Notes from the Hotline, Jan. 20, 2013

Well, it is the middle of winter and I am feeling sort of lazy. But I also feel neglectful to my regular readers as well so I am forcing myself to get my rear end in gear and do a quick blog post on things that are happening. Subjects I will talk about  include the planned resurrection of a diner that has not operated since the early 1970’s and been in storage for close to 27 years, news about 2 diners that are featured in my book “Classic Diners of Massachusetts”, an upcoming author event I instigated and a long-time local 5 & dime department store that is closing. Also a link to an interesting blog post about the closing of someone’s favorite diner, so, here we go…..

Former Monarch Diner gets a new lease on life

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Left to right…. the former Olympia Diner of Braintree, Mass and
the former Monarch Diner of Dover, NH
December 22, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

I heard from Retro Road gal Beth Lennon in November via Facebook. She asked if I was interested in getting together with her and her hubby Cliff Hillis on the weekend before Christmas. She had recently made the acquaintance of  Roger Elkus and Daryl McGann, (Roger is the owner of Me & Ollie’s a small chain of Bakery/Cafe’s in the southeastern part of New Hampshire
and Daryl is his Production Manager see… http://www.meandollies.com/). They informed her of their plans for a 1950 vintage stainless steel O’Mahony diner they had acquired.

Cliff and Beth were driving up from Pheonixville, PA to visit with family in Massachusetts and New Hampshire for the holidays. Part of the itinerary included a stop at Kane’s Donuts in my hometown of Saugus on the way to a family gathering in New Hampshire. The plan was for Denise and I to meet Beth and Cliff at Kane’s and then motor up to Salisbury to meet up with Roger and Daryl at the the storage yard where the old diner they were buying has been located for a number of years.

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Beth Lennon & yours truly outside Kane’s Donuts. Dec. 22, 2012 photo
by Cliff Hillis

So after a cup of coffee at Kane’s (where I introduced them to Peter Delios, whose family runs the donut shop) – as planned, it was off to Salisbury where we met Roger and Daryl. We were all surprised to find the gate to the storage yard closed, as it usually was opened. Luckily the chain that locked the 2 gates was loose enough that we could squeeze thru (a little tight for me but I made it). Roger brought a step ladder along to climb up into the diner.

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Daryl McGann and Roger Elkus inside the former Monarch Diner
December 22, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

During our visit to the diner in Salisbury, Roger showed us where the serial number for the diner was located. It was on the stainless steel molding for the front door frame directly under the bottom hinge.

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An extreme close-up of the Serial number for the old Monarch Diner
from Dover, NH.  According to Gary Thomas’  – “Diners of the North Shore” book, the other O’Mahony the DeCola’s bought for Waltham, Mass. was Serial number 2179-50. The number “50” denotes the year it was built.
December 22, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

P.S.  That other 1950 vintage O’Mahony incidentally is currently operating as the Tilt’n Diner in Tilton, NH…… LAC

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Beth Lennon and Cliff Hillis inside the former Monarch Diner
December 22, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

Now for a little back story on this diner…. it was originally one of a chain of diners owned and operated by the DeCola brothers of Waltham, Mass. (in some cases they leased the diners to other operators) Most of the diners they ran were called the Monarch Diner. The flagship was located in Waltham with other Monarch’s in Dover, NH and Milford, NH as well as Saugus, Mass. They had other diners they ran with names like the Littleton Diner of Littleton, Mass. as well as a diner called the Paradise Diner in Lowell, Mass. (not the current one, there were 2) and another diner in either Billerica or Chelmsford (I cannot recall which or even if it was a Monarch). The diner we were in Salisbury to look at was the former Dover, NH Monarch Diner which operated at 530 Central Ave. in that southeastern New Hampshire city.

According to Will Anderson’s “More Good Old Maine” book (1995 – Will Anderson Publishing), even though the diner was owned by the DeCola’s, it was more than likely leased by at least 3 different operators until December of 1968 when it was purchased by Edward & Phyllis Neal who moved the diner to North Berwick, Maine. The Neal’s intended to utilize the diner as a flower shop initially, but after the diner was installed at the new location, they ended up leasing the diner to Lois Griffin who ran it as Lois’ Diner. The diner reportedly closed in 1973 and sat vacant until 1986 before being moved to Phyllis Neal’s property in Sanford, Maine.

I actually knew of the diner back in March of 1989 when I visited a friend who lived in the Sanford area. He used to drive by the diner’s storage location twice a day. We got to his house and he said let’s take a ride, keeping the destination as a surprise. We came around a bend in the road and there was the diner sitting up on blocks!

Fast forward to the early 2000’s when Dave Pritchard of Salisbury convinced Phyllis Neal to sell the old diner. Dave had bought up 3 other old diners and stored them on his property in Salisbury. The other 3 were the Englewood Diner, Olympian Diner and Miss Newport Diner. Pritchard had no concrete plans for any of the diners until he eventually sold the Miss Newport (now reopened as the Miss Mendon Diner) and more recently the Englewood (which is reportedly in private hands).

Roger Elkus and Daryl McGann in the last year or so were discussing the possibility of obtaining an old diner to operate in conjunction (but separate) with the Me & Ollie’s Cafes. To make a long story short, they found their way to Salisbury and Dave Pritchard. They eventually convinced Pritchard to sell them the old Monarch and hopefully before this year is out, their plan is to relocate the diner and restore it and have it operating. I will post a more detailed story about this in the next few months.

Peabody, Massachusetts’ Little Depot Diner
under new ownership

One of the diners featured in my book “Classic Diners of Massachusetts” has recently changed hands. This was not unexpected news. Right around the same time my book was being printed (September, 2011), the Miles family – owners of the diner since 2008 abruptly closed the diner. But within a month they reopened it with only weekend hours basically keeping it a viable business while searching for a new owner to operate it. Well back in November I received an email from Peter Scanlon of North Easton, Mass. who informed me his son Ross and new daughter-in-law Alicia had taken over the reigns of the 1929 vintage Worcester Lunch Car.

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The Little Depot Diner in Peabody, Mass. Photo by Larry Cultrera

The Miles family stayed with them to show them the ropes for a short time. After Ross and Alicia’s wedding and honeymoon around Thanksgiving the newlyweds reopened the diner, again testing the water with only weekend hours. After the first of the year, the diner is now open 6 days a week, Tuesday thru Friday: 7:00 am – 1:30 pm, Saturday & Sunday: 7:00 am – 1:00 pm. Denise and I have been there twice since they reopened and found the food to be good quality and the service very friendly! The diner is located at 1 Railroad Avenue, just behind the Courthouse in downtown Peabody.

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Peter, Ross and Alicia Scanlon @ The Little Depot Diner, Peabody, Mass.
December 15, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

Al Mac’s Diner of Fall River, Mass. set to reopen

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Al Mac’s Diner, Fall River, Mass. Photo by Larry Cultrera

Back in late July I posted the news that Al Mac’s Diner of Fall River closed abruptly. (see… https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/news-flash-al-macs-diner-of-fall-river-mass-closes/). This was disturbing to me as this was again another featured diner in my book “Classic Diners of Massachusetts”.  Well it now looks like the diner will reopen under new ownership around February 1, 2013. I saw the news back on December 11, 2012 from The Herald News out of Fall River.
Here is the story was written by Brian Fraga……..

FALL RIVER —

Robert Dunse II remembers when he was a kid eating his first chocolate chip pancake at Al Mac’s Diner. “I sat down at the end of that counter top. My parents used to bring us here,” Dunse, 25, said Tuesday inside the historic diner at 135 President Ave., which will reopen next month. Dunse, his sister, Laura Reed, and their mother, Susan Dunse, all Fall River natives, recently leased the diner, which the previous owner, Norman Gauthier, closed in July, citing financial difficulties.

On Tuesday, construction workers were busy inside the diner, updating the interior and preparing the space for a series of additions that will include new vinyl booths, and possibly a jukebox. The building’s exterior, including the famous Al Mac’s sign, is also being refinished. There is even a new website — http://www.almacsdiner.net — in development. “I’m basically redoing the whole place. It’s getting a major, major facelift,” said Dunse, a 2008 graduate of Johnson & Wales University who previously worked for a catering company in Providence. Before that, Dunse said he worked as a personal chef for New England Patriots owner Robert Craft.

The family signed the lease for the diner in early November. Dunse said he moved home to Fall River in the summer when he saw the “For Lease” sign in Al Mac’s window. “I was moving all my stuff. I had a full carload full of furniture and everything,” Dunse said. “I saw the ‘For Lease’ sign. I called (his mother), asked, ‘What do you think?’ I got the information on it, made the phone call.” Susan Dunse, a former employee with the Fall River School Department, said the family had always talked about opening up a restaurant. She said Robert’s great grandfather and his brother owned the old Columbus Cafe in Fall River.

“Restaurants and food is kind of in the family,” she said. Robert Dunse said he expects to reopen Al Mac’s by early January. He said the menu will be updated with American, Italian, Polish and Southern comfort fare, among other family favorites. “We really want more of a classic diner feel, with the milk shakes, with the late night, with the crazy breakfast specials, the large portion sizes, the working-man lunch specials,” he said. “Everything is going to be fresh. We’re bringing good food to the city. My motto is four-star food at a one-star price.”

Dunse said his sous chef — the second in command — left his job in fine dining to come work at the new Al Mac’s. “Lot of talent here,” Dunse said. Al Mac’s has been part of Fall River’s landscape for more than a century. Its founder, Al McDermott, started the business in 1910 on a six-seat, horse-drawn wagon. The stainless steel diner on President Avenue was built in 1953. The diner was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.

“We’re from Fall River. It’s Fall River people, bringing stuff back to Fall River,” said Susan Dunse, who remarked Tuesday that the interior still looks much as it did during the 1950s. “We’re bringing back the booths. People are very excited about the booths,” she said. Robert Dunse said he believes customers will return and keep the diner financially viable this time around.

“If you have good food, people will come,” he said. “If you provide a great environment where people feel comfortable and at home, and you develop personal relationships, people are going to come no matter what.”

Lord’s Department Store of Medfield, Mass. set to close

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Lord’s Department Store, 446 Main St. (Rte. 109) in Medfield, Mass.
January 13, 2013 Photo by Larry Cultrera

Back on January 4th, I got a message from Beth Lennon who was concerned about a local landmark…. Lord’s Department Store, a long-time fixture in the small town of Medfield, Massachusetts. She had heard that the store is set to close its doors at the end of February and was concerned about the great neon sign that was mounted on the building.I was somewhat familiar with it most like from Beth’s posts about it on her Retro Roadmap blog, see…. (http://www.retroroadmap.com/). So after I was aware of this news I did a little research and this is what I found out……

Started as a small “5 and 10 cent” store in 1940, the place was opened by Raymond Lord, a former employee of Kresge’s 5 and 10 cent stores out of New York City. The story goes that Mr. Lord had used some faulty marketing research that was done by the Kresge organization on likely towns that might support a 5 an 10 cent store. It seems Medfield had a population of around 4500 which seemed perfect. So Mr Lord left Kresge’s to open his own store in the seemingly bustling community of Medfield. He opened his store in an existing storefront down the street from the current store and was surprised to see that there was hardly any business for the first week.

He ended up talking with an employee of the local U.S. Post Office and asked the man where are all the people that are supposed to be living here? He told him that he had heard the population was around 4500 and the man said yes, that was possibly true, except for one thing, about 3000 of  those people were locked up in the State Hospital! So much for marketing research circa 1940!

Well Mr. Lord stuck it out and pretty much from day one, he had the able help of William Kelly, a local lad who was an extremely hard worker. Mr. Kelly had the people skills and strong work ethic that appealed to Lord who eventually gave the young Kelly more and more responsibility. After Kelly returned from service during WWII, he was made the manager of the store.

In the early 1950’s Bill Kelly took over the day to day operations as a partner to Ray Lord. By the late 50’s the store moved to it’s current location and eventually Kelly bought the business. It has been run by Bill and more recently his son Tom and daughter Nancy Kelly-Lavin. Bill passed away this past May and Tom and Nancy by the end of the year decided that they would close the store and sell the property.

The store has become the heart and soul of the downtown area, everyone who lives in the vicinity has great memories of the store which had a little bit of everything. It was open 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It featured a lunch counter/soda fountain and recently was operated as Ruthie’s Diner.

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Ruthie’s Diner inside Lord’s Department Store
January 13, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

Denise and I took a ride down this past Sunday Jan. 13th and had a cup of coffee at the lunch counter. We also walked around the store and as we were leaving, we met Nancy Kelly-Lavin.  We had a nice conversation with her as she related some stories to us. We wished her well and went on our way. The latest word is that there is a possibility the classic neon sign may be kept on the building by the new owner, giving the towns people a little piece of mind that their downtown might still have a bit of their local landmark for generations to come.

Eulogy for the Harvest Diner, by Michael R. Fisher

My friend Rich Wilhelm of Phoenixville, PA (a neighbor and friend of Beth Lennon and Cliff Hillis) sent me a link to a blog post his nephew Michael Fisher wrote lamenting the closong of his local diner. I read the piece and asked Michael permission to  re-post it here……

After nineteen years in business, my diner is closing.

Like all residents of suburban South Jersey, I have (sadly, as of this coming Sunday, had) a go-to diner. And while many of my SoJerz brethren may have thought of the local diner as little more than a necessary stop on the way home from the bar on a woozy Saturday night, the Harvest has meant much more to me.

Whether playing its role as hangout, employer, home away from home or whathaveyou, the Harvest was always a welcoming, reliable beacon of 24-hour light thrusting upward from the middle of the disenchanted-and-we-like-it-that-way Jersey suburbs. See, I’m a city kid; the general artlessness of the ‘burbs, taken (not incorrectly) by its devoted residents as the signature of comfort and stability, has always turned me off in a Springsteenesque “it’s a death trap/it’s a suicide rap” kind of way, albeit less melodramatically. But the diner was always necessary. Its policy of being open all night encouraged coffee talk, which is still the highest form of human interaction, save perhaps tantric sex. Nobody in their twenties lives at home if things are going well for them, so the 24-hour diner became the haven of late-night plotting and dreaming and decompressing as we faced the future armed only with coffee and cigarettes and the nametags given us by our retail jobs. That is, until we lost those jobs and started working at the diner.

It sounds like that diner could have been any diner, and maybe it was after all just happenstance that made the Harvest our diner, but that doesn’t matter. It was ours, and it was special. It was owned by the Savvas, the nicest family of Cypriot-Americans you’d ever hope to meet; people who offered me work–twice–when the doors of the rest of the world slammed in my face; people who were never shy about helping their friends. I worked there off and on for three years, and while nobody’s saying that waiting tables is next to godliness, I can say that you’d be hard-pressed to find a better work environment, and that’s the rarest of compliments when it comes to Jersey diners.

(As a point of comparison, I once worked at another diner, which shall remain nameless. On my fourth day of employment, after being harassed from the first minute about keeping up with their post-Steinbrenner wardrobe and grooming requirements, I showed up for a shift with sideburns that reached about two-thirds of the way to my ear lobes. My manager instructed me to go home, trim the sideburns down to where they met my hairline, then come back to work and finish my shift. I went home, but I did not return, and I have not set foot in that diner since.)

With the closing of the Harvest Diner, the Chekhovian drama of our lives as confirmed (if reluctant) townies comes to a crashing climax. Our hangout spot is deserting us just as our precious youth is doing the same. It may seem overwrought, but the whole point of the Harvest, far beyond being a place to get breakfast at any hour, was to be the great, comforting constant in the lives of its beloved regulars. We all have stories in which the Harvest plays a key part; having been a fixture there for some ten years, I probably have more than most. Inside jokes were born there; strangers discovered mutual interests and became friends within its green-and-yellow booths. The Harvest was the trusty nightwatchman of our past, and as long as it stood, our past was safe and our youth preserved. Now that it is saying goodbye, we are shaken into an understanding of our mortality. If the Harvest and all of those wonderful times there can just vanish, so, then, can we.

As this is happening, I am twenty-six years old. I have a 9-to-5 job and student loan payments. I am looking at homes in other towns. I am preparing to leave my old neighborhood, and though wherever I go will not be far, the closing of the Harvest is a cold reminder that life is changing. Of course, not all moments of transition carry the kind of Last Picture Show gloom that I’ve been insinuating. I’m sure the changes in my life will spur growth, maturity, independence, responsibility–all those sacred middle-class values. One day I may even be able to behave like a proper adult. I will be fine, and my friends will be fine. But the Harvest, sadly, will not be there to go back to.

Good luck to my friends, the Savva family, and all those currently employed at Harvest. And thank you.

Here’s a link to the original blog post…. http://michaelroyfisher.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/euology-for-the-harvest-diner/

On a further note, I read in the last couple of days that the diner will close but eventually reopen in the spring with a new name and a new look by the owners of the Sage Diner of Mt. Laurel, NJ…. LAC

Author Event slated for Bestsellers Cafe in Medford, Mass.
January 27, 2013

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I arranged an Author Event with Rob Dilman owner of the newly reopened Bestsellers Cafe in Medford, Mass. (the city I grew up in). I have gotten together a small group of local authors to participate. With the exception of myself all the other authors have published books about Medford either thru Arcadia Publishing (Images of America books) and/or from my publisher, The History Press. The other authors include Anthony Mitchell Sammarco, author of “Medford” (Arcadia) as well as countless other titles from the Greater Boston area. Barbara Kerr who authored “Medford in the Victorian Era” for Arcadia and “Glimpses of Medford” for The History Press. Dee Morris authored “Medford, A Brief History” for The History Press (among other local titles) and Patricia Saunders who wrote “Medford – Then & Now” for Arcadia.

We will all be signing copies of our books as well as speaking about them. The event will take place at Bestsellers cafe, 24 High Street, Medford, Mass. on Jan. 27th, Sunday afternoon, 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Check out Bestsellers Cafe’s website for directions, etc…..
http://www.bestsellers-cafe.com/event

News Flash – Al Mac’s Diner of Fall River, Mass. Closes!

I just read a very disturbing news article out of Fall River, Mass. Al Mac’s Diner has closed its doors! The article which was written by reporter Will Richmond of The Herald News was posted on their website this afternoon has taken me, and I’m sure a host of other people by complete surprise.


Al Mac’s Diner in Fall River, Mass. May, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

As the slogan on their sign says….. Al Mac’s Diner was justly famous since 1910, even though the current building dates to the early 1950’s. Al McDermott had been in the business all his life operating lunch wagons and diners too numerous to keep track of. Co-owned since 1989 by Norm Gauthier, his daughter Dawn Xanyn and son-in-law Garet Xanyn this diner was known for its home-cooking.

This is the second diner I featured in my book “Classic Diners of Massachusetts” that has closed within the last week. Buddy’s Diner of Somerville was seized by the Mass. Dept. of Revenue for non-payment of taxes last week and now Al Mac’s has been affected by the slow economy. Here is the text from the newspaper article…..

Al Mac’s Diner closes

By Will Richmond – Herald News Staff Reporter
July 23, 2012

FALL RIVER —

 The clock on the facade outside Al Mac’s Diner is stuck at 10:39. Unfortunately for the owners, the century-old restaurant wasn’t frozen in better times. Owner Norm Gauthier confirmed Monday the diner that he has owned for 23 years and has been part of the Fall River landscape since 1910 is closed. No longer will pancakes be available at 6 p.m. or homestyle meals eaten away from home.

Gauthier said the restaurant was done in by the economy. “We’re out of money,” Gauthier said, standing outside the darkened diner. “I’ve put every dime I have into this business and it’s just not successful anymore. The diner era is over. People would rather have flat screens to look at then have a conversation with somebody.” Gauthier said he is hoping to find someone who would be interested in purchasing the diner and breathe some new life into the business. “This would be a great opportunity for somebody interested in a turnkey operation,” he said.
 
Gauthier said his first 20 years of ownership were successful, but called the last three a “disaster.”  In addition to rising fuel and food costs and fewer patrons, Gauthier said other expenses increased in recent years, such as licensing fees. He said costs to meet tightened requirements have also played a role in the diner’s demise. In an effort to offset some of those costs Gauthier, had recently cut back on the diner’s hours of operation. “I feel awful. There is nothing I would like more than to open this place up again,” Gauthier said. His customers would agree. With word of the closure still making the rounds, potential customers looking for lunch Monday said they were shocked by the news.
 
Leo Marien, of Dighton, said he had just returned from vacation and was hankering for something from the Al Mac’s menu. “Boy, I’ll tell you, this is a landmark,” Marien said. “When you think of Fall River you think of Al Mac’s. This is a surprise.” Marien, who got familiar with Al Mac’s during a 40-year career working in Fall River, said he didn’t have a favorite menu item. Instead he said he often went with one of the daily specials, which he considered to be as good as home cooking. He recalled one time marveling over a slice of cherry cheesecake baked by Gauthier’s wife. After offering to purchase the remaining cheesecake, he said she instead baked him a fresh one. “I would always say coming here was like going home and eating,” Marien said. “I’m going to miss this place. I hope it isn’t going to be closed for long. I wish them all the luck.”
 
Calling the omelets, the Greek one in particular, his favorite, John Mello had traveled from Somerset for lunch Monday. Instead of getting a meal, he learned about the diner’s fate. “I knew they weren’t doing well, but this is depressing,” Mello said. “To me they had the best breakfast. This sucks.”
Hearing rumors about the diner’s possible demise, Tom Khoury, of Fall River, drove by to check for himself. He wasn’t pleased to see the “Closed” sign hanging in the window, confirming the worst. “It’s iconic and part of our social culture,” Khoury said, recalling an image from a car calendar that displayed the diner lit up in its neon glory. “It’s a shame it’s being closed. I’ve lived in Fall River all my life and to see something like this emotionally affects me.”
 
Marien offered a similar thought before getting back into his car in search of lunch. “It’s a piece of Americana we’re losing,” Marien lamented.
 
I will echo what these loyal customers stated…. this really sucks! I hope Gauthier can indeed find a worthy successor who can step back in and get this classic back up and running.

Diners and such, Fall River, Mass. in the 1980’s

I have probably written this before (in the book for sure), that back in the 1980’s, the old mill towns in Massachusetts still had high concentrations of diners left over from earlier decades. The cities of Lowell, Attleboro and Lynn come to mind. As the last 30 years have gone by, the amount of diners in these towns have also dwindled. In this post I am going to talk about the South Coast city of Fall River.

To start off this little tour, I am going to take you for a ride down the main thoroughfare known as Pleasant Street. Back in the 1980’s, Fall River still had 5 diners, 3 of them were located on Pleasant Street.

Paramount Diner/Catering

The first diner, heading from west to east on this street was the Paramount Diner/Paramount Catering located approximately at 171 Pleasant St. This was a  barrel-roofed Worcester Lunch Car dating from sometime in the 1930’s. I was checking through some Worcester Lunch Car Company info and could not find a Worcester Diner of this style and size that was delivered brand-new from the factory to Fall River. I suspect it was brought here from elsewhere (possibly the former Romeo’s Diner of nearby New Bedford). As I understand it, this operated at this location as the State Diner circa 1940 and was renamed the Paramount Diner later.


Paramount Diner/Catering at 171 Pleasant St. in Fall River, Mass. This is from my first visit to document diners in Fall River. I do not know the exact date as it was taken just before I started the diner log in July of 1981. It looks like the owners were covering the exterior with T-111 wooden panelling. The diner was just being used for a catering operation at this time.


In this second shot from the same visit in July of 1981, you can see the diner was attached to a larger building in the rear which itself was attached to what looks to be an old gas station-type building.


Here we see the diner in April of 1984 looking to be in similar condition.
No more T-111 has been installed (or finished for that matter). The only big difference is the windows on the side of the addition which were covered in the earlier shots are now uncovered, at least on the outside.

In doing some research for this post I came across an obituary from the Fall River Herald News dated April 26, 2008 for Peter Ciosek. Mister Ciosek passed away on April 25, 2008 at the age of 93. The obituary mentioned that he was the owner of the Paramount Diner/Catering for 35 years. The diner itself was gone by the late 1980’s, reportedly destroyed in a fire. There is currently an “L” shaped modern professional building on this site.

Sambo’s Diner

The next diner heading east on Pleasant St. was Sambo’s Diner. Located at 657 Pleasant St. it was a pretty rare configuration built by Paramount Diners of Haledon, NJ. Ironically, I received a scan of an ad from Jeff Kunkle of Vintage Roadside a few years ago. The ad was featured in a rare edition of the trade publication “Diner & Drive-In” magazine dating from May of 1956. The ad depicted this very diner and stated the owner was Sam Schwartz (hence the name Sambo’s).


Advertisement from May, 1956 issue of Diner & Drive-In magazine


This photo and the following three photos were shot in August of 1983 showing this diner in great detail. I can only conjecture that the flat roof of the diner had problems over the years and the owner added this slanted roof over the structure.


As one can see, this was a fairly small diner for the time period.


It was very stylish with large plate glass windows.


Looking inside you can see this interior is a throwback to lunchwagon days.

Unfortunately, this diner was gone by the early 1990’s and was replaced by a Mister Donut (now Dunkin Donut) shop.

Mark You Restaurant

In all those early diner hunting trips driving down Pleasant St., I passed by a completely remarkable looking storefront Chinese restaurant called the Mark You Restaurant (1236 Pleasant St.) and kept saying…. I have got to stop and photograph this place. I finally did shoot some photos of it in November of 1984, and I am so glad I did!  This place was so cool with a facade of black and biege Vitrolite, glass block windows and a tall verticle sign.


The lettering on the facade is probably 1940-1950 vintage and is accented by some stainless-steel trim. It might be hard to read, but the sign on the canopy/base of the verticle sign says “Chow Mein”.


That fantastic verticle sign really makes this place visible driving in either direction on Pleasant St.


A close-up of the sign


Another fantastic detail… a stainless-steel frame within the glass block window with a porthole that features a neon clock!

I checked online to see if this restaurant was still around as the last time I drove this stretch of Pleasant St. in May of 2011, I did not see the place. It seems the restaurant closed in 2007 and remained closed for approximately 3 years before being reopened. Unfortunately, it looks like the black and beige facade has been painted over in blue and white. Also during the 3 years it was closed, the verticle sign was removed, explaining why I did not notice the restaurant last year. I informed Dick Gutman about my plans in writing this post last weekend and mentioned the Mark You and he immediately told me that old friend Dave Waller rescued the sign. Well at least I know it did not go to a junk yard!

Nite Owl Diner

The Nite Owl Diner located at 1680 Pleasant Street is the final stop on this street before we move on. This circa 1956 diner was built by DeRaffele Diners.  I am not sure but I am thinking that this diner was also owned by Fall River “diner king” Al McDermott as this new little stainless-steel job replaced a truck-mounted Worcester Lunch Car (No. 786) that dated from 1945 that he owned.


The original Nite Owl Diner in Fall River. This was Worcester Lunch Car No. 786, the photo was taken right before it was replaced by the current diner.
Photo courtesy of John Baeder


This is possibly my favorite photo that I ever took of the Nite Owl Diner.
It dates to November of 1984 by the look of things, it seems the city was replacing the sidewalks around the diner.


This diner was “finished” on all sides with stainless-steel and red enamel stripes. Like its neighbor down the street, Sambo’s, this was set-up more like a lunch wagon on the interior instead of the more familiar layout.


As you can see the neon sign that had been installed on the roof of the older diner ended up on this one where it still sits today.


I went crazy photographing the diner that day in 1984 as the light was pretty much perfect!


Here is a 1991 “oil on canvas” painting by John Baeder of the Nite Owl.
(used with permission) image courtesy of John Baeder.

As far as I know, the Nite Owl Diner has stood closed now for a number of years but is still very much intact.

Al Mac’s Diner Restaurant

Now that we have left Pleasant St. we will travel back to the other end of town to Al Mac’s Diner located at 135 President Avenue. This is a 1953 vinatge DeRaffele Diner and one of the last bought by Al McDermott. When I first photographed this diner in July of 1981, it was actually facing President Avenue. Unless the light of day was a flat cloudy light, the diner which was facing north was very hard to photograph.


This particular day was sunny, but I managed to squeek out a couple of decent shots.

Before the end of the 1980’s, the diner was rearranged on the property. Basically the building was turned 90 degrees, counter clockwise and a new kitchen was built on the back. This way the large piece of property could be redeveloped into the strip mall that currently exists here.


Here is the diner turned and re-installed at the same location. Because of this new configuration, the diner has become more photogenic as it faces west now. By the way, that sign in this second photograph was brand-new and replaced the one in the older photograph which had rotted and ultimately fallen down.


Here is another “oil on canvas” painting by John Baeder from 1991. This image proves just how photogenic this diner became when it was turned around.

You can see more of John’s paintings here at his website….
http://www.johnbaeder.com/Gallery1.htm

Al Mac’s is a great place to have a meal when you are in the area and currently one of only 2 diners mentioned here that are still operating.

Andy’s Rockland Diner

This diner located at 1019 South Main Street in Fall River was known as just the “Rockland Diner” when I first came across it on March 13, 1982. This diner was built by J.B. Judkins of Merrimac, Mass., the manufacturers of Sterling Diners. This is in fact a Sterling Dinette, a fairly small diner model. This was one of at least two that I knew to exist in Massachusetts. The other was the Old Colony Diner in Mansfield (now The Catman Cafe). In fact both of these dinette models were enlarged by removing the left side wall and placing it on the front elevation.


The Rockland Diner in Fall River, The wall with 3 windows at the extreme
left of the front wall were originally the side wall of the diner.


The diner was enlarged even more with the brick addition on the right.

As I understand it, the diner is now completely encased in brick and fairly unrecogizable as a diner now. After Al Mac’s, the Rockland Diner is the only other diner that is still operating in Fall River.

Diner roadtrip, Memorial Day, 2011

I decided I needed to get to southeastern Massachusetts over the long weekend for some new photos. These would be for my “Classic Diners of Massachusetts” book. I am attempting to use entirely all-new photos for all the diners I am “featuring” in the book, mainly so I can show these diners as they are today. The diners I was interested in photographing were Betsy’s Diner in Falmouth, the Shawmut Diner in New Bedford and Al Mac’s Diner in Fall River. I was also hoping to squeeze in Don’s Diner in Plainville if we had time.

So Denise and I headed out on Saturday morning and stopped for a quick bite and a cup of coffee at Marylou’s Coffee Shop in West Quincy, right off the Expressway. After Marylou’s, we pointed the vehicle toward State Route 28 and followed it all the way into Wareham. We passed Dave’s Diner, a Star Lite Diner in Middleboro and the “closed” Sisson’s Diner, a “converted trolley car” in South Middleboro as well as the Mill Pond Diner, a 1950’s O’Mahony in Wareham along this route. I am happy to report that Dave’s and the Mill Pond were doing a great business. After crossing over the Cape Cod Canal we also passed by the Patriot Diner in Pocasset which also seemed to be doing a great business.

The weather was funny this particular morning as it was warm and sunny away from the coast but we were going in and out of Fog as we were mostly by the ocean. That is why the diner photos (with the exception of Don’s Diner) are a little on the cloudy side. Oh well, what can you do!

We got down to Betsy’s Diner shortly after 9:00 am and the diner seemed to be hopping. Denise overheard someone say they had gotten the best crowd they have seen all spring that morning (it has been a really unseasonably cold one). We got something else to eat and I briefly talked with Karen Chandler, who along with her husband Dave, have been operating the diner since they bought it from Larry Holmes in 1994.


Betsy’s Diner, Falmouth, Mass. May 28, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Betsy’s Diner interior. May 28, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Betsy’s is a beautifully maintained 1950’s Mountain View Diner that originally operated in Kuhnsville, PA under names such as the Peter Pan Diner and Michael’s Family Restaurant before being relocated here in the early 1990’s. I obtained a take-out menu for some info for the book as well as the photos and we were on our way again, heading toward the Shawmut.

The Shawmut was fairly busy as it was between breakfast and lunch. I had given owner Phil Paleologos a call when we were traveling from Falmouth to New Bedford and he promised to meet us within a half hour. This was when I found out that my buddy Phil’s concept of 25 minutes was actually closer to an hour. So while we were waiting, I got some new photos of the outside and inside of this great 1954 O’Mahony diner.


Shawmut Diner, New Bedford, Mass. May 28, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Shawmut Diner interior, May 28, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

In fact, we were ready to leave when he finally showed up. We did have a nice few minutes talking with him. I got at least 3 bear-hugs from him (he never shakes hands as far as I can tell). Phil is the friendliest diner owner I know!

After saying goodbye to Phil, we continued west into Fall River for our next diner destination….. Al Mac’s Diner. We got there and it was still foggy but I got some decent photos. We met Garet Xanyn who co-owns the diner along with his father-in-law, Norman Gauthier. I asked for a take-out menu so I could refer to some of the diners offerings in the book. But unfortunately, they were out of them. Garet promised me that he would email me a copy.


Al Mac’s Diner, “Justly Famous Since 1910″, Fall River, Mass.
May 28, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Al Mac’s Diner interior, May 28, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

I started heading home when Denise asked me about the possibility of checking out Don’s Diner in Plainville. She wanted to know if there was enough time to get there and then back home around the time we needed to be in Saugus. I said we could probably fit it in, so we detoured down I-495 over to Wrentham, which is just north of Plainville. We got to Don’s right after they closed, but the door was still open, so we went in. I was hoping to meet Perry Perreault who is the current operator for the business that was started by his grandfather in 1936. Unfortunately, he had just left! I explained to the waitress who was still on duty that I needed a couple of interior photos for the book. She said she could not give me permission, so I asked her to call Perry, whom I had been in contact with a day or two before to get permission. She did call him and he told her it was OK. So I got my shots and went home.


Don’s Diner, Plainville, Mass. May 28, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Don’s Diner interior, May 28, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

After Don’s, we scooted home and went about our usual Saturday afternoon routine at home and I was able to get some more writing in for the book. The next day we had breakfast at the Four Sister’s Owl Diner on our way up to Hudson, NH for an errand. After that I got some more writing in and around noon time we went and dropped something off at the place I am employed in Danvers. We then jumped over to nearby Beverly for another errand which was conveniently located near the newly opened stand called The Scotty Dog, a place that features a true “Chicago Hot Dog”. This is located on the corner of Rantoul Street and Elliot Street (Rte. 1A & Rte. 62) where Ron Dogs had operated for a short time.

I met Steve Scott who runs the business with his son Matt along with a few other employees. I was excited to see that they were doing a decent business as they had their Grand Opening two days before. I was not hungry so I grabbed a couple of photos and promised to be back.


The Scotty Dog, Beverly, Mass. May 29, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


The Scotty Dog, Beverly, Mass. May 29, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Well, I did get back there on Tuesday after work. I got a Chicago Dog (a Vienna Beef Dog) with all the fixin’s, a kosher pickle spear, 2 slices of tomato, diced onions, 2 sport peppers and neon relish with a dash of celery salt (I did not get the yellow mustard, I don’t like mustard) on a steamed poppy seed bun and an order of French Fries. The photo below is the very first time I have ever photographed a meal I was about to eat! I felt really weird doing that, let me tell you. But I figured, I see “Food Bloggers” doing it all the time so here you go.


An order of French Fries with a Chicago Hot Dog at The Scotty Dog
May 31, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

I wish the crew at The Scotty Dog good luck and hope to get up there for semi-regular meals.

I also heard from Bob Higgins over the weekend and he sent reports and photos of the former Diner 317 in Plaistow, NH. They had only been open a short time, from the opening in November, 2010 to the closing in March of this year. Now it looks like this beleagured diner is reopening as Betty’s Diner fairly soon. Bob said the stools had been removed (hope they put real ones back in, not movable ones) and they painted the exterior a bright pink (which actually does not look bad). I guess we will have to check this out in the near future and see what happens.


Betty’s Diner, Plaistow, NH. Photo courtesy of Bob Higgins


Betty’s Diner sign, Plaistow, NH. Photo courtesy of Bob Higgins
as you can see the project for the new sewer pipes being installed along Rte. 125 seems to be moving along.


Betty’s Diner, Plaistow, NH. Photo courtesy of Bob Higgins

Thanks to Bob Higgins for sending along these photos.