Notes from the Hotline, 3-21-2012

Another Diner bites the dust!!!!


The Diner house located at 93 Oxford Ave. in Dudley, Mass.
1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

This month has been horrendous with the closing of the Fish Tale Diner of Salisbury, Mass. and the demolition of the Bel-Aire Diner of Peabody, Mass. Well now we hear that yet another Bay State diner has met with a bulldozer! My friend Barry Henley, the proprietor of “My Brother’s Place” Restaurant in Webster, Mass. reports that the infamous (at least to me) “Diner house” has been demolished. Located at 93 Oxford Avenue in the town of Dudley, this diner has not operated as a food service establishment for approximately 40 years.

I have shown the above photo as part of a diner slide presentation for over 20 years. It is in the “repurposed diners” section of the show. I always introduced it as my ultimate fantasy, a diner as part of someone’s house! I personally have been aware of this place since the early 1970’s when my older brother Steve lived in Dudley.


The Diner house located at 93 Oxford Ave. in Dudley, Mass.
1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

We used to take the street commonly refered to as the “Dudley-Oxford road” as a short cut. I noticed the diner way back then but eventually forgot about it after my brother moved back to the Boston area. It was not until I started documenting diners with my photographs in the early 1980’s that I became re-acquainted with it. In fact, it was my brother Steve who reminded me of it. Since then I believe I photographed it at least 3 different times, the last being circa 1985.

When I started planning to write this post, I decided to check out Google maps and satellite view to see if I could see the structure. I found a street called Dudley Oxford Road (which was not exactly where I thought it should be). I looked up and down that road and nothing looked right! Turns out it was not the correct road. I checked back with Barry Henley and he gave me the correct address which when checked on Google maps coincided with what I remembered.

Barry was taking the perennial shortcut from Dudley to Oxford on Saturday the 17th of March when he could not help but notice the pile of rubble where the structure used to be! He snapped a photo out the side window of his vehicle and posted it to Facebook where I spotted it.


Photo by Barry Henley showing the remains of the demolished diner and house.

We do not know for sure if the diner actually ever operated in this location or was placed here to be a part of someone’s house. Someone I knew over 25 years ago actually went inside this place and said it was basically gutted and being used as a “family room”. The only recognizable thing on the inside was the former refrigerator built into the corner. It was being utilized as a shelf or something.

Barry Henley told me it had been altered since I last saw it and told me to check out a recent real estate listing that described it as…… Structure was originally a diner and converted into a single family residence. Septic will NOT pass Title V. Being sold “AS IS”. All offers considered. This listing also had some photos that showed the original diner windows had been replaced by inexpensive sliding windows. Other than that it was still recognizable.

You can see the listing here at this link…. http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/93-Oxford-Ave-Dudley-MA-01571/59207622_zpid/#1

Here are some of my other photos of it from the 1980’s…..


circa 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera


circa 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera


circa 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


circa 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

Allston’s Breakfast Club Diner gets a new on-site addition


early 1980’s photo of Ted’s Diner, Worcester Lunch Car No. 841
originally operated as Fahey’s Diner, it has been run under other names such as Henry’s Diner, Mike’s Diner and more recently as the Breakfast Club.
photo by Larry Cultrera

The diner currently operating as the Breakfast Club in the Allston section of Boston has recently been modified with a decent size handicapped accessible dining room addition. I was first informed about this by Mike Engle who had been by the diner with Glenn Wells and David Hebb after the Author Event for my “Classic Diners of Massachusetts” book in Somerville, Mass. back in November. So, in early December, Denise and I went over to the Breakfast Club for breakfast (of course). I snapped a couple of photos of which the next is one….


Dec. 12, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

As you can see the construction of the new addition was still in process. I was certainly curious about what they intended to do with the exterior covering. Naturally I was hoping for the best but as these things go, it could have been covered in a very uncomplimentary exterior material.

Early this past Saturday afternoon, I received an email from Bob Higgins informing me that he had been by the Breakfast Club and was completely impressed by what they had done. Needless to say, I took a ride over in the late afternoon to see for myself! Bob was right! I could not believe my eyes! Whomever did the work did an exemplary job recreating the “Worcester style” exterior on the new addition.

Here are my photos….


March 17, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 17, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 17, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

Seeing that this type of construction can still be done and really look decent makes me feel good inside to know that some owners realize what they have and don’t try to mess with it or modernize in a uncomplimentary way. Instead they decided to go the extra mile and do it right! Kudos to owner George Athanasopoulas on a job well done!

The nest generation of Diner Aficionado, revisited !!!!

I intended on writing this post a couple of weeks ago, but with the above mentioned closing of the Fish Tale Diner and the Bel-Aire Diner being demo’d, it just had to be put on the back-burner temporarily.

Back in 2005, in the Spring edition of the Society for Commercial Archeology’s Journal Magazine, I wrote about a few news items in that installment of the original hard-copy version of Diner Hotline. Among these was the announcement of the new exhibit at the Culinary Arts Museum (at Johnson & Wales University) called “Serving the World with Worcester Dining Cars”  accompanying the permanent exhibit “Diners: Still Cookin’ in the 21st Century”. The second piece of news was the release of Randy Garbin’s “Diners of New England” book, published by our friends at Stackpole Books.

There was also an installment of “Notes from the Hotline”  (not unlike this post) where I mentioned about the relocation of the old Cairo Diner (of Cairo, NY) which was hoped to be restored at that point in time, (it never happened as far as I know). Another piece in that “Notes” was about 2 national TV broadcasts featuring diners, Al Roker’s “Diner Destinations” (on the Food Network) and “Back to the Blueprint” featuring Steve Harwin’s Diversified Diners (on the History Channel).

I also had a small piece about my new friend Spencer Stewart describing him as the next generation of Commercial Archeologist. Spencer’s dad Michael, a member of the SCA had influenced his then 14-year-old son and fostered his interest in diners and other roadside places. Spencer had been reading his dad’s copies of the SCA Journal and essentially looked forward to reading “Diner Hotline”! He decided to contact me and introduce himself. I was certainly intrigued by this teenager’s fascination with diners and decided to write about him in the next Hotline. I eventually met Spencer and his dad Michael in September of 2010.


Larry Cultrera and Spencer Stewart at the Portside Diner in Danvers, Mass.
Photo by Michael Stewart

Even though I found Spencer’s love of diners refreshing (reminding me of myself at his age), this was not exactly new to me. You see, back in 1992, I was contacted by a lady from Fort Collins, Colorado by the name of Cindy Siefken, (now Cindy Banfield). She told me about her 7-year-old son Philip and how he developed a keen interest in “Diners”. Cindy related to me how he had been previously struggling in his personal life, in school as well as at home. One day she had come across a television special that featured various diners that she and Philip watched. He became very excited as the Siefken’s reside in a “diner poor” region and Philip had never actually seen a diner before! Cindy said that this new interest had started to bring Phil out of his shell and he wanted to learn all he could about this piece of Americana!

In our conversation she told me how she found my name. She had come across a copy of the November, 1986 edition of Smithsonian Magazine with the major article that I was included in. So she looked me up and found my phone number. I told her that Phil’s interest really intrigued me and that if she did not mind, I could send a little “care package” of diner ephemera and other extra odds and ends to start his collection. She was extremely grateful, especially when I told her I could make a special video tape with various television specials and shows that I had been interviewed for about diners.

Also during that initial conversation, she stated: “well, we don’t have any real diners in Colorado”. I then asked her… how close are you to Lakewood? She answered “not too far”. So I informed her that in fact there was a real honest to God diner called Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner at 9495 West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood. She was beyond ecstatic! As soon as she found out she made plans to take a little excursion with her husband Dave, daughter Emily and of course Phil! The little care package including the video tape I sent, became part of Phil’s Christmas present that year and the family took its first trip to Davies’ Chuck Wagon on Christmas vacation. These next few photos document their first visit to a “real” diner………


Dave, Phil and Emily Siefken outside Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner
December, 1992 photo by Cindy Banfield (formerly Cindy Siefken)


Dave, Emily and Phil Siefken outside Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner
December, 1992 photo by Cindy Banfield


Dave Siefken outside Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner. One of the best “diner” signs anywhere! December, 1992 photo by Cindy Banfield


Inside Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner December, 1992 photo by
Cindy Banfield


Phil and Emily (Dave is almost in the frame) sitting in a booth
December, 1992 photo by Cindy Banfield


Emily and Phil sitting at the counter. December, 1992 photo by
Cindy Banfield

These next photos show the next visit to Davies’ Chuck Wagon on the occasion of Phil’s 8th birthday on March 5, 1993


Phil with his friend Nick celebrating his birthday at Davies’ Chuck Wagon
March, 1993 photo by Cindy Banfield


Phil’s birthday cake, March, 1993 photo by Cindy Banfield

Here is another photo from May of 1993 (I do not know the occasion) showing Phil with a temporary tattoo…..


May, 1993 photo by Cindy Banfield

Well, I had basically fallen out of touch with Phil and his mom over the last number of years. I did have a more recent contact with Cindy a few years ago and found out she had gotten divorced and then remarried, so at least I knew that tidbit of information. But last year I was thinking of them again and got the bright idea to look them up on Facebook. Lo and behold I found both of them! We renewed our friendship and are now in touch more on a regular basis. He is currently employed as the Maintenance Manager of the Armstrong Hotel in Fort Collins!

I recently asked Phil about the photos his mother sent me back then. I figured they were from 2 different trips. I also asked him about his memories and feelings on his first visit to Davies’ Chuck Wagon back when he was 7-years old. He wrote back with this…..

Yes they were two different occasions. My parents took my sister and me there once before my birthday; in either January or February I assume (turns out it was December). I recall that when we went there for my Birthday, my friend Nick came with us. I remember I was so excited on the first trip there (about 60 miles from home) I was actually anxious because we were not sure if it would even still be there, having never been there before and only knowing by the post card you sent me that it had been there in the past.

I remember that my sister was not a willing participant, she was a picky eater at age 6 and it didn’t help that we drove by Casa Bonita a mile or two east of the Diner to get there. (Casa Bonita is a kid-oriented Mexican restaurant with cliff divers and an indoor waterfall & such). I was delighted when we got there and saw it for the first time. Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner was the first Diner I had ever seen. As you know we have almost none out west here and it seemed so exotic to me.

I loved the manufactured look and the gleaming stainless steel. As soon as we walked in, it didn’t feel as exotic, it felt incredibly familiar, humble, and intimate due to the small size (compared to other restaurants). My father was a truck driver and I had been to several truck stops before, so seeing features like the counter and stools. The career waitresses were another thing that made it seem humble. This was not the kind of place my parents would go after Church while pretending to be yuppies with a perfect family and I liked that. Davies’ invited you to be truly authentic and beautiful much like the diner itself. I honestly don’t recall how the food was or what the prices were like, but very little has changed since my first visit. It’s safe to assume that it’s always had good food at reasonable prices. Back in about 93 fake diners started popping up in this area and I remember despising them even as an 8 year old for being cheap knock-offs.

That conversation with Phil came earlier this month. I saw that it was Phil’s birthday (his 27th), boy does time fly! I of course wished him a Happy Birthday and he responded back to say he had made a special trip to Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner for lunch that day! He then posted  3 photos he had shot with his phone on his Facebook page. That is what got me thinking about this post. I mentioned I would like to use those shots and he said I was welcome to use them. So here are Phil’s shots from March 5th of this year…..


exterior photo of Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner by Phil Siefken


interior photo of Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner by Phil Siefken


exterior photo of Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner by Phil Siefken


My friend Phil Siefken at 27 years of age!

I know if Phil ever travels out this way, he will get a tour of all the great diners here in the Greater Boston area from yours truly!

Bel-Aire Diner, 1952 – 2012, Goodbye old friend!

Regular readers of Diner Hotline know that I have been following the saga of the Bel-Aire Diner of Peabody, Mass. for quite a while.  This diner was one of the closest to where I live, located about 4 miles north of Saugus on U.S. Route 1. Built by the Mountain View Diner Company (Car No. 359), it was bought brand-new in 1952 by brothers Peter & Bill Kallas, the diner remained being operated by members of the Kallas family until it closed abruptly around a half dozen years ago. Immediately after it closed it had two bright yellow banners that stated “Closed for Renovation” hanging from the front on either side of the entryway. Somehow though, I had a strong feeling that it would probably never reopen.


front of Bel-Aire Diner Breakfast Menu, circa 1980’s. From the
collection of Larry Cultrera


back of Bel-Aire Diner Breakfast Menu, circa 1980’s. From the
collection of Larry Cultrera

Prior to the diner being closed there had been reports that the Kallas family had been talking about redeveloping the site for quite some time. At one point, they were hoping to lease the property for a Hooters Restaurant but the City of Peabody was not willing to go along with those plans. Then within a few years of the diner’s closing, a large poster type sign was hung on the sign supports for the adjacent Gas Station (also owned by the Kallas’). The poster depicted a large building that would be built to house businesses related to the truck stop, including the diner and gas station. The new building was to be built around and over the diner (only the diner’s front facade was to be visible).

See…… https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2010/04/10/notes-from-the-hotline-4-10-2010/

Before the plans were put into motion it was announced that the tenant for the restaurant portion of the new development was going to be the people who operate Red’s Sandwich Shop in downtown Salem. The new restaurant was to be called Red’s Kitchen and Tavern. About this time, I saw newly revised architectural drawings of the building and it looked different. The biggest difference was that the diner did not seem to be included anymore, an ominous sign to be sure!

See…… https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/bel-aire-diner-to-become-reds-kitchen-tavern/


the earliest known postcard image of the Bel-Aire Diner. From the
collection of Larry Cultrera


The second version of a Bel-Aire Diner postcard, it had aquirred awnings and the sign colors were changed. From the collection of Larry Cultrera

Soon there after, the diner was readied to be moved out of the way for the developers to start on the project, see……. https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2010/08/28/notes-from-the-hotline-8-28-2010/

and…. https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/bel-aire-diner-goes-airborne/

It was also announced that the diner was For Sale, see….

https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/more-bel-aire-diner-info-from-salem-news/
The diner stayed up on cribbing in the front of the property all thru the winter of 2010-11. See…….

https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/notes-from-the-hotline-3152011/

In March of 2011 it was relocated to the extreme right corner at the back of the property. John Kallas was still hoping to sell the diner at this point.
See…… https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2011/03/27/new-storage-spot-for-bel-aire-diner/

photo on the back cover of a vinyl E.P. by The Peter Calo Band (a local band). circa 1983. The photo was shot with the band members sitting in the corner booth of the Bel-Aire Diner. From the collection of Larry Cultrera

As I just happen to drive by the diner 1 to 2 times a day during a normal work week (Monday thru Friday), I have been able to keep an eye on the situation. I also keep informed thru Google news alerts ( for Diners) and of course rely on the unofficial network of “Diner people” for tidbits, etc. In a recent news article, John Kallas was quoted as saying that if there were no buyers for the diner come springtime, he would make the decision to have the diner scrapped. Within the last 2 weeks, Randy Garbin of Roadside Online http://www.roadsideonline.com/ reported that he got a message from John Kallas stating that if anyone wanted the diner, he was willing to give it away to anyone who would arrange to remove it from the property.

This news really meant it was nearing the end for the old stainless steel diner! Steve Harwin of Diversified Diners (Cleveland, Ohio), who in my opinion is the premier diner restorationist in the world, had been apprised of the situation and contacted Kallas. After a short conversation or 2 between Kallas and Harwin, as well as a little soul searching and some number crunching, Harwin decided he could not make the commitment to save this one unfortunately.

These next few photos are pretty much my earliest images that I shot of the Bel-Aire Diner……..


January, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera


January, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera


January, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera


September, 1982 photo (at sunset) by Larry Cultrera

This next photo was shot circa 1990 by my buddy, Steve Repucci. I wanted some photos taken of me for a Society for Commercial Archeology (SCA) publication and this was one of those photos…..


man, what a difference 22 years make!

As I drove by the Bel-Aire on this past Monday after work, things looked pretty much the same, but by Tuesday afternoon it was a completely different story! Just as I was approaching the diner I just happened to give Randy Garbin a call to ask him what he thought about the possibility that Dave Pritchard from Salisbury might be interested in rescuing the diner. As the phone was ringing I glanced over at the diner and saw a dumpster as well as the left end of the diner already dismantled! Randy answered the phone and I told him what was happening. We both knew that this was it, the diner was pretty much history.

I was on my way home as my wife Denise and I had an appointment to meet a tradesman about some work we were planning on having done, so I knew I could not get my camera and go back for some photos. I did bring my camera to work with me the next day and was planning on getting over to the diner possibly at lunch to see if I could get some photos. I decided to see what was up and stopped at approximately 5:40 AM. I was able to pull right up almost to the fence that surrounded the diner and shine my high beam headlights on the what was left of the structure. It was demo’d back from the left end by a couple of windows as the next 3 images will show…..


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

Once I had seen how much was gone, I made the decision to get back sooner than lunch break to get more photos in daylight as I figured if I waited longer, there would not be anything left. I got back to the diner just before 9:00 AM and took the next bunch of shots…..


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


That is Doug Earp, owner of D.R. Earp Interior Demolition Co.
March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


Richard Currie of RC Recycling of Brentwood Inc. speaking with Doug Earp.
March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


Final shot before I went back to work.
March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

Before I left work for the day, I checked Facebook and saw that Gary Thomas had been by the site and the photo he posted showed the very last section of the diner (a small section of roof from the right end) left to be crunched and tossed into the dumpster. By the way, there were at least 3 dumpsters full of debris! I drove by just after 3:30 PM and there was nothing left of the old diner!

Well I can say I have had many a meal there over the last 30 years and I believe it is a shame that no one could have saved this diner so it could have possibly had another life at a different location. I am sure I will probably check out Red’s Kitchen and Tavern when they open for business in the near future, but I know it just won’t be the same!

Fish Tale Diner, 1970 – 2012

Rumors have floated around for the last few years that the Fish Tale Diner of Salisbury, Mass. was eventually going to close. Unfortunately, that day has finally come. Michelle Merrill Freeman and her family have been leasing the diner for 19 years and it is with a heavy heart that they have decided not to renew the lease with their landlord, the Bridge Marina. Various reasons have been mentioned as to the closing (I will not go into that here), but the story is, the diner will probably never reopen at this location again.


Fish Tale Diner, last day of service. March 11, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

The Fish Tale is Worcester Lunch Car No. 762 and was the original Agawam Diner that was bought brand-new by the Galanis family in 1940 and operated for over 6 years in Ipswich. The Galanis’ bought a larger Worcester Lunch Car in 1947 to replace the first. At that point in time, the first diner was sold to a family who operated it at Cook’s Corner in Brunswick, Maine until 1950, when that owner could not make a go of the business.


Fish Tale Diner, last day of service. March 11, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

It then was bought back by the Galanis’ who had it refurbished by Worcester Lunch Car before having it installed at a new location on the corner of Route 133 and U.S. Route 1 in Rowley, Mass. where it operated until 1970 when it was replaced by the current Agawam Diner. This is when the first Agawam Diner was moved to Salisbury to become the Fish Tale Diner. The new location had to be one of the most scenic operating sites for any diner in Massachusetts. Located on the shore of the Merrimac River on Rings Island overlooking Newburyport, the view was always exquisite!


Fish Tale Diner, last day of service. March 11, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

When I first started patronizing the Fish Tale Diner in the early 1980’s it was being run by “Fast Ed” and Dot Chooljian and their daughters, Debbie, Diane, and Patricia. It was open very long hours, in fact the diner was famous for its overnight hours. I am not sure when they left the business but I do know Michelle Merrill Freeman along with her sisters Jeannie Merrill, Rhonda Merrill Griffin, Mabel Merrill Lewis and Wendy Merrill, have been the heart and soul (as well as the beauty and brains) of this diner  for the past 19 years!


Denise Cultrera sitting at the counter at the Fish Tale Diner,
last day of service. March 11, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

In the last couple of years, I have been getting semi-regular news updates from the stalwart Bob Higgins who has managed to frequent the diner once or twice a week for a number of years. He has been relating to me news such as the possible imminent closing of the diner due to various circumstances that might have been happening. But luckily, most of those have gone by the wayside until now. A couple of weeks ago, he told me that the diner was closing for sure, by the end of this month (if not sooner).


Fish Tale Diner, last day of service. March 11, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

So I started making plans to have one last breakfast at the diner. I had been shooting for yesterday (Saturday the 10th of March) but the weather turned out to be a little iffy with snow squalls in that section of the North Shore. So I decided to stay close to home. That very same afternoon Bob informed me via email that the diner was closing today so that sealed the deal and Denise and I headed up to Salisbury this morning around 7:00 am. We walked thru the door and there was Bob Higgins along with his wife Jeanne. So we all had a nice last meal enjoying the service of waitress extraordinaire Mabel Lewis.


Jeanne & Bob Higgins along with Mabel Lewis at the Fish Tale Diner,
last day of service. March 11, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

One thing I should mention, whenever I have had breakfast at the Fish Tale Diner in recent years, I have always ordered the “Apple Pancakes”! This diner is one of the few that carried that item on the menu and I could not bring myself to order anything else! I will certainly miss that!


close-up of the sign of the Fish Tale Diner, last day of service.
March 11, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

I, along with other diner enthusiasts lament the closing and can only hope that the owners of the Bridge Marina my decide to sell the diner at a later date to someone who will move it and hopefully reopen it at a new location.


One last look at the Fish Tale Diner, last day of service. Goodbye old friend!
March 11, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera