Looking for a good read? Here’s a recommendation…

Check out A1 Diner, Real Food, Recipes, & Recollections
by Sarah Rolph

I have recently been in contact with Sarah Rolph. I knew about her through various people including Dick Gutman (author of American Diner Then & Now and The Worcester Lunch Car Company) who contributed archival photos as well as a  promo blurb on the back cover, and Ron Dylewski of “The American Roadside” website (http://www.theamericanroadside.com/) . In fact it was Ron who first put me in touch with her just over a year ago. Anyway Sarah wrote a book that came out in 2006 that I finally added to my Diner/Roadside library and it is a really great read!

This book captures the essence of the A1 Diner in Gardiner, Maine. This is Worcester Lunch Car # 790, a lovingly maintained circa 1946 vintage semi-streamlined model installed in a unique location. Originally known as Heald’s Diner (the name is still emblazoned on the porcelain panels) the diner is actually mounted on a steel frame 20 feet above ground to place the building adjacent to the bridge that crosses the Cobbossee Stream. The Diner’s front and side doors are entered from the bridge. You can also walk down stairs on the left side of the diner to the street below and actually view the underside of the diner.

I first knew about this diner through the book Diners of the Northeast by Donald Kaplan and Alan Bellink. Their book was a state by state guide to diners from Maine to New Jersey published in 1980 by The Berkshire Traveller Press. Of the diners in Maine they reviewed, the A1 (then still known as Wakefield’s Diner) seemed to be one of the highlights of their research.

Sarah Rolph’s book  features reminisces and stories from original owner Eddie Heald’s daughter Marguerite Gagne to second owner Maurice Wakefield to third owner Albert Giberson leading to current owners Mike Giberson and Neil Andersen. Along the way there are also stories from waitresses and other workers through the years, most notably Bob Newell who worked for every owner until retiring within the last 2 or 3 months.

Giberson’s Diner, photo circa August 28, 1982
by Larry Cultrera

Customers old and new chime in as well and the sense of history and nostalgia, not to mention sense of place and community come shinning through, making one want to take the long ride up to Gardiner to experience this place again (or even for the first time if you’ve never been). Interspersed throughout are recipes for meals from the respective different owners/cooks and time periods down the years.

I asked Sarah how she came about writing this book and she answered…..

I learned about the diner from my friend Karen Molvig. (She is no longer living.)  I met Karen when we both lived in Manhattan, in the late 1970s.  I was in my early twenties (I’m 54 now).  I moved to Boston in 1980.  Several years later, Karen moved to Maine—the Great Escape from the city.  She bought a place in Gardiner and eventually found A1 Diner.  Knowing I would enjoy the place, she took me there for supper on one of my visits.  She and her partner Jean had started to become friends with Mike and Neil, so that made it easy to meet them.

Giberson’s Diner, photo circa August 28, 1982
by Larry Cultrera

 I am originally from California, and had never been in an authentic diner.  I was fascinated by the small size, the fine materials, and the charm of the place.  I also loved the food.  As I got to know Mike, who was the main chef during the time I visited—late 1990s—he told me stories about the history of the diner.  It was clear he was very proud of his role in keeping the place alive and making it better, and it seemed like a really interesting story to me, the way the diner’s ups and downs reflected the changes of the town. 

When Mike and Neil purchased the diner, in the late 1980s, it was a difficult time in Gardiner.  I loved the small-business success story, the way Mike and Neil patiently worked to make the diner a success according to their longstanding vision.  They had to move very slowly, to keep from alienating their small cadre of regular customers and to keep from signaling to the town that this new version of the diner would be for yuppies only.  They really wanted to stay true to the diner’s heritage as a center of a community, and they succeeded in doing that while also upgrading it.  Now, as you know, you can still get a good old-fashioned hamburger, but you can also get Asian noodles.

Underneath the Diner, photo circa August 28, 1982
by Larry Cultrera

 When I met them, Mike and Neil had largely achieved this vision, but they told me stories about the way it had been when they started, and it was clear that it had been a long and difficult road.  I really admired their ability to achieve their dream through sheer hard work and imagination.  It seemed like that alone was a great story, the small-business challenges that had finally paid off. 

Ruth Reichl’s first memoir, Tender at the Bone, had come out around that time, and Mike and I both enjoyed it very much.  It reminded me of Mike, too.  Ruth learned to cook when she was a little kid, and so did Mike—he told me he would cook when nobody was home, and if the dish didn’t work out he would hide the evidence.  That book included recipes, which has since become a bit of a trend.  We thought it would be fun to do a history of the diner with recipes from every era.  I wanted to use the same approach Reichl did, having each recipe fit with one of the stories.  (In the end, I had to cheat a little bit to make it work out so that there were recipes in every chapter.  We didn’t have any recipes from the Eddie Heald era, but we used a modern soufflé recipe since we served soufflé to Marguerite Gagne when I interviewed her at the diner.  (Sadly, she is no longer living.)

 Tilbury House, Publishers, is located in Gardiner, Maine, so it was an easy sell.  In fact the publisher had been hoping someone would write a book about the diner and asked Neil—he told her someone was working on something, so she wasn’t even surprised to hear from me!

 Once I had the contract with Tilbury I did more research, spent a lot of time with Mike and Neil, interviewed Cindy and Bob, and interviewed Maurice Wakefield over the phone.  He was living in Florida at the time (he, too, has since died).  His mind was still very sharp, although his hearing was starting to go.  He had a special phone that increased the volume.  His daughter would make the appointments with me and take the call and then tell Maurice to get on his phone. 

He was great to interview, remembered a lot of stories, and wanted to tell me exactly how things were.  He was so pleased that people still remembered him and still cared.  It had been about thirty years, so he thought people would have forgotten him, but they had not.  Not only did the diner people I interviewed have stories about Maurice, but people in town remembered him, too. 

When I went to the State Library to look for old clippings, the gal who showed me how to use the microfiche machine, when I said I was writing about the diner, said “Oh!  Wakefield’s?!”  It was still Wakefield’s to her.  I was pleased to tell Maurice that.  I did two long phone interviews with him, and then I decided I really wanted to meet him, so Mike and I traveled to Florida and spent an afternoon with him.  It was really fun, the two of them talked about every little thing about the diner, the small details they both still enjoyed.  It was quite fun to hear them comparing notes about the place, and of course about the people—Cindy and Bob both worked for both Maurice and Mike. 

I  thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and give it a Diner Hotline “Approved” rating! It is available at Amazon….

Notes from the Hotline, 11-14-09

New York Diner News

This has been posted on numerous sites including RoadsideOnline and Roadside Fans Yahoo Group but I need to get on the bandwagon as well. It was reported this week that two legendary diners from Albany, NY are being put up for sale by their respective long-time owners. There was also news of a “changing of the guard” at an iconic New York City diner this week as well.

Miss Albany Diner

The first of the two Capitol District Diners to be on the block is Cliff and Jane Brown’s Miss Albany Diner. Cliff is right up there in my book (along with Phil Paleologos of New Bedford’s Shawmut Diner) as being one of the most affable and enthusiastic owners I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. The Brown’s have been running the Miss Albany for 20 years interestingly after having retired from previous positions in other careers.


 Here is the text of a story that appeared in the Albany Times Union on November 12th…

Diner for sale, hold the change

The Miss Albany Diner owners ready to retire, but hope their classic fare remains eternal


The diner, like the neighborhood, draws all types: Yuppies and factory workers, rich and poor, old-timers and hipsters — all in search of a cup of coffee, a warm meal and… “A friend,” Jane says. “They just need somebody to listen to them.”

The Browns this year are celebrating their 20th year as owners of the Miss Albany. But Cliff is 82 and Jane is 75 — and they’re eager to move on. Their son Bill, the restaurant’s cook, isn’t interested in taking over. The Browns are looking for the right person to take the diner into its next phase. Jane Brown says the business is profitable, though it has hardly made the couple rich.

“I will miss the people,” she says. “I will not miss the work.” The Miss Albany is adjacent to Wolff’s Biergarten, the popular nightspot. And its owner, Matt Baumgartner, is one of the diner’s big fans. “Anytime I have friends visit that’s one of my go-to places,” he said. “And everybody leaves loving it.”

The Miss Albany was built in 1941 and remains authentic to its time — so authentic that it received a preservation award from the Historic Albany Foundation, which noted that diner has never undergone a character-robbing remodeling. It has kept its charm. “It just feels like a good, old-fashioned diner,” Baumgartner said. “They don’t make diner cars like that anymore.”

Chris Churchill can be reached at 454-5442 or cchurchill@timesunion.com. Read his blog at http://blog.timesunion.com/realestate


Although it is sad to hear that the Brown’s will no longer be a part of this diner experience in the Capitol District in the near future, they certainly are due a well deserved retirement and we wish them all of our best wishes.

Jack’s Diner

The second of the two Capitol District Diners reported this week to be for sale is Jack’s Diner at 547 Central Ave., a well maintained and rare Comac Diner run by Jack Murtagh (who is only the second owner) business is on the market for $175,000, because Jack is retiring after 44 years in the business.


Empire Diner


It was also reported this week that NYC’s Empire Diner will be changing operators. Apparently the lease was up for renewal and the long-time operators lost out to owners of a very popular coffee shop from Union Square. This was the text of a small piece from the Gothamist website…..

The iconic Empire Diner in Chelsea is being taken over by the team that operates the obnoxiously fashionable but beautifully staffed Coffee Shop in Union Square. The owner of the property will not be renewing the lease with Renata Gonzalez, who’s operated the classic diner for over three decades. Instead, the Gotham City Restaurant Group will replace Gonzalez with a 15-year lease rumored to be in the $25,000 per month range. Gonzalez says she’s trying to get the new owner to keep some of the current employees, some of whom have been there for as long as her, but that seems unlikely. The name’s changing too, but that hasn’t been revealed yet.

Coffee Shop co-owner Carolyn Benitez tells Chelsea Now the diner will still operate 24/7, but she’s planning on radically reinventing the menu: “It’s a diner in feel, and that’s what appeals to us. It’s not going to have any other identity except being a great old diner with better food.” She’s promising “better ingredients and better quality production,” as well as “that Coffee Shop flavor,” which we interpret as ‘higher prices and hot but aloof servers.’ Oh well, at least we’re not losing it to Alabama.

As I understand it, Renata Gonzalez took over ownership from Jack Doenias who was credited with the transformation of this 1946 Fodero diner into the world’s first upscale diner in 1976. Also, Renata had ties with Thomas Feucht who is the founder of the Sam Kullman’s Diners, a chain in Germany.

It is a little upsetting to hear the new operators are going to change the name of the diner. We hope the other changes alluded to will not destroy this landmark diner.

New Postcard for Rosebud Diner soon to be printed

In 1997, a couple of years after the Rosebud Diner, (Worcester Lunch Car #773) of Somerville, Mass. was rehabbed and reopened as a diner in 1995 (after operating for over 30 years as a bar), owner Bill Nichols asked me to help him create a postcard for the diner. You see he had a postcard display in the corridor leading to the kitchen and restrooms from Hot Stamp Postcards. The deal was if you let Hot Stamp in with one of their displays you would be able to have postcards of your establishment printed for free.

Originally Bill had some postcards printed by Hot Stamp featuring the Don Sawyer painting of the Rosebud Diner. As I recall Don may have objected to the image he painted being on a postcard (I might be wrong about that). Anyway, Bill wanted a new one so I jumped in and created a postcard as per Hot Stamp’s guidelines provided by Billy. I decided to use a slide I had shot the day of the grand reopening of the Rosebud (as a diner). Being that the diner was still not fully restored on the outside at that time I utilized Adobe Photoshop on the scanned image to fix things to make it look like it was restored.

Fast forward to 2009, the Diner gave away its last postcard some time ago and Billy wanted to order some more. I suggested maybe it was time to do a new version and he agreed. I went over to the diner on a nice and bright Sunday in August and shot maybe 6 or 7 different images, the early afternoon light was so perfect, I could not believe it! I downloaded all the shots and I liked all of them but ended up using an almost similar shot to the older postcard. It was still the best angle.

Being that there were still some trim pieces missing from an aborted attempt at exterior restoration done 10 years ago as well as some of the front porcelain steel panels on the diner not lining up exactly right, I had to use my Adobe Photoshop skills again to fix things and make the diner look perfect. The results met with both Billy’s and my approval as seen below…


I also contacted GoCards ( the new name for Hot Stamp) and got their new guidelines as I had anticipated things should have changed along with the technology over the last 10 years. Sure enough I could do all my designing in Adobe Illustrator for the layout of both the back and front of the new postcard. Here is the back of the postcard below….


Diner Hotline Weblog 2 years old today!

From  a 1991 Yankee magazine article called “Devoted to Diners”

Today marks the 2 year anniversary of this blog being on the internet! The time has gone by so fast. Of course the blog follows just about 19 years of the hardcopy version of Diner Hotline featured as a regular column in  the SCA’s (Society for Commercial Archeology’s)  Journal magazine. In fact, if I think about it, towards the end of the coming month, I have been photographing diners 29 years.

Whoo!!!! Time really has flown! I was a mere 27 years old when I shot my first diner….  the Bypass Diner of Harrisburg, PA (now the American Dream Diner), see below……

The very first Diner photograph I ever shot!

Some stats from the blog since 10-31-07…

Total Views = 71, 727
Posts (including this one) = 190
Approved Comments = 481
Busiest Day = 511 views, 1-16-09

Thank you to everyone who are regular readers of this blog! I know I’m having fun writing it!

Larry Cultrera

Sunday morning visit to the Red Arrow Diner in Milford, NH

Red Arrow Diner, Milford, NH
photo copyright October 25, 2009 by Larry Cultrera

Well, I’ve been wanting to get back to Milford, NH to see the newest outlet of the Red Arrow Diner. I reported a while back (Sept. 25, 2008 to be exact) that Carol Sheehan of the wildly successful (and popular) Red Arrow Diner of Manchester, NH was going to reopen the former Milford Diner as a second outlet for the Red Arrow. See  this post….. https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2008/09/25/new-hampshires-milford-diner-to-become-2nd-red-arrow-diner/ 

In fact, I was thinking of trying to get to Milford for their annual Pumpkin Festival two weeks ago but the stars were not aligned or something and it did not happen. Then last week Randy Garbin (of RoadsideOnline) and his family made a visit to Milford and as anticipated left there with glowing reviews of the diner. This spurred me to finally get back to one of my favorite New Hampshire towns for breakfast. Saturday was out of the question as it was rainy and gloomy pretty much all day, but Sunday was promising to be a perfect autumnal weekend and probably the last one with any significant folliage to view.

Red Arrow Diner, Milford, NH
photo copyright October 25, 2009 by Larry Cultrera

Kuppy’s Diner of Middletown, PA from my collection.
The Red Arrow Diner in Milford, NH should look more like this.

Denise and I got up to Milford around 7:30 am and the diner was not too busy which was alright with me. Probably a lull as we overheard the day before the diner was jammed a good portion of the day. Denise got a freshly baked coffee cake muffin and I had the eggs, sausage, hashbrowns and toast. We were both very happy with our food and the service was quick and the waitress attentive.

This diner has been a favorite of mine for at least 15 years. I love the setting and always have loved eating here, but now more so as it is a Red Arrow Diner now! I recall driving by it in the 1980’s and wondering if it was a real diner. You see, the place is covered with a regular peaked roof with a gable on the left side and the other end is married into the attached building.

This was done long before I had ever seen it. I was not sure if it was a factory-built diner, so I never logged it or photographed it until the 1990’s. But I actually did go in it one day back in the early to mid 1980’s to have a cup of coffee and more importantly to check it out! I noticed it had what appeared to be a monitor roof with a very narrow clerestory. Being a novice back then I was not as familiar with some of the diner manufacturers as I would later become.

Red Arrow Diner, Milford, NH
photo copyright October 25, 2009 by Larry Cultrera

By the time the 1990’s rolled around, my expertise in these matters was fairly rounded out and I realized that this was possibly a rare (for these parts) Ward & Dickinson diner out of Silver Creek, NY. I have since learned from New York diner maven Mike Engle (co-author with Mario Monti of Diners of New York, Stackpole Books) that this may actually be an even more rare Liberty Diner (which has direct lineage to the Ward & Dickinson Co.).

New red standing seam roof at the Red Arrow Diner, Milford, NH
(by the way, I got to sit at my favorite stool, the last one on the left),
the last couple of feet of the diner actually hang over the river as the diner was longer than the piece of land. 
photo copyright October 25, 2009 by Larry Cultrera

One thing that is different since the last time I was there, the roof over the diner has been redone with a red standing seam covering. It also has a new sign next to the right hand addition. Most of the other changes they made were just tweaks to what former owner Debbie Flerra had already done to bring the diner back to life after it had been stripped by the last owner (before Debbie and her late partner Gordon Maynard bought it).

new sign at the Red Arrow Diner, Milford, NH
photo copyright October 25, 2009 by Larry Cultrera

It looks like as Randy said Carol Sheehan has struck gold again with this 2nd Red Arrow Diner and is now actively seeking people to buy franchises. She hopes to have many more Red Arrows located throughout New England (and probably beyond) before too long! Check out their website at…
http://redarrowdiner.com/home  for more info on the diners and their plans for franchising!

new sign at the Red Arrow Diner, Milford, NH
photo copyright October 25, 2009 by Larry Cultrera

Notes from the Hotline, 10/20/09

New blog  for Culinary Arts Museum

I received this email recently about the newly launched Blog from The Culinary Arts Museum (Richard Gutman is the Director of the Museum).
Here is the text of that email……

Greetings from the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales! 
We’re excited to present you with two new ways we’ll be keeping
you better informed about all the engaging events and exhibits
here at the museum.  We have started a museum blog to bring
you up-to-date information.  Check with us regularly for details
about our upcoming exhibits, book signings, art openings and
activities we offer throughout the year.  In addition to the blog,
we will be sending you a short musEumNEWS letter about once
every two months.  Feel free to send us an email with any questions
or to let us know what you think, and remember to stop by to visit
when you’re nearby! You can get to the blog at……… www.culinaryartsmuseum.blogspot.com

Culinary Arts Museum Blog page


Updated Info on the preservation effort for NJ’s Forum Diner

Forum Diner, Paramus, NJ photo courtesy Michael Perlman

Michael Perlman sent along the latest Press Release on his efforts to save New Jersey’s Forum Diner. Here is the piece…..

Committee To Save The Forum Diner


Effort to Spare “Endangered Species” from Oblivion!

PARAMUS, NJ & NEW YORK (Oct 13, 2009) – A multi-faceted, creative preservation movement is underway by the Committee To Save The Forum Diner, to spare the historic Forum Diner (211 East State Route 4, Paramus, NJ) from demolition, and is calling upon parties of interest to come forward ASAP, and spare this gem from oblivion.  Shortly after the diner’s former owners retired in 2007, Kevin Ormes’ Jeep 17 dealership was slated to rise on premise, but has since fell through. As a result, there are more preservation options than before, but time is of the essence for a diner attributed with a “series of firsts.” Reopening and restoring the Forum Diner to its former glory would become a dream come true to devoted fans, on the basis of memories made within its walls and its unique architectural style for a diner. It merits a new lease on life, so future generations can have a chance too.
(thanks to an agreement with Kevin Ormes):

1. Purchasing the Forum Diner structure at the low cost of $15,000 ($1K per sq ft), in which the buyer would be responsible for rigging costs. All or most of the diner’s 7 sections can be transported elsewhere, and saved along the lines of Preservationist Michael Perlman’s other projects, NYC’s Cheyenne Diner transported to AL in Oct 2009 & NYC’s Moondance Diner to WY in Aug 2007. Rigger Mel Brandt of M&M Rigging, transported over 50 diners countrywide, & took dimensions of the Forum Diner. Also, a deal can be worked out with Al Suwara, who is willing to accommodate anyone seeking land to move the Forum Diner to. He owns a 15 acre property in Cairo, NY with an 800 sq ft frontage on Route 23, a heavily-trafficked main road that leads to Ski Windham and Catskill Park. 

2. The Forum Diner at its current property can be purchased for $3.9 million. The diner has a history of great business, which is marked by its convenient location on a major intersection with a school and shops nearby. 
3. The Forum Diner can be leased at $55,000/month.

**For the above options, it is very likely that grants and tax
credits are available to help finance future historically-sensitive
restoration & renovation work, through the State & National Register
of Historic Places.

Forum Diner History:    The Forum Diner is an architectural gem, and rare for 60s style architecture. It was prefabricated by the Fodero Dining Car Co, and was announced that “money was no object” when it came down to detail, shortly after it first opened. Joseph Fodero of Bloomfield, NJ was the mastermind of diner manufacturing (also manufacturing NYC’s famed Empire Diner). The Yannitsadis brothers were the original owners of the Forum Diner. The exterior borrows from the Environmental style, and features stainless steel, wrap-around windows, groovy gold frame doors, corner entryway with stone & colored mansard roof, & decorative ornamentation gracing the top. The interior is elegant, featuring fine Greek wood fluted columns & moldings and coffered wooden-paneled walls (rare for a diner), wood ornamentation, recessed areas for chandeliers, etched mirrors with regal logos, stone, curtains, counter & stools with backrests, kitchen out back, terrazzo tiles and wave-patterned terrazzo distinguishing circular wooden booth areas. Pat Fodero, son of Joseph Fodero, came up with the idea of circular booths to seat more patrons per table, and it was first popularized at the Forum Diner. It became the norm to build large to boost business. The interior portrays the Colonial style. 

Forum Diner Photos:  http://www.flickr.com/gp/8095451@N08/okNvP5  (Can be enlarged by clicking on each photo and then “all sizes” to view small, medium, or large. Some photos appear to be slightly larger, since they were taken with a super wide-angle lens)   

Review of Specifications
Address: 211 Route 4 East, Paramus, NJ
Circa 15,000 square feet 
10 ft ceilings
Historic/Rare architectural features
Lot size: 2.05
Heat: gas
Parking: 200 spaces
Seats: 220
Property with diner sale price: $3.9 million 
Leasing: $55,000/month
Purchasing the structure only: $15,000 one-time fee
      Perlman explains: “Diners are amongst the ‘ultimate public institutions’ which harbor countless memories and bridge the generations. During the 30’s – 60’s eras, freestanding diners numerously dotted the tri-state area, and brought together individuals of various occupations in a cozy & striking ambiance. Today, they are becoming an endangered species at an alarming rate, and their loss is often most heartfelt. It is essential to preserve & reuse all remaining classic freestanding diners. Despite time constraints, we are committed to doing all we can for a noble cause.” The Committee’s consensus is that “A steady market for such nostalgic gems, coupled by the fact that they were manufactured to move; can ensure a victory for the Forum Diner.”

Parties of interest can contact Committee To Save The Forum Diner
Chairman Michael Perlman at unlockthevault@hotmail.com &
(917) 446-7775, and all information will be relayed to the
property owner.

The story of how I drove into an old postcard

Back in the early 1980’s, February of 1982 to be exact, I first had contact with John  Baeder. As many people know, John Baeder is considered along with Richard J.S. Gutman one of the founding fathers of this diner appreciation movement that dates to the late 1960’s to early 1970’s. Of course their respective books Diners (Baeder, 1978) and American Diner (Gutman, Kaufman, Slovic, 1979) helped lead the way for the rest of us.

I had already become friendly with Richard Gutman in early 1981 and it was not quite a year later that I finally got up the nerve to contact John. As I recall it was probably within a month or so of my dad’s passing away suddenly at the young age of 59. John & I talked (in that first phone call) for a while and started corresponding as well. He sent postcards of some of his prints as well as black & white xerox copies of some of his diner postcard collection. These copies usually were 8.5″ x 11″ sheets containing at least 6 postcard images.

One of the packages I received had about 3 of these letter size copies stapled together and had an image that depicted a street scene. The scene was entitled… Fort Dix Road, Wrightstown, NJ. In the scene the photographer was standing on the east side of the street looking across the street and back to the left. In the foreground of the shot was the Victory Diner, looking to be a late 1940’s to early 1950’s Master Diner. The diner was situated end-wise to the street with a parking lot in front. To the left of the diner was a business block housing 2 or 3 other establishments and toward the end of the block a neon sign was visible that said “Town Diner”. Beyond these businesses a small stone bridge spanned a waterway and the road sort of swung to the right, out of the photo.

postcard image from John Baeder collection

In reading John’s book (Diners) I recall him mentioning about doing a painting from an old postcard image of a street scene. How he had a fantasy of going into the image and say, walk down the street and maybe go into one of the stores or buildings in the scene. Well I had an experience that came close to what John had fantasized about. I should also mention that both John and I have talked about our shared belief in a sort of sixth sense.

Back in June of 1983, I attended the Society for Commercial Archeology’s meeting at Wildwood, NJ. I started the drive down on Thursday evening June 23, 1983 and got as far as a rest area on I-684, just north of White Plains, NY where I slept in my van for a few hours. The next morning I had breakfast at the Star Diner, a 1950 vintage Silk City diner in White Plains. Another highlight of that morning was visiting the Kullman Diner Company factory, then located in Avenel, NJ before proceeding down to the Wildwood area.

Souvenir booklet from the SCA Wildwood meeting 6-25-83

On the 25th, I visited most of the diners in the Wildwood area and walked a little of the boardwalk before meeting up with the other attendees of the SCA meeting at the Wildwood Diner. When the initial meeting festivities were concluded, I decided to start the drive back, opting not to participate in the scavenger hunt they had planned.

By this time it was probably just past 2:00 pm and I started driving north. I went as far as Atlantic City, where I photographed the Columbus Diner and started to head west on Rte. 30. As I recall, I travelled Rte. 30 as far as Pomona, NJ, where I photographed the South China Restaurant, a stainless steel Jerry O’Mahony diner. This was on a side road just off Rte. 30. I decided to continue north on this road, I believe it was unmarked (no route number). I should probably mention that I had decided I would rely on my sense of direction and not use any roadmaps for this particular roadtrip thus having a heightened sense of adventure and discovery.

So, I drove for many miles into and through what I realized was the middle of the Pine Barrens. I started to get nervous as this area was sparsely settled with hardly any roadside businesses and I was getting extremely low on gasoline. I started talking to the van saying we could make it to the next town to get gas. I had no idea where I was, and in fact found out as most people do who drive through New Jersey, there are few signs telling you what particular town you are in, at any given time. Well finally I was approaching civilization, more and more houses and such were appearing along the road.

Then something strange happened, I started getting a feeling that I was approaching the town that I remembered from that postcard image that John Baeder had sent me previously. I don’t know why but it popped into my head and the feeling was extremely strong! Wouldn’t you know, the road went around a curve to the left and I crossed a stone bridge into a town. I was amazed! It WAS the same town as in the postcard! I pulled over to the side and looked and there it was, the former Victory Diner now called the Super Diner. It had gained a stucco facade under the windows and the parking lot in front of it was now a lawn. It also appeared to be not in operation.

Super Diner, Wrightstown, NJ

Super Diner, Wrightstown, NJ

This was one of the more interesting things that had ever happened to me on the road, in fact I do not believe any other experience comes close. After taking my photos of the diner I went down the street and got gas for the van. Then I continued on to the Mount Holly area and had dinner at the Crossroads Diner a late model brick Fodero diner with mansard roof. The rest of the trip consisted of staying at a motel adjacent to the Premium Diner on U.S. Rte. 1 in Avenel. I believe the next morning I had breakfast at the Avenel Diner up the road and drove home through New York and Connecticut arriving home in Medford, Mass. in the middle to late afternoon. What a trip!