37 years down the road…

It is still hard to even wrap my brain around the fact that I took my very first “Diner” photograph 37 years ago on November 29, 1980! Although my interest in Diners goes back to the 1950s when I was around 5 or 6 years old, the groundwork for this first “Diner” photo op was a few months in the making. I had purchased a used 35mm camera in the summer of 1980 and started taking some scenic photos after being inspired by my pal Steve Repucci.

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The Bypass Diner, Herr Street in Harrisburg, PA. The first “Diner”
photograph featuring my blue 1979 Chevy Van parked in front!

To backtrack a little, Steve and I crossed paths after I had started a new job in September of 1976 at Analogic Corporation in Wakefield, Massachusetts. Steve had been employed there since 1974. We became acquainted through our shared employment between 1976 and all thru 1977, but did not socialize much outside of work until June 24, 1978, when we had gone on a camping trip to the Lake George, NY area for a weekend.

After that weekend, we became fast friends and I soon learned of Steve’s passion for 35mm photography! At that time I had always had a Kodak Instamatic camera around just for taking snapshots. I was not an avid photographer at all. But seeing some of the photos that Steve shot inspired me to look at photography seriously as a new hobby.

In April of 1979, another critical high point came when I purchased my first brand-new vehicle, a 1979 Chevy Van. From 1971 until that April, I had always owned used vehicles which got me around adequately enough, but there was always that looming cloud of possible mechanical problems which could hinder long distance travel. In purchasing the new van, this cloud had finally dissipated! In fact during that year, Steve and I had started our weekly Sunday morning short road trips, usually stopping for breakfast at local diners. This got our heads wrapped around the idea of tailoring the Sunday morning ride destinations either driving to already known diners to just flat out exploring to find new places to have breakfast.

So with the purchase of the new van in 1979, this allowed me the opportunity to increase the scope of my traveling. And then with the subsequent purchase of my first 35mm camera, the stage was set that lead me to that first “Diner” photo! September of 1980, Steve had realized his plans of moving to Harrisburg, PA for a change of scene. A good friend of his from the U.S. Air Force, Ed Womer, lived there and gave Steve the incentive to relocate.

I was one of the people who helped in getting Steve moved (owning a van back then, I was always being asked to help people move). So this was my first time traveling to Pennsylvania. On that initial trip, I noticed a few diners while I was there, although I do not recall eating in any on that trip. It was the next time down over the long Thanksgiving Day weekend when I took that first shot of the Bypass Diner which was a mile or so from where Steve and Ed had their shared apartment. Nowadays, the Bypass Diner still exists although it has been operated as the American Dream Diner for many years.

Now that 37 years have elapsed and I have photographed over 860 diners in that time. I can’t help but think back on this personal trip, especially since I have been scanning all my slides and photos in earnest for the last 2 and 1/2 years, (I stopped using 35mm film and went fully digital in 2008). With this scanning project, I am building up my digital archive of photos. It seems that whenever I scan any particular photo, be that of a diner or any other miscellaneous subject, I tend to relive those days.

But really, it all started when I was a kid, living in Medford, Massachusetts. My dad Sebastian “Sam” Cultrera loved diners and was the guy who first told me about them. He brought me out to breakfast to places like the Star Lite Diner, on Mystic Ave. in Medford…

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The one and only photo of the Star Lite Diner known to exist.
This is my colorized version (using Photoshop).

The Star Lite was fairly close to my family’s meat market and I also used to ride the delivery bike from the store down to the diner for lunch. I recall playing tunes on the juke box and kibitzing with the owner Jim and his son Richie. They closed for their usual 2 week vacation in the summer of 1968 but unfortunately never reopened. The diner reportedly was moved to a salvage yard in nearby Chelsea, Massachusetts.

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My large scale scratch-built model of the Star Lite Diner.

We also frequented Bobbie’s Diner, also located on Mystic Ave. in Medford. My dad actually supplied hamburger meat and Italian Sausage to Bobbie’s Diner from our family meat market, the Blue Eagle Market.

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My one and only photo of Bobbie’s Diner, not long before it
was demolished.

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I was driving by one morning and saw that the diner had been
dismantled and placed in a dumpster.

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The next day it was almost completely gone…

Later, when I became friends with David Hebb, he gave me one of his definitive photos of Bobbie’s Diner for my collection…

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David Hebb’s photo of Bobbie’s Diner from circa 1980 or so.

I have since learned a bit of the history of this diner and that it was located prior to World War II in Haines Square a commercial center just off the Fellsway in Medford.
It was originally known as Jack’s Diner. The family that owned it moved it in the early 1940s to the yard adjacent to their home for a few years before relocating it to Mystic Avenue where it again operated as Jack’s before being sold.

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Jack’s Diner being moved from Haines Square.

The last diner to operate in Medford was Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car, a circa 1961 vintage Swingle Diner. This replaced 2 earlier diners at its location on Main Street. I recall my family going for breakfast on Easter morning after church for a couple of years when this diner was brand new. Later, after graduating from high school, Carroll’s became the go-to hang out for my friends and I for quite a few years.

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A night-time photo I shot in the winter of 1982

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Carroll’s Diner, from a photo I shot in 1983.

Carroll’s closed in 1986 and was demolished to make way for a new office building. More recently the Carroll family opened a new restaurant a couple of blocks away just off Medford Square called Carroll’s Bar & Grill.

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Carroll’s Bar & Grill on Main Street in Medford Square.
May 5, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

When I started this trip 37 years ago, little did I know that it would eventually lead to me writing this blog as well as 2 books. I want to give a shout-out to all the friends I have made during this journey, chief among them, Richard J.S. Gutman, John Baeder, David Hebb and all the diner owners I have come to know personally. I wonder what the next decade or two might have in store???

 

 

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Contrary to popular belief, Diners in the Bay State did enter the modern era…

I recently posted a group of photos on my Facebook page which gave me the idea for this Diner Hotline blog post! Back in the late 1950s, the designs and size of diners were evolving past the railroad car imagery of the previous decades. The manufacturers were highly influenced by modern design and quite possibly zoning regulations that may have restricted what type of building the cities or towns would allow.  Some of the newer diners were being designed with larger windows, flared-out or folded plate roof lines similar to the modern California Coffee Shops and even fast food restaurants. Other designs were looking back to “colonial revival-influenced” and other historical adaptations using brick or form-stone  for exterior surfaces with less stainless steel.

As history has shown, the central and northern New England region is known more for their classic smaller diners dating from the 1920s thru the 1950s. These states including Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont & Maine seemed to have held onto their older diners a lot longer then other places. Connecticut is basically the only state in the region that managed to continually get newer diners over the decades and the reason for this was that it was closer to the existing diner builders in New York and New Jersey. For the most part, people here in this region are not familiar with the post modern diners that were being built by the diner manufacturers at the end of the 1950s thru the 1970s and right up to the present.

These style of diners were prevalent in the mid-Atlantic region more so than central & northern New England as the price for building the larger diner-restaurants and transporting them to the area became pretty much restrictive to the conservative New Englanders. We were used to seeing the smaller older diners built by local manufacturers like the Worcester Lunch Car Company and J.B. Judkins (Sterling Diners), with product from the occasional mid-Atlantic builders like O’Mahony, Tierney, Fodero or Mountain View diners thrown into the mix. Once the local manufacturers went out of business, the purchasing and transporting of diners dwindled considerably.

Well, this post will prove that Massachusetts actually did not quite stay with the status quo and in fact did receive more than a handful (although scattered throughout the state) of these more modern diners and I will attempt to show these chronologically to give an idea about these standout examples of modern diners in the Bay State!

Whately Diner Fillin’ Station, 372 State Road, Routes 5 & 10,
exit 24 off I-91,
Whately, Massachusetts
circa 1960 Kullman Diner

The diner currently operating in the town of Whately known as the Whately Diner Fillin’ Station was delivered to Chicopee, Massachusetts circa 1960 (although the website says it was built in 1958). Built by the Kullman Dining Car Company as a showcase Princess model, its first operating name was in fact the Princess Diner. In the early 1970s, the diner was bought by F.L. Roberts, a local company that had convenience stores, car washes and gas stations in the area. They moved the diner to the current location where it became part of a 24 hour truck-stop. The diner was operated here originally as the Maverick Diner prior to the current name.

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Exterior view of the Whately Diner Fillin’ Station
April 18, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

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another exterior view of the Whately Diner Fillin’ Station
April 18, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

This diner was undoubtedly a great example of the space-age influenced designs the manufacturers were using at the dawn of the 1960s. The large canted-up-& out windows with a flared out roof-line along with the shallow wall below the windows was cutting edge for its time!

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Interior view of the Fillin’ Station Diner
April 18, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

The interior of this place still evokes a beautifully appointed modern feeling and those light fixtures that looked like flying saucers (I refer to them as “George Jetson” light fixtures) are totally fantastic and one of my favorite features! This place has been operating for decades and serves the local area residents as well as long-distance truckers. I read a report just last week that stated the Roberts company recently divested itself of some of its businesses and the diner/truck-stop is in fact one of them. Hopefully the new operators can see the value in maintaining the integrity of this diner and not make any drastic changes!

Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car, 101 Main Street,
Medford, Massachusetts
1961 Swingle Diner

This is one diner that I basically grew up with since I was 8 years old and frequented it right up until it closed and was demolished in the late 1980s. Growing up in the city of Medford, I recall the diners we had in the late 1950s through to the 1980s. We had the Star Lite Diner (a 1948 Worcester Lunch Car – #817), Bobbie’s Diner (circa 1925 Jerry O’Mahony) and just barely, Howard Rust’s Rad-a-Mat (two 1948 or 49 Valentine Diners, part of a short lived chain). We were also lucky to have Carroll’s Diner, located just outside Medford Square – the first Carroll’s Diner was a late 1920s vintage Brill Diner that Maurice Carroll Sr. bought used circa 1930 to add to his Main Street business, The Medford Battery Company and adjacent gas station. A new generation of the Carroll family, brothers Maurice Jr. and Jack, Maurice Sr’s sons just back from WWII took over operation of the diner in the late 1940s and decided to upgrade the diner at this time. The Brill was superseded in 1948 by an up-to-date modern streamlined Jerry O’Mahony Diner with a stainless steel and red striped exterior. The Brill diner was retained as a kitchen for the newer diner. Business was booming by the end of the 1950s and the Carroll brothers again decided to upgrade. In the years between 1948 and 1960, they had acquired adjacent parcels of land giving them room to expand to an even larger diner. This is when they brought in the 3 section colonial style Swingle Diner in August of 1961.

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Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car – 1962 post card exterior view

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Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car – 1962 post card interior view

I can recall the 3 sections of the new diner sitting in what would be the new parking lot adjacent to the 1948 O’Mahony Diner awaiting installation on the new foundation. After the diner opened I recall going there with my family after Easter Church services for breakfast at least a couple of years in a row. During and after my high school years, I started frequenting Carroll’s and for a while it was a hang-out for myself and my friends. This place was great for being a meeting place as it was open 24 hours a day as well as centrally located. Not long after I started photographing diners in the early 1980s, I started shooting the occasional image of this place. The following photo is quite possibly my favorite!

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Carroll’s Restaurant – August, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera

By the mid 1980s, Carroll’s was the lone survivor in the city as Howard Rust’s Medford Square location (at the end known as the Humpty Dumpty Diner) was gone by 1960, and their Hillside location (later known as the White House Cafe & at the end Bacigalupe’s Diner) near Tufts University lasted until the early 1970s. The Star Lite was gone in 1968 and Bobbie’s demolished circa 1981 or 82. Carroll’s Restaurant closed in December of 1986 when the large parcel of land it occupied was sold for redevelopment. The restaurant was demolished in June of 1987 to make way for a large professional building with an underground parking garage. I wrote a more detailed history of Carroll’s  a few years ago when the next generation of Carroll’s opened a new place 2 blocks away from the old location of the diner in 2012. That history can be found at this link… https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/carrolls-bar-grille-looking-at-spring-opening-in-medford-mass/

Olympian Diner – 38 Hancock Street
South Braintree, Massachusetts
1964 Fodero Diner

When I started photographing diners in November of 1980, I was aware of many of the existing diners from earlier explorations around the Boston area. I also knew of other places from word of mouth, my own memory, as well as newspaper articles  and books that had appeared around that time. But the Olympian Diner was one I just happened to stumble across one Saturday afternoon driving from Quincy through Braintree.

Not knowing anything about its existence, I was very excited to come across this place in May of 1981. I do not have the exact date as I had not started documenting the places in what became my Diner Log book. That log book came into existence a little over 2 months later at the end of July. (I converted the log into a computerized data base to help in the organizing of my 35mm slides & negatives archive of diner images in the early 2000s).

As I said I was very excited to see this example of a newer diner located on the South Shore and immediately parked my van and shot two or three photos. The following two photos are from that day…

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The Olympian Diner, South Braintree, Mass.
May, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

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The Olympian Diner, South Braintree, Mass.
May, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

I have since learned that the diner was originally bought and operated by Angelo & Mary Fasano who appropriately called it Fasano’s Diner. They operated it from 1963 until 1975 when it was sold to another couple, Paul and Collette Ricciarelli who ran it for 5 years as Collette’s Diner. The Ricciarelli’s in turn sold the diner in 1980 to Paul and Helen Margetis who renamed it the Olympian.

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a matchbook cover advertising Fasano’s Diner from when the diner was brand new

The Olympian Diner operated until 1998 when the owners of some adjacent parcels of property decided to sell out to a chain pharmacy. The Margetis family was left with little choice but to do the same. They attempted to find another location nearby to relocate the diner to, but were unsuccessful. Seeing that the fate of the diner was in limbo, Ralph Fasano, a member of Angelo & Mary’s family offered to buy and move the diner. The Margetis’ in turn gave it to him as they knew it would be in good hands. The diner was moved and placed in storage by Fasano and eventually was purchased a few years later by Dave Pritchard of Aran Trading Ltd. of Salisbury who stored it on his property until 2014 when he sold it to a man who moved it to Leominster, where it sits today on private property. The Olympian Diner as a business was resurrected a few years after the diner closed when the Margetis family rehabbed a storefront almost across the street from the old site to become the new Olympian Diner, still in business today.

Victoria Diner-Restaurant – 1024 Massachusetts Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts
1965 Swingle Diner

I was 12 years old in the summer of 1965 and one day I was enjoying my summer vacation from school. The next day I was drafted into helping out at the family business, a small meat market and grocery store. My job was primarily to deliver orders to customers using an old bicycle with a large basket. I also waited on customers and sliced deli meat/cold cuts as well as stocking shelves, sweeping floors and whatever else my dad wanted me to do. Bye bye summer vacations! It was an adventure to work with my dad and my grandfather (Papa) who was still alive at that point. Papa passed away suddenly that fall at the young age of 66.

Anyway, from the first day I got to go with dad to work, I learned that his morning ritual was to stop for breakfast at a local diner on the way to the wholesale meat markets in Boston to get some needed supplies prior to going to the store to work. Papa was the one who would open the store and greet the first customers before we got back from Boston. Around noon time Papa would go home for the day and my dad & I would stay until closing time, usually by 5:00 pm or 5:30 pm.

I am telling you this as a prelude to talking about the Victoria Diner-Restaurant. As the early days of my new working life progressed, I soon found out that dad did not always stop at the same place for breakfast. One day it might be the Star Lite Diner and the next it might be Bobbie’s Diner (both in Medford). Other times he might stop at the White Tower in nearby Somerville or one or two places near Faneuil Hall Market/Quincy Market when that place was in fact the old location for these wholesale meat purveying establishments, prior to it being cleaned up and made into a tourist destination.

The one place that dad stopped for breakfast that is still in existence today is the Victoria Diner-Restaurant. Now known as Victoria’s Diner and under new ownership. The place was brand-new in 1965, owned and operated by brothers Charles & Nicholas Georgenes, it replaced a 1949 vintage Jerry O’Mahony diner that their dad George had bought brand-new. So, I got to experience the Victoria  when it was newly delivered and have been going there ever since.

Richard Gutman noted in his book, American Diner Then & Now, that when the Georgenes’ were looking to buy a new diner, they were lobbied hard by Fodero Diners but opted to go with Swingle Diners. In fact they especially liked a particular “Colonial style” that Fodero offered, so Joe Swingle said that he in fact could manufacture a similar diner for them.

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a publicity still from Swingle Diners featuring the Victoria Diner-Restaurant at the factory
courtesy of Richard J.S. Gutman collection

The diner came from the factory with white form stone  “posts” on the exterior with beach pebble panels under each window. The diner also had two small decorative cupolas which were removed in the late 1980s when some new heating & ventilation duct-work was installed on the roof. The white form stone was replaced by red brick possibly in the 1970s and the roof-line stainless steel trim was covered with a brown standing-seam treatment possibly at the same time.

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Victoria’s Diner, Boston, Massachusetts
June 26, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Victoria’s Diner, Boston, Massachusetts
June 26, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

The Georgenes family sold the diner in the early 2000s and the current operators are in fact the third to do so since the Georgenes’ sold out. The diner is still popular and does a decent business from all acounts!

K’s Diner D.B.A. Pizza Pub, – 2391 Boston Road,  U.S. Rte. 20
Wilbraham, Massachusetts
circa 1965 vintage DeRaffele Diner

I am not exactly sure when this diner was delivered to this location personally, but have heard recently from Jen of the Dinerville website and Facebook page… https://www.dinerville.info spoke with the owners of Gregory’s Restaurant (current name) who claim the diner is from 1965. I would have guessed earlier myself. Be that as it may, this is the only example of this far-out space-age diner with a zig-zag roof-line (AKA folded plate) that made it this far north. Built by DeRaffele Diners out of New Rochelle, NY, this place was still snazzy looking until the mid-to-late 1980s when it was expanded and covered over. I have been told that not much of the original diner exists today and I believe it. I am happy that I got the photos I did shoot before it was completely redone.

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Known as K’s Diner, D.B.A. Pizza Pub back in the early 1980s.
September 5, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

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another view of K’s Diner, D.B.A. Pizza Pub, Wilbraham, Mass.
September 5, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

New Market Steak House, 274 Southampton Street
Boston, Massachusetts
1971 Fodero Diner

This is another diner-restaurant that I also was pretty much unaware of when I started photographing diners circa 1980. Even though it was within walking distance of the Victoria Diner, I guess I never knew it was there because I never drove down that section of Southampton Street. Also, I might not have recognized the brick building as being a late model, factory-built diner. Originally called the Supreme III Diner-Restaurant, it was owned and operated by the Passanisi family. This large “colonial style” diner is the third diner on this site. I do know the first one was in fact a Fodero from around 1940 or so but have no idea what the second diner was (I am guessing Fodero as well) as to my knowledge, no photos exist of the second one. Sometime before I first photographed it, the name had been changed to the New Market Steak House, probably by the end of the 1970s. It continued to be operated under this name until it closed in 1984.

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New Market Steak House, Boston, Massachusetts
June, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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New Market Steak House, Boston, Massachusetts
June, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

The building still exists but has been altered somewhat and has not been used as a restaurant since it closed. For many years it housed the Beckwith Elevator Company. It is currently being used for other purposes.

Bickfords Grille, 37 Oak Street Extension
Brockton, Massachusetts
1970s vintage Kullman Diner

And yet another newer diner I did not know existed until my friend David Hebb informed me about it. I believe I may not have been moved to photograph it the first time I saw it in the early 1980s. I recall it did not have a mansard roof like it has now and I know I do not have photos of it that way. I think it had the wooden railing on the top edge of the slightly flared-out roof-line that Kullman usually used on this design. I also recall that the foundation under the building was not finished off with brick at that point. According to my records I managed to photograph it on March 1, 1984 which may have been my second visit there and actually had a meal. I do recall it still had a counter and stools that first time I went in. By the next visit, they had been removed. I understand the building had a fire within the last 20 years and the interior has changed more. These group of four photos will demonstrate how the building has looked over the years…

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Bickford’s Restaurant, Brockton, Massachusetts
March 1, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Bickford’s Restaurant, Brockton, Massachusetts
February, 1991 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Bickford’s Restaurant, Brockton, Massachusetts
June,1998 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Bickfords Grille, Brockton, Massachusetts
October 10, 2016 photo by Larry Cultrera

The Bickford’s chain started out with cafeteria style restaurants and was known for years as Hayes & Bickford’s. They even had a small chain of diners from the late 1920s thru the 1970s in Boston. Denise and I recently visited this place for lunch back on Columbus Day and as evidenced by my new photo, the exterior has been updated again. The whole chain has been upgrading the menu and look of the restaurants and the name has changed to reflect this. They dropped the “apostrophy” in Bickfords and it is now called a “Grille”. This ouitlet has the distinction of housing their corporate offices. I hope to find out sometime in the future waht the original name for this diner was and when it first got here…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diner Hotline weblog – 8 years old today!!!

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October 31, 2015 is of course Halloween, but also the date marks the 8th anniversary of the creation of this blog! As some of my readers know, Diner Hotline started as the first regular column to ever appear in the publications of the Society for Commercial Archeology (SCA). It was suggested to me by Mike Jackson (then president of the SCA) in the Fall of 1988 during a phone conversation that I could possibly write a piece to appear in the SCA News Journal. The News Journal was the organization’s only regular publication at the time that was a combination newsletter/magazine.

When he suggested to me about writing a column, I first thought… I am not a writer, but then again I read a lot and could probably relate personal tales associated with diners and happen to have had some good info and sources at my disposal to possibly attempt something like this. I also thought that it was an opportunity to be one of the few “non-academic voices” (basically the average everyday roadside enthusiast) contributing to the publication. I even recall saying to Mike… I already have a name for the column, “Diner Hotline”, which had been a sort of inside joke between myself, David Hebb , Dick Gutman and John Baeder. I had been known to call any and all of these guys on the phone when I had some juicy tid-bits of news and other information about a diner. As soon as they answered the phone, I would preface by saying “DINER HOTLINE, DINER HOTLINE” and then impart the info!

Thus, Diner Hotline became a reality and the first short piece appeared in the Spring 1989 edition (Volume 10, Number 1) of the SCA News Journal continuing through to when the publication separated into two different entities, the SCA News (a newsletter) and the SCA Journal (a full fledged magazine) The News was published more frequently while the Journal was twice a year. I opted for Diner Hotline to continue in the Journal (only two deadlines a year). My Hotline contributions went though a whole host of Journal editors over the years and continued until  the Fall 2007 edition of the SCA Journal when I retired the column.

Shortly after I retired the column (almost immediately actually) my good friend Brian Butko mentioned to me in passing that I should start a blog! So I asked him some questions about how to go about doing this and by the last day of October of 2007, the blog was born!

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So I want to mention that coming up really soon, I will be reviewing the new book about my pal John Baeder (John Baeder’s Road Well Taken). Written by Jay Williams, it is an extremely heavy book (figuratively as well as literally). It is filled with many of his paintings (diner and non-diner) and delves into John’s psyche and how all the influences in his life lead him to become one of the internationally renowned artists of our time.

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Also, I have another Author event coming up on Friday evening, November 6th at Gibson’s Bookstore (Concord’s indie bookstore since 1898) in downtown Concord, NH. Starting at 5:30pm with a small slide presentation followed by a book signing for my New Hampshire Diners: Classic Granite State Eateries. Gibson’s Bookstore is located at 45 South Main St, Concord, NH 03301

http://www.gibsonsbookstore.com/event/nh-diners

Ralph A. Corrado Jr, long-time owner of Rosie’s Diner passes away

Throughout the last almost 35 years of documenting diners with my photographs, I have made a lot of friends. A huge portion of those friends are kindred spirits who are also traveling the great American roadside documenting with their own photographs the commercial-built environment that developed and grew with the advent of the automobile. A smaller but no less cherished group of friends I’ve met have been various diner owners from quite a few states in the northeast region of the country. I am honored to say that a couple of those friends include the father & son team of Ralph & Arnie Corrado, who were the long-time owners of Rosie’s Farmland Diner (AKA Rosie’s Diner), formerly of Little Ferry, NJ. I became friendly with them in January of 1990, in fact the last weekend that the diner was open for business in New Jersey (more about that later in the post)!
I am sorry to report that Ralph Corrado has just passed away this past Thursday, August 6, 2015.

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Ralph A. Corrado standing in front of Rosie’s Diner
Photo courtesy of the Corrado family.

A brief history about the diner that became known as Rosie’s… At one time, this diner was arguably one of the most viewed diners in the USA, if not the world! Rosie’s had been used as the location for many commercials over the years including quite a few for New Jersey Bell, which usually had the famous actor James Earl Jones featured! The most famous commercials shot at the diner were for Bounty Paper Towels. These commercials featured the late actress Nancy Walker as “Rosie the waitress”  who was forever cleaning up spills made by her clumsy customers with Bounty – The Quicker Picker-Upper!!!!

Well this sort of all began back when Ralph was a little boy in Hoboken, NJ. His dad Raphael (Tex) Corrado operated a small Kullman Diner as Ralph recalled. He also recalls when his dad decided to upgrade with a brand-new 1946 Paramount deluxe stainless steel model that was built in 2 large sections and placed at the Traffic Circle on Route 46 in Little Ferry. The new diner was named the Silver Dollar Diner. Tex continued to operate the diner until the early 1960s with Ralph Jr. working along side him and learning the ropes! Ralph took the diner over and eventually renamed it the Farmland Diner. Ralph’s son Arnie who had a short recording career as a pop singer in the mid-to-late 1960s also worked at the diner, eventually becoming Ralph’s right hand man. The diner started becoming noticed by art directors for major New York City ad agencies who noted that this quintessential  stainless steel diner was perfect for shooting commercials and print ads, inside and out! After the Bounty Paper Towel commercials put the diner on the map (so to speak) Ralph decided to take advantage of the publicity and renamed the place “Rosie’s Farmland Diner, Home of the Quicker Picker-Upper”!

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Ralph Corrado with Nancy Walker and Arnie Corrado
Photo Courtesy of Arnie Corrado

I originally learned about Rosie’s Diner through the wonderful 1980 book “Diners of The Northeast” authored by Allyson Bellink and Donald Kaplan and published by the Berkshire Traveller Press. In this book they visited a whole slew of diners from New Jersey, New York and New England! This was the catalyst for my burgeoning interest to take hold! They featured Rosie’s in the New Jersey section and I finally got to visit the diner on Memorial Day – May 31, 1982. Steve Repucci and I were on the way back home from a visit to Harrisburg, PA via Baltimore! We stopped at Rosie’s in the early afternoon for some photos and a quick break from the road. Another reason was to use the public telephone at the diner to call John Baeder who was actually in New York City to do a massive rewrite for his upcoming book “Gas, Food & Lodging”. I had become friends with John earlier that year through correspondence and phone conversations. During a conversation just before the Memorial Day Weekend I mentioned to John that we would be coming through New York on the way home and that maybe we could hook-up briefly!

Well, I called John from Rosie’s and he said to give him another call when we got to another diner in Manhattan, this was the Kitchenette Diner that had been moved from Boston not too long before. So when we got to the Kitchenette, I again called John who was ready for a quick break. He cabbed it over to where we were and we spent a good hour or so together before he needed to get back to work! We gave him a lift to where he needed to be and headed home to Boston!

I also revisited Rosie’s a few times over the years including a little over a year later on the way to a meeting of the Society For Commercial Archeology in Wildwood, NJ. The following photo is from that visit.

Rosie's-Diner_June-1983-2
Rosie’s Farmland Diner at the Route 46 Traffic Circle in Little Ferry, NJ
June, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera

Fast forward to late 1989 – I received a phone call from my new friend, ceramic sculpture artist Jerry Berta who told me he was buying Rosie’s Diner and was going to move it to Rockford, Michigan next door to his Art Studio/Showroom “The Diner Store”. The Diner Store was housed in the former Uncle Bob’s Diner, formerly of Flint, MI. Jerry saved that one from the wrecker’s ball and moved it to some property he had in his hometown. To make a long story short (sort of) I arranged to meet Jerry and his pal Fred Tiensivu in New Jersey in mid-January of 1990 for the last 3 or 4 days that Rosie’s Diner was open. It was quite the experience as the place was completely bombed with customers. We all lent a hand where it was needed – I recall giving people directions on how to get to the diner when they called on the phone and even bussed tables! I had showed up early for breakfast on that last Sunday morning and Ralph asked me if I would do him a favor, it seems a lady (who did not speak much English) was stranded earlier that morning, being basically “dumped” by the guy she was with near the diner. Ralph asked me if I would give her a ride to her neighborhood in the Bronx, which I did – my good deed for the day!

The following text was written by me for the original “hard copy” version of Diner Hotline
that appeared in the summer 1990, volume 11, no. 2 edition of the Society for Commercial Archeology’s News Journal. This piece told the story about the last weekend that Rosie’s Diner was open for business in New Jersey and the subsequent move to Michigan (I have also included the original photos that ran with it in full color here)….

Rosie’s Diner Saved by SCA Member

Jerry Berta of Rockford, Michigan, has accomplished something that few preservationists can claim. He has saved not one, but two classic diners from destruction. Berta, who first created a name for himself by fashioning ceramic and neon replicas of his favorite subject — diners – moved Uncle Bob’s Diner of Flint, Michigan, to Rockford in 1987 and restored it to its original appearance. But instead of selling food, he converted it into a combination gallery and studio, called “The Diner Store.” After opening for business, the Diner Store proved to be a big success, but frequently people driving by would stop, thinking it was a restaurant. Jerry was forced to put a new sign in his window proclaiming: No FOOD, JUST ART. Due to the number of people who stopped to seek food and the lack of functioning diners in the state of Michigan, Jerry started thinking about finding another diner and setting it next to his store, where he could lease it to someone who would run it as a classic diner. In November 1989, Jerry was attending a crafts show in New York City, and decided to drive across the George Washington Bridge and revisit Rosie’s Diner in Little Ferry, New Jersey. He had visited this diner years before, and describes it as a pivotal moment in his awakening interest in these classic eateries. After shooting some photographs and videos of the diner, he began talking to the owner, Ralph Corrado, about diners and Jerry’s connection with them. Corrado informed Jerry that Rosie’s was for sale, and that if no one bought the diner, it would be tom down. Jerry and Ralph negotiated for approximately ten minutes, and made a hand-shake deal that was finalized by Christmas. Rosie’s is a vintage 1945 Paramount Diner, which was purchased brand new by “Tex” Corrado, Ralph’s father. It was originally named the Silver Dollar; when Ralph took over operations about 1960, he renamed it the Farmland Diner. Around 1970, Ralph was approached by Proctor & Gamble, which was interested in using the diner as a location for a series of commercials for Bounty paper towels. These commercials featured the actress Nancy Walker as Rosie, a street-smart waitress who was forever wiping up spills with “The quicker picker-upper.” Ralph decided to take advantage of the publicity, and renamed the diner “Rosie’s,” the home of the “Quicker Picker-Upper.” Ralph and his family decided to sell the diner when Ralph retired and his son, Arnie, needed to spend more time with his wife and young children. Ralph was able to sell the land and diner to his next-door neighbor, an auto-glass company. 

Rosie's-Diner_June-1983-5
Rosie’s Diner in Little Ferry, New Jersey
June, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera

Unfortunately, the diner itself did not fit into the new owner’s plans. When Jerry appeared on the scene, Ralph was delighted to know that the diner would have a new home with someone who loved it as much as he did. Both Jerry and Ralph used all their contacts in the media, and they created a publicity blitz from coast to coast. Both Cable News Network and the Associated Press ran stories on the closing, which took place January 13-15, 1990. Hundreds of people came by to have one last meal at the famous diner, including several SCA members. With the Massachusetts contingent were Dave Hebb from Cambridge, Gail Rosen from Newton, and myself. Steve Lintner and Christine Guedon from Gloucester City, New Jersey, were there on Saturday, and Bill McLaughlin came up from Paoli, Pennsylvania on Sunday morning. There were also many diner aficionados in attendance. I returned to Rosie’s the following weekend to assist in and to document the move. I watched with interest while the diner was split in to two sections and placed on flat-bed trucks for the move to Michigan. Rosie’s arrived safely in Rockford three days later. Special thanks go to the crew who helped in the move: Fred Tiensivu, Ian McCartney, John Boucher, and Charlie Green, along with the guys from Superior Transit. If things go according to schedule, the diner should be re-opening at the end of the summer. We’ll keep you posted. For more information about the Diner Store or Rosie’s, call Jerry Berta at 616/696- CLAY.  

Rosie's-final-days_Jan-1990-22
SCA members pay a farewell visit to Rosie’s in January, 1990
(left to right – David Hebb, Christine Guedon and Steve Lintner)

Rosie's-final-days_Jan-1990-34
Jerry Berta, Bill McLaughlin and June Roberts at Rosie’s

I had managed to maintain contact with Arnie and his wife Jeanne for a few years but eventually we lost touch as our lives got busy after 1993 or so. I am happy to say I got back in touch with Arnie & Jeanne within the last 2 years and we talk to each other at least twice a month! I also spoke with Ralph once since Arnie and I resumed our friendship and I knew that Ralph’s health was in decline.  So I was not surprised when Arnie contacted me this past weekend to let me know that his dad had passed away! If the wake had been on Saturday and not Sunday, I would have made every effort to be there for the family! Ralph was a true gentlemen of the old school and I can still hear his soft voice with that great New Jersey accent in my mind! Rest in Peace my friend, you are certainly missed!
Here is the obituary for my friend Ralph Corrado…

Ralph Corrado Jr. of Hoboken, NJ passed away Thursday, August 6th.  Ralph was the proprietor of Rosie’s Farmland Diner in Little Ferry, NJ, which operated from 1946-1990.  Ralph was extremely proud of his Italian-American heritage and Hoboken roots.  He loved the Yankees, Joe DiMaggio, and Frank Sinatra whom he personally assisted backstage at the Paramount Theater in New York in 1943.  Known for his quick-witted sense of humor and street-smart mentality, Ralph’s greatest legacy is the unwavering love and devotion that he possessed for his family members and close friends (especially his life-long friend who pre-deceased him, Alfred Avitable).

He will be fondly remembered by his devoted wife, Bonnie Corrado (nee
Bittner); faithful sons, Arnold Corrado and Marc Antonuccio; loving daughter-
in-law, Jeanne’ Corrado (nee LaForte); cherished grandchildren, Matthew Corrado,
Jenna Corrado, and Rowan Antonuccio; and admiring nieces and nephews,
including Lucille Corrado.
Ralph is rennited with his parents, Raphael “Tex” and Carmella
“Milly” Corrado; sister, Mildred Casella; and brothers, James “J.J.”, Johnny, and
Carmen “Sonny” Corrado.

A Funeral Mass was offered on Monday August 10, 2015 – 11:00 AM at St.
Ann’s Roman Catholic Church, Hoboken. Entombment will follow at Holy Cross Chapel
Mausoleum, North Arlington, NJ. Continuous visitation was held on Sunday
August 9, 2015 beginning at 4:00 PM and concluding at 8:00 PM. There was to be no
gathering at the funeral home prior to the Funeral Mass. Relatives and friends were
asked to gather directly at St. Ann’s Church no later than 10:45 AM. Valet parking
was available in rear of memorial home off Sixth Street. Arrangements by Failla
Memorial Home, 533 Willow Avenue, Hoboken, NJ 07030

Goodbye to the Rosebud Diner

Well as reported in the past few months, the Rosebud Diner of Davis Square in Somerville, Mass. has finally closed under the ownership of the Nichols family after a long run. The Nichols’ actually purchased the diner from its original owner back in 1957 and almost immediately they converted it to use as a Cocktail Lounge/Bar. The backbar was removed along with all the cooking equipment and the original ventilation hood when it became the cocktail lounge. It was operated this way right up until around 1989 when the family sold it. During the time period from 1989-1994 it was operated by at least 2 different entities, one of which was a Tex-Mex place called the Cuckoo’s Nest. At that point a couple of more changes were made to the already altered interior. The original stainless steel covered refrigerator was removed and the left end of the counter was chopped off. When the place closed circa 1994, the new owners defaulted on the mortgage that was held by the Nichols family. The Nichols’ ended up getting the diner back thru land court at this point. The diner had gotten a slightly bad reputation and the Nichols’ decided that it was time to bring the building back as a true diner.

Rosebud-with-Bill-&-Nicky_1995
Bill and Nicky Nichols on Grand Reopening day, February, 1995 at the
Rosebud Diner –  photo by Larry Cultrera

So the family spent a few months cleaning up the interior by refinishing the original woodwork getting some used wooden booths that were not too different than what had been there originally as well as installing a new left end of the counter. They also refurbished the neon sign on the roof. The menu from 1995 to now had been slightly upscale but the diner was now serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The back room which had operated as another space variously as an upscale Italian Restaurant, Night Club and eventually a venue for live music acts and bar & grill since 1995. About a year and a half ago rumors started flying that the diner was for sale. The first rumors never panned out but more recently the word got out that a guy named Marty Bloom was in the running to buy the place. Bloom had started the successful chain of upscale restaurants called Vinny Testa’s (later known as Vinny T’s) and eventually sold the chain and started other venues. Bloom’s reported plans for the diner have not sounded like he wants to retain the interior character unfortunately. He does say the exterior will remain the same and as I believe, the fact that the diner is listed in the National Register of Historic Places will not protect it from being altered. So I guess the future of this classic diner remains to be seen.

Back in March, Glenn Wells and Mike Engle decided they wanted to make a trip out from the Albany area to check out the Rosebud one last time. They were joined by myself, David Hebb, Gary Thomas and Bob Marville on March 3, 2013 and we all had breakfast. We kibitzed with Billy Nichols and Helen DeFransisco and shot some photos, etc.

Rosebud-1_3-3-2013
Left to right, Larry Cultrera, Glenn Wells (in back), David Hebb, Mike Engle, Gary Thomas and Bob Marville at the Rosebud Diner. March 3, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

I have been friends with Billy Nichols for around 30 years. Along with my friendship, I have actually designed the logo for their coffee mugs as well as a breakfast menu and 2 post cards for the diner. I actually had one last meal about 3 weeks ago on a Friday night and the diner closed after the day of business on Sunday May 26, 2013. I got an email this past Saturday morning from Dick Gutman who had placed a link for  a Craigslist ad  to a yard sale at the diner. They were selling off various and sundry things like dish ware, pots and pans, etc. Denise and I stopped by for one last visit.

Rosebud-with-Bill-&-Nicky_2013
Bill and Nicky Nichols on Saturday June 1, 2013 at the Rosebud Diner
 photo by Larry Cultrera

RoseBud-Diner-3_6-1-2013
 Rosebud Diner during yard sale, June 1, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

I’ll be keeping in touch with Billy Nichols and wish him well along with Helen DeFransisco, his dad Gally and brother Nicky. I hope the diner does not get trashed too bad, but I guess that will remain to be seen.

Part 2, New York state road-trip, May, 1985

I finally completed the scanning of slides for this post….. Part 2 of the road-trip I took from May 20th to 22nd, 1985. Part 1 was posted almost a month ago on August 28th. I will start this post where I left off… it was the afternoon of the second day of the road-trip which turned out to be nice and sunny which made it easier to shoot slides (Kodachrome). Sometime later I figured out that Ektachrome slide film was extremely better for shooting in the varying light situations I found during these extended road-trips and used that almost exclusively until I  stopped shooting 35mm film in the last 6 years.

At the end of Part 1, I was documenting the J.R. Diner on Wolf Street in Syracuse. I posted the first 2 slides I shot of that particular diner. It seems I had to start a new roll of film as there were 2 more shots of this on the new roll.


J.R. Diner, 1208 Wolf St. in Syracuse, NY
May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


J.R. Diner, 1208 Wolf St. in Syracuse, NY
May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

After J.R. Diner, I found Mario’s Little Gem Diner over at 832 Spencer St. This was a great example of a 1950’s streamlined, L-shaped Fodero diner featuring plenty of stainless steel with red flexglass strips. Mario Biasi was now operating this  diner after formerly being associated with another smaller stainless-steel Silk City diner in North Syracuse. I believe I ate dinner here that evening.


Mario’s Little Gem Diner, Syracuse, NY – May 21, 1985 photo
by Larry Cultrera


Mario’s Little Gem Diner, Syracuse, NY – May 21, 1985 photo
by Larry Cultrera


Mario’s Little Gem Diner, Syracuse, NY – May 21, 1985 photo
by Larry Cultrera


Mario’s Little Gem Diner, Syracuse, NY – May 21, 1985 photo
by Larry Cultrera

Next up was a non-streamlined Sterling diner operating as the Liberty Diner. Located at 4004 South Salina St. (Rte. 11) it looked to be in original condition from the outside (except for the porcelain steel panels being painted a brown color) .  I never got to go inside this one so I don’t no what the inside was like. The sun was behind this place somewhat so I am only showing 2 of the 4 photos I shot as the other 2 were somewhat in shadow. This diner was dismantled a number of years later and the parts put into storage if I recall correctly.


Liberty Diner, Syracuse, NY – May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Liberty Diner, Syracuse, NY – May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

After this I ended up downtown near City Hall and found the Miss Syracuse Diner, a slightly modified Bixler diner. I got some decent shots of this one….


exterior of the Miss Syracuse Diner, 258 East Water St., Syracuse, NY
May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


exterior of the Miss Syracuse Diner, 258 East Water St., Syracuse, NY
May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


exterior of the Miss Syracuse Diner, 258 East Water St., Syracuse, NY
May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


interior of the Miss Syracuse Diner, 258 East Water St., Syracuse, NY
May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


interior of the Miss Syracuse Diner, 258 East Water St., Syracuse, NY
May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

I then ended up on Geddy St. to take these late afternoon shots of Denny’s Diner. This place was not related to the national chain of Denny’s Restaurants but it looks like they borrowed the logo somewhat for this little barrel-roofed diner covered in stucco.


Denny’s Diner, Syracuse, NY – May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Denny’s Diner, Syracuse, NY – May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Denny’s Diner, Syracuse, NY – May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Denny’s Diner, Syracuse, NY – May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Denny’s Diner, Syracuse, NY – May 21, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

I started out the next day having breakfast at the diner formerly run by Mario Biasi (of Mario’s Little Gem Diner) This diner was known as Mario’s Diner when Al Bellink and Don Kaplan reviewed it for their “Diners of the Northeast” book (1980, The Berkshire Travellers Press). It was operating as the Pelican Diner when I visited it on this road-trip. I understand it has since been moved to Canastota, NY since to become the Canastota Dinerant.


Pelican Diner, North Syracuse, NY – May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Pelican Diner, North Syracuse, NY – May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Pelican Diner, North Syracuse, NY – May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Pelican Diner, North Syracuse, NY – May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

After breakfast, I left the Syracuse area and headed east. I do not recall if I traveled Rte. 5 out of Syracuse but I do know I did end up on Rte. 5 and eventually made it to Herkimer, NY. I knew from my buddy David Hebb that Herkimer was the home to the Empire Diner, a 1950’s vintage Mountain View diner. I got there at a great time of the day because the sun was shining directly on the place for some excellent post card worthy photos.


Empire Diner, corner of North Main and State Streets (Rte 5)
Herkimer, NY – May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Empire Diner, corner of North Main and State Streets (Rte 5)
Herkimer, NY – May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Empire Diner, corner of North Main and State Streets (Rte 5)
Herkimer, NY – May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Empire Diner, corner of North Main and State Streets (Rte 5)
Herkimer, NY – May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

After Herkimer, I consulted my road atlas and made my way toward Lake George by way of Johnstown and Gloversville, NY. Back in 1969 when I was on a weeks vacation with my family we spent most of our time in Lake George but managed to make a side trip to Cooperstown to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame. While there we stayed at the Johnstown/Gloversville Holiday Inn for one night. This was my first trip back to the area since 1969 and it was interesting to see how much I remembered as I checked out the towns while driving through. I continued on my way toward Great Scanandaga Lake and was on Rte. 30 when I came across the Dun Dozin’ Diner in Mayfield. It was a late 1930’s vintage Monarch model built by the Jerry O’Mahony Company. The exterior was intact but painted over and had a manasrd roof covering the front and sides. The interior was in remarkable condition. I did take photos of the interior but apparently had no flash for the camera which certainly would have made for better images. But I figure, the ones I got were better than nothing. This diner has since gotten enlarged and somewhat hidden (from the outside) and is now operating as the Northampton Diner. The interior is still fairly original. This diner was originally located in Glens Falls and operated under names such as Miss Glens Falls Diner and the Glen’s Diner.


Dun Dozin’ Diner, Rte. 30, Mayfield, NY
May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Dun Dozin’ Diner, Rte. 30, Mayfield, NY
May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Dun Dozin’ Diner, Rte. 30, Mayfield, NY
May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


Dun Dozin’ Diner, Rte. 30, Mayfield, NY
May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


interior view of the Dun Dozin’ Diner, Rte. 30, Mayfield, NY
May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


interior view of the Dun Dozin’ Diner, Rte. 30, Mayfield, NY
May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


interior view of the Dun Dozin’ Diner, Rte. 30, Mayfield, NY
May 22, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

On to Lake George for the conclusion of this road-trip where I apparently took one shot of the Prospect Mt. Diner. It seems like I removed that particular slide from the box for whatever reason lost to memory. I would surmise that I either put it with other slides of that diner or that it was just not a good photo. I know I shot one as it would have been the last shot on a 36 exposure roll of film and the box has the name scratched out.

Buddy’s Diner to reopen


Buddy’s Diner, 113 Washington Street, Somerville Mass.
April 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

I am happy to report that Buddy’s Diner will reopen tomorrow, August 4, 2012. As stated in a previous post a couple of weeks ago, Buddy’s had been seized by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue for non-payment of taxes.

As soon as this happened, the rumor mill was very active and chief among them was the story that the diner would reopen soon. In fact the first date I heard was this coming Monday. But today I received an email from David Hebb stating that the diner will in fact open at 5:30 am tomorrow. I would tend to believe Dave as he is a regular customer at Buddy’s going back 30 plus years now.

So it seems that owner Nicole Bairos has made an arrangement with the DOR to make some sort of restitution. I may make a visit myself tomorrow and check things out.