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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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…

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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….

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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….

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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!

Abandoned Luncheonettes

As I have stated recently, some of my favorite photos have been of “Closed” and/or “Abandoned” Diners! I have found quite a few over the years and I would like to share with my readers some of these. In fact I am contemplating possibly having a calendar made with some of these photos in the future.

The Abandoned Luncheonette, aka the Rosedale Diner
Kennilworth, PA

Of course the inspiration for all “Abandoned” Diner photos for me was the Cover photo of Daryl Hall & John Oates 1973 LP record album entitled Abandoned Luncheonette! The photo was of the former Rosedale Diner that operated in Pottstown,PA from around 1950 until the mid 1960’s. Here is  the shot from their album, which was recorded for Atlantic Records…

Here is my shot which everyone will recognize from my header at the top of my blog page. I shot this in 1982, around 9 years after the album came out.

Right after I started this blog I promised I would expand upon the story I originally wrote in 1991 for Randy Garbin’s Roadside Magazine on finding this diner. The piece was part of his “Diner Hunting” section he ran back in the early days of Roadside. I am still planning the update with a lot more background info on the diner including vintage photos from back when it operated. Hopefully I’ll find the time in the near future to do this story justice.

Murphy’s Diner – Haverhill, Mass.

One of the Abandoned diners I have previously mentioned in 2 posts was Murphy’s Diner, see last post and also this link to the earlier one…. https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2009/11/28/murphys-diner-lives-on/. This was one of my earliest “Abandoned” diners. A 1950 vintage Jerry O’Mahony diner.

The Rainbow Vet Diner – Hooksett, NH

This diner was moved from Manchester, NH into the woods just off the Rte. 28 Bypass in Hooksett, NH. This single-ended Sterling Streamliner was obviously there a while before I got to take this shot. There was almost nothing left of it. I photographed it on December 5, 1981. It lasted a few more years but was eventually demolished. 

Kingsley’s Diner – Mansfield, Mass.

This small Worcester Lunch Car was rotting away in someones back yard when I shot this in August of 1981. Probably long-gone by now.

“Closed” Diner – Webster, Mass.

This is another old Worcester Car that was demolished not long after I shot this photo. I believe the building behind it (kitchen?) still exists but there is another small building where the diner is that was operating as a barbershop. This was right near the Webster – Dudley town line. Barry Henley informed me this was possibly called Ben’s Diner when it operated.

Gateway Diner – Phillipsburg, NJ

On my way back from Harrisburg, PA in early 1981, I was travelling along Rte. 22. Right after you crossed the state line from Easton, PA to Phillipsburg, NJ, this was on the west side of the road. I took this shot from the median strip. This diner was one of the first transported to England (circa 1982). It remained in storage for years there but is now in the Netherlands after operating for a short time in Germany. See Roadside Online… http://www.roadsideonline.com/component/content/article/57-diner-finder-updates/6652-gateway-diner-moves-to-the-netherlands

Topper’s Diner – Dalton, PA

This diner actually operated somewhere nearby to this location before it was moved here. I do not know what happened, it was set-up on a foundation but the installation was never completed for whatever reasons. It was a good-sized diner that had a large kitchen (factory-built) as well as a large addition behind that section. I shot this July 16, 1984. A very late model O’Mahony diner.

Mac’s Diner – Boston, Mass.

Here is one wreck of a diner! My friend Becky Haletky said this old Worcester Lunch Car was actually in operation not long before I shot this in early 1981. Hard to believe! This was located on Columbus Avenue in the South End section of Boston, just off Massachusetts Avenue.

Midway Diner – Shrewsbury, Mass.

This was a “double-diner” made up of Worcester Lunch Car No. 636 on the left and Worcester Lunch Car No. 666 on the far right. No. 636 was originally Park’s Diner in Worcester and No. 666 was McDermott’s (Al Mac?) Warren Diner in Warren, RI first. I believe 666 had a fire and Worcester Lunch Car brought it back to the factory and fixed it back up to become a diningroom to 636 when it was moved from Worcester to Shrewsbury. These diners were separated within a couple of years of when I took this photo in 1981. 636 is currently in Vermont and 666 is in Andover, Mass. They are both in private hands and not operating.

(I’m not sure about this one) Diner? – Liverpool, PA

On a road trip down Rte. 11 (from Scranton to Harrisburg, PA) in March of 1990, we came across this little building. With its rounded corner posts and metal window frames, not to mention its oversized (almost cove style) overhang, I had to believe this was built by a diner manufacturer. Do not know anything about this other than it was filled with trash and other junk.

Monarch Diner – North Berwick, Maine

This was the former Monarch Diner that operated in Dover, NH. It was part of the chain run by the DeCola brothers based in Waltham, Mass. This diner was moved out of Dover to downtown North Berwick where it operated for a number of years under different owners (& different names) before being put into storage here, It currently is in another storage yard in Salisbury, Mass. (where the Miss Newport/Miss Mendon was being stored).

Depot Diner – Booth Bay, Maine

This little Worcester Lunch Car had originally operated in downtown Booth Bay prior to being moved to the Booth Bay Narrow Gauge Railroad site where it operated as a concession stand. In fact I knew of this diner’s existence by viewing an old slide that Dick Gutman had shot when it was still operating. Denise and I were spending a weekend in Booth Bay in 1992 when I tried to see if I could locate it. I realized the likely spot was the Narrow Gauge Railroad. When we went in we saw a small building that said it was the Depot Diner but it was built on-site. So I thought the diner was gone. We made it up to the back of the place where they had a large building housing a vintage car collection. I spoke with the older gentleman who was manning the info desk there and mentioned the old diner. He confirmed that the small building out front had replaced the diner. I asked if it was torn down and he said… oh no, they dragged it up into the woods adjacent to where we were and pointed in the direction of where it was. I ran back to my car and grabbed my camera and trekked into the woods to take some photos.

Glenwood Diner – Auburn, Mass.

This monitor-roofed Worcester Lunch Car was located at the Auburn – Worcester town line on Rte. 12. It was previously located on Rte. 20 in Shrewsbury. The Edgemere Diner took its place there. I photographed it on September 26, 1981 and by sometime in 1982, it was gone.

Abandoned Silk City diner – Berlin, NY

This was located in a field off Rte. 22 in Berlin, NY. I photographed it a couple of times, the first being on July 20, 1983. As far as I know, it was still there in 1992.

Miss Jersey City Diner – Jersey City, NJ

This was closed and vandalized across from a large public housing project in Jersey City, photo was taken November, 1984. It is a rare model Silk City diner. I know of only 2 others, the West Shore Diner in Lemoyne, PA and another diner that operated as Gordy’s Diner in Casselton, ND. (Gordy’s is currently in storage somewhere in Montana). I assume the Miss Jersey City has gone to “Diner Heaven”.

Kenny’s Diner – Haverhill, Mass.

This Worcester Lunch Car has been closed more than it has been open since the early 1980’s. I first photographed it in 1981. It has operated breifly as Alley Oop’s Diner in the mid-to-late 1980’s and as the Lindsay Rose Diner in the early 1990’s.

Bob’s Diner – Ashland, Mass.

Bob’s Diner had operated in  East Bridgewater, Mass. from 1933 (original name – Brady’s Diner) until 1978 when it was moved to this storage site in Ashland. It was rehabbed in the late 1980’s by Tim Hanna of Ken’s Steak House. He operated it for a couple of years as Timmy’s Diner. Currently in storage. Worcester Lunch Car No. 711.

Hodgins Diner – York Beach, Maine

This was one of the oldest Worcester Lunch Cars in existence according to Richard Gutman’s “Worcester Lunch Car Company” book. It basically rotted away. Luckily, Dave Waller salvaged some key pieces from this before it totally collapsed. In all my years going up to York, I never recall this open for business.

Ray’s Diner – Fitchburg, Mass.

This 1950’s vintage Fodero diner was sitting in a farmyard when I photographed it on August 4, 1994. It formerly operated at a site on River Street in Fitchburg. I was told it had become either a lounge or nightclub, (hence, the remnants of black paint on the stainless steel skin) before being moved here sometime in the 1960’s. There was little or no back wall or interior and it was being used to store lumber and various junk.

Steve’s Diner – Clinton, Mass.

This old Worcester Lunch Car  had the remnants of 2 signs on the roof. The one on the top layer said Steve’s Diner and the bottom layer said Turini’s Diner. I believe Lou Turini of Lou’s Diner (also of Clinton) had operated out of this diner before moving to the current one that has his name. This photo was also shot in 1981 and the diner was gone within a couple of years. A small park is now on this location.

Vree’s Sterling Diner – Saugus, MA

This was a modified Sterling Diner (non-streamlined) that was located on the Lynn Marsh Road (Rte. 107) near the Lynn / Saugus townline. It had larger windows installed sometime in the 1960’s and the end-roof overhangs were chopped off. The addition on the right had more counter seating as well as booth service. It had not been open for business since 1970 or so. This photo was shot within a year of its demolition (2004). If you look at the 3 windows on the extreme left, you can see that they are pretty well distorted due to walls bowing out causing the roof to collapse.