Maine’s A1 Diner honors longtime cook with renamed specialty!


early 1980’s view of Giberson’s Diner (now the A1 Diner)
photo by Larry Cultrera

I got a message from Sarah Rolph last week asking me to post this press release she wrote for our friends Mike Giberson and Neil Anderson, co-owners of the A1 Diner in Gardiner, Maine. Mike and Neil have decided to rename one of their most popular menu items after Bob Newell, a retired long-time cook at the diner. I will let the press release tell the story……..

A1 Diner Honors Longtime Cook Bob Newell with “Bob’s Corned Beef Hash”

Dish Renamed for Longtime Cook who cooked for 57 Years at A1 Diner

Gardiner, Maine, September 18, 2012 – A1 Diner owners Mike Giberson and Neil Andersen announced today that their famous corned beef hash has been named after longtime diner cook Bob Newell.

Bob’s Corned Beef Hash, as it is now known, was made by Bob Newell until his retirement from A1 Diner in September 2009. Although Bob no longer works at A1 Diner, he does stop by from time to time. “Once when I was there, they hadn’t put enough garlic in,” said Bob in a recent interview.

It is believed that the garlic problem has since been corrected, but diner patrons are encouraged to check it out and let the chefs know whether Bob’s Corned Beef Hash is living up to its reputation.

“The corned beef hash at A1 Diner was never better than when Bob made it,” said diner co-owner Mike Giberson. “We miss Bob, and we know he misses the diner. It is a pleasure to honor Bob’s longtime service by naming our great hash after Bob, a great cook.”

Bob is the only person in the 66-year history of the diner to have worked for all four owners: Eddie Heald, Maurice Wakefield, Al “Gibey” Giberson, and current owners Neil Andersen and Michael Giberson (Al’s son). He began his career as third cook at the historic Worster House in Hallowell, Maine, a very popular restaurant in the 1940s and 1950s. When Heald’s diner (now A1 Diner) came to town in 1946, Bob went to work there, and, except for the years of his service in the Korean war, cooked there until his retirement in 2009.


A1 Diner has named a dish in honor of longtime diner cook Bob Newell
(at right, shown with A1 Diner co-owner Mike Giberson). The only cook to work for all four owners of the diner (previously Giberson’s, Wakefield’s, and Heald’s Diner), Bob worked at the diner for 57 years until his retirement in 2009. Bob was famous for his biscuits, and for his corned beef hash, now to be forever known as Bob’s Corned Beef Hash. Photo by Jeff Giberson

Recollections from Bob are a treasured part of the book about the diner, A1 Diner: Real Food, Recipes, and Recollections by Sarah Rolph (Tilbury House, 2006). In the book, Bob discusses the changes in the diner and its food over the years, provides biscuit-making tips, and shares some of his favorite anecdotes, such as the time he met Andrew Wyeth at the diner. To learn more about the book, visit http://sarahrolph.com/a1diner.html

About A1 Diner
A1 Diner is a nationally known restaurant in Gardiner, Maine. Chef-owned by Michael Giberson and Neil Andersen, the diner serves both traditional New England diner food and fine-food specialties. A1 Diner was featured on the Food Network’s popular show Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, hosted by Guy Fieri. Born as Heald’s in 1946, the diner is a traditional, manufactured diner—Worcester Lunch Car #790. For more information, visit http://a1diner.com/ and http://www.facebook.com/pages/A-1-Diner


Classic postcard of Heald’s Diner in Gardiner, Maine
currently operating as the A1 Diner

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Part 2, New York state road-trip, May, 1985

I finally completed the scanning of slides for this post….. Part 2 of the road-trip I took from May 20th to 22nd, 1985. Part 1 was posted almost a month ago on August 28th. I will start this post where I left off… it was the afternoon of the second day of the road-trip which turned out to be nice and sunny which made it easier to shoot slides (Kodachrome). Sometime later I figured out that Ektachrome slide film was extremely better for shooting in the varying light situations I found during these extended road-trips and used that almost exclusively until I  stopped shooting 35mm film in the last 6 years.

At the end of Part 1, I was documenting the J.R. Diner on Wolf Street in Syracuse. I posted the first 2 slides I shot of that particular diner. It seems I had to start a new roll of film as there were 2 more shots of this on the new roll.


J.R. Diner, 1208 Wolf St. in Syracuse, NY
May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


J.R. Diner, 1208 Wolf St. in Syracuse, NY
May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

After J.R. Diner, I found Mario’s Little Gem Diner over at 832 Spencer St. This was a great example of a 1950’s streamlined, L-shaped Fodero diner featuring plenty of stainless steel with red flexglass strips. Mario Biasi was now operating this  diner after formerly being associated with another smaller stainless-steel Silk City diner in North Syracuse. I believe I ate dinner here that evening.


Mario’s Little Gem Diner, Syracuse, NY – May 21, 1985 photo
by Larry Cultrera


Mario’s Little Gem Diner, Syracuse, NY – May 21, 1985 photo
by Larry Cultrera


Mario’s Little Gem Diner, Syracuse, NY – May 21, 1985 photo
by Larry Cultrera


Mario’s Little Gem Diner, Syracuse, NY – May 21, 1985 photo
by Larry Cultrera

Next up was a non-streamlined Sterling diner operating as the Liberty Diner. Located at 4004 South Salina St. (Rte. 11) it looked to be in original condition from the outside (except for the porcelain steel panels being painted a brown color) .  I never got to go inside this one so I don’t no what the inside was like. The sun was behind this place somewhat so I am only showing 2 of the 4 photos I shot as the other 2 were somewhat in shadow. This diner was dismantled a number of years later and the parts put into storage if I recall correctly.


Liberty Diner, Syracuse, NY – May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Liberty Diner, Syracuse, NY – May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

After this I ended up downtown near City Hall and found the Miss Syracuse Diner, a slightly modified Bixler diner. I got some decent shots of this one….


exterior of the Miss Syracuse Diner, 258 East Water St., Syracuse, NY
May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


exterior of the Miss Syracuse Diner, 258 East Water St., Syracuse, NY
May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


exterior of the Miss Syracuse Diner, 258 East Water St., Syracuse, NY
May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


interior of the Miss Syracuse Diner, 258 East Water St., Syracuse, NY
May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


interior of the Miss Syracuse Diner, 258 East Water St., Syracuse, NY
May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

I then ended up on Geddy St. to take these late afternoon shots of Denny’s Diner. This place was not related to the national chain of Denny’s Restaurants but it looks like they borrowed the logo somewhat for this little barrel-roofed diner covered in stucco.


Denny’s Diner, Syracuse, NY – May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Denny’s Diner, Syracuse, NY – May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Denny’s Diner, Syracuse, NY – May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Denny’s Diner, Syracuse, NY – May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Denny’s Diner, Syracuse, NY – May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

I started out the next day having breakfast at the diner formerly run by Mario Biasi (of Mario’s Little Gem Diner) This diner was known as Mario’s Diner when Al Bellink and Don Kaplan reviewed it for their “Diners of the Northeast” book (1980, The Berkshire Travellers Press). It was operating as the Pelican Diner when I visited it on this road-trip. I understand it has since been moved to Canastota, NY since to become the Canastota Dinerant.


Pelican Diner, North Syracuse, NY – May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Pelican Diner, North Syracuse, NY – May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Pelican Diner, North Syracuse, NY – May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Pelican Diner, North Syracuse, NY – May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

After breakfast, I left the Syracuse area and headed east. I do not recall if I traveled Rte. 5 out of Syracuse but I do know I did end up on Rte. 5 and eventually made it to Herkimer, NY. I knew from my buddy David Hebb that Herkimer was the home to the Empire Diner, a 1950’s vintage Mountain View diner. I got there at a great time of the day because the sun was shining directly on the place for some excellent post card worthy photos.


Empire Diner, corner of North Main and State Streets (Rte 5)
Herkimer, NY – May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Empire Diner, corner of North Main and State Streets (Rte 5)
Herkimer, NY – May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Empire Diner, corner of North Main and State Streets (Rte 5)
Herkimer, NY – May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Empire Diner, corner of North Main and State Streets (Rte 5)
Herkimer, NY – May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

After Herkimer, I consulted my road atlas and made my way toward Lake George by way of Johnstown and Gloversville, NY. Back in 1969 when I was on a weeks vacation with my family we spent most of our time in Lake George but managed to make a side trip to Cooperstown to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame. While there we stayed at the Johnstown/Gloversville Holiday Inn for one night. This was my first trip back to the area since 1969 and it was interesting to see how much I remembered as I checked out the towns while driving through. I continued on my way toward Great Scanandaga Lake and was on Rte. 30 when I came across the Dun Dozin’ Diner in Mayfield. It was a late 1930’s vintage Monarch model built by the Jerry O’Mahony Company. The exterior was intact but painted over and had a manasrd roof covering the front and sides. The interior was in remarkable condition. I did take photos of the interior but apparently had no flash for the camera which certainly would have made for better images. But I figure, the ones I got were better than nothing. This diner has since gotten enlarged and somewhat hidden (from the outside) and is now operating as the Northampton Diner. The interior is still fairly original. This diner was originally located in Glens Falls and operated under names such as Miss Glens Falls Diner and the Glen’s Diner.


Dun Dozin’ Diner, Rte. 30, Mayfield, NY
May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Dun Dozin’ Diner, Rte. 30, Mayfield, NY
May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Dun Dozin’ Diner, Rte. 30, Mayfield, NY
May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Dun Dozin’ Diner, Rte. 30, Mayfield, NY
May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


interior view of the Dun Dozin’ Diner, Rte. 30, Mayfield, NY
May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


interior view of the Dun Dozin’ Diner, Rte. 30, Mayfield, NY
May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


interior view of the Dun Dozin’ Diner, Rte. 30, Mayfield, NY
May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

On to Lake George for the conclusion of this road-trip where I apparently took one shot of the Prospect Mt. Diner. It seems like I removed that particular slide from the box for whatever reason lost to memory. I would surmise that I either put it with other slides of that diner or that it was just not a good photo. I know I shot one as it would have been the last shot on a 36 exposure roll of film and the box has the name scratched out.

The Famous Apple Tree Diner, a most unforgettable experience

Since my book “Classic Diners of Massachusetts” published by The History Press came out almost a year ago, it has done well enough to actually make it to a third printing. The publisher found me because of this blog and it has gone almost full circle to the point that I was recently asked to be a guest blogger on their History Press Blog. They had made a suggestion or two about which direction I should write this but I decided to go in a slightly different direction. I chose to tell the story of possibly one of the most memorable experiences I have had in my 32 plus years of diner hunting. The link to that blog post is here…… http://www.historypressblog.net/2012/08/28/classic-diners-of-massachusetts-author-recalls-world-famous-apple-tree-diner/

The History Press blog people added an introduction to this version and it was edited slightly. Also, one photo was dropped….  so I decided to post the blog the way I wrote it here in its entirety, blemishes and all………

The World Famous Apple Tree Diner

Last year I authored a book for The History Press entitled Classic Diners of Massachusetts which has become another chapter in my almost 32 year personal research project of documenting American diners with my photographs. Looking back there have been many interesting stories and moments to reflect on. All the people I have met and all the miles I have driven, not to mention the countless friendships that developed on the “diner trail”. I guess that is one of the reasons why I write my blog, Diner Hotline. It is a way to show off my hundreds if not thousands of photographs and tell a few stories and anecdotes as well.

The blog was started on October 31, 2007, but evolved from a long running column I penned for the Society for Commercial Archeology’s Journal magazine. I wrote that column (also called Diner Hotline) for 18 years before retiring it. A good friend, Brian Butko knew I wanted to move on and do something a little different and convinced me to start the blog. Well since that time, I truly feel that Diner Hotline is now the way I think it always should have been and I truly enjoy writing it as well as getting almost instantaneous feedback from a lot of my regular readers!

My interest in diners goes back to my childhood in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Later, I recall having some great times hanging out with my friends at Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car in the years following my graduation from high school in 1971. Situated in the downtown area of Medford, Mass. (my hometown), Carroll’s central location and 24 hour service was a huge draw, especially in the early morning hours after the clubs and bars closed. Between 1978 and 1980, I had been noticing a few newspaper articles and stories about a fairly new trend at that time of diners being moved from long-time business locations. One such example – the Englewood Diner in Dorchester (a section of Boston) was forced to move due to the property under the diner being sold. Another example, the owners of the Kitchenette Diner of nearby Cambridge retired and the diner was closed and subsequently moved, are two of the stories that I recall. There was also a feature story about diners written by Richard J.S. Gutman, then the co-author of the newly published American Diner book (Harper & Rowe). Gutman’s co-author of this book was Elliot Kaufman (and it was written in collaboration with David Slovic). This was the first comprehensive history ever published on the history of diners.  There was another news story featuring Alan Bellink and Donald Kaplan talking about their book Diners of the Northeast (The Berkshire Traveller Press), a guide to diners in New York, New Jersey and New England.

Along with these news articles there also was my own sense of recognizing that a lot of the diners I recalled seeing as a youngster in and around the greater Boston area seemed to be swiftly disappearing from the urban and suburban landscape. Around this time I had started a weekly ritual of taking short Sunday morning road trips with my buddy Steve Repucci, which usually started off at a local diner. This expanded into picking a different diner every week to determine which direction to take the morning excursion. I was just getting into 35mm photography and in the back of my mind I thought I might start photographing the diners I visited on these little trips. But I confess I was a little hesitant and self conscious about standing in front of a packed diner and shooting one or two photos. I finally broke the barrier after Steve Repucci moved to Harrisburg, PA. He moved there in Labor Day Weekend of 1980 and a little over two months later on November 29th, I shot one photo of the Bypass Diner (in Harrisburg). Since that date I have photographed over 820 diners.

After Steve moved to Harrisburg, I did not have my regular road trip companion on Sunday mornings anymore, at least for a year and a half. But I did continue to go to diners by myself or with my brother Rick, among other people. One of the diners high on my list to visit was the Apple Tree Diner of Dedham, Massachusetts. As a little background, the diner was built in 1929 by the Worcester Lunch Car Company as car number 641 for William F. Schroeder who operated it as Bill’s Diner. It continued to operate as Bill’s Diner after Schroeder sold it to William Cogan who ran it for 43 years according to Richard Gutman. It has not been determined when the diner acquired the “Apple Tree” name but we know it had it by the early 1970’s or so.


Top of Apple Tree Diner Guest Check)

Proclaimed as “The Famous Apple Tree Diner” by 1980, this was printed on their guest checks as well as the T-shirts they were selling at that time. This description was certainly one of the draws for me, how could I not check this place out? I had read about this diner in one or two of the news articles as well as my newly bought copy of Diners of the Northeast. It was early November as I recall, just prior to photographing the above mentioned Bypass Diner in Harrisburg, PA. I had made plans to drive down to Dedham from my home in Medford. I knew that the diner was located at 702 WashingtonSt. which was designated State Route 1A and that it was the continuation of the same Washington St. that started in downtown Boston.

So I basically decided to start my journey in Boston and drove all the way through the neighborhoods of the South End, Roxbury, Jamaica Plain and Roslindale on Washington St. before leaving the City of Boston. I was now in Dedham and knew the diner was south of the downtown area. Anticipation was very high and when I got to the point where Court Street comes into Washington St. from the right, I looked up ahead to the left and saw this bright red monitor-roofed Worcester diner sitting in the middle of a dirt parking lot surrounded by all forms of car and truck!

I was truly excited! Even after patronizing quite a few diners up to this point, this place was a completely unaltered piece of roadside Americana! I could tell already and I had not even stepped foot inside yet! I hurriedly parked my Chevy Van and literally ran from the parking lot and slid open the sliding door. The place was packed! There was one stool open right by the door…. I immediately sat down and soaked in the atmosphere of the bustling lunch car! I recall thinking…. this is the way a diner should be! Unbeknownst to me and probably a lot of other people, the diner would only be serving customers for another eight months or so.

The diner was being operated at that time by Warren Jones and his friend Joanne Dummeling as well as a very capable staff. In fact during that first visit, with all the rushing back and forth by the staff, it almost seemed like there were as many people working behind the counter as there were customers on the other side (there was probably only four people behind the counter). I subsequently ordered a cup of coffee and more than likely pancakes and bacon (my go-to breakfast at that time) and even with the diner being fully packed with customers, I can recall the food came to me fairly quick. The overall feeling of that first visit to the Apple Tree Diner was to me one of the purest diner experiences I can ever remember. In fact it might be safe to say that of the hundreds of diners I have visited since 1979, I have never experienced the same strong feeling that I did walking into the Apple Tree Diner on that Saturday in early November of 1980.

I finally shot my first two photos of the Apple Tree Diner on my second visit in January of 1981. That date and the date of my first visit unfortunately are somewhat lost to obscurity. You see I started my Diner Log book on July 28, 1981. After that date, whenever I documented a diner with photographs from then on, it got listed in the log. This meant first visits only, not subsequent later visits unless a particular diner was moved and reopened. Now I actually photographed over one hundred diners between Nov. 29, 1980 and July 28, 1981 and none of those hundred plus diners are logged properly with a specific date.


My first photo of the Apple Tree Diner, January, 1981)


My second photo of the Apple Tree Diner, January, 1981)

Back to the Apple Tree Diner….. It was during this second visit that I made the acquaintance of Warren Jones. Warren was two or three years older than I and we hit it off right from the start. He was very personable and friendly. I told him of my interest in diners and we conversed briefly as he was actually going into the house behind the diner for some supplies he needed, so he had to get back to work. I managed to get back to the diner again soon after that second visit for lunch, possibly the only non-breakfast visit I ever had there. Warren and I spoke a little more about my diner obsession and he mentioned knowing Dick Gutman. I informed Warren that I had come down that afternoon with the hopes of obtaining some contact info for Mr. Gutman and I asked him if he had a phone number so I could get in touch, Warren gladly wrote it out on a guest check for me. Soon thereafter I did phone Dick Gutman and introduced myself as a “Diner Freak” and as I recall he stated “join the club”! So it was on February 28, 1981 during my fourth visit to the Apple Tree Diner that I met Dick & Kellie Gutman for the first time.

I cannot recall how many times I got to the Apple Tree after that visit with Dick Gutman but I do know I was there on July 4th of that year. I had been raving to Steve Repucci about how he needed to check the place out the next time he was back to visit family and friends. So Steve had driven up from Pennsylvania for the long weekend and we went to the diner which was jammed as usual. It was all decked out in red, white & blue bunting with an American Flag hanging over the front door. Seeing the diner being so busy that weekend made it extremely hard to envision that by the end of that month the diner was closed and getting ready to be moved off the site!


My final photo of the Apple Tree Diner in operation, July 4, 1981)

You see, like a lot of older diners, the Apple Tree was operating on leased property and that the owner of the property sold the lot for development. The reason the diner got moved was that Warren Jones owned the building. He had put together a plan to sell shares in an attempt to help fund the relocation to another operating site. He found a pad site in a shopping center on Route 140 in Foxboro, Mass. and by the end of July, it was moved to Foxboro.


Apple Tree Diner, prepared to move – July, 1981


Apple Tree Diner leaving old site, July, 1981, That is Warren Jones
(back to the camera) in the red T-shirt.


Apple Tree Diner on the approach to I-95 from U.S.Rte. 1, July, 1981


Apple Tree Diner arriving in Foxboro, July, 1981

After the move to Foxboro, Warren then began the process of stripping years of paint from the body of the diner and removing all the roof shingles. He sand blasted the metal panels and primed and repainted it as well as installing a brand new roof covering. This was all in preparation for setting the diner on a new foundation. The next is a series of photos showing the stripping and repainting of the diner while still in Foxboro, photos circa 1981

Another part of his plan was possibly obtaining another old diner to include at the new site for expanded seating. Both diners would be placed at 90 degrees sitting in an “L” shape surrounding a new building with kitchen and restrooms. Unfortunately, the project lingered for a few months and never got close to being completed. Warren had to relinquish his claim to the pad site at the shopping center and soon had the diner moved to a storage site in nearby Mansfield.


Apple Tree Diner in Mansfield storage location, photo circa Dec., 1982

Warren was then looking at the possibility of obtaining a new site in Mansfield that was going to be located on a corner of the then new iteration of a re-routed Route 140. That plan also never came to fruition and eventually the Apple Tree Diner was moved to Paul J. Dias’ yard in Hanson, Mass. in 1985. Dias was an auctioneer who was contacted by Warren Jones’ parents (Richard and Ona) who now had control of the diner.


Apple Tree Diner at Paul Dias’s yard in Hanson, sometime between
1985 & 1988


Interior view of Apple Tree Diner at Paul Dias’s yard in Hanson, sometime
between 1985 & 1988

The Jones’ (with help from Dias), eventually sold the diner to Lawrence Shevick of Boston, in May of 1988 to be precise. Mr. Shevick did not keep the diner long as he resold it to Dave Waller also of Boston by November of that same year. Dave Waller had just started on his now long-time hobby of rescuing old neon signs at that point and the reason that he decided to buy the diner when Shevick told him about it was because of his grandfather, Jack Hines. Hines used to own and operate a similar Worcester Lunch Car known as the Flying Yankee Dining Car in Lynn, Mass. So after purchasing the diner, Waller had the structure relocated to some family property up in New Hampshire where he proceeded to have the diner repainted closer to the color scheme of his grandfather’s diner.

By 1992, Dave Waller and his new bride Lynn had purchased a building that would ultimately be their home as well as a home to the Apple Tree Dining Car (the new name given to the place by Waller). It was a unique idea because the building they bought was a former fire station that had been decommissioned. It was sitting unused and deteriorating after being damaged by a fire. The city still owned the property and was debating as to what they would do with the structure. Along came the Wallers with a proposal for the ultimate reuse of the damaged building. This turned out to be a win-win situation as the city got a reasonable purchase price for a property that they (the city) could now collect property tax on.

After the purchase, the Waller’s started to rehabilitate the building. The first thing they did was to rebuild the fire damaged roof and started to clean up the interior. It still was no where close to being ready for habitation, but was basically ready to move in their largest possession, the diner! So on November 10, 1992, Bryant Hill of O.B. Hill Trucking Co. and his capable crew installed the diner into its new home. To get the diner into the building, the “Apparatus” doorway on the left-front elevation of the structure had to be altered temporarily. This was accomplished by removing quite a lot of the brickwork on the left side of the entry enough to allow the diner to be inched in on low-profile rollers. What a sight it was to see! It took at least two or three hours to get the diner inside the building. When this was accomplished, the Waller’s then had to have the brickwork restored. From the outside, one would never know what was just inside the doorway. To this day that is where the Apple Tree Diner lives, ironically within two miles from where I was living in 1980 when I first drove down to Dedham to experience this diner for the first time.


Apple Tree Diner in Malden awaiting the installation into its new home,
November 10, 1992


Apple Tree Diner in Malden being installed into its new home, November 10, 1992


Apple Tree Diner in Malden being installed into its new home, November 10, 1992)

I remained good friends with Warren Jones from 1981 to the late 1980’s when. he and his family moved to North Carolina. I actually never saw him again after that point, but we did remain in touch until his untimely passing away within the last 6 years from cancer. I am glad I got to eat in the diner at least a few times in its final months in actual operation and I am also happy that it remains in good hands. At the very least we know that the diner is well protected, being inside a building and that it will remain so for some time to come.


Apple Tree Diner in Malden during a get together by SCA members in August, 1995


Apple Tree Diner in Malden during a get together by SCA members in August, 1995