Down & Out Worcester Streamliner comes back to life!

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I am happy to report that it is not all bad news with diners closing and or being demolished lately. There is good news coming out of Pawtucket, Rhode Island that happens to be a long time in coming to fruition.  A diner last operated in Middletown, Connecticut (closed in 1997) has been restored and re-opened as the Miss Lorraine Diner. Built as Worcester Lunch Car # 774, it was delivered to its first operating location, 357 Asylum Street in Hartford, Connecticut on August 12, 1941 and operated as Donwells Diner-Restaurant.

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a newspaper ad announcing the opening of Donwells Diner

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an old matchbook cover for Donwells Diner

According to Richard Gutman, the name of the diner came from the combining of the original owner’s names, J. Edward & Edith Donnellan and Chester L. Wells… hence the contraction, Donwells. I am not sure when the diner was moved to Middletown from Hartford, but I had heard stories that the original owners may have gotten into debt with some unsavory people who came and basically stripped the diner of any pieces of equipment that were moveable, including all the booths and tables.

Be that as it may, by the time WLC # 774 got to 200 E. Main Street in Middletown, the diner was a ghost of its former self. It was purchased by Stanley “Squeak” Zawisa to replace an older barrel-roofed diner he operated across the street as the South Farms Lunch, described as a 10 stool Worcester Lunch Car. I first came across Squeak’s Diner on a dreary Sunday afternoon diner road-trip with Steve Repucci and David Hebb on October 4, 1987. We had stopped at O’Rourke’s Diner (in Middletown) and were told of this other diner being in town.

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Squeak’s Diner, October 4, 1987 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Squeak’s Diner, October 4, 1987 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Squeak’s Diner, October 4, 1987 photo by Larry Cultrera

We found out that it was not open on Sundays when we stopped to check it out, but on a subsequent visit on a weekday during another road-trip, I did get to eat breakfast there. I will say that I can recall that the interior was in sad shape and I never thought that this diner would ever survive.

Ironically, in November of 1987, I met Colin Strayer a documentary film-maker based in Toronto, Canada, at the opening of the new exhibit of “The Automobile in American Life” at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Colin eventually became the person who saved Squeak’s Diner after it closed. I contacted Colin Strayer in a recent email to verify when he moved # 774 and he related the next information…

Your recollection of when I moved Squeak’s is correct. I rigged it out by hand throughout September, 2003.  Moving took place on Columbus Day, 2003. I believe Stanley Zawisa finally closed Squeak’s Diner (WLC #774) in 1997.  I’m not where my paper file on it is.  But if memory serves me it was 1997. Stanley had gone through something like 4 realtors in the 4 preceding years, without any success.

As I recall, Stanley tried to sell “the business” for $175,000. for several years.  In the end, I acquired just the diner, plus a provision I fill in the hole and grade to ground elevation, as well as clear away all the debris. There was a lot of old equipment in the basement, as well as a few pieces from the South Farms Lunch, a 1920s 10-stool WLC diner that had been located across the street. (The following photos were courtesy of Colin Strayer and depict Squeak’s Diner being moved from Middletown to a storage site in 2003.)

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2003 photo courtesy of Colin Strayer

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2003 photo courtesy of Colin Strayer

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2003 photo courtesy of Colin Strayer

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2003 photo courtesy of Colin Strayer

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2003 photo courtesy of Colin Strayer

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2003 photo courtesy of Colin Strayer

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2003 photo courtesy of Colin Strayer

WLC 774 was a project I really wanted to do myself.  I had first come across WLC 774 in 1986. I accidentally stumbled upon Squeak’s one day 33-1/2 years ago while trying to locate diners painted in John Baeder’s 1978 book “Diners”.

It was diner love at first sight. 774 was one of the largest of its type ever made by Worcester Lunch Car Co. I hounded Stanley Zawisa for 17 years.  I really wanted to restore 774 — to be a part of it.  My enthusiasm got the better of me.  I sold it to Jon Savage for less than I’d spent on it to date.  I did so, because Savage impressed upon me he had the resources to restore it to the level of Lamy’s at Henry Ford Museum.

 Going back to spring, 2010, I’d proposed restoration would take 3 years.  Savage thought it could be done faster. It’s now been 9 years.  I also proposed the name Miss Lorraine Diner, which I understand Savage adopted.

From time to time I understand there’s talk about 774 finally opening in Pawtucket. I would be interested to hear about any developments.  I talked to / communicated with Dick Gutman several years ago about it a couple of times. I believe Dick was involved doing some consultation.  Dick kindly informed me of this as a professional courtesy, which I much appreciated. I told him what had happened and gave him my blessings.

I tip my hat to the gentlemen who worked on it in Pawtucket from circa 2012-2014. He was an older guy Jon Savage knew. I stopped by several times back then to look at the progress. My view was this gentleman had done some really good foundational restoration work.  The structure was stripped and really straight back then. But his work was very slow-going and he eventually stopped work on it. By 2012,  I’d done $10,000. in (unpaid) consultation work.  Savage made a lot of promises,  but never paid me for my work.  Never understood that. The math makes no sense. 774 could have been running by 2015. By now, been running for 5 years. Not being involved in 774 restoration has been one of my life’s great disappointments.

So, the restoration of WLC #774 continued with some consultation/expertise provided by Richard Gutman along with another contractor who came on board by the name of  Joe Pacheco of Abby Road Construction. Pacheco along with his crew worked on site off and on for the next few years and the outcome came fairly close to bringing the diner back to the way it might have looked when it was brand-new. The restoration included all new recreated Worcester Lunch Car style booths and tables as well as the re-chromed stools. Also, Dick Gutman provided 6 stainless steel ceiling light fixtures that had once graced the interior of the Black & Gold Diner of Roslindale, Massachusetts. Unfortunately the larger #774 needed 8 ceiling lights so 2 more were recreated  and you cannot tell which are the old fixtures and which are the new ones.

Back in November of 2019 it was announced to the press that the Miss Lorraine Diner was being readied to start serving customers in a fairly short amount of time, I guess good things are worth the wait! Denise and I took a drive down to Pawtucket on December 29, 2019 where I got my first look at the place which was 98% done. Workers were finishing up the parking area around the diner in preparation for paving. The interior still needed the restored stools installed by the counter and the completely recreated booths/tables had not been brought in. Then the news came of the diner opening on January 28, 2020 and I made plans to check it out, that happened on Monday, February 17th when myself along with my brothers Rick & Don went down for breakfast. We met Mike Arena who had signed on to operate the diner, becoming  one of five diners and restaurants that he’s currently running. The other places include the West Side Diner, Broadway Diner, the Lighthouse Restaurant and Amanda’s Kitchen, open for twenty-four years and named after his daughter.

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Exterior view of the newly opened Miss Lorraine Diner.
February 17, 2020 Photo by Larry Cultrera

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Exterior view of the newly opened Miss Lorraine Diner.
February 17, 2020 Photo by Larry Cultrera

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Interior view of the newly opened Miss Lorraine Diner.
February 17, 2020 Photo by Larry Cultrera

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Interior view of the newly opened Miss Lorraine Diner.
February 17, 2020 Photo by Larry Cultrera

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Interior view of the bar/dining room of the newly opened
Miss Lorraine Diner. February 17, 2020 Photo by Larry Cultrera

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Interior view of the bar/dining room of the newly opened
Miss Lorraine Diner. February 17, 2020 Photo by Larry Cultrera

It seems that lately, good news is hard to come by on the Diner front, but here is one that finally seems to have a happy re-birth! I will be back to try some other meals, hopefully in the near future and for years to come…

 

Worcester Lunch Car No. 833 demolished

I heard some sad news last week that an old diner located on Bennett Street in Lynn, Massachusetts was reportedly demolished last week. It suffered a very bad fire a little over a year ago. Listed as Worcester Lunch Car Number 833, it was completed and delivered in June of 1952. At 15 feet 6 inches by 54 feet, it was one of the last really large one-piece diners built by the company. Originally operated as the Lynway Diner (just around the corner from the recent Bennett Street location) on the Lynnway, its original owner was James Vellis. It was moved to nearby Bennett Street many years ago. I first patronized it here as the Lynn Diner. It has since had other names including Webbie’s Diner. In the last 20 or so years it has been operated as at least 2 Oriental Restaurants. At the time of the fire, the place was about to reopen as a Latino restaurant called Anafe.

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A post card of the Lynway Diner created a number of years ago
for a “Diner” exhibit at the Lynn Museum

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A photo of Worcester Lunch Car as the Lynn Diner after it moved
to Bennett Street. Early 1980s photo by Larry Cultrera
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A photo from last February showing the fire damage, mostly
to the front right corner. Photo by Larry Cultrera

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A photo from last February showing the fire damage, mostly
to the front right corner. Photo by Larry Cultrera

I actually was in Lynn a couple of weeks ago to have lunch at the nearby Capitol Diner and stopped by on the way home to see what was happening to this diner. It looked quite ominous surrounded by a chain-link fence. This past week, some of my photos of this diner surfaced on my Facebook feed as memories so I shared them. Not long after a Facebook friend (Paul Ferrari) left a comment to let me know that the diner had been demolished the week before. I took a ride by this past Sunday afternoon and saw that there was a hole in the ground where the diner had been.

39 years of photographing diners (and other roadside stuff)….

On this day, 39 years ago (November 29, 1980) I took one 35mm photograph of a diner… namely, the By Pass Diner of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. This event, small in comparison to others in the greater scheme of things, steamrolled into a multi-decade long odyssey that encompasses thousands of photos of 870 plus diners throughout the northeast United States down through the mid-Atlantic states as well as small pockets in Tennessee and Florida.

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The By Pass Diner of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Photo from November 29, 1980

I have been in the process of scanning and in some cases, re-scanning the library of 35mm prints and slides, to digitize the archive. In looking back on some of the older photos, including that first one, I am delighted in how these have held up as time goes on. The slides have been scanned but the prints are only partially complete. My hope that now that I am semi-retired, I can make more inroads in the scanning project.

Now when I started this little research project of documenting diners, I will confess that I was a “diner-snob”. Of this I mean that I would only take photos of classic factory-built (prefabricated) diners. The ones built between the 1920s through to the 1950s. Initially, I sort of ignored the newer ones (1960 -1980) and have been kicking myself ever since for not including more of these. As time went on, I did get quite a few of the newer ones and just wish I had gotten more. I also started including storefront and on-site built diners as subjects for my photos.

That being said, in honor of the 39th anniversary of taking my first diner photo, I decided to take some photos of a “Diner” that is about to open within the next month.The Minuteman Diner, located on The Great Road in Bedford, Massachusetts had this honor. I had been reading earlier this year that Ed & Diane Cohen were taking over the spot in a commercial strip-mall that had housed a D’Angelo Sub Shop and planned to open it up as a diner after renovations and updates to the spot were complete. The Cohen’s plans were to open sometime in August, but these plans had a slight detour due to unforeseen building code requirements that set them back a few months. These problems have been alleviated and they are waiting for the town to sign-off and allow them to open.

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The Minuteman Diner, Bedford, Massachusetts.
An exterior view from November 29, 2019

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The Minuteman Diner, Bedford, Massachusetts.
An exterior view from November 29, 2019

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The Minuteman Diner, Bedford, Massachusetts.
An exterior view from November 29, 2019

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The Minuteman Diner, Bedford, Massachusetts.
An interior view from November 29, 2019

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The Minuteman Diner, Bedford, Massachusetts.
An interior view from November 29, 2019

I had contacted Diane the other day and told her I was planning on showing up this morning to take photos. When I got there, I had a nice conversation with both her and Ed and am excited to see them do well as there are no other breakfast and lunch places in town other than McDonalds, Dunkin’ Donuts and various sandwich places. I am definitely planning to make a return trip or two when they open up soon….

Diner Hotline Weblog – an even dozen years and counting….

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I am sure a fair portion of people who read this blog are aware that Diner Hotline had started out as the first ever regular column that appeared in two of the publications made available to the members of the Society for Commercial Archeology (SCA). It first showed up in 1989 in the original News Journal which was a newsletter for the organization. Later on in 1991, the publication was split into a newsletter called the SCA News and a magazine called the SCA Journal. I was given a choice as to where I wanted Diner Hotline to appear and chose the Journal. The column ran until September of 2007. Shortly thereafter, I was influenced by my good friend Brian Butko to think about morphing the Hotline into a blog.

So on October 31, 2007 the Diner Hotline Weblog made it’s debut with a short post. Over the years I have kept true to my mission of posting about “Diners, Drive-ins and other Roadside Stuff”, making it a little more diversified than the original Diner Hotline column.

https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/about/

Although the frequency of posts has diminished greatly over the last 6 years or more, I am committed to keeping this alive with the occasional post as the spirit moves me. I am currently expanding the digital library of photos I have shot over the last 39 years. I have completed the 35mm slide scanning and currently am working on the 3 plus years of 35mm prints I had shot prior to switching to slide film. The scanning and cleaning of the prints has proved to be hugely time-consuming but I am very pleased with the results thus far.

I hope that people will continue to check in here from time to time and like what I have to say. Also, I do have some Facebook pages that I post photos, etc to, including “Diner Hotline”, “Got Diners”, “Classic Diners of Massachusetts”, New Hampshire Diners, Classic Granite State Eateries” and of course my personal Facebook page “Larry Cultrera”….

New Hampshire Diner presentation, Friday, October 11, 2019 – Plaistow, NH Public Library

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I will be doing a slide presentation in conjunction with the Plaistow Historical Society this coming Friday afternoon. It will be held at the Plaistow Public Library, 85 Main Street (Route 121A) at 3:00 PM. I will have a small supply of my books (Classic Diners of Massachusetts) and (New Hampshire Diners, Classic Granite State Eateries) for sale as well. The slide presentation is based on my NH Diners book, but slightly expanded.

A friend’s recent book launch leads to my first real “Diner” road-trip in many years!

As you may have noticed, this is my first blog post in a while. Again I apologize for the infrequent posts but I have been scanning my collection of 35mm slides and prints, which has consumed a lot of spare time for a few years. The slides are all scanned but the prints take more time. The outcome so far is that the digital archive of Diner photos is growing.

Starting this past June, I have officially “Semi-retired” from my job, working only Tuesday thru Thursday, with 4 day weekends. That being said, an opportunity arose to actually plan a road-trip to New Jersey (which took place at the end of September). Now the last time I was even in the Garden State was just over 21 years ago – in June of 1998 to be exact.

The opportunity that presented itself was the publishing of a new book by my friend Michael Gabriele of Clifton, New Jersey. The book is his 5th book overall published by The History Press and 2nd book about New Jersey Diners. The new book is entitled Stories From New Jersey Diners: Monuments To Community. Gabriele had announced within the last couple of months that he would be having an official book launch at the Nutley (NJ) Museum on the evening of September 27th, a Friday night. This fit in perfectly with my new 4-day weekend schedule. I was actually thinking about keeping it a surprise and just showing up, but immediately nixed that idea, mainly because there were a few people I wanted to see when I got down there. So I let Michael Gabriele in on the possibility of my attending and he was extremely enthusiastic about my proposed plan and encouraged me to make the effort.

At the top of the list of people I wanted to get together with was Donald Kaplan, co-author of the very first book on Diners I ever bought, Diners Of The Northeast! I refer to this book along with Diners by John Baeder and American Diner by Richard J.S. Gutman & Elliott Kaufman as the Holy Trinity of Diner books that came out in the late 1970s and into 1980.

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Cover of the original edition of Diners Of The Northeast, by
Donald Kaplan and Alan Bellink, the first “Diner” book that
I purchased circa October, 1980.

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The cover sleeve of the original hard cover edition of
American Diner by Richard Gutman & Elliott Kaufman.
The second “Diner” book which I purchased in late 1980.

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The cover of the first edition of Diners by John Baeder.
This is the third “Diner” book I purchased, circa January, 1981.

Even though I may have been aware of the books authored by John Baeder (Diners) and Richard Gutman (American Diner) had been published in 1978 and 1979 respectively, Donald Kaplan and his co-author Alan (now Allyson) Bellink’s book came out around September of 1980 right at the flash point where my diner awareness was just starting to take hold.

I had been a diner aficionado since I was very young and already started taking Sunday morning road-trips with my pal Steve Repucci since late 1979 to discover (or rediscover) diners for Sunday morning breakfasts. Also, I had just purchased my first 35mm camera and the thought was beginning to form in my brain to document these diners that were fast disappearing from the landscape here in New England. I estimate that I purchased Diners Of The Northeast sometime in October of 1980 and it swung the door wide open for the almost 40 year obsession that followed!

I purchased the other books American Diner and Diners within 3 months and had started taking my first tentative photos as well as expanding my already existent post card collection with a “diner category”. Now early in 1981, I had met and become friends with Richard Gutman and about a year later the same happened with John Baeder. But connecting with the co-authors Kaplan & Bellink did not happen until 1996 when I met briefly with Alan Bellink at a diner-related get together. My budding friendship with Donald Kaplan started much later (2010 or so) thru Facebook. Donald, (who lives in the Bronx) and I have become fast friends in the last couple of years. We speak at least once a week. I of course let Donald Kaplan in on my plans for a trip down toward New York and New Jersey.

So as far as the proposed New Jersey road-trip, I convinced my wife Denise that we should do this. Believe me, that is a very hard sell with her. I got reservations at the Hampton Inn in Carlstadt (near the Meadowlands Sports Complex) which put me in a very central location for where I wanted to be. I had called my old friend Arnie Corrado to let him know of my plans. Arnie, who along with his late father Ralph, owned and operated Rosie’s Diner in Little Ferry, NJ until they sold and closed it in 1990. We had lost touch for a number of years until I made the effort about 6 years ago and we have been in constant contact since.

There were other people I planned to meet up with at the event. These people included Les Cooper (from the family that manufactured Silk City Diners), Gloria Nash from Queens, NY (who I actually met within the last couple of months in Massachusetts), Mark Oberndorf ( a painter of vernacular buildings as well as homes, etc.) and Alex Panko (who, with his family owned and operated the Peterpank Diner in Sayreville, New Jersey).

Which brings us to the weekend of September 27 thru 29th of 2019. Denise and I left Saugus around 3:30 AM on Friday (the27th). We made our first stop for coffee and a bathroom break at the Vernon Diner which is located at Exit 65 right off of I-84 southbound in Connecticut. This place is an easy off/on to the highway and is housed in a former Howard Johnson’s Restaurant. The place is nicely done up as a modern diner including a vast display case of baked goods. Unfortunately, it was dark and I did not get photos.

Our next stop was Exit 10 in Newtown, CT. I wanted to get new photos of the Sandy Hook Diner, a small barrel-roofed diner that probably dates to the 1920s. After those photos, we drove back to the nicely redone Blue Colony Diner at the exit to have another coffee and bathroom break. I had photographed both of these diners back in the early 1980s. The Sandy Hook had not changed significantly but the Blue Colony, originally built by Manno Diners had a complete makeover in the last 20 or so years, done by DeRaffele Diner Company.

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The Sandy Hook Diner, Newtown, Connecticut.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, September 27, 2019

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The Blue Colony Diner, Newtown, Connecticut.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, September 27, 2019

Continuing on, we got back on I-84 and made it to Exit 2B on the western end of Danbury, before the New York state line. Taking U.S. Route 6 to NY Route 22 in Brewster, NY, we continued driving south to North White Plains. We took I-287 west to Exit 1 in Elmsford and got Route 119 south past the Eldorado Diner to the Saw Mill River Parkway and headed south on that road until it became the Henry Hudson Parkway. We got off at Exit 23 and headed south on Broadway through the Bronx to 231st Street. We continued west on 231st to Tibbett Avenue and south one block to the Tibbett Diner, where we met up with Donald Kaplan.

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The Tibbett Diner, 3033 Tibbett Avenue, Bronx, New York.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, September 27, 2019

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Donald Kaplan & Larry Cultrera outside the Tibbett Diner.
Photo by Denise Cultrera, September 27, 2019

After meeting up and spending some time with Donald, he convinced me to head a few miles south on Broadway to take the George Washington Bridge over to New Jersey, instead of going back to the Tappan Zee area and taking the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge over to the Garden State. I took his advice and it worked out fine, saving us some time. After crossing the GWB, we headed toward Little Ferry on Route 46 and contacted Arnie Corrado. We made plans to meet at the White Manna Diner in nearby Hackensack. No sooner did I get off the phone with Arnie, Michael Gabriele called to see where we were. I informed him of the White Manna plans and he immediately said he would meet us there…

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The White Manna Diner, 358 River Street, Hackensack, New Jersey.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, September 27, 2019

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Michael Gabriele, Larry Cultrera & Arnie Corrado at the White
Manna Diner. Photo by Denise Cultrera, September 27, 2019

Now Michael Gabriele and I have been friends for around 6 years since he contacted me after he contracted to do his first New Jersey diner book for our publisher, The History Press. But until the 27th of September, we had never met face-to-face! At the White Manna, Michael, Arnie and I partook of some wonderful sliders and enjoyed the atmosphere of this fantastically preserved Paramount Diner. Afterward, Michael went home and Denise and I visited with Arnie briefly at his home in Little Ferry before heading to our hotel to check in. After we were settled in our hotel room, we went out and searched for a late lunch and found the Candlewyck Diner in East Rutherford, NJ. The Candlewyck is a circa 1970s vintage Kullman Diner that was renovated on site in recent years and the new look, inside and out represents yet another evolution in diner design!

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The Candlewyck Diner 179 Paterson Street,
East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Photograph by Larry Cultrera, September 27, 2019.

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Michael Gabriele’s new book published by The History Press.

So, the major reason to come to New Jersey was to attend the launch of Michael Gabriele’s new book at the Nutley Museum. In fact I was slated to give a short slide presentation along with Michael and the other guest speaker, Les Cooper. It was lucky I had spoken with Michael on the afternoon before the trip. He informed me that the Museum’s laptop computer was on the fritz and wondered if I was bringing my own laptop PC. I of course was bringing it to use to get online, etc when I was at the hotel. So the evening of the book launch we setup with the museum’s large screen TV and fired up Power Point….

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Gloria Nash, Arnie Corrado and Denise Cultrera attending
book launch event at the Nutley Museum. Photo by
Larry Cultrera, September 27, 2019.

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Michael Gabriele speaking at the Nutley Museum.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, Spetember 27, 2019.

I also finally got to meet Alex Panko and Les Cooper both of whom I have known for a few years but had never met. Alex was a trip, pretty much the way I expected, he is extremely outgoing (not to mention a little hyper, he drinks an ton of Coca Cola). Les was also pretty much the person I expected, interesting and well spoken.

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Larry Cultrera, Alex Panko and Les Cooper at the Nutley Museum.
Photo by Denise Cultrera, September 27, 2019

The next morning (Saturday the 28th), Denise and I went to have breakfast at the Bendix Diner on Route 17 in Hasbrouck Heights. It was wonderful to see all the neon in working order. The diner itself, a rare Master Diner, is really starting to show its age, both inside and out unfortunately. I shot some photos as the morning light was coming up and then revisited it in the early afternoon to get great daytime shots…

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Bendix Diner, Route 17 in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey.
Early morning photo by Larry Cultrera, September 28, 2019

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Bendix Diner, Route 17 in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey.
Early afternoon photo by Larry Cultrera, September 28, 2019

Around mid-morning, Denise and I drove over to Michael Gabriele’s home in Clifton and met his wife Julie as well as one of his sons (sorry Mike, I forgot his name). Then Michael gave us a little tour around the area to let me document some diners that I had not previously photographed. Let me say the light for taking photos this particular weekend was totally perfect and I lucked out. The following places were shot during that little excursion with Michael.

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The Colonial Diner, 27 Orient Way in Lyndhurst, New Jersey.
This is a 1950 vintage Mountain View Diner modified with that
new roof topper and sign, while maintaining the original design.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, September 28, 2019.

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The Red Hawk Diner located on the campus of
Montclair State University, Montclair, New Jersey.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, September 28, 2019.

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The Park West Diner on Route 46. A nicely renovated Kullman
diner, originally known as the Golden Star Diner in the
Woodland Park/Little Falls area.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, September 28, 2019.

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The Little Falls Diner, 11 Paterson Avenue, Little falls, New Jersey.
This place has been closed for many years.

On Sunday morning (the 29th), Denise and I got on the road early and headed north on Route 17. We stopped while it was still dark at the State Line Diner in Mahwah for breakfast! What a great place, I would have loved to get some photos if it were in daylight! We crossed the Hudson on I-287 over the recently completed Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. We reversed our path using the same roads we traveled down on Friday to head back to Connecticut.  On the way up Route 22, we bypassed into Katonah, New York to possibly stop for coffee at the Blue Dolphin Diner. Unfortunately, the diner was not open on Sunday morning and I noticed it is now operating as an upscale bistro. I also noticed the interior was extremely compromised with almost nothing original remaining. Very sad, but at least the outside still looked great.

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The Blue Dolphin Diner, 175 Katonah Avenue, Katonah, New York.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, from September 28, 2019.

Just prior to crossing the state line into Connecticut, we stopped at Bob’s Diner in Brewster. It looks the same as the last time I saw it back in the 1980s with the exception of the paint color on the outside. A nice little downtown diner.

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Bob’s Diner, 27 Main Street in Brewster, New York.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, September 28, 2019.

Shortly after crossing the state line, I stopped at the Mill Plain Diner (formerly the Windmill Diner) on Mill Plain Road (U.S. Route 6) in Danbury. I remember this diner as having a brick facade with a mansard roof back in the 1980s. Within the last year or so the place had an extreme makeover, inside and out by DeRaffele Diners and looks fantastic. I heard it is now owned by the same people who have the Blue Colony Diner in Newtown.

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The Mill Plain Diner, 14 Mill Plain Road in Danbury, Connecticut.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, Spetmeber 28, 2019.

To finish off this early fall road-trip, we made one last stop in Connecticut before making it back into Massachusetts. We got off the highway briefly in East Hartford and I revisited a diner I had eaten in back in the 1980s, but never photographed. It has been on my bucket list for a while and I finally got my photos. The AAA Diner is a 1970s vintage brick diner with mansard roof that on the outside still looks similar to the way I remember it. The interior has gotten an update and is now bright and airy….

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The AAA Diner, 1209 Main Street in East Hartford, Connecticut.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, September 25, 2019.

As I stated earlier, the weather could not have cooperated more than it did for this long-awaited interstate road-trip and I was extremely happy to get the photos I did, as well as meet new friends and reconnect with old friends. I will follow up soon with a review of Michael Gabriele’s book in the near future!

GoFundMe page to help defray costs in transporting a 1920s vintage Diner from Pennsylvania to Rhode Island

I was contacted recently by Chris Tunnah in the last month. Chris is a restaurateur  based in  New York state operating restaurants as a General Manager & Consultant in NYC for the last 15 years, working with celebrity chef’s such as Tom Colicchio, Missy Robbins, Scott Conant and Floyd Cardoz to name just a few. Although living and working in New York, Chris also has a home in the Newport, Rhode Island area and has had a dream of bringing a small classic factory-built diner back to that area.

This is actually not the first time I had heard from Chris. We exchanged some emails back in March of 2013, when he was trying to obtain the long-closed Skee’s Diner of Torrington, Connecticut and move it to Newport or Middletown, RI, Unfortunately this plan ultimately fell thru. Also in that 2013 email Chris went on to say “Before Skee’s, two years ago I discussed purchasing the Red Rose Diner in Towanda, Pennsylvania from Mike Holt, but he was unable to commit to the sale….. and I await a change of heart from Mike. The Red Rose would be fantastic in Newport”.

I get daily “News blurbs” about “Diners” thru Google and was aware that Chris ‘s dreams about bringing a diner back to Rhode Island might be coming closer to reality. It seems the Red Rose Diner project was revived after the more recent closure of that diner. In the news pieces I have seen, it was mentioned that Chris had to jump thru some hoops to get approval for his plans to bring the diner to a new location im Middletown, CT. Unfortunately, this, along with the purchase price of the diner and property have stretched his savings account to the limits.

To complete his objective, Chris has started a GoFundMe page to help defray costs in bringing his Red Rose Diner from Pennsylvania to Rhode Island.  you can check out the GoFundMe page here for further details…  https://www.gofundme.com/save-one-of-last-1920039s-us-diners

As I happen to know a bit about this particular diner, let me fill in some of the details as I know them… The story of the Red Rose Diner goes back much further than its recent time in Towanda, PA. It is a 1927 vintage Tierney diner that has spent its whole life in Pennsylvania since it left the factory in New Rochelle, NY. It was originally built as the Lackawanna Trail Diner and operated under that name for many years in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.

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Post card from my collection of the Lackawanna Trail Diner

I had first learned about this diner through a “before and after” piece John Baeder included in his 1984 book “Gas, Food and Lodging” (A Post Card Odyssey Through the American Roadside). In the book he showed the above post card image from his vast collection as well as a more recent photo he had shot in May of 1979 when it sported a weathered wooden shingle skirt under the windows and was called Besecker’s Diner.

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May, 1979 photo by John Baeder when it was Besecker’s Diner

I first documented the diner in June 29, 1985, not too long after Gas, Food and Lodging first came out. By then the diner lost the wooden shingles and was painted white and operating as Jerry’s Diner. The diner continued to operate at the original location until the mid-to late 1990s.

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June 29, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera when it was Jerry’s Diner

In the late 1990s, the closed Jerry’s Diner became available and there was more than one entity interested in rescuing it. One of these entities was none other than my old friend Gordon Tindall of Decorah, Iowa. Gordon had previously rescued the Clarksville Diner from Clarksville, NJ near where he grew up. He had heard it was threatened because of new development that was happening in that area and he arranged to move it to Iowa in the late 1980s. After a lot of work restoring and equipping that diner, he was able to re-open it and operate it for 5 or 6 years. He eventually sold that diner and it was moved to France where it is today.

Well Gordon was not through after the first restoration and approached the owners of Jerry’s Diner and convinced them to sell it to him. He relocated the diner to a storage location in Lancaster, PA where he worked on the diner and brought it back to near original condition. He had hopes of keeping it in Lancaster but was never able to secure the location he wanted. That is when the diner ended up moving to Towanda. These next few photos are courtesy of Chris Tunnah of the Red Rose Diner in Towanda.

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Tindall operated this diner for another 5 years after opening it before moving on to another project. This would be the complete rebuild of an extremely rare diner that was saved by Michael Engle initially. This would be the former Village Diner of Wellington, Ohio. Also known as Cecil’s Trackside Diner before it closed at that location, this diner was built by Goodell Hardware out of the Silver Creek, New York area, a model that resembled ones built by Ward & Dickenson Diners.

Engle moved the diner from Ohio to Gilbertsville, NY but did not have the wherewithal to complete a restoration. In the meantime he had made the acquaintance of Tindall and finally asked him if he wanted to take on the daunting task to complete the job. So while Tindall was operating the Red Rose Diner, he had started to work on the new diner in his spare time. I wrote about that diner here on Diner Hotline back in June of 2009…  https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2009/06/28/gordon-tindalls-spud-boy-diner-gets-nice-write-up-and-it-is-almost-a-year-away-from-opening/

Anyway, we wish Chris Tunnah well in his endeavor and hope he can realize his goal of getting this classic diner re-opened again soon.