Dedication of Plaque for owners of Carroll’s Diner

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As many people who follow this blog know, I have been documenting diners going on 33 years (next month) and have photographed over 830 of them in that time. I think back of all the diners and people I have met thru this personal research project over the years, but I always go back to my early experiences. The ones I can trace all the way back to growing up in Medford, Massachusetts in the 1950’s thru the 1970’s. I had  3 diners that I would get the chance to frequent during that time period, Bobbie’s Diner and the Star Lite Diner both on Mystic Avenue and Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car on Main Street. I have to say the diner I spent the most amount of time in was Carroll’s Diner, partially because it outlasted all the others, but there were many other reasons as well.

Carroll’s was THE meeting place for all of Medford and beyond! It was open 24/7 and was the place to go to “see and be seen”. There was many a late night/early morning spent waiting in line to get in the diner after last call at the local bars and clubs. Also for a time, it seems I was there daily hangin’ with my friends, usually multiple times in a day. I recall cruising into the front parking lot to see if any of my friends cars were parked, continuing into the back parking lot to check there as well. Now granted, the presence of someone’s car did not always mean they were actually there, so of course we had to go in to see if they in fact were! Ah, memories…. I have many for sure….. the stories I could tell!

There were actually 3 incarnations of Carroll’s, a 1928 Brill Diner that operated from 1930 to 1948. That first diner actually remained on-site, becoming the kitchen for the 2nd Carroll’s Diner…. a 1948 stainless steel Jerry O’Mahony Diner. The O’Mahony operated until 1961 when it was replaced by an “L” shaped Swingle Diner that was placed on the adjoining property. The Carroll brothers, Maury and Jack actually were on the cutting edge when they bought that Swingle Diner. It was undoubtedly the most modern diner not only in the greater Boston area, but in fact all of northern New England for the next few years. This third and last incarnation of Carroll’s operated until December of 1986.

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Carroll’s Diner, August 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera

One of the more memorable stories I can relate was the time in March, 1986 when I was interviewed by the late Donald Dale Jackson, a talented frequent contributor to Smithsonian Magazine. We sat in a booth at Carroll’s and talked about diners and my involvement with them. I have to say that this particular piece he wrote single handedly  increased my standing as one of the most visible Diner Buffs in the country. Ironically, I was not the only Medford guy included in that article. John F. Carroll Jr. (Jack Carroll’s son) was also interviewed for this piece!

I am honored to say that in the early to mid 1990’s John and I became friends and remained in contact with each other until his untimely passing due to cancer in January of 1996. Through him I renewed my past acquaintanceship with his cousins Maury, Tom and Paul, as well as his dad Jack and Uncle Maury. I took it upon myself to write a history of the Carroll family’s involvement in the diner business within the last year and a half for this blog in honor of the opening of Carroll’s Bar & Grill in Medford Square (the restaurant opened in May, 2012). You can read this history here…… https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/carrolls-bar-grille-looking-at-spring-opening-in-medford-mass/.

On September 27th, I received an email from the City of Medford with an invitation to attend a dedication ceremony to be held on Saturday, October 5th. This ceremony was being held at 101 Main Street in Medford (the former site of Carroll’s Diner) where a newly refurbished island in the median strip separating the north and southbound lanes of Main Street (Route 38) was to be dedicated with a plaque honoring Maurice W. Carroll Sr., Maurice W. “Maury” Carroll Jr. and John F. “Jack” Carroll, the owners of Carroll’s Diner.

Well Denise and I did attend the ceremony along with my brother Rick. There was a decent crowd of people there along with Mayor Michael McGlynn, and members of the City Council and School Committee as well as State Representative Paul Donato. Many members of the Carroll family were in attendance including Mrs. Dolores Carroll, the late Maury Jr’s wife, Maury Carroll III and his wife Carla as well as their 3 children Lesley, Jill and Maury IV. Maury III’s brothers Tom and Paul, Paul’s wife Debbie with their children Courtney Albano, David Carroll and Michael Carroll as well as their sister, Diane DeBenedictis with her husband Frank and daughters Christina Walker & Deanna DeBenedictis.  Marianne Galeazzi, daughter of the late Jack Carroll was also there with her husband Rick. I apologize if I left anyone out.

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It was nice to see the restaurant’s logo which has existed since the 1950’s and resurrected for the new Carroll’s Bar & Grill located a block down the street on the new plaque. October 5, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

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At the dedication of the plaque, standing on the wall from left to right,Paul Carroll, Tom Carroll and Maury Carroll III. On the street from left to right is Mrs. Dolores Carroll (partially hidden), Diane DeBenedictis, Marrianne Galeazzi and Mayor Michael McGlynn. October 5, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

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At the dedication of the plaque, standing on the wall from left to right,Paul Carroll, Tom Carroll and Maury Carroll III. On the street from left to right is Mrs. Dolores Carroll (partially hidden), Diane DeBenedictis, Marrianne Galeazzi and Mayor Michael McGlynn. October 5, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Maury Carroll addressing the crowd after the unveiling of the plaque.
October 5, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Singing  God Bless America (lead by the talented Deanna DeBenedictis) with other members of the Carroll family, accompanied by the Medford High Alumni band.
October 5, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

Following the ceremony, the crowd was invited back to Carroll’s Bar & Grill for some food and refreshments…….

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A photo of the attendees enjoying some food and refreshments at Carroll’s Bar & Grill after the dedication ceremony. October 5, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

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A photo of the attendees enjoying some food and refreshments at Carroll’s Bar & Grill after the dedication ceremony. October 5, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

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A photo of the attendees enjoying some food and refreshments at Carroll’s Bar & Grill after the dedication ceremony. October 5, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

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One of 2 remaining decorative stainless steel “C’s” that had been mounted on the tall chimney behind the former diner from 1961-1986. It was recently modified to be back lit. October 5, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Kim and Mike’s Excellent Diner Adventure!!!!

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Mike & Kim Pinto on the “Diner Trail”. June 20, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

I was checking out Facebook this past weekend and found a post from the Point Diner (AKA the Somers Point Diner)  of Somers Point, NJ. They basically posted a link to a new blog I had never heard of. It was called “Diner Diaries”. Written by Kim Pinto, the blog is primarily an extension of a journal that Kim is keeping for an interesting road trip she and her husband Mike have embarked on, the link for the blog is  http://pintodiner.com. Both Kim and Mike are eduacators, Mike as a school principal and Kim teaches a combined 2nd and 3rd grade class. I read a couple of her posts on the blog and decided to get in touch with her, primarily to let her know that she is not alone in her journey and that those of us who preceded her on the “Diner Trail” can understand her quest.

Within a short period of time, I got a reply to my email and it was a very nice message to say the least…..
Hi Larry! What a completely humble moment to be contacted by you, thank you.  My second and third graders have poured over your book (Classic Diners of Massachusetts) as we planned this trip and I can’t wait to share that you sent me a note.  Our goal is to trek to Massachusetts in four days, after a stint in NYC. Your book is in my bag. This has been an incredible journey and I want to thank you for being a part of it.  I am sincerely amazed that you have photographed so many diners and have provided the world with your findings.  You sir are a difference maker.  How fun that your wife is a retired teacher.  Please tell her hello from me! Thank you again Larry for extending such kind words.  I am so very bummed I didn’t get to sit and break bread in the American Dream diner…it is so interesting that you photographed that diner from the start. Have a wonderful day!  Kim

I was certainly surprised and delighted that she has my book for a reference. As she mentioned, they were on their way to New York City and that they would be heading to Massachusetts toward mid-week. I suggested we try to get together, which she thought was a great idea. I then decided to do this post and asked her for some info about the blog/trip and this is what Kim said….

I am from West Lafayette, Indiana.  This is a $10,000 teacher creativity grant.  It is meant to rejuvenate you.  I chose to visit diners because my room is themed as a diner.  Our entire school has themed classrooms.  I was asked to select a theme that is comfortable.  My Grandmother taught me very early by example.  She was a lady with little means so eating out meant going to one of two little diners in my town.  The conversations we had were like no other while sharing a comfortable lunch together. I try to duplicate this experience in my classroom.  I thought what would be better than to go to where it all began, the east coast. In May I found out I have breast cancer, so this trip now has another meaning for me.  My son, Alex, is also along to shoot a documentary of the trip as well.  He just graduated from Columbia in Chicago in film/directing.  He will be moving to LA in August, so having him along is special. The grant pays for the whole trip, from food-self publishing a book at the end.  The idea is this is a trip of a lifetime and it is beyond that at this point…I am having the time of my life! Thank you again for taking an interest in an elementary teacher from Indiana.  My 2nd and 3rd graders will be very excited.  Also thank you for writing about me on the Diner Hotline…another kind moment. In the end I simply hope to soak this all in and put forth a book about my travels and the wonderful diners/friends I have met along the way. My two journeys will not end at the close of this trip, I think they are really just beginning.
Well, we managed to get together late on Thursday afternoon. Because there are not too many diners in this area open for dinner and the fact that they were coming up from Worcester, Mass., I instructed them to take I-290 east and I-495 north to Salisbury. Then to take I-95 south to Rte. 133 and the Agawam Diner in Rowley, Mass. This allowed them to avoid any rush-hour traffic in the Boston area by completely bypassing the city. They got there before Denise and I did so they made their presence known to Ethel DePasquale, a member of the Galanis family who own and operate the diner. We joined them within a short time and Ethel was understanding about us wanting to talk for a bit before taking our food order. When we finally decided to order, both Kim and Mike got a dinner entree while Denise was not particularly hungry (she settled for the glass of water she was drinking), I opted for a piece of the Agawam’s famous Coconut Cream pie. I very rarely get to the Agawam for anything other than breakfast and it has been years since I had their pie. It was even better than I remembered! Oh, Man!!!!! Mike, on my recommendation decided on the Native Fried Clam Roll (which they do not even have out in Indiana). This in fact was something he was totally unfamiliar with, along with a Scallop Roll or a Fried Shrimp Roll. They do not even have “Whole Clams” out there, just frozen clam strips! Kim decided on a Fried Fish sandwich. Mike has been documenting his food this trip and if anyone is curious you can see some of these on his blog….. http://coleprincipal.tumblr.com.

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Yours truly and Kim Pinto outside the Agawam Diner.
June 20, 2013 photo by Denise Cultrera
Me, Kim & Mike outside the Agawam Diner
June 20, 2013 photo by Denise Cultrera
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Mike, Kim & Denise at the Agawam Diner.
June 20, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

I feel that Denise and I made new, life-long friends in Kim and Mike. I wish them happy travels until they get back home. I also wish Kim well with her fight against breast cancer!

Notes from the Hotline, Jan. 20, 2013

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

Former Monarch Diner gets a new lease on life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peabody, Massachusetts’ Little Depot Diner
under new ownership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FALL RIVER —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eulogy for the Harvest Diner, by Michael R. Fisher

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

After nineteen years in business, my diner is closing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

diners-of-mass-front-cvr-final

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

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

Notes from the Hotline, December 4, 2011

Fourth Author Event in Webster

We had another nice Author Event yesterday, this time at Booklovers’ Gourmet located at 55 East Main Street (Route 12) in Webster, Mass. It is a small store set in the first floor of an old house packed with new and used books, as well as a small selection of gifts and artwork for sale. They also have a decent selection of coffee’s, tea’s and chai’s along with some fresh pastry from a bakery in nearby Putnam, CT. Owner Debra Horan was very nice and we met some customers who purchased my book. For those who could not make it, the remainder of her stock (of Classic Diners of Mass.) have been signed for anyone who wants to purchase it.


Left to right, Denise Cultrera, Larry Cultrera and owner Debra Horan
at Booklovers’ Gourmet in Webster. Photo by Lorraine Ostrokolowicz

Original Dunkin Donut store gets a retro revamp

The original Dunkin Donut store located at 543 Southern Artery in Quincy, Mass. has just received a quick 11-day renovation that has the place looking like a modern version of its 1950’s look. The store located near the corner of Bracket Street and the Southern Artery (Route 3A), was first opened in 1948 by Bill Rosenberg, (the founder of Dunkin Donuts) under the name “Open Kettle” and was an adjunct to his other business, Industrial Luncheon Service.

By 1950 Rosenberg decided  the name of the store needed to reflect the actual product that he was selling, basically coffee and donuts.  That is when the name changed to Dunkin Donuts.


Publicity photo from Dunkin Donuts featuring the original Quincy location.
A fair number of the Dunkin Donuts locations in the Boston area have an enlargement of this hanging somewhere prominently in the stores.

The signage was notable with the letters “in” actually dipping down lower than the other letters symbolizing the “Dunkin” part of the name. The building has gone thru many “looks” over the last 60 years, reflecting the chains appearance in any given time. The new renovation represents a retro look back in a modern sort of way! It even has a small “L” shaped counter with fixed stools evoking the feeling and ambiance that the early stands had.

I first heard about this from the Boston Globe, November 30, 2011 in an article written by Christina Reinwald for the business section of that day’s newspaper. I would put a link to the article but you now have to be a subscriber to read it. That’s technology for you! Anyway, after reading the article, I decided a quick trip was in order to shoot a few photos and today (Sunday) seemed to be the ideal time.

So, on the way over Denise and I went and had breakfast at the Wheelhouse Diner (also in Quincy) and boy, that place was hopping when we got there. Grill-man extraordinaire, Doug Showstead was his usual pleasant and efficient self. He always makes us feel welcome and told me at least 10 people have come into the diner in the last month or so and mentioned about the appearance of the Wheelhouse in my Classic Diners of Mass. book.

After breakfast we drove over to Dunkin Donuts so I could take my photos. As you can see, the new signage is a smaller version of the original, only with backlit plastic covered letters instead of neon.


Original Dunkin Donut store at 543 Southern Artery in Quincy, Mass. December 4, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Original Dunkin Donut store at 543 Southern Artery in Quincy, Mass. December 4, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Original Dunkin Donut store at 543 Southern Artery in Quincy, Mass. December 4, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera
I was standing in the middle of the street to get this shot, thank goodness it was a Sunday morning!


A close-up of the little plaque they have to the right of the entrance announcing that this is the first Dunkin Donut store, circa 1950.

This little project was a combined effort between the franchisee and the Corporate Headquarters of Dunkin Donuts to make the store look the way it does. According to the report, this will be the only Dunkin Donut outlet to reflect this style! Overall, I like the look and always enjoy when a company makes a nod to their past. I applaud all involved.

SRO in Somerville, next up… North Dartmouth!

The Author Event at the Somerville Public Library was a success! It became a standing room only crowd! There were more than quite a few books sold.


Some of my family showed up in Somerville, left to right, my brother Don and his wife  Jane, my brother Steve, me and my brother Rick.
photo by Denise Cultrera

This was billed as the first “Meet, Mingle and Read” event at the Library and Library Director Maria Carpenter was very gracious and pleasant to work with. My new slide presentation was well received and there were quite a few members of the audience that participated in the question and answer part after the presentation. The library had some catered “diner-like” food for people to partake of (it was from the local “Sound Bites” restaurant, none of the 3 diners in Somerville could accomodate the request for food).

Some members of my family showed up for this including my brothers Steve, Rick and Don and Don’s wife Jane, as well as Denise’s cousin Maryann Bancroft and her husband Rick. Another old friend, Vinny Bordonaro stopped by as well as a former co-worker of mine Ed Lecaroz and his friend Beth. Old friend and owner of the Rosebud Diner, Bill Nichols was there along with David Hebb, one of my long-time diner roadtrip buddies as well as newer friends Glenn Wells and Mike Engle. Glenn and Mike get the long distance award for driving all the way from the Albany, NY area to attend! Many thanks to my wife Denise for all her help including the photos she shot. I think she is getting pretty good with the Nikon Cool Pix camera.


left to right, David Hebb, Mike Engle, Glenn Wells and myself.
photo by Denise Cultrera

This coming Saturday at 11:00 am, it is on to Baker Books in North Dartmouth, Mass. as well as a radio interview with New Bedford’s Shawmut Diner owner and local radio personality Phil Paleologos at 10:15 am on Tuesday, November 22 (WBSM-AM). Here is a link to the event page at Baker Books….
http://www.bakerbooks.net/events.asp

Notes from the Hotline, 9-5-2011

Diners of Pennsylvania, Second Edition


Diners of Pennsylvania Front Cover, Second Edition

I got my official copy of Diners of Pennsylvania back in March. I have also been meaning to mention something here about this book but the writing of my own book, Classic Diners of Massachusetts for “The History Press” sort of took priority. I actually read this new version prior to publication (and prior to receiving my hardcopy) as I was privileged to be one of the people to write a blurb for the back cover. This book, published by “Stackpole Books” out of Mechanicsburg, PA is the latest in this series that the publisher initiated with the first edition (of Diners of Pennsylvania) back in 1999.

Back then co-authors Brian Butko and Kevin Patrick did an outstanding job. In fact, I will say it was groundbreaking in the compilation of information along with the photos and maps that accompanied the text, (as I said in my blurb on the back cover) making it a benchmark for all the other books that followed it!  Thanks to the combined effort of Butko, Patrick and editor Kyle Weaver (the 3rd co-author for this new edition), this updated version surpasses the first remarkably without effort. It also helps that all the photos are in full color this time around, making for the finest presentation of any the publisher has done previously.

According to Brian Butko, Kyle Weaver did the “on the road” research, sometimes with other people along. Brian says; “so for example, he and I drove Western PA together. Plus I had been collecting updates along the way. Then we all proofed it together. It’s very much a 3-way effort – not that we did it all together, but our parts blend seamlessly I think”. I would have to agree with Brian, it did all blend seamlessly and it is a must for any diner afficianado’s book collection!

Peanut Mobile sighting in Boston on July 30th

Denise and I took a subway ride into Boston on July 30th and checked out the Planters Peanut Mobile at City Hall Plaza. The vehicle was on a National Tour and had stopped in Beantown that weekend!


Planters Peanut Mobile, July 30, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Planters Peanut Mobile, July 30, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Planters Peanut Mobile, July 30, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Larry & Denise Cultrera with Mister Peanut, photo courtesy of
Planters Peanuts

While we were there, we walked over to an adjacent building and I finally shot the famous steaming “Teapot”….

Mike O’Connor checks in with an update on his continuing restoration of Worcester Lunch Car No. 705

Thought you might like to see how Worcester Lunch Car No. 705 is progressing, feel free to post them on your weblog! Dennis Day from Sterling, Mass. did the lettering he took his time and did a great job. We are very happy with the whole project and can’t thank Gary Thomas enough for his great work on No. 705 ! I’m planning on keeping it here on my property and enjoying it with our friends. It is a great place for car club meetings, etc. regards, Mike & Maggie Ann O’Connor


Interior of Worcester Lunch car No. 705. All the back-bar cabinetry was created by Gary Thomas. Photo courtesy of Mike O’Connor.


Exterior showing the newly painted lettering. The diner now has its original name back on it. The Park Diner was delivered to Horace Mayhew in Salem, NH on June 14, 1933. Photo courtesy of Mike O’Connor.


Maggie Ann’s The Park Diner with all the exterior lights on.
Photo courtesy of Mike O’Connor.

Latest acquisition for my Diner Postcard collection

I was checking Ebay recently and saw a postcard I did not know existed! It was a “long” postcard of the original Prospect Mountain Diner, a “double-wide” 1950 Silk City diner that was destroyed in a fire a few years ago. Located in Lake George, NY, I have memories from my teen years when my family vacationed in that resort town, in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains.
I also frequented the diner many times since then, whenever I was in Lake George. Therefore, it really saddened me when the diner burned! There were not that many examples of a double-wide Silk City to my knowledge, and this was almost pristine. Anyway, here is the postcard I purchased…..


Postcard view showing exterior of diner with an interior view of the Rickshaw Room Annex as well as the kitchen. This was a rarity, the diner served a typical comfort food menu while the annex served Chinese cuisine.

April Vacation, 2011 – Part 3

Part 3 of my April Vacation, 2011 begins on Monday morning (4-18-11) before sunrise. I left Albany by way of U.S. Rte. 20 heading east. I drove into Pittsfield, Mass. and decided to see if Adrien’s Diner might be open. It was around 5:30 am and there was no one around. The operating hours were not posted so I was not sure if they were even opening (it was Patriots Day, a Massachusetts holiday, although not everyone gets it off). I decided not to hang around and coninued east toward the town of Lee. Once I got there, I saw that Joe’s Diner was open. I figured it was about time I checked it out as it is a somewhat famous place. Joe’s is not a factory-built diner but a small storefront type diner. It is famous for being the place where Norman Rockwell set his well known iconic 1958 painting, “The Runaway”.


The Runaway, a painting by Norman Rockwell


Joe’s Diner, U.S. Rte. 20, Lee, Mass. April 18, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Joe’s Diner, U.S. Rte. 20, Lee, Mass. April 18, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

I had a pretty decent breakfast at Joe’s Diner and then got back on the road, continuing east on Route 20. As I mentioned in Part 1, I needed to get to 5 diners in the western part of Massachusetts on my way home from Albany for info and photos for my “Classic Diners of Massachusetts” book. My next destination was the Route 66 Diner on Bay Street in Springfield and it had been a while since I was last there. I did not need exterior photos of this diner as I figured the last ones I shot a few years ago were good. Unfortunately, owner Don Roy was not there, I was told he was in Florida. So I obtained a takeout menu and took 2 interior photos. Here is one of them below…….


Interior of Route 66 Diner, Springfield, Mass.
April 18, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

I left Springfield and jumped on I-91 northbound to get up to Northampton. Once I got there I headed back west on Route 9 to visit the Miss Florence Diner. I had not been to the Miss Flo since the Alexander family sold it 10 years ago. The place looked good and I got some new photos (exterior and interior). They had no takeout menus as they were actually having new ones being printed. I started taking notes from their extensive menu and thought this might take all day, and then one of the waitresses told me that the menu was pretty much all on their website. I got the name of the owner who was not there, (John Zantouliadis) and called him later in the week for some background. It seems he is not the person who bought the diner from the Alexanders, he is actually the second owner after them. (He also told me the takeout menu came in from the printers the day before) Anyway, here are some shots….


Miss Florence Diner. April 18, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Miss Florence Diner. April 18, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Interior of Miss Florence Diner. April 18, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

I went back to Northampton but continued past the center of town toward the Route 9 Diner in Hadley a few miles to the east.  This is one of the newer diners in Massachusetts. It came to town as the Sit Down Diner, brand new from Kullman Industries, but the original owner went out of business and the diner was bought back by Kullman at auction and they turned around and found new operators, Chris Karabetsos and Archie Sideris who have been very successful with the business in the intervening years.


Route 9 Diner, Hadley, Mass. April 18, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Route 9 Diner, Hadley, Mass.
April 18, 2011 interior photo by Larry Cultrera


Route 9 Diner, Hadley, Mass.
April 18, 2011 interior photo by Larry Cultrera

I headed back to Northampton and drove north on Route 5 (King Street) to the Bluebonnet Diner. Jim Greco was given a heads-up by his son Tony that I was coming. Jim was very helpful and it is obvious he takes pride in the business that his dad and uncle started in 1950.


Bluebonnet Diner, Northampton, Mass.
April 18, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Bluebonnet Diner, Northampton, Mass.
April 18, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Bluebonnet Diner, Northampton, Mass.
April 18, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Interior of the Bluebonnet Diner, Northampton, Mass.
April 18, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

The Bluebonnet has been added onto over the years and features a cocktail lounge as well as a huge function facility. Through all this, the diner section itself has pretty much stayed original with the exception of some updated windows and light fixtures. The diner is popular with regular customers as well as the out of town transient crowd that frequent it.

From Northampton I jumped back on I-91 to get up to Whately where the Whately Diner Fillin’ Station was awaiting me. This diner is a true 24 hour “truck stop diner” catering to truckers at Exit 24 off I-91. This is a “Princess” model built by Kullman Diners circa 1960 and was originally operated as the Princess Diner in Chicopee, Mass. It was bought in the early 1970’s by F.L. Roberts, a local company that has a chain of convenience stores, car washes and gas stations in the area. They moved the diner from Chicopee to Whately and ran it as the Maverick Diner for a time prior to renaming it to its current name.


Whately Diner Fillin’ Station, Whately, Mass.
April 18, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Whately Diner Fillin’ Station, Whately, Mass.
April 18, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Interior – Whately Diner Fillin’ Station, Whately, Mass.
April 18, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

After Whately, I scooted back home by I-91 and Route 2. I was out again the next morning and visited Buddy’s Diner in Somerville. I used to be a semi-regular here but have not visited it in a while. This is a 1929 vintage Worcester Lunch Car that has been at this location since the early 1950’s. Currently owned by Nicole Bairos, it is primarily operated by her cousins Kim Bairos & Niko Makrigiannis as well as short order cook extraordinaire,  Jose Ramirez.


Buddy’s Diner, Somerville, Mass. April 19, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Interior – Buddy’s Diner, Somerville, Mass.
L-R behind the counter, Jose Ramirez and Niko Makrigiannis
April 19, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

The next short roadtrip was out to Worcester on Thursday for more photos and info for the book. This time, Denise went with me. First stop was Blanchard’s 101 Diner. I have written extensively about this diner in a few previous posts since they opened over 3 years ago, (wow, it’s that long?). It was great to see Chris Blanchard. I got some new shots, inside and out plus a copy of their menu.


Blanchard’s 101 Diner, Worcester, Mass.
April 21, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Interior – Blanchard’s 101 Diner, Worcester, Mass.
April 21, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Next stop was a few miles to the west on Route 9 – to Spencer, Mass. and a visit to Charlie’s Diner Bar & Grill. Charlie’s was moved from its long-time operating location on Plantation St. in Worcester a number of years ago. It stayed in storage for a couple of years before it found a home in Spencer. Within the last 2 years they added on to the existing structure with a bar & grill to expand the operating hours. From what a very tired Steve Turner told me, the new addition to the business has been a success.


Charlie’s Diner Bar & Grill, Spencer, Mass. The section with the dormers to the right is the Bar & Grill addition.
April 21, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Interior – Charlie’s Diner Bar & Grill, Spencer, Mass.
April 21, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

After Charlie’s we went back to Worcseter and our final destination of the Boulevard Diner. If one was ever to look for a museum quality working diner, this is it! The Bully is almost hard to describe, from the fantastic food, to the condition of the building, to the people who patronize the place and the people working behind the counter….. this diner has it all! I spoke with Jim George for quite a while, and we had a great conversation! He mentioned that he recently started making his own Italian Sausage again after many years of purchasing the product of a local meat purveyor. He said when he was a youngster working for his dad at the diner, making the home-made sausage was one of his regular duties and now he has come full circle. I will tell you, he had my mouth watering!


Jim George, behind the counter at the Boulevard Diner
April 21, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Interior – Boulevard Diner, Worcester, Mass.
Denise Cultrera in the foreground. April 21, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Boulevard Diner, Worcester, Mass. April 21, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

We actually did eat lunch at the Boulevard, but no Italian food (darn). Denise and I split a wonderful BLT on toasted Italian Bread with french fries! Well, that was it for my vacation week, the rest of it was spent winding down to Easter weekend and doing a little writing.