic Diners of Massachusetts has been published and shipped!

I am happy (and proud) to announce that my book, “Classic Diners of Massachusetts” has been published and shipped! I received my copies from The History Press on Friday, October 14th and I am very pleased with how it came out!

My wife Denise shot this photo of me holding a copy of the book!

The book should be in most book stores (at least in Massachusetts) by the end of this week! You can more than likely find it at Barnes & Noble and I would assume most locations of  The Paper Store in the Boston area. It certainly can be ordered through your local bookstore (anywhere in the U.S.) as well as most online websites, (, ( , etc. as well as The History Press website (

I can also announce my first scheduled book signing will be at Tatnuck Bookseller Gift Gallery and Cafe in Westborough, Mass. It will be November 12th running from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm. Here is a link to their website…..

I will post any other book signings when I know for sure the where and when of them!

On another note, I am happy to report that the Little Depot Diner of Peabody, Mass. has been reopened by the Miles family about a month after they closed the business. I first heard about it early Saturday morning from an announcement on their Facebook page! Denise & I went there for breakfast today and daughter Jen Miles told us  they reopened by popular demand. Basically they missed their regular customers and the interaction they had with them. Unfortunately, at this point it looks like they will only be opened for weekends, 7:00 am to 1:00 pm Saturday and Sunday and I suppose that is better than being closed permanently! I showed them a copy of the book and that they were a featured diner which pleased them!

2 Massachusetts Diners closed in the last month

I am eagerly awaiting the publication of my book…. “Classic Diners of Massachusetts”. The official publication date is October 20th, but I probably will see it sooner. It was printed around 2 weeks ago, in fact the same week it was going to press I got news through Facebook that one of the “featured diners” in my chapter on the North Shore & Northern Suburbs had closed abruptly. This was The Little Depot Diner of Peabody.

The Little Depot Diner, Railroad Ave. in Peabody, Mass.
photo by Larry Cultrera

I was bummed out as that piece of news made my book sort of dated before it hit the shelves! Oh well, at least what I wrote will be a tribute to the Miles family. I mentioned  how they were the first people to make this diner viable again after being marginal at best for quite a few years and I know they will be missed. Jim Miles was quoted as saying they hope to find a buyer to take over and reopen the diner in the near future.

Jim Miles wrote the following and posted it on the diner’s Facebook page as an explanation as well as a thank you to all their regular customers……

September 16, 2011
Dear friends and loyal customers,
Yes, it is true…The Little Depot Diner is closed for business. Four years ago Judy and I stepped into this tiny little diner and fifteen minutes later we shook hands with the seller and stepped out as the new owners of this special little place. Until that day we had no plan to ever own a diner. Our kids were as surprised as we were when we told them we bought a diner.

Then the work began and our vision of “The Little Depot Diner” became reality after countless hours of renovation. We wanted to create an atmosphere where people could enjoy a decent meal, have some fun and hopefully walk out happy. We slid the door open in February 2008 in hopes that people will come…and come you did. Over the past few years we have had the time of our lives meeting people, making friends and having fun beyond our wildest dreams. The previous owner told us on that first day; “This diner is not about the food…It’s about the people.” She was absolutely right. Thank you Joyce, for allowing my family an experience we will cherish for a lifetime.

We care about every person that ever came into the diner, but it’s our regular customers that made my decision to close so difficult. You all know who you are. No need to mention names. I want to express my heartfelt thanks for your support and for your friendship. My hat’s off to the parents of the great little kids that brought so much joy to all of us at the diner. We will miss all of you. Many people are asking why we closed so unexpectedly. About six months ago it became apparent to me that this has become more work then we can handle. I began looking for a possible buyer in hopes to find “the right people” to continue the operation without interruption. Unfortunately that has not happened. The well-being of my family is my number one concern and I recognized today as a necessary walk-away point. I apologize for the inconvenience and ask for your understanding and support. Hopefully we will find the “right people” soon and slide that door back open.

God Bless You All,
Jim Miles (The best darn waiter this side of the Mississippi if I do say so myself). To my wife Judy, you’ve done a fantastic job creating such a unique and successful business. I couldn’t have a better partner. To my daughter Jen, your tears today summed it all up. Thank you. To my son Joe, I can never thank you enough for everything you’ve done.
Thank you to our crew and everyone who helped us along the way.
I am a very proud man today.

So, if that news wasn’t enough, this weekend another “featured diner” in my book closed! This time due to a kitchen fire. I am talking about the Whately Diner Fillin’ Station which I featured in my Western Massachusetts chapter.

The Whately Diner Fillin” Station, Whately, Mass.
April, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Apparently, a kitchen fire got out of control and the diner is expected to be closed for an indefinite period while the damage can be repaired.

Here is a news report dated October 2nd from about the fire…

Whately Diner fire causes about $100,000 in damages

By Jeanette DeForge, The Republican

A fire that started in the kitchen of the popular Fillin’ Station Diner caused about $100,000 in damages and is expected to keep the restaurant closed for at least a month. The fire started some time between 5:30 and 5:45 a.m. Sunday, when cooks were working in the kitchen and several customers were in the dining room. There were no injures, Whately Fire Chief John Hannum said.

Manager Frederic Brown, who arrived after the fire broke out, said the blaze appeared to have started in the kitchen in an area between two grills. He said it could take several weeks to repair the damage. Hannum confirmed the cause of the fire was a cooking accident. “The extinguishing system activated but it didn’t put the fire out,” Hannum said. The diner has a chemical extinguishing system above the grills. Hannum said he was not exactly sure why it did not douse the flames.

The kitchen was mostly destroyed in the blaze and firefighters had to cut holes in the roof because it had extended above the ceiling. There was no fire damage to the dining room but there was smoke damage, Hannum said.
“When we got there it was going pretty good,” he said. Fire Departments from a number of nearby communities were called under mutual assistance partly because there are no hydrants in the area so tanker trucks were needed. It took firefighters about three hours to put out the fire and ensure it would not start again, Hannum said.

The 24-hour restaurant, also known as the Whately Diner, is on Route 5 next to Exit 24 of I-91. With a gasoline and diesel station next door and large parking area, it is a popular stop for truckers. It is owned by F.L. Roberts.

So hopefully both of these diners will only be closed temporarily and patrons will be able to enjoy some great food in both Peabody and Whately in the near future!

Taunton Lunch Wagons, lost and found

Up until the winter of 1986, the city of Taunton, Massachusetts held on to a daily tradition that lasted for close to 100 years. It was the last city to host an honest-to-god lunch wagon at the town green. These lunch wagons of course started out as the horse-drawn variety, represented by  T.H. Buckley’s White House Cafe’s, etc. in the late 19th century.

On the right you can see a White House Cafe at the Taunton Green.
Postcard from the collection of  Larry Cultrera

At one point there were four different wagons stationed one to each side of the green. By the year 1933, Behan’s Diner, Worcester Lunch Car No. 719 was operating and was one of the first that was pulled by a truck in that city. At that point there was still at least one horse-drawn wagon, Galligan’s Diner. Jack Hickey went to work as a counterman for Galligan’s in 1942 (according to Dick Gutman’s American Diner Then & Now). By 1944 Hickey stepped up to being an owner, buying an eight stool former horse-drawn wagon that had been mounted on a 1938 White truck. By 1946, Hickey decided to upgrade to a brand-new lunch wagon which he co-designed with Charles Gemme of the Worcester Lunch Car Company. Mounted on the old White truck, Hickey’s Diner No. 798 started plying its trade in 1947 along with Sully’s Diner (the former Behan’s Diner). After a few years Hickey obtained a 1954 bull-nose Chevy truck to replace the old White truck. These two lunch wagons (Hickey’s & Sully’s) continued operating together until circa 1966 when Sully’s was retired, leaving Hickey’s as the last one at the green. I once asked Mike Hickey (Jack’s son) if he ever heard what happened to Sully’s and he was not really sure.

View of the Taunton Green….  that is more than likely Behan’s/Sully’s Diner with the red colored roof in this scene. Postcard from the collection
of Larry Cultrera

In this 1947 postcard view, Hickey’s Diner can be seen just behind the decorated tree near the top center and of course Sully’s Diner is at the
bottom right. Postcard from the collection of Larry Cultrera

A similar view from 1954 showing  Hickey’s Diner near the top center and again Sully’s Diner is at the bottom right. Postcard from the collection
of Larry Cultrera

In 1982, this postcard was put out continuing the tradition of photographing the Christmas decorations at the Taunton Green. It shows a scene from 1948 (with Sully’s Diner) at the top and a 1982 scene (with Hickey’s Diner) at the bottom. Postcard from the collection of Larry Cultrera

Jump to the winter of 1986 and it is announced that the Hickey family will close the last remaining lunch wagon and put it up for sale. I personally heard about it before it was common knowledge because of a unique set of circumstances. Apparently the Hickey family had seen a recent newspaper article about Dick and Ona Jones who at that point had the Apple Tree Diner, formerly of Dedham, Mass. Their son Warren was the last operator of that diner. Warren had to move the diner from its only operating location when the land was sold to a developer in 1981. He hoped to set the diner back up at another location but his plans never panned out. So by late 1985 his parents who had taken over the diner to help Warren out, had the diner moved to auctioneer Paul J. Dias’s property in Hanson, Mass. where they hoped Dias would find a buyer for the diner.

Hickey’s Diner shown at its daytime location on Court Street .
1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

View of Hickey’s Diner showing the kitchen compartment.
1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

View of Hickey’s Diner showing the seating area for customers from the kitchen compartment. 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

The Hickey’s, as I said saw a newspaper article about this and figured they would make an inquiry to Dias along the same lines. From what I know, Dias must have mentioned it to Dick and Ona Jones and they in turn mentioned it to their son Warren who then called me. I turned around and immediately called Dick Gutman! Dick answered the phone and I said…. “Diner Hotline, Diner Hotline”! Then I proceeded to tell him the news. He was shocked, to say the least. Well during the conversation, I mentioned that I was taking a ride down to Taunton the next afternoon (a Saturday) and check things out.

This is when I actually met Mike Hickey for the first time. I told him of my interest in diners but decided not to mention anything about the news that the diner was for sale as I did not think it was common knowledge. That afternoon I decided I was going to make this a regular Saturday trip until the diner closed. Between that week and the next, the word was leaked to the local newspapers that the diner was for sale, so when I got back there the next Saturday, Mike told me he wanted to let me know about the situation the week before. I told him I wanted to tell him that I did know but figured that the “word was mum” at that point. So we had a little chuckle over that. Anyway, I was a regular customer at Hickey’s every Saturday for the next 6 weeks or so and was one of a handfull of people that was in the diner on that last Sunday morning in March of 1986, when Mike Hickey ceremoniously turned the diner’s lights off for the last time at the Taunton Green. During those last six weeks the diner was operated by the Hickey family, I took quite a few photos of the diner. Here are a few of them…..

Here is Hickey’s Diner heading up Court Street toward the Taunton Green at 4:00 pm on a Saturday. 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Hickey’s Diner at the Taunton Green. 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Hickey’s Diner at the Taunton Green. 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Another view from the winter of 1986. Photo by Larry Cultrera

Perhaps one of my favorite shots from 1986. That’s my blue 1979 Chevy Van with the yellow back door. Photo by Larry Cultrera

Not too long after Hickey’s closed, the City of Taunton ended up buying the diner and keeping it in the city. Ideally, this was a no-brainer. They eventually replaced the old Chevy truck with a newer Ford. The city housed the diner at the Bristol-Plymouth Vocational School and brought the diner out for special occasions, especially at Christmas, where it would be back at the town green.

Unfortunately, by 1998, the city decided they did not want to own the diner anymore and “sold” it for $1.00 to an organization that was billing itself as the “American Diner Museum”. This museum unfortunately only existed on paper. It had an uncatalogued collection of artifacts and memorabilia as well as a collection of old diners that were “donated”. To make a long story short, Hickey’s Diner, as far as I know at this point in time, has been dismantled with the intention of it being rebuilt. To my knowledge it has not been rebuilt.

I have been documenting diners with my photographs for almost 31 years and I have long harbored a fantasy that someone would come out of the woodwork someday and report that they had an old lunch wagon in a barn or at the very least, a backyard. Fast forward to last month, I got a message from someone who was familiar with my blog. Her name was Mary and she told me she had Sully’s Diner in her backyard! Needless to say I was shocked and got back to her immediately. I gave her my phone info and she called me back. Mary informed me that she had already been in touch with Dick Gutman and I told her that was very wise! She sent a couple of photos and sure enough, it was Sully’s Diner, in very rough shape but fairly intact on the exterior!

I finally got a chance to take a ride to Mary’s house last Sunday, (out of privacy concerns I am not revealing Mary’s full name or location). I will just say that there is no way that someone could ever stumble upon this old diner, even by accident! I had the pleasure of meeting Mary and her fiance, Scott and they showed me the diner. Here are the photos I shot last Sunday…..

Behan’s/Sully’s Diner, exterior photo by Larry Cultrera, 2011

Behan’s/Sully’s Diner, exterior photo by Larry Cultrera, 2011

Behan’s/Sully’s Diner, as you can see most of the stained-glass windows are intact. Exterior photo by Larry Cultrera, 2011

Behan’s/Sully’s Diner, exterior photo by Larry Cultrera, 2011

Behan’s/Sully’s Diner, exterior photo by Larry Cultrera, 2011

Behan’s/Sully’s Diner, the tile floor is pretty much all that is left of the original interior. Photo by Larry Cultrera, 2011

Behan’s/Sully’s Diner, interior photo by Larry Cultrera, 2011

As a back story, Mary and Scott bought the property in the last two years and were told by the previous owner that the diner was a horse-drawn “trolley”. They decided to do some digging and contacted the Seashore Trolley Museum in Maine and asked them about it. They also sent some photos and the museum got back to them and told them they had a diner.

Then Mary started to do some more research and eventually found Dick Gutman at the Culinary Arts Museum and also my Diner Hotline blog, which brings us up to the present. Both Mary and Scott have expressed a desire to possibly restore the diner. I was concerned after seeing how close to the ground the diner was sitting, that there might be some condition issues, especially with the integrity of the floor structure. When I got there, I went inside and I sort of jumped up and down a little on various parts of the floor of Sully’s and it felt quite solid! This was a good sign to me as I have been inside diners that had been stored for a short period of time and stood on the floor (behind the counter of one particular diner) and thought that I might actually go through it, it was so soft!

I did observe that the wall by the door had pulled slightly away from the floor, but that was not too bothersome. I suggested they make an attempt at either repairing or temporarily board up the broken windows and get the door to close again, basically secure the structure to weather the elements and therefore foregoing any further deterioration. I also suggested possibly raising the building up off the ground more and get it supported better than it currently is. Scott mentioned that they might look into moving it into a barn thay have on the property and I told him that would be ideal.

I hope to follow any progress Mary and Scott make with this monumental find!