The former Fish Tale Diner of Salisbury, Mass. suffers fire damage

The restaurant currently known as The Deck, located at the Bridge Marina on Rings Island, hard by the bank of the Merrimack River in Salisbury, Massachusetts suffered a fire on August 22, 2015. Within sight of U.S. Rte. 1 where it crosses the river between Newburyport and Salisbury, the restaurant, formerly known as the Fish Tale Diner (until 2012) experienced heat, water and smoke damage from the fire that appears to have started outside the attached kitchen annex. At the time of this writing the fire was still of an undetermined origin.

Here is the text from an article written by Alexandra Koktsidis for the Boston Globe on August 22, 2016…

Salisbury restaurant damaged in fire
No injuries in early two-alarm blaze
By Alexandra Koktsidis

GLOBE CORRESPONDENT

Conrad Audette, who co-owns The Deck with his father, woke up abruptly at 7 a.m. Saturday when his fiancée ex­claimed that the restaurant was on fire. “I leapt out of bed and ran outside to see smoke down the street,” Audette, who lives near the family’s restaurant in Salisbury, said in an e-mail Saturday. An employee who had spot­ted the fire from the Newburyport Turnpike bridge went im­mediately to Audette’s home to tell him.

A two-alarm fire severely damaged the kitchen of The Deck, a popular and recently renovated seasonal waterfront restaurant in Salisbury, offi­cials said. Located at 179 Bridge Road, The Deck features out­door seating and picturesque views overlooking the Merri­mack River. Reports of the fire were called in at 7:11 a.m., said Deputy Fire Chief Robert Cook, who said no injuries were reported. The fire had been extin­guished by 9 a.m., but fire- • fighters and investigators re­mained on scene into the af­ternoon, he said. “The restaurant opens at 11 a.m., so this was before em­ployees arrive,” Audette said.

“The inspectors still don’t know the cause, but it appar­ently began outside.”Audette said the kitchen and inside seating area of the restaurant were badly dam­aged, but the two decks were intact. The restaurant had made renovations over the past winter, adding a prep room and second deck to dou­ble its capacity. It reopened May 15. “We are a scratch kitchen with a simple menu, but take great care in supporting local ingredients,” Audette said. The Deck offers fresh seafood, pub food, and salads. “We grind our own burgers, bake our own buns, make our dressings and sauces,” Audette said.

Audette said that he doesn’t know how long The Deck, which would have shut for the season in October, will stay closed. “We plan on starting our rebuild as soon as we can,” he said. Susan Turner of Topsfield has dined at The Deck several times with her husband and friends, and she said she en­joys the restaurant’s burgers, swordfish — and Rum Bucket drinks, served in a sand pail with Swedish Fish. “I leapt out of bed and ran outside to see smoke down the street”. Turner heard about the fire on Facebook. “I just thought, ‘Oh, that’s sad!’ It’s a place we love to go, and we feel so badly for the owners,” she said over the phone Saturday.

The Deck opened in July 2013. A restaurant called The Fish Tail had been there. “We saved everything we could for historical respect,” Audette said, including stained-glass windows and hand-crafted cabinets. “Much of the damage was to the origi­nal structure unfortunately,” Audette said. On Saturday, the restau­rant’s Facebook page posted a message about the fire and re­ceived overwhelming support. “Thankfully nobody was in­jured during the fire this morning,” the message said. “We’re grateful and apprecia­tive of all the support.” Christi Maglio, 39, of New­buryport said she had just started going to The Deck this summer with her husband. “It’s just a very down-to-earth place to go,” she said. The nights with live music brought a sense of community, she said, and the view: “It’s beautiful.” “It’s devastating, but I know they’ll reopen as soon as possible;’ she said. Alexandra Koktsidis can be reached at alexandra.koktsidis @globe.com.
Follow her on
Twitter @akoktsidis.

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Worcester Lunch Car No. 762 as the Fish Tale Diner.
March 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

The former diner, Worcester Lunch Car No. 762 was built in 1940 and delivered to its first operating location in Ipswich, Massachusetts where it traded as the Agawam Diner from 1940 to 1947 when it was replaced by a larger streamlined diner also built by Worcester. After the diner left Ipswich it was briefly located in Brunswick, Maine (1947-1950, although I am not sure it actually operated there) before moving back to Rowley, Mass. to become one of two locations of the Agawam Diner operated by the Galanis family. It stayed in Rowley until it was again replaced by a newer diner in 1970. It was then sold and moved to Salisbury, eventually becoming the Fish Tale Diner.

When I first started going to the Fish Tale in the early 1980s, it was open very long hours and I seem to recall going there once in the middle of the night! I always enjoyed the location, possibly one of the most scenic spots I know for a diner. When the last proprietors were running it, I recall going there one summer morning and they had the doors open. They were in the habit of feeding a small group of local ducks who lived by the marina. Apparently this particular morning they were in a hurry to open the diner and neglected to feed the ducks in a timely manner. One actually came walking into the diner looking for his oyster crackers!!! I am happy to say that I actually managed to eat at the Fish Tale on the last day they were open and wrote about the diner closing in Diner Hotline – https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/fish-tale-diner-1970-2012/

After the Fish Tale closed, Mark and Conrad Audette – the owners of the marina where the diner was located demolished the old attached kitchen and replaced it with a new building that included a new kitchen as well as rest room facilities. They also did some renovations on the interior keeping the counter, stools and hood intact. They removed the original booths and tables and changed the backbar area. Keeping the attached deck for outdoor seating. the restaurant was renamed “The Deck and opened in July of 2013 and was by all accounts a huge success.

To get back to the fire, it was reported very quickly by news media outlets and was on the internet fairly early. I know I probably shared something on Facebook about it and emailed Bob Higgins my intrepid friend who was more of a regular customer of the diner than I was (he’s retired and gets around more than I do). Bob did manage to get up there before I did and talked with the owner who is hoping to salvage the diner portion of the structure and eventually reopen. I made a quick trip on Labor Day to get some photos (of the exterior only), the following photos show the structure  with the fire damage.

The-Deck-1
The Deck Restaurant, Bridge Marina, Salisbury, Massachusetts showing
fire damage. September 7, 2015 photo by Larry Cultrera

The-Deck-2
The Deck Restaurant, Bridge Marina, Salisbury, Massachusetts showing
fire damage. September 7, 2015 photo by Larry Cultrera

The-Deck-3
The Deck Restaurant, Bridge Marina, Salisbury, Massachusetts showing
fire damage. September 7, 2015 photo by Larry Cultrera

The-Deck-4
The Deck Restaurant, Bridge Marina, Salisbury, Massachusetts showing
fire damage. September 7, 2015 photo by Larry Cultrera

The next few interior shots were courtesy of Bill Power who got up to the diner before I did and like Bob Higgins, got to go inside to inspect the damage…

interior-1_The-Deck
interior photo showing fire damage, Sept. 2015 photo by Bill Power

interior-2_The-Deck
interior photo showing fire damage, Sept. 2015 photo by Bill Power

interior-3_The-Deck
interior photo showing fire damage, Sept. 2015 photo by Bill Power

interior-4_The-Deck
interior photo showing fire damage, Sept. 2015 photo by Bill Power

I spoke briefly with Mark Audette when I was there on September 7th and he reiterated that they want to reopen the restaurant but it all depends on what the outcome is with the insurance investigation. Hopefully what is left of the diner is salvageable!

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Kim and Mike’s Excellent Diner Adventure!!!!

Mike-&-Kim-cropped
Mike & Kim Pinto on the “Diner Trail”. June 20, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

I was checking out Facebook this past weekend and found a post from the Point Diner (AKA the Somers Point Diner)  of Somers Point, NJ. They basically posted a link to a new blog I had never heard of. It was called “Diner Diaries”. Written by Kim Pinto, the blog is primarily an extension of a journal that Kim is keeping for an interesting road trip she and her husband Mike have embarked on, the link for the blog is  http://pintodiner.com. Both Kim and Mike are eduacators, Mike as a school principal and Kim teaches a combined 2nd and 3rd grade class. I read a couple of her posts on the blog and decided to get in touch with her, primarily to let her know that she is not alone in her journey and that those of us who preceded her on the “Diner Trail” can understand her quest.

Within a short period of time, I got a reply to my email and it was a very nice message to say the least…..
Hi Larry! What a completely humble moment to be contacted by you, thank you.  My second and third graders have poured over your book (Classic Diners of Massachusetts) as we planned this trip and I can’t wait to share that you sent me a note.  Our goal is to trek to Massachusetts in four days, after a stint in NYC. Your book is in my bag. This has been an incredible journey and I want to thank you for being a part of it.  I am sincerely amazed that you have photographed so many diners and have provided the world with your findings.  You sir are a difference maker.  How fun that your wife is a retired teacher.  Please tell her hello from me! Thank you again Larry for extending such kind words.  I am so very bummed I didn’t get to sit and break bread in the American Dream diner…it is so interesting that you photographed that diner from the start. Have a wonderful day!  Kim

I was certainly surprised and delighted that she has my book for a reference. As she mentioned, they were on their way to New York City and that they would be heading to Massachusetts toward mid-week. I suggested we try to get together, which she thought was a great idea. I then decided to do this post and asked her for some info about the blog/trip and this is what Kim said….

I am from West Lafayette, Indiana.  This is a $10,000 teacher creativity grant.  It is meant to rejuvenate you.  I chose to visit diners because my room is themed as a diner.  Our entire school has themed classrooms.  I was asked to select a theme that is comfortable.  My Grandmother taught me very early by example.  She was a lady with little means so eating out meant going to one of two little diners in my town.  The conversations we had were like no other while sharing a comfortable lunch together. I try to duplicate this experience in my classroom.  I thought what would be better than to go to where it all began, the east coast. In May I found out I have breast cancer, so this trip now has another meaning for me.  My son, Alex, is also along to shoot a documentary of the trip as well.  He just graduated from Columbia in Chicago in film/directing.  He will be moving to LA in August, so having him along is special. The grant pays for the whole trip, from food-self publishing a book at the end.  The idea is this is a trip of a lifetime and it is beyond that at this point…I am having the time of my life! Thank you again for taking an interest in an elementary teacher from Indiana.  My 2nd and 3rd graders will be very excited.  Also thank you for writing about me on the Diner Hotline…another kind moment. In the end I simply hope to soak this all in and put forth a book about my travels and the wonderful diners/friends I have met along the way. My two journeys will not end at the close of this trip, I think they are really just beginning.
Well, we managed to get together late on Thursday afternoon. Because there are not too many diners in this area open for dinner and the fact that they were coming up from Worcester, Mass., I instructed them to take I-290 east and I-495 north to Salisbury. Then to take I-95 south to Rte. 133 and the Agawam Diner in Rowley, Mass. This allowed them to avoid any rush-hour traffic in the Boston area by completely bypassing the city. They got there before Denise and I did so they made their presence known to Ethel DePasquale, a member of the Galanis family who own and operate the diner. We joined them within a short time and Ethel was understanding about us wanting to talk for a bit before taking our food order. When we finally decided to order, both Kim and Mike got a dinner entree while Denise was not particularly hungry (she settled for the glass of water she was drinking), I opted for a piece of the Agawam’s famous Coconut Cream pie. I very rarely get to the Agawam for anything other than breakfast and it has been years since I had their pie. It was even better than I remembered! Oh, Man!!!!! Mike, on my recommendation decided on the Native Fried Clam Roll (which they do not even have out in Indiana). This in fact was something he was totally unfamiliar with, along with a Scallop Roll or a Fried Shrimp Roll. They do not even have “Whole Clams” out there, just frozen clam strips! Kim decided on a Fried Fish sandwich. Mike has been documenting his food this trip and if anyone is curious you can see some of these on his blog….. http://coleprincipal.tumblr.com.

Larry-&-Kim
Yours truly and Kim Pinto outside the Agawam Diner.
June 20, 2013 photo by Denise Cultrera
Me, Kim & Mike outside the Agawam Diner
June 20, 2013 photo by Denise Cultrera
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Mike, Kim & Denise at the Agawam Diner.
June 20, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

I feel that Denise and I made new, life-long friends in Kim and Mike. I wish them happy travels until they get back home. I also wish Kim well with her fight against breast cancer!

Fish Tale Diner, 1970 – 2012

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

Another look back to the early 1980’s

I recently bought a new scanner to replace the one I had for almost 10 years. I was not happy with the results I was getting from the old one, especially when scanning slides. The new one seemed to be much better and the software was more advanced, which I certainly liked.

This past weekend I felt moved to scan an image from a negative as I had not tried this with the new scanner yet. When thinking of an image to scan I immediately thought of a photo I shot on Dec. 25, 1982 of the Agawam Diner in Rowley, Mass. It is without a doubt one of the better shots I have ever taken of that diner. I took the shot on Christmas because it is the only day during the year that the diner is closed and I could get a nice clean shot without cars being parked in front!

I wanted to scan this image as I did not have a print of it anymore. In fact I gave the one and only print I had to a producer from the short-lived Connie Chung Show (circa June, 1990). They were doing a show (or a segment of a show) on “Diners”. He had contacted me when he was researching the subject and utillized me as a sort of guide. Basically I brought him around to a whole slew of diners from Boston all the way to Northampton, Mass. and various places in between. They actually did some filming at the Agawam Diner (hence the reason he asked for a photo) where I was interviewed on camera. Unfortunately this show never aired.

So last Saturday, I checked my Diner Log database to find where I had the negative stored and got my hands on it in about a minute.  I brought out the adapter for 35mm negatives for the scanner and placed the negative in it. I checked the settings on this when the software turned on and found they were set up like I have it for slide scanning, so I went with it! Well I was pleasantly surprised to see the image come out exactly the way I remembered it! Check this out…..


Agawam Diner, Rowley, Mass. Dec. 25, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

Since I scanned that, I was in the mood for scanning some other photos from that period as a trip back in time. All these other scans came from prints and some were cropped while most of them were enhanced slightly. Here they are in no particular order….

Lido Diner – Route. 22, Spingfield, NJ


Lido Diner, photo Nov. 29, 1981 by Larry Cultrera


Lido Diner, photo Nov. 29, 1981 by Larry Cultrera

The Lido Diner was a large 1960 vintage Paramount Diner. Back in 1987, I had the opportunity to stay at the Colonial Motel down the street one weekend and took at least 2 meals at this diner. I recall they had their own bakery and served freshly baked bread. Man that was good! I did a Bing street map search recently and it seems there is a 7-11 Store on that site now.

Shirl’s Cozy Diner – Champlain Avenue, Ticonderoga, NY


Shirl’s Cozy Diner, circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera


Shirl’s Cozy Diner, circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

Shirl’s was built on site (not factory-built) and was fairly small. It did not make it into the 1990’s. The lot is now used for parking for the Sunoco Station next door.

Henry’s Diner – Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Mass.


Henry’s Diner, circa March, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera


Henry’s Diner, circa March, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

Henry’s Diner was another on-site built diner, in fact I believe it was almost triangular in shape to conform to the corner it sat on. According to my notes it was torn down by 1992. I also recall it had operated under the name of Steve’s Diner earlier. I believe I had breakfast with my dad here a couple of times in the late 60’s.

Colonial Kitchen – U.S. Route 11, Liverpool, PA


Colonial Kitchen, the former Lesher’s Diner.
Aug. 8, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera


Colonial Kitchen, the former Lesher’s Diner.
Aug. 8, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

The Colonial Kitchen, as it was called when I photographed it was formerly Lesher’s Diner, this info is from a postcard I have in my collection. It was a 1940 vintage Jerry O’Mahony diner which according to my notes was replaced entirely by another building by the mid-1980’s.

Ted’s Diner – Route 28, Londonderry, NH


Ted’s Diner circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera


Ted’s Diner circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

I don’t know much about this place but I do recall seeing this in the mid-to-late 1960’s. It was actually just off exit 5 of I-93 and was visible from the highway. I do not know if this is built on-site or a completely redone factory-built place. It was torn down by the mid-1980’s and replaced with another building that currently houses Poor Boy’s Restaurant and Deli. When getting this post together I realized this diner did not make it into the Diner Log database and had to search the negative file to complete my info for this.

Burlington Diner – Route 130, Burlington, NJ


Burlington Diner, May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera


Burlington Diner, May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

The Burlington Diner looks like one very long building when in actuality, it is 2 diners grafted end to end. The section on the left is the original diner which is a barrel roof DeRaffele diner from the early 30’s. The right hand section was a newer DeRaffele that they grafted on and then changed the facade to look more modern as well as unified. The pylon and flared roof section on the extreme right was added, probably in the 1960’s. I do not know if it is operating currently but the building is still there and a google street map search shows it as Amy’s Omlette House, Burlington Diner.

Sam’s Lunch – 82 Lafayette Street, Salem, Mass.


Sam’s Lunch, circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera


Sam’s Lunch, circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

Sam’s Lunch was built by Teirney Diners and was reported to still have wheels attached to it. I never got to go inside but managed to shoot these two photos as well as one slightly later shot before it was torn down. It disappeared by the mid-1980’s.

Notes from the Hotline, 4-10-2010

Site of Bel Aire Diner slated for development.

The Bel Aire Diner of Peabody, Mass. has been closed for 3 or 4 years. Rumors have flown since this 1952 vintage Mountain View Diner closed about a reopening but nothing was happening until recently. A couple of months ago an article from the Boston Globe mentioned that of all the developments proposed for U.S. Rte. 1 in the Peabody/Danvers area the resurrection of the parcel where the Bel Aire Diner and it’s companion Best Gas Station are was the most likely to proceed.

Within the last 2 weeks a sign appeared on the stanchions of the Gas Station sign, check this out….

On closer examination you can see the diner incorporated into this larger 2 story building that will house other businesses besides the diner.

The reported facts are the diner is to be moved back on the lot and placed on a new foundation and as the artist’s rendering shows, be incorporated into the larger building. The article also mentioned the whole place (gas station & diner) will be an expanded “truck stop”. I also heard from Bob Fennell of the Capitol Diner that when the Bel Aire Diner reopens, it will be operated by the same people who run Red’s Sandwich Shop in downtown Salem, Mass.

In the above photo you can see the excavator that has been parked to the side of the diner for most of the winter. I will continue to watch this as I drive by it every day on the way to and from work.

Agawam Diner “play” to run in Newburyport

I first heard about this a few weeks ago from Randy Garbin of Roadside Online…. the North Shore’s beloved Agawam Diner is now immortalized in an original play written by Josh Faigen. I hope to get a chance to see it before it closes. My pal Steve Repucci and his wife Mary Lou are attending the show tonight so I will hear how it was when I talk to him on Monday morning.

Here is the piece that was written by Correspondent Wendy Killeen for the Boston Globe last weekend…

Daily special: a play

Noted for its home-cooked food, Rowley diner now has a role in Newburyport playwright’s work

Two evenings a week for several years, Josh Faigen drove his son from Newburyport to Rowley to study with a tutor who lived near the Agawam Diner. During the session, he’d go in for coffee.

“This is the best place you can spend an hour when you don’t have anything else to do,’’ Faigen said recently at the diner. “He used to sit there and drink coffee and have pie and not say much,’’ said Angela Galanis Mitchell, an Agawam waitress for 21 years and part of the family that has owned it since 1940. She didn’t know much about Faigen, but, she said, “I knew he was observing.’’

Faigen is a playwright. And, yes, he was taking note of everything going on in the 54-seat diner, so that he could write about it. His play, “The Agawam,’’ debuts at The Actors Studio in Newburyport Thursday and runs through April 25. “This is an infinite resource for writers,’’ Faigen said. “Everybody here is really welcoming and they have never been surprised by anything, ever. Stuff happens in here. It’s the zeitgeist of this place.’’

He recalled an older man who was asked by another patron if he still played the tuba. “He brought it in from his car and played Christmas carols to rousing applause and then put it back in his car,’’ Faigen said.

Tuba Man is one of eight characters in the play, but the only one based on a real person. Others are composites or fictional. Set entirely in the diner, the play also features a waitress, cashier, cook, salesman, old man and his girlfriend, and the Man of God.

What it is about, Faigen is at a loss to say. “I couldn’t tell you what it’s about, and I wouldn’t even if I could,’’ he said. “I only wrote the play,’’ he continued. “It becomes a whole layer cake, of my work at the beginning, Stephen Haley’s work as the director, the actors’ work, and then the audience’s work. By the time it gets on stage, there are so many more layers of meaning, emotion, and story. I can’t know what it’s about because it isn’t finished until it’s actually performed.’’

In promotional material for the play, publicist Jay Tormey describes the plot: “People drink coffee. They eat pie. Someone dies. A miracle happens, maybe two. Then everyone’s life shifts a few degrees in a better direction. Or maybe not.’’

Faigen, 55, grew up in New Mexico. He majored in piano performance and philosophy at Colgate University in upstate New York. “So, you can see I was prepared for the world,’’ he said with a laugh. For almost 25 years he lived in Pittsburgh, where he met his wife, Penny Lazarus. He had a traditional typesetting business but as the industry waned, the couple decided to move, choosing Newburyport in 2000 because it’s near the ocean. 

In the 1990s he worked for a high-tech company on Route 128. He was laid off but now works as a consultant for the same company, which builds large composition equipment. With neighbors who are playwrights, the couple soon tapped into Newburyport’s fertile theater community. At a party, Faigen was introduced to Marc Clopton, founder and executive director of The Actors Studio, and mentioned he was interested in plays, although he had never written one. He said Clopton told him, “Anyone can write plays; you just have to have lived.’’

A few months later, Faigen started writing, and he also joined an author’s group. His first play, “Our Nation’s Capitol,’’ was inspired by a visit to a local assisted living facility. He has since written comedies, dramas, and experimental plays. And he has received recognition, from winning the New Works Festival at the Firehouse Center in Newburyport several times to having his work staged in theaters elsewhere. Lazarus said a turning point came about three years ago.

“There was a point when someone asked him what he did,’’ she said. “He’d answer, ‘I’m a playwright with a day job.’ That was a very crucial, significant turn. It said a lot to his family, to himself, and to anyone else.’’ “Theater is really, really fun,’’ Faigen said. “It was never my lifelong dream, but it is very habit-forming.’’

Now the entire family, including the couple’s sons Adlai, 16, and Max, 10, are involved in theater and the arts. Clopton said because Faigen is “not steeped in [theatrical] tradition he plays outside the box. His plays are unique and unexpected, and therefore exciting and refreshing.

“He has a great sense of humor and ironic eye for human nature and a great soulfulness,’’ Clopton said. “He sort of speaks to that part of us that is hard to define; a part of ourselves we hesitate to share in casual conversation that is deep, mystical, and puzzling.’’

Mitchell said having a play written about her family’s diner “is cool and an honor . . . I’m definitely going to see it.’’

“The Agawam,’’ by Josh Faigen, directed by Stephen Haley; April 8-25,  The Actors Studio, The Tannery, Newburyport. 978-465-1229, www.newburyportacting.org.

Last weekend’s revisit to Mendon

Last weekend the weather was so nice that I convinced Denise that we should take a ride out to Mendon (Mass.) and have lunch at the Miss Mendon Diner. The diner was doing a steady business and we had a pleasant lunch. Denise had a cup of Chicken Noodle soup and I had a Grilled Cheese on Wheat with french fries. Nothing too heavy but we both enjoyed what we ate!

We also talked briefly with General Manager Michael O’ Donovan and met his wife Jennifer as well. He showed us where the original porcelain panels that said “Newport” (the diner was originally the Miss Newport Diner) were now hung on an interior wall next door at one of Imperial Auto’s service buildings along with some of the antique signage that owner Kevin Meehan has collected.

When we left the Miss Mendon we drove down the street about a mile to the entrance to the Myriad Ballroom. I had been curious to see if things had changed since 1983 when I first saw the former stainless steel diner that had been added on to the ballroom years before. David Hebb had shown me some photos he took of this place before I ended up seeing it myself. I would guess that the diner is being used as kitchen facilities for the ballroom which is itself being utillized as a function hall.


The former diner at the Myriad Ballroom from January, 1983 


The former diner at the Myriad Ballroom from January, 1983 

From the above 2 photos you can see that there was some stainless steel (albeit painted white) still covering the right side and the adjacent front portion (for about the width of 2 windows). With the exception of the corner window, all the other windows had been closed in.

I took a couple of more shots last week showing that new siding was placed on the diner to incorporate it more seemlessly into the whole building…

The only real identifying feature is the rounded corner with it’s window still intact. My guess is this is a Jerry O’Mahony diner from the early 1950’s. I also heard that this may have been relocated from somewhere in Rhode Island.