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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sandy-Hook-Diner-2
The Sandy Hook Diner, Newtown, Connecticut.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, September 27, 2019

Blue-Colony-Diner-5
The Blue Colony Diner, Newtown, Connecticut.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, September 27, 2019

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

Tibbett-Diner-2
The Tibbett Diner, 3033 Tibbett Avenue, Bronx, New York.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, September 27, 2019

Donald-Kaplan-&-LAC-@-Tibbett-Diner-1a-
Donald Kaplan & Larry Cultrera outside the Tibbett Diner.
Photo by Denise Cultrera, September 27, 2019

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

White-Manna-Diner-1
The White Manna Diner, 358 River Street, Hackensack, New Jersey.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, September 27, 2019

Michael-Gabriele_LAC_Arnie-Corrado-@-White-Manna-1a
Michael Gabriele, Larry Cultrera & Arnie Corrado at the White
Manna Diner. Photo by Denise Cultrera, September 27, 2019

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

Candlewyck-Diner-3
The Candlewyck Diner 179 Paterson Street,
East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Photograph by Larry Cultrera, September 27, 2019.

Stories-from-New-Jersey-Diners-cover
Michael Gabriele’s new book published by The History Press.

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

book-launch-2
Gloria Nash, Arnie Corrado and Denise Cultrera attending
book launch event at the Nutley Museum. Photo by
Larry Cultrera, September 27, 2019.

book-launch-1
Michael Gabriele speaking at the Nutley Museum.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, Spetember 27, 2019.

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

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

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

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

Bendix-Diner-5
Bendix Diner, Route 17 in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey.
Early afternoon photo by Larry Cultrera, September 28, 2019

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

Colonial-Diner-4
The Colonial Diner, 27 Orient Way in Lyndhurst, New Jersey.
This is a 1950 vintage Mountain View Diner modified with that
new roof topper and sign, while maintaining the original design.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, September 28, 2019.

Red-Hawk-Diner-3
The Red Hawk Diner located on the campus of
Montclair State University, Montclair, New Jersey.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, September 28, 2019.

Park-West-Diner-5
The Park West Diner on Route 46. A nicely renovated Kullman
diner, originally known as the Golden Star Diner in the
Woodland Park/Little Falls area.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, September 28, 2019.

Little-Falls-Diner-3
The Little Falls Diner, 11 Paterson Avenue, Little falls, New Jersey.
This place has been closed for many years.

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

Blue-Dolphin-Diner-2
The Blue Dolphin Diner, 175 Katonah Avenue, Katonah, New York.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, from September 28, 2019.

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

Bob's-Diner-2
Bob’s Diner, 27 Main Street in Brewster, New York.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, September 28, 2019.

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

Mill-Plain-Diner-2
The Mill Plain Diner, 14 Mill Plain Road in Danbury, Connecticut.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, Spetmeber 28, 2019.

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

AAA-Diner-3
The AAA Diner, 1209 Main Street in East Hartford, Connecticut.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, September 25, 2019.

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

11th Anniversary for Diner Hotline blog

Well, another year has rolled around. October 31st marks the 11th year this blog has been up and running. Granted, I have not posted much for most of this year as I have been feverishly scanning the photo archives, 35mm slides and prints (this scanning process started in earnest in the last year and a half).  I started shooting 35mm photos in the summer of 1980 and documented the first diner on November 29, 1980. The slides are all scanned (diner & non-diner shots) effectively covering a span of 35 years, (I switched from 35mm print film to slide film circa March of 1983).

Most Diner Hotline readers know, but for those who do not, my obsession with diners started  when I was very young. I had been very observant as a child, whenever we were going on errands around town or just little road trips in and around the Bay State, I always noticed places along the roadside. Diners seem to always catch my eye and in the late 1950s into the early 1960s, there were still plenty of them here in New England. The seed of knowledge was planted when I was approximately 5 or 6 years old when I asked my dad about this building we used to pass on Mystic Avenue in South Medford near the Somerville town line.

It was a blue colored building with a rounded roof that featured “Old English” lettering on it that said Star (left side of the center entrance) and Lite (to the right of the entrance). My question to my dad was, is that a railroad car? He answered no, it is a restaurant called a diner. He went on to explain that diners were built in factories and were designed to resemble railroad cars. The Star Lite Diner was a 1948 vintage Worcester Lunch Car and a huge amount of the diners in our area looked similar to the Star Lite as Worcester Lunch Car Company was the local diner builder.

Star-5
There is only one photo that exists of the Star Lite Diner
the above is my colorized version. Note: the trim along the
roof and overhang should actually be yellow…

So basically my obsession was intact very early and I have memories of eating at quite a few diners when I was a kid including the Star Lite, Bobbie’s Diner and Carroll’s Colonial Diner, all in my hometown of Medford as well as others in the area. In fact I hung out at Carroll’s for a few years after graduating from high school in 1979. The diner was a large “L” shaped structure with huge windows and an additional dining room addition that was open 24-7 through the 1970s.

After purchasing my first “new” vehicle (as opposed to a used vehicle), a 1979 Chevy van, I was able to increase the area of my own little road trips without the worry of a vehicle breakdown. I started going on Sunday morning road trips with my good friend Steve Repucci which always started at a diner, originally Genia’s Diner in North Woburn, Mass. We eventually decided to start visiting other diners that we either knew about or just drove in search of a diner thus determining the direction to drive in.

The late 1970s saw the publication of two watershed books on Diners. The first was the 1978 Diners by artist John Baeder. This featured paintings and sketches  in color and black & white along with some wonderful text in John Baeder’s distinctive style of story telling.

Diners-by-Baeder

The second book was American Diner by Richard Gutman and Elliot Kaufman (in collaboration with David Slovic) published in 1979. This became the first book ever to delve into the history of diners.

American-Diner

In 1980, another book was published called Diners of The Northeast by Donald Kaplan and Alan Bellink. This was a guide to a selection of diners in New Jersey, New York and New England. This was actually the first book that I bought and it became the catalyst that sparked my interest in diners to a fever pitch.

Diners-of-Northeast

The diner obsession lead to my photographing over 860 diners in almost 38 years. I became a member of the Society for Commercial Archeology (SCA) in 1981 which eventually lead to me contributing to the SCA publications in the form of the first ever regular column called Diner Hotline (1989-2007). I retired the SCA Diner Hotline column in 2007 and began the Diner Hotline weblog as stated on October 31, 2007. The blog also lead to the publishing of my own two books, Classic Diners of Massachusetts (2011) and New Hampshire Diners, Classic Granite State Eateries (2014).

I hope to be increasing the amount of blog posts soon as the digital archive of my photos and slides are now closer to completion.

Fred Casey, owner of Natick, Massachusetts diner passes away

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Casey’s Diner, Natick, Massachusetts September 5, 2009 photo by Larry Cultrera

I got a message yesterday (Saturday the 7th of February) from Facebook friend Timothy Wood with a link to an obituary for Fred Casey, the long-time owner of Casey’s Diner in Natick, Massachusetts. Fred was only 63 years of age (a year older than me). I had not heard if he had been sick, in fact I have not seen Fred for quite a while as every time I have been to the diner in recent years, his son Patrick was running things. Fred was the third generation of the Casey family operating the current 1922 vintage Worcester Lunch Car. His grandfather (also Fred Casey) opened it in 1927, buying it as a used diner from from where it had operated in nearby Framingham. Fred’s late father Joe had been running the diner since 1952 and Fred took over the reigns in the 1980s. Here is the article from Wicked Local online about Fred’s passing…

Natick: Customers remember Casey’s Diner owner

By Brian Benson/Daily News Staff
Posted Feb. 6, 2015 at 3:42 PM

NATICK – Amid the hustle and bustle of lunchtime at Casey’s Diner, customers remembered Friday owner Fred Casey for his friendly demeanor and the family-style atmosphere he maintained in the historic eatery. “It’s a sad day,” said Rick MacDonald of Framingham as he munched on a burger.  “You don’t talk about Natick and not mention Casey’s Diner.” Casey, 63, of Natick, died Thursday at Oak Knoll Healthcare Center of Framingham. He started working at Casey’s Diner when he was 10 years old and carried on a family tradition that dates to the 1890s. Vin Kerrigan, 66, of Natick, said he has been coming to the diner since he was in high school. “You always feel welcome,” he said of the atmosphere Casey fostered.

Elaine Griffin, who lives in Medway and estimated she has been coming to Casey’s Diner for four decades said Casey “was a great jovial man.” While the diner was bustling Friday, it will be closed Monday when Casey’s funeral is scheduled to take place. A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Patrick Church, 44 E. Central St., Natick. Visiting hours will be from from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday at John Everett & Sons Funeral Home, 4 Park St. – See more at: http://natick.wickedlocal.com/article/20150206/NEWS/150207503#sthash.50MNtt3t.AabuA2a6.dpuf

I recall my first visit to Casey’s Diner back in early 1981. I had just had breakfast at the Apple Tree Diner in Dedham and met the owner Warren Jones for the first time. I told him I was going over to photograph Casey’s (I knew they were not open for the day). I got over there and parked the Chevy Van outside just past the diner and got out, leaving the engine running to take a few photos. While I was shooting the diner Fred’s dad Joe came out and invited me in. I must have spent a good 20 minutes talking with him about diners while my van was still running outside!
In fact I remember that Joe showed me his copy of John Baeder’s book “Diners”. Up until that point I had “American Diner” by Dick Gutman and “Diners of the Northeast” by Donald Kaplan and Alan Bellink in my personal library but I had not yet acquired a copy of John Baeder’s book. Needless to say the very next day I bought one at the old Wordsworth Bookstore in Harvard Square after seeing Joe Casey’s copy!
Below is a photo by Richard Howard that appeared in an article written by the talented late Donald Dale Jackson entitled “The American diner is in decline, yet more chic than ever! This was in the November, 1986 issue of Smithsonian Magazine and it gave national exposure to myself and Dick Gutman among other people including another native of my home town of Medford, John Carroll, Jr. If you can locate a copy of the mag, it still is a pretty good read! The photo shows Dick Gutman standing with Fred Casey in front of Casey’s Diner!

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Richard Howard photo from November 1986 Smithsonian Magazine

Casey’s Diner will be still be operated by Patrick Casey (and I believe his son) who will continue the tradition of serving the town of Natick and vicinity from this old-time diner that has been in their family for well over 80 years. Rest in Peace Fred!

The Famous Apple Tree Diner, a most unforgettable experience

Since my book “Classic Diners of Massachusetts” published by The History Press came out almost a year ago, it has done well enough to actually make it to a third printing. The publisher found me because of this blog and it has gone almost full circle to the point that I was recently asked to be a guest blogger on their History Press Blog. They had made a suggestion or two about which direction I should write this but I decided to go in a slightly different direction. I chose to tell the story of possibly one of the most memorable experiences I have had in my 32 plus years of diner hunting. The link to that blog post is here…… http://www.historypressblog.net/2012/08/28/classic-diners-of-massachusetts-author-recalls-world-famous-apple-tree-diner/

The History Press blog people added an introduction to this version and it was edited slightly. Also, one photo was dropped….  so I decided to post the blog the way I wrote it here in its entirety, blemishes and all………

The World Famous Apple Tree Diner

Last year I authored a book for The History Press entitled Classic Diners of Massachusetts which has become another chapter in my almost 32 year personal research project of documenting American diners with my photographs. Looking back there have been many interesting stories and moments to reflect on. All the people I have met and all the miles I have driven, not to mention the countless friendships that developed on the “diner trail”. I guess that is one of the reasons why I write my blog, Diner Hotline. It is a way to show off my hundreds if not thousands of photographs and tell a few stories and anecdotes as well.

The blog was started on October 31, 2007, but evolved from a long running column I penned for the Society for Commercial Archeology’s Journal magazine. I wrote that column (also called Diner Hotline) for 18 years before retiring it. A good friend, Brian Butko knew I wanted to move on and do something a little different and convinced me to start the blog. Well since that time, I truly feel that Diner Hotline is now the way I think it always should have been and I truly enjoy writing it as well as getting almost instantaneous feedback from a lot of my regular readers!

My interest in diners goes back to my childhood in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Later, I recall having some great times hanging out with my friends at Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car in the years following my graduation from high school in 1971. Situated in the downtown area of Medford, Mass. (my hometown), Carroll’s central location and 24 hour service was a huge draw, especially in the early morning hours after the clubs and bars closed. Between 1978 and 1980, I had been noticing a few newspaper articles and stories about a fairly new trend at that time of diners being moved from long-time business locations. One such example – the Englewood Diner in Dorchester (a section of Boston) was forced to move due to the property under the diner being sold. Another example, the owners of the Kitchenette Diner of nearby Cambridge retired and the diner was closed and subsequently moved, are two of the stories that I recall. There was also a feature story about diners written by Richard J.S. Gutman, then the co-author of the newly published American Diner book (Harper & Rowe). Gutman’s co-author of this book was Elliot Kaufman (and it was written in collaboration with David Slovic). This was the first comprehensive history ever published on the history of diners.  There was another news story featuring Alan Bellink and Donald Kaplan talking about their book Diners of the Northeast (The Berkshire Traveller Press), a guide to diners in New York, New Jersey and New England.

Along with these news articles there also was my own sense of recognizing that a lot of the diners I recalled seeing as a youngster in and around the greater Boston area seemed to be swiftly disappearing from the urban and suburban landscape. Around this time I had started a weekly ritual of taking short Sunday morning road trips with my buddy Steve Repucci, which usually started off at a local diner. This expanded into picking a different diner every week to determine which direction to take the morning excursion. I was just getting into 35mm photography and in the back of my mind I thought I might start photographing the diners I visited on these little trips. But I confess I was a little hesitant and self conscious about standing in front of a packed diner and shooting one or two photos. I finally broke the barrier after Steve Repucci moved to Harrisburg, PA. He moved there in Labor Day Weekend of 1980 and a little over two months later on November 29th, I shot one photo of the Bypass Diner (in Harrisburg). Since that date I have photographed over 820 diners.

After Steve moved to Harrisburg, I did not have my regular road trip companion on Sunday mornings anymore, at least for a year and a half. But I did continue to go to diners by myself or with my brother Rick, among other people. One of the diners high on my list to visit was the Apple Tree Diner of Dedham, Massachusetts. As a little background, the diner was built in 1929 by the Worcester Lunch Car Company as car number 641 for William F. Schroeder who operated it as Bill’s Diner. It continued to operate as Bill’s Diner after Schroeder sold it to William Cogan who ran it for 43 years according to Richard Gutman. It has not been determined when the diner acquired the “Apple Tree” name but we know it had it by the early 1970’s or so.


Top of Apple Tree Diner Guest Check)

Proclaimed as “The Famous Apple Tree Diner” by 1980, this was printed on their guest checks as well as the T-shirts they were selling at that time. This description was certainly one of the draws for me, how could I not check this place out? I had read about this diner in one or two of the news articles as well as my newly bought copy of Diners of the Northeast. It was early November as I recall, just prior to photographing the above mentioned Bypass Diner in Harrisburg, PA. I had made plans to drive down to Dedham from my home in Medford. I knew that the diner was located at 702 WashingtonSt. which was designated State Route 1A and that it was the continuation of the same Washington St. that started in downtown Boston.

So I basically decided to start my journey in Boston and drove all the way through the neighborhoods of the South End, Roxbury, Jamaica Plain and Roslindale on Washington St. before leaving the City of Boston. I was now in Dedham and knew the diner was south of the downtown area. Anticipation was very high and when I got to the point where Court Street comes into Washington St. from the right, I looked up ahead to the left and saw this bright red monitor-roofed Worcester diner sitting in the middle of a dirt parking lot surrounded by all forms of car and truck!

I was truly excited! Even after patronizing quite a few diners up to this point, this place was a completely unaltered piece of roadside Americana! I could tell already and I had not even stepped foot inside yet! I hurriedly parked my Chevy Van and literally ran from the parking lot and slid open the sliding door. The place was packed! There was one stool open right by the door…. I immediately sat down and soaked in the atmosphere of the bustling lunch car! I recall thinking…. this is the way a diner should be! Unbeknownst to me and probably a lot of other people, the diner would only be serving customers for another eight months or so.

The diner was being operated at that time by Warren Jones and his friend Joanne Dummeling as well as a very capable staff. In fact during that first visit, with all the rushing back and forth by the staff, it almost seemed like there were as many people working behind the counter as there were customers on the other side (there was probably only four people behind the counter). I subsequently ordered a cup of coffee and more than likely pancakes and bacon (my go-to breakfast at that time) and even with the diner being fully packed with customers, I can recall the food came to me fairly quick. The overall feeling of that first visit to the Apple Tree Diner was to me one of the purest diner experiences I can ever remember. In fact it might be safe to say that of the hundreds of diners I have visited since 1979, I have never experienced the same strong feeling that I did walking into the Apple Tree Diner on that Saturday in early November of 1980.

I finally shot my first two photos of the Apple Tree Diner on my second visit in January of 1981. That date and the date of my first visit unfortunately are somewhat lost to obscurity. You see I started my Diner Log book on July 28, 1981. After that date, whenever I documented a diner with photographs from then on, it got listed in the log. This meant first visits only, not subsequent later visits unless a particular diner was moved and reopened. Now I actually photographed over one hundred diners between Nov. 29, 1980 and July 28, 1981 and none of those hundred plus diners are logged properly with a specific date.


My first photo of the Apple Tree Diner, January, 1981)


My second photo of the Apple Tree Diner, January, 1981)

Back to the Apple Tree Diner….. It was during this second visit that I made the acquaintance of Warren Jones. Warren was two or three years older than I and we hit it off right from the start. He was very personable and friendly. I told him of my interest in diners and we conversed briefly as he was actually going into the house behind the diner for some supplies he needed, so he had to get back to work. I managed to get back to the diner again soon after that second visit for lunch, possibly the only non-breakfast visit I ever had there. Warren and I spoke a little more about my diner obsession and he mentioned knowing Dick Gutman. I informed Warren that I had come down that afternoon with the hopes of obtaining some contact info for Mr. Gutman and I asked him if he had a phone number so I could get in touch, Warren gladly wrote it out on a guest check for me. Soon thereafter I did phone Dick Gutman and introduced myself as a “Diner Freak” and as I recall he stated “join the club”! So it was on February 28, 1981 during my fourth visit to the Apple Tree Diner that I met Dick & Kellie Gutman for the first time.

I cannot recall how many times I got to the Apple Tree after that visit with Dick Gutman but I do know I was there on July 4th of that year. I had been raving to Steve Repucci about how he needed to check the place out the next time he was back to visit family and friends. So Steve had driven up from Pennsylvania for the long weekend and we went to the diner which was jammed as usual. It was all decked out in red, white & blue bunting with an American Flag hanging over the front door. Seeing the diner being so busy that weekend made it extremely hard to envision that by the end of that month the diner was closed and getting ready to be moved off the site!


My final photo of the Apple Tree Diner in operation, July 4, 1981)

You see, like a lot of older diners, the Apple Tree was operating on leased property and that the owner of the property sold the lot for development. The reason the diner got moved was that Warren Jones owned the building. He had put together a plan to sell shares in an attempt to help fund the relocation to another operating site. He found a pad site in a shopping center on Route 140 in Foxboro, Mass. and by the end of July, it was moved to Foxboro.


Apple Tree Diner, prepared to move – July, 1981


Apple Tree Diner leaving old site, July, 1981, That is Warren Jones
(back to the camera) in the red T-shirt.


Apple Tree Diner on the approach to I-95 from U.S.Rte. 1, July, 1981


Apple Tree Diner arriving in Foxboro, July, 1981

After the move to Foxboro, Warren then began the process of stripping years of paint from the body of the diner and removing all the roof shingles. He sand blasted the metal panels and primed and repainted it as well as installing a brand new roof covering. This was all in preparation for setting the diner on a new foundation. The next is a series of photos showing the stripping and repainting of the diner while still in Foxboro, photos circa 1981

Another part of his plan was possibly obtaining another old diner to include at the new site for expanded seating. Both diners would be placed at 90 degrees sitting in an “L” shape surrounding a new building with kitchen and restrooms. Unfortunately, the project lingered for a few months and never got close to being completed. Warren had to relinquish his claim to the pad site at the shopping center and soon had the diner moved to a storage site in nearby Mansfield.


Apple Tree Diner in Mansfield storage location, photo circa Dec., 1982

Warren was then looking at the possibility of obtaining a new site in Mansfield that was going to be located on a corner of the then new iteration of a re-routed Route 140. That plan also never came to fruition and eventually the Apple Tree Diner was moved to Paul J. Dias’ yard in Hanson, Mass. in 1985. Dias was an auctioneer who was contacted by Warren Jones’ parents (Richard and Ona) who now had control of the diner.


Apple Tree Diner at Paul Dias’s yard in Hanson, sometime between
1985 & 1988


Interior view of Apple Tree Diner at Paul Dias’s yard in Hanson, sometime
between 1985 & 1988

The Jones’ (with help from Dias), eventually sold the diner to Lawrence Shevick of Boston, in May of 1988 to be precise. Mr. Shevick did not keep the diner long as he resold it to Dave Waller also of Boston by November of that same year. Dave Waller had just started on his now long-time hobby of rescuing old neon signs at that point and the reason that he decided to buy the diner when Shevick told him about it was because of his grandfather, Jack Hines. Hines used to own and operate a similar Worcester Lunch Car known as the Flying Yankee Dining Car in Lynn, Mass. So after purchasing the diner, Waller had the structure relocated to some family property up in New Hampshire where he proceeded to have the diner repainted closer to the color scheme of his grandfather’s diner.

By 1992, Dave Waller and his new bride Lynn had purchased a building that would ultimately be their home as well as a home to the Apple Tree Dining Car (the new name given to the place by Waller). It was a unique idea because the building they bought was a former fire station that had been decommissioned. It was sitting unused and deteriorating after being damaged by a fire. The city still owned the property and was debating as to what they would do with the structure. Along came the Wallers with a proposal for the ultimate reuse of the damaged building. This turned out to be a win-win situation as the city got a reasonable purchase price for a property that they (the city) could now collect property tax on.

After the purchase, the Waller’s started to rehabilitate the building. The first thing they did was to rebuild the fire damaged roof and started to clean up the interior. It still was no where close to being ready for habitation, but was basically ready to move in their largest possession, the diner! So on November 10, 1992, Bryant Hill of O.B. Hill Trucking Co. and his capable crew installed the diner into its new home. To get the diner into the building, the “Apparatus” doorway on the left-front elevation of the structure had to be altered temporarily. This was accomplished by removing quite a lot of the brickwork on the left side of the entry enough to allow the diner to be inched in on low-profile rollers. What a sight it was to see! It took at least two or three hours to get the diner inside the building. When this was accomplished, the Waller’s then had to have the brickwork restored. From the outside, one would never know what was just inside the doorway. To this day that is where the Apple Tree Diner lives, ironically within two miles from where I was living in 1980 when I first drove down to Dedham to experience this diner for the first time.


Apple Tree Diner in Malden awaiting the installation into its new home,
November 10, 1992


Apple Tree Diner in Malden being installed into its new home, November 10, 1992


Apple Tree Diner in Malden being installed into its new home, November 10, 1992)

I remained good friends with Warren Jones from 1981 to the late 1980’s when. he and his family moved to North Carolina. I actually never saw him again after that point, but we did remain in touch until his untimely passing away within the last 6 years from cancer. I am glad I got to eat in the diner at least a few times in its final months in actual operation and I am also happy that it remains in good hands. At the very least we know that the diner is well protected, being inside a building and that it will remain so for some time to come.


Apple Tree Diner in Malden during a get together by SCA members in August, 1995


Apple Tree Diner in Malden during a get together by SCA members in August, 1995