Part 1, New York state road-trip, May, 1985

I was going thru some 35mm slides recently, and decided to “re-live” a solo road-trip I took from May 20th to 22nd, 1985. This trip was to take in some areas of upstate New York that I had not explored since I started documenting diners in 1980. I am going to break this into a two-part post as I am scanning 98 percent of the slides I shot on that trip.

As I recall, I started out the trip by driving state Route 2 from the Boston area out to Albany, NY. My ultimate destination was to explore out as far as Syracuse before heading back by way of my old stomping grounds of Lake George. After following Rte. 2 into NY state, I crossed the Hudson River from Troy to Watervliet. Just over the river I had always noticed an old barrel-roofed diner being used for an Off-Track Betting parlor (OTB). For those who don’t know, Off-Track Betting was a legal form of betting on horse races that was popular in NY state from 1970 to 2010. So this particular day, I finally decided to stop and take a few shots of this place, although checking out these images I can see that it was probably not the right time of the day to try and document this place. I am figuring also that the slide film I was using then was not as conducive to the varied lighting conditions I encountered during this trip. (I’m thinking I was using Ectachrome instead of Kodachrome or vice versa).

I believe this might be the remnants of a Bixler diner or even a Rochester Grill diner and was never really sure if there were 2 diners grafted together or an addition to the original building that mimicked the roof-line. Anyway, I checked Google street view when I started writing this post and it looks like the place is still there and of course it now has light gray colored siding applied to the exterior which would make it much easier to photograph then when I did in 1985.

After I left the OTB place I drove down Rte. 32 south toward Albany following the river. From what I could tell, I stopped at Jack’s Diner in Albany and grabbed something to eat. I say this because even though I had a slide,  it was not logged in for this particular trip and for a good reason, this was not my first visit to this diner as it was already in my log book (October,2, 1982). I know I documented it on that previous trip but I actually went in and ate there for the first time on this one.

Again because of the time of day (the light was not great), I only took one shot of Jack’s this time around as I knew I had decent shots from the last time there and did not have to go wild. So after lunch. I left Albany and started traveling west on Rte. 7 and eventually came upon Gibby’s Diner, a tiny 1950’s Mountain View Diner in the small hamlet of Quaker Street, NY. I recall getting out of my Chevy Van with my camera to start taking photos when a family was coming out of the diner after eating there. The husband looked at me and asked…. are you one of those guys that goes around taking pictures of old diners??? I replied, I take pictures of all diners!!!! Just one of those encounters you always remember.

Gibby’s has the smallest entryway vestibule I have ever seen.  I continued west on Rte. 7 until I hit the Unadilla area (You-na-dilla). As I recall, I found a campground nearby to the town and stayed the night. This allowed me to have dinner that evening as well as breakfast the next morning at the Unadilla Diner. This diner was built by the Master Diner Company and was pretty much original inside and out….. with the big exception of the added peaked roof that covered the diner and overhung the front giving the impression of a “front-porch”. This made it very difficult to photograph, especially with that wrought iron railing, so I managed to shoot as many angles as I could to document it.

After breakfast at the Unadilla on May 21, 1985, I believe I continued west on Rte. 7 until I got to Bainbridge, NY where I got onto Rte. 206 and followed it all the way to U.S. Rte. 11. I then proceeded north on Rte. 11 up to Cortland. This brings me to the reason why I decided to post this group of slides from this particular road trip. What actually spurred me on was that Mike Engle recently posted a scan of a news-clipping that showed a diner in the town of Cortland, NY on Facebook. He identified it as quite possibly the only photo of a “General” diner he had found to date.

I recognized it immediately as Frank & Mary’s Diner, one of the diners I came across on that May 1985 trip. General Diner Company (presumably from New York state) was not prolific in their output of small barrel-roofed diners, according to Mike Engle they may have built around a dozen diners.  In fact this is possibly the only known example extant. I myself assumed it was an on-site built diner as I had never seen another like it in my travels.

I more than likely had a sandwich or something at this diner before I continued on. Shortly after Frank & Mary’s I located 2 other diners in Cortland. The next one I came across was a Ward & Dickenson built diner called Spiro’s Diner. It looked pretty neat although it had an addition as well as what looked like some sort of siding on the facade under the windows.

My log entry for Spiro’s tells me I did go inside but as I just had eaten at Frank & Mary’s I probably just got a soft drink to go. Heading out of town toward Syracuse on Rte. 11 I came across the third Cortland diner…. a large Sterling Diner operating as Gary’s Riverside Diner. I did not go in but did get a couple of photos of it…….

I finally made it up to Syracuse and immediately found a campground for the coming evening. Now I knew there were diners in the area but had no real idea where they were. Remember, this was before the internet and such, so I did the only thing I could do…. I asked the owners of the campground to borrow their Yellow Pages Phone Book! I went in and started writing down all the diners I found listed and went out to try to locate them, ah the dark ages of diner hunting! The first diner in Syracuse I photographed was “Cameron’s of Syracuse”, a multi-sectioned Bixler located on Wolf Street, a major north-south artery thru town.

After scanning that 3rd slide of Cameron’s, I had to get rid of a “lens flare” in the photo. It took me a couple of tries but I found the secret. I need to perfect the procedure but think it came out good considering. The last diner in this first part was right down the street…. the J.R. Diner. I thought this too was a Bixler diner but it turns out to be an even more rare Rochester Grill diner. The products of these 2 companies were very similar.

I am not sure why there was a sign on this side of the building that said “Allen’s”, maybe a previous name that did not get painted over? I just never found out. Anyway, this is the end of “Part 1” of this post, Part 2 will come along in the next month after I locate and scan the next batch of slides.

April Vacation, 2011 – Part 2

I left off the last post (April Vacation, 2011 – Part 1) checking out Dewey’s Diner and Inga’s Diner on Fuller Road in Albany, NY. Next up was the Farmer Boy Diner on Central Avenue (Rte. 5) in Colonie. This was not a new diner for me but a new version of one I photographed back in October of 1982. The original one I photographed was a 1972 vintage Paramount Diner (I originally guessed this was a Swingle but the owner told us Paramount) and was replaced by the current one in 1992.

1972 vintage Farmer Boy Diner. October 2, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

1992 vintage Farmer Boy Diner. April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

1992 vintage Farmer Boy Diner. April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

After leaving the Farmer Boy Diner, we shot over to U.S. Route 20 to get over to Duanesburg and see Joe Merli’s little set-up of old wagons, trucks, trains and buildings.  Chief among the items Joe has is another old diner I photographed, circa 1981…. the old 9 & 20 Diner from Schodack, NY, south of Albany. He moved it here in 2009 and it is now on a cement pad with a tarp over it.

The former 9 & 20 Diner on U.S. Route 20 in Duanesburg, NY.
April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

The former 9 & 20 Diner with an old Divco milk truck sitting next to it on
U.S. Route 20 in Duanesburg, NY. April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Here is something even older near the old diner and milk truck, an old milk wagon!  On U.S. Route 20 in Duanesburg, NY.
April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

We headed back east about a mile on Route 20 toward Albany and stopped for dinner in Princetown at the Chuck Wagon Diner. The Chuck Wagon is another transplanted diner that was brought here in 2007 by Tom and Sally Ketchum. The Chuck Wagon Diner (a Mountain View Diner) operated from 1956 to 1976 in Champaign, Illinois. It closed in 1976 and was auctioned off. The diner ended up in nearby Urbana, IL and operated as the Elite Diner in the 1980’s. It eventually closed and was moved, ending up in storage in Detroit, Michigan by 2002 where the Ketchums found it 5 years later. They spent some time restoring the diner and placing it on a foundation with an attached kitchen, diningroom, restrooms and full basement. Ironically there was a fantastic neon sign that had been on the diner back in the Champaign, IL days, and the crowning achievement was in being contacted by the person who bought that sign at the auction back in 1976. They offered to sell it to the Ketchums, who needless to say, were happy to get the sign and had it refurbished!  The diner reopened in April, 2010 and the original owner was there.

Glenn Wells outside the Chuck Wagon Diner on U.S. Route 20 in
Princetown, NY. April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Chuck Wagon Diner on U.S. Route 20 in Princetown, NY
(with the neon sign turned on) April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Chuck Wagon Diner on U.S. Route 20 in Princetown, NY
April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

It was cloudy and drizzly the next morning when I got an early breakfast at the Gateway Diner on Central Avenue in Albany. Denise and I had eaten here back in 2002, but I never photographed it. So this particular morning was not condusive to photos either so I came back in the early afternoon and shot 2 really nice photos.

Gateway Diner, Albany, NY. April 17, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Gateway Diner, Albany, NY. April 17, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

So, to get back to why I came out to Albany……  I have been a huge fan of Tommy James since his heyday in the mid-to-late 1960’s. I have caught at least 5, if not 6 of his concerts since 1979. He still puts on a fantastic show! In fact I would be willing to say that his voice is as good now, if not better than it was over 40 years ago. I brought my copy of his book along with an LP of his from 1977. This LP, Midnight Rider was actually autographed by Tommy back in 1979, but due to the fact that he signed it with a ball point pen, it has kind of faded over the intervening years.

I also brought a real collectors item from my collection, a “Picture Book” by “It’s a Visual Thing” that was put out about 1969. It was almost the size of a 33 1/3 record album cover but it had no vinyl. It was made up of a number of pages filled with photos from a publicity shoot for the band. There were a number of these put out for other bands as well, I believe Iron Butterfly may have been another band that had one made.

So, I went down the street from where I had been staying at the Travelodge to the Albany Marriott. This was where the Rock n’ Roll Expo was being held. I got there plenty early and was one of the first waiting for Tommy to show up. I met and spoke with his manager, Carol Ross-Durborow who was very pleasant. I also met Martin Fitzpatrick who was Tommy’s co-writer for the book. Tommy was detained by a TV interview but finally came in to the hall and said hi to me. He autographed the things I brought and spoke with me for a couple or 4 minutes. Then I handed my camera over to someone I had just met and they were able to snap a decent shot of Tommy and I!

Tommy James and Larry Cultrera. April 17, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

I went back to the motel hoping to take a nap, but I turned on the laptop computer and went on Facebook after checking email. I saw that Mike Engle was on and chatted with him, asking him if he wanted to do lunch. We ended up meeting at the Latham 76 Diner in Latham. I had driven by this place many times over the years (including once the day before) and felt it was time to finally make its acquaintance. I got there a few minutes before Mike and got quite a few photos, here are a couple….

Latham 76 Diner, Latham, NY. April 17, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Latham 76 Diner, Latham, NY. April 17, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

After lunch, Mike and I went our seperate ways. I went back to Albany and snapped those photos of the Gateway Diner, then went back to the motel. Right after I arrived, Glenn Wells called. He was done with his personal obligations for the day and wanted to take me on a little excursion down to the Taconic Parkway area. The first place we visited was the wonderfully restored 1925 vintage Jerry O’Mahony diner called Dan’s Diner. Yet again this was another diner I was familiar with at a previous location. Formerly operated as Moe’s Diner in Durham, CT, it was bought by Dan Rundell in 1993 and moved to his property on Route 203 in Spencertown, NY. Dan spent over 10 years restoring this. The diner reopened almost 2 years ago.

Dan’s Diner, Spencertown,NY. April 17, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Dan’s Diner, Spencertown,NY. April 17, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Dan’s Diner, Spencertown,NY. April 17, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Dan’s Diner, Spencertown,NY. April 17, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Glenn and I went over to Ancram, NY and had a little something to eat at the West Taghkanic Diner, a beautifully preserved Mountain View Diner. Unfortunately, this is the second time I have visited this place in the middle of the afternoon and the light for photographs is not really perfect at that time of the day. But I made the most of it.

West Taghkanic Diner, Ancram, NY. April 17, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

West Taghkanic Diner, Ancram, NY. April 17, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

The final destination for our little Taconic Parkway trip was the newly transplanted Elizaville Diner. Here is yet another diner I have photographed at a previous location… as the former Eat Well Diner of Lebanon, PA. I had never had a meal or been inside this diner at the old location, so this was a treat. The new owners did a wonderful job of bringing the diner back to life. They removed the mansard roof that had been installed (back in the 1970’s, I presume) and there was minimal damage to the structure.

Elizaville Diner, Elizaville, NY. April 17, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Elizaville Diner, Elizaville, NY. April 17, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

That’s it for the New York part of the vacation, the next post will be about the diners I stopped at on the way back through Massachusetts (April Vacation, 2011 – Part 3) coming soon!

April Vacation, 2011 – Part 1

This is the first time in about 3 years that I was able to take a week’s vacation in the early spring. I generally like to take a week in April and another week at the beginning of August when I can. So last Saturday I took a roadtrip out to Albany, NY by way of Route 2. This road has been a favorite of mine since I was young. You see my Dad used to love to take the family on “short rides”. Some were longer than others, but one in particular stands out. He got the family (with the exception of my older brother) into the car one day and said we were going on a short ride and we ended up in the Berkshire Hills on the Mohawk Trail (Rte. 2). To those unfamiliar with this area, we lived near Boston in eastern Massachusetts and the Mohawk Trail is in the extreme northwest corner of the state! Now that’s my kind of a short ride!

So continuing with this years April vacation, I was heading out to Albany to attend a Rock n’ Roll Expo. This Expo was basically your everyday vinyl record and rock n’ roll memorabilia collectors show. There were also performers at the show including Starz, a 1980’s band and also a John Lennon tribute band called “Imagining Lennon”. But the draw for me was that Tommy James (of Tommy James and the Shondells fame) was going to be there signing copies of his autobiography “Me, the Mob and the Music”, as well as a “meet and greet” with fans.

Denise decided not to accompany me on this trip, so I was on my own. Even though I missed her company, this was probably just as well as I needed to revisit some diners in the central and western areas of Massachusetts (on my way out and also coming back) for info and new photos for my “Classic Diners of Massachusetts” book and she would not have enjoyed all the stops at the diners. This trip out to Albany would provide a good opportunity to get some of that out of the way! So on the way out I stopped at the Blue Moon Diner in Gardner for breakfast. Owner, Jamie Floyd knew I was coming because I gave her a heads-up a day or so before on Facebook.

I got some great info and photos as well as a delicious breakfast while visiting Jamie. This is a diner I highly recommend if you are in the area!

Jamie Floyd, owner of the Blue Moon Diner in Gardner, Mass.
April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Interior of the Blue Moon Diner, April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Exterior of the Blue Moon Diner, April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

After leaving the Blue Moon, I continued heading west and got to Adams, Mass. about 9:00 am. I was expected at the Miss Adams Diner by owner Philomene Belair. We had been in contact for quite some time in the recent weeks. She had already sent me all the info I pretty much needed for the book and I wanted some new photos. Philomene and her husband Ric reopened the diner a little over a year ago on February 15, 2010. I am happy to report that it looks like this beleaguered diner is in good hands, and that hopefully down the line that they will have the money to bring the interior back to a semblance of what it used to be.

Interior of the Miss Adams Diner. Hopefully the Belairs will be able to restore the ceiling, getting rid of those LP vinyl records that were glued to the original formica panels by a previous owner!
April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

The crew at the Miss Adams Diner, Left-Right  Ric & Philomene Belair, Richard “Pip” Belair (Ric’s Dad) and Kelly Cross. 
April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Miss Adams Diner, April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

I spent a little over an hour visiting with Philomene and then continued on to Albany. I was driving into Troy, NY and called Glenn Wells to let him know I was in the area. When I told him where I was, he said you are about to go right past the “Famous Lunch”! Sure enough, he was right. I said I would call him after I visited Bill Brown over at the Miss Albany Diner and got off the phone. I went around the block and found a parking lot right next to the Famous Lunch and went in to try out a couple of their neat little hot dogs with “Zippy Sauce”, I had heard so much about.

Famous Lunch, 111 Congress St., Troy, NY
April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

The small hot dogs at Famous Lunch, photo from Famous Lunch website

Those 2 hot dogs I had were really scrumptious! If you are ever in Troy, you have to check this place out! The interior walls and ceiling are covered in green porcelain enameled steel panels! Their website is….

I left Troy and drove a few miles down river to the Miss Albany Diner and visited briefly with Bill Brown. The place was hopping for an early Saturday afternoon!

Miss Albany Diner, April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

I met up with Glenn Wells at the Halfmoon Diner which is about a mile from where he lives. It is a very nice 1989 vintage DeRaffele-built diner that is currently undergoing a slight remodelling (by DeRaffele). The owner, Peter was very welcoming to me when Glenn introduced us. He had very warm feelings of dealing with Phil DeRaffele over the years and could not say enough good things about him and his company!

Halfmoon Diner, Clifton Park, NY. April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Halfmoon Diner, Clifton Park, NY. April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

We dropped my car off at Glenns house where I met his lovely wife Susan finally. We talked briefly and then Glenn and I left to shanghai Mike Engle from whatever he might have been doing! The first place Glenn took me was the Snow Man Ice Cream stand at 531 5th Avenue in Troy. I had seen photos of this place and wanted to get some for myself…..

Snow Man Ice Cream, Troy, NY. April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Snow Man Ice Cream, Troy, NY. April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Snow Man Ice Cream, Troy, NY. April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

After shooting the Snow Man photos, Glenn drove over to the Country View Diner in Brunswick, NY. This is a 1980’s Swingle Diner that was updated more recently by DeRaffele.

Country View Diner of Brunswick, NY
April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Country View Diner of Brunswick, NY
April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

We also went by Dewey’s Diner and Inga’s Diner which happen to live right next door to each other on Fuller Road in Albany. Dewey’s is a 1940 vintage Kullman Diner that has seen better days (certainly on the outside) and Inga’s is an on-site built diner.

Dewey’s Diner, Albany, NY. April 16, photo by Larry Cultrera

Dewey’s Diner, Albany, NY. April 16, photo by Larry Cultrera

Inga’s Diner, Albany, NY. April 16, photo by Larry Cultrera

Inga’s Diner, Albany, NY. April 16, photo by Larry Cultrera

We visited 3 more diners last Saturday and I will continue this in the next post, stay tuned…..

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 Read his blog at


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.