Another Diner Road Trip – 27 years ago this weekend

I have been rather delinquent in posting recently. In part due to laziness and also because I have been contemplating this post, I just needed to scan a bunch of slides for it. A few months ago I scanned some slides for Michael Gabriele that he may or may not end up using in his forthcoming book – The History of Diners in New Jersey for my publisher, The History Press. Two of the slide boxes I left out purposely to remind me about this post and get busy scanning.

Well that really did not spur me into action and they sat (and sat). Finally a little over a week ago I got off my rear end and started scanning because Memorial Day Weekend was fast approaching and the post I wanted to write was about a Diner road trip I took on Memorial Day Weekend in 1986!

When I had scanned the slides of Paul’s Diner of Kearny, NJ for Mike G., I looked at the other slides in the box and remembered that trip. I also realized there was one other box of slides (as well as 5 slides in yet a third box) that were associated with that trip. So today I completed the scanning process and decided to get on with this post before the weekend is over!

Memorial Day Weekend in 1986 was May 24th thru 26th (Saturday to Monday). These road trips were usually taken with either Steve Repucci or David Hebb (or both). I believe this was a Dave Hebb trip….. well anyway, we more than likely took off early as I usually liked to do on Saturday, May 24th and made it down to Fairfield, CT and Larry’s Diner, as it was the first one photographed on this trip. That Saturday was pretty overcast, weather-wise as the photos will show.

I had already been to Larry’s 3 years earlier according to my Diner Log, so it was not listed in the log on this trip in 1986. We may even have had breakfast here but more than likely it was at the very least a coffee stop and photo op. This diner was built by the Jerry O’Mahony Co. in the early 1930’s and was still in extremely original condition at this point.

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Larry’s Diner, U.S. Rte. 1 in Fairfield, CT  –  Right Front corner
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Larry’s Diner, U.S. Rte. 1 in Fairfield, CT   –  Left Front corner
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Larry’s Diner, U.S. Rte. 1 in Fairfield, CT  – Left front showing the interesting
addition to the diner – a lunch wagon sized annex with a frosted window!
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Larry’s Diner, was moved around the corner from this location in the 1990’s and completely gutted on the interior to become the front of another restaurant. The outside was also changed.

Our next stop was George’s Diner at 71 Main Street in Norwalk, CT. This was a Mountain View Diner that was also fairly original inside and out with one exception, there was a brick facade under the windows facing Main St. and on the entryway. The rest of the facade was intact. The diner is still there and operating under the name “Family Diner” now.

George's-Diner-1George’s Diner, 71 Main St.  in Norwalk, CT
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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George’s Diner, 71 Main St.  in Norwalk, CT
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Down the road a piece just off U.S. Rte. 1 in Cos Cob, CT was a small 1920’s vintage barrel-roofed diner called Thanh’s Diner. It had formerly been known as Pal Joey’s Diner. This was believed to be an old Tierney diner built down the road in New Rochelle. This diner does not exist anymore.

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Thanh’s Diner, just off U.S. Rte. 1  in Cos Cob, CT
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Thanh’s Diner, just off U.S. Rte. 1  in Cos Cob, CT
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

A diner I had first read about in the book Diners of the Northeast by Donald Kaplan and Allison Bellink was the Chinatown Diner, a late 1940’s vintage diner (could be a Kullman but more than likely DeRaffele) located at 301 Halstead Ave. in Harrison, NY. It had been serving primarily Chinese food as well as an American breakfast menu when Don and Allison had visited it. By the time I finally got there in 1986, it had become an upscale bistro called the Silver Spoon Cafe.

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Silver Spoon Cafe, 301 Halstead Ave.  in Harrison, NY
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Silver Spoon Cafe, 301 Halstead Ave.  in Harrison, NY
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

When I originally wrote this post I thought the Silver Spoon Cafe was the final photo op of the day. But alas, it turns out I missed a couple of images of yet another diner that was previously logged (it did not show up in the May of 1986 section of the log, that is why I forgot to upload these). It seems we got over to the northwest corner of the Garden State and checked out Prout’s Diner in Sussex by late afternoon.

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Prout’s Diner, Main Street.  in Sussex, NJ
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Prout’s Diner, Main Street.  in Sussex, NJ
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

It looked like the weather was finally turning for the better before night came on and sure enough, bright and early on the morning of May 25th (my 33rd birthday), it was a very sunny day which made for a great breakfast and even better photos at Pal’s Diner on Rte. 17 in Mahwah, NJ.

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Pal’s Diner, Rte. 17  in Mahwah, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Pal’s Diner, Rte. 17  in Mahwah, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Pal’s Diner is one of a very few diners I have photographed that was built by Manno Diners. It was moved in the 1990’s to Grand Rapids, Michigan where it continues to operate to this day!

The next diner photographed that morning (according to the order of slides in the box) was in fact another diner I had previously visited, the White Manna on River Street in Hackensack, NJ. This was the first of several “small” diners we documented on this trip. All of these particular small diners were built dating from the late 1930’s to early 1950’s. Most offered limited menus offering hamburgers, etc. Being that it was Sunday morning, it was not open at the point in time that I stopped. I was able to document it pretty well on the exterior but the fact that it was closed offered me a great opportunity to get some great interior “thru-the-window” shots as well.

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White Manna, 358 River St.  in Hackensack, NJ
May 25, 1986 exterior photo by Larry Cultrera

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White Manna, 358 River St.  in Hackensack, NJ
May 25, 1986 exterior photo by Larry Cultrera

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White Manna, 358 River St.  in Hackensack, NJ
May 25, 1986 interior photo by Larry Cultrera

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White Manna, 358 River St.  in Hackensack, NJ
May 25, 1986 interior photo by Larry Cultrera

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White Manna, 358 River St.  in Hackensack, NJ
May 25, 1986 interior photo by Larry Cultrera

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White Manna, 358 River St.  in Hackensack, NJ
May 25, 1986 interior photo by Larry Cultrera

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White Manna, 358 River St.  in Hackensack, NJ
May 25, 1986 interior photo by Larry Cultrera

Next up was another small diner….. the White Diamond on St. Georges Ave. (Rte. 27) in Linden, NJ. This looks to be built by Mountain View diners and I believe it was moved to another location not too far away within the intervening years since I documented it.

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White Diamond, St. Georges Ave.  in Linden, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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White Diamond, St. Georges Ave.  in Linden, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Another small diner and possibly the jewel of the bunch was the Short Stop located at 26 Washington Ave. in Belleville, NJ. One of the cutest diners I have ever photographed, this diner was bought quite a few years ago by Steve Harwin of Cleveland, Ohio’s Diversified Diners. As far as I know, Steve still has this one in storage.

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Short Stop Diner, 26 Washington Ave.  in Belleville, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Short Stop Diner, 26 Washington Ave.  in Belleville, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

We made it over to the Harrison/Kearny area after this and saw Max’s Grill, but probably due to the morning light and Max’s being on the wrong side of the street… I did not shoot any photos of it. Just up the street from Max’s on the opposite side just over the line in Kearny we came across another small diner, the Blue Castle System. This diner has since disappeared. There is a Shell Gas Station on the sight now according to Google street view.

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Blue Castle System Diner, 829 Harrison Ave.  in Kearny, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Blue Castle System Diner, 829 Harrison Ave.  in Kearny, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Just down the street from the Blue Castle was Paul’s Diner, a 1940’s vintage Fodero. I have recently found out the diner is still there and operating as the Cardinal Diner. The only visible change I could determine was that it now sports a mansard roof that covers the original monitor style roof.

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Paul’s Diner, 1002 Harrison Ave.  in Kearny, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Paul’s Diner, 1002 Harrison Ave.  in Kearny, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

We got over to the Orange, NJ area shortly after and located the closed (taken for back taxes) Orange Diner on Lincoln Ave. behind the U.S. Post Office. This was a nice looking Mountain View diner. I do not know what happened to this diner other than the fact that the space is currently occupied by a parking lot.

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Orange Diner, Lincoln Ave.  in Orange, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Orange Diner, Lincoln Ave.  in Orange, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Also in Orange we found the State Diner over on Valley Road. This 1950’s Kullman diner as far as I know is still there, although I do not know if it is currently in operation.

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State Diner, Valley Rd.  in Orange, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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State Diner, Valley Rd.  in Orange, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Next up was the nicely preserved 1930’s vintage Summit Diner located at the corner of Summit Ave. and Union Place in downtown Summit, NJ. This was typical of what the Jerry O’Mahony diner company was building by the late 30’s. The diner is still there and operating.

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Summit Diner, Summit Ave. & Union Pl.  in Summit, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Summit Diner, Summit Ave. & Union Pl.  in Summit, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Here is the last small diner we saw that day… the 2nd of 3 White Diamond Hamburger places (we did not see the 3rd one located in Clark, NJ on this trip). This one was located at the corner of Bayway Ave. and Thomas St. in Elizabeth, NJ. I just checked Google street view and there is a Dunkin Donuts on the same location now.

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White Diamond, Bayway Ave. & Thomas St.  in Elizabeth, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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White Diamond, Bayway Ave. & Thomas St.  in Elizabeth, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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White Diamond, Bayway Ave. & Thomas St.  in Elizabeth, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

After Elizabeth, NJ we were back on the road for home and made one last stop for a photo op back in Norwalk, CT. This was for the former Norwalk Diner at that time operating as Cafe Osman. This looks to be a 1940 vintage DeRaffele diner, the type that resembled what Fodero was building at the same point in time. This diner had been altered by bricking up the facade under the windows. In fact the diner which was situated end-wise to the street had a door that was in the center of the facade facing the driveway/parking area that apparently was not used anymore. This door had been “bricked-up” as well with only the top half of the window showing. I do not know if this is still there.

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Cafe Osman, Main St.  in Norwalk, CT
May 25, 1986 exterior photo by Larry Cultrera

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Cafe Osman, Main St.  in Norwalk, CT
May 25, 1986 exterior photo by Larry Cultrera

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Cafe Osman, Main St.  in Norwalk, CT
May 25, 1986 interior photo by Larry Cultrera

The next road trip was not until August 1st of 1986when Dave Hebb and I photographed a couple of diners in Verbank and Millbrook… in eastern upstate New York.

Diners and such, Fall River, Mass. in the 1980’s

I have probably written this before (in the book for sure), that back in the 1980’s, the old mill towns in Massachusetts still had high concentrations of diners left over from earlier decades. The cities of Lowell, Attleboro and Lynn come to mind. As the last 30 years have gone by, the amount of diners in these towns have also dwindled. In this post I am going to talk about the South Coast city of Fall River.

To start off this little tour, I am going to take you for a ride down the main thoroughfare known as Pleasant Street. Back in the 1980’s, Fall River still had 5 diners, 3 of them were located on Pleasant Street.

Paramount Diner/Catering

The first diner, heading from west to east on this street was the Paramount Diner/Paramount Catering located approximately at 171 Pleasant St. This was a  barrel-roofed Worcester Lunch Car dating from sometime in the 1930’s. I was checking through some Worcester Lunch Car Company info and could not find a Worcester Diner of this style and size that was delivered brand-new from the factory to Fall River. I suspect it was brought here from elsewhere (possibly the former Romeo’s Diner of nearby New Bedford). As I understand it, this operated at this location as the State Diner circa 1940 and was renamed the Paramount Diner later.


Paramount Diner/Catering at 171 Pleasant St. in Fall River, Mass. This is from my first visit to document diners in Fall River. I do not know the exact date as it was taken just before I started the diner log in July of 1981. It looks like the owners were covering the exterior with T-111 wooden panelling. The diner was just being used for a catering operation at this time.


In this second shot from the same visit in July of 1981, you can see the diner was attached to a larger building in the rear which itself was attached to what looks to be an old gas station-type building.


Here we see the diner in April of 1984 looking to be in similar condition.
No more T-111 has been installed (or finished for that matter). The only big difference is the windows on the side of the addition which were covered in the earlier shots are now uncovered, at least on the outside.

In doing some research for this post I came across an obituary from the Fall River Herald News dated April 26, 2008 for Peter Ciosek. Mister Ciosek passed away on April 25, 2008 at the age of 93. The obituary mentioned that he was the owner of the Paramount Diner/Catering for 35 years. The diner itself was gone by the late 1980’s, reportedly destroyed in a fire. There is currently an “L” shaped modern professional building on this site.

Sambo’s Diner

The next diner heading east on Pleasant St. was Sambo’s Diner. Located at 657 Pleasant St. it was a pretty rare configuration built by Paramount Diners of Haledon, NJ. Ironically, I received a scan of an ad from Jeff Kunkle of Vintage Roadside a few years ago. The ad was featured in a rare edition of the trade publication “Diner & Drive-In” magazine dating from May of 1956. The ad depicted this very diner and stated the owner was Sam Schwartz (hence the name Sambo’s).


Advertisement from May, 1956 issue of Diner & Drive-In magazine


This photo and the following three photos were shot in August of 1983 showing this diner in great detail. I can only conjecture that the flat roof of the diner had problems over the years and the owner added this slanted roof over the structure.


As one can see, this was a fairly small diner for the time period.


It was very stylish with large plate glass windows.


Looking inside you can see this interior is a throwback to lunchwagon days.

Unfortunately, this diner was gone by the early 1990’s and was replaced by a Mister Donut (now Dunkin Donut) shop.

Mark You Restaurant

In all those early diner hunting trips driving down Pleasant St., I passed by a completely remarkable looking storefront Chinese restaurant called the Mark You Restaurant (1236 Pleasant St.) and kept saying…. I have got to stop and photograph this place. I finally did shoot some photos of it in November of 1984, and I am so glad I did!  This place was so cool with a facade of black and biege Vitrolite, glass block windows and a tall verticle sign.


The lettering on the facade is probably 1940-1950 vintage and is accented by some stainless-steel trim. It might be hard to read, but the sign on the canopy/base of the verticle sign says “Chow Mein”.


That fantastic verticle sign really makes this place visible driving in either direction on Pleasant St.


A close-up of the sign


Another fantastic detail… a stainless-steel frame within the glass block window with a porthole that features a neon clock!

I checked online to see if this restaurant was still around as the last time I drove this stretch of Pleasant St. in May of 2011, I did not see the place. It seems the restaurant closed in 2007 and remained closed for approximately 3 years before being reopened. Unfortunately, it looks like the black and beige facade has been painted over in blue and white. Also during the 3 years it was closed, the verticle sign was removed, explaining why I did not notice the restaurant last year. I informed Dick Gutman about my plans in writing this post last weekend and mentioned the Mark You and he immediately told me that old friend Dave Waller rescued the sign. Well at least I know it did not go to a junk yard!

Nite Owl Diner

The Nite Owl Diner located at 1680 Pleasant Street is the final stop on this street before we move on. This circa 1956 diner was built by DeRaffele Diners.  I am not sure but I am thinking that this diner was also owned by Fall River “diner king” Al McDermott as this new little stainless-steel job replaced a truck-mounted Worcester Lunch Car (No. 786) that dated from 1945 that he owned.


The original Nite Owl Diner in Fall River. This was Worcester Lunch Car No. 786, the photo was taken right before it was replaced by the current diner.
Photo courtesy of John Baeder


This is possibly my favorite photo that I ever took of the Nite Owl Diner.
It dates to November of 1984 by the look of things, it seems the city was replacing the sidewalks around the diner.


This diner was “finished” on all sides with stainless-steel and red enamel stripes. Like its neighbor down the street, Sambo’s, this was set-up more like a lunch wagon on the interior instead of the more familiar layout.


As you can see the neon sign that had been installed on the roof of the older diner ended up on this one where it still sits today.


I went crazy photographing the diner that day in 1984 as the light was pretty much perfect!


Here is a 1991 “oil on canvas” painting by John Baeder of the Nite Owl.
(used with permission) image courtesy of John Baeder.

As far as I know, the Nite Owl Diner has stood closed now for a number of years but is still very much intact.

Al Mac’s Diner Restaurant

Now that we have left Pleasant St. we will travel back to the other end of town to Al Mac’s Diner located at 135 President Avenue. This is a 1953 vinatge DeRaffele Diner and one of the last bought by Al McDermott. When I first photographed this diner in July of 1981, it was actually facing President Avenue. Unless the light of day was a flat cloudy light, the diner which was facing north was very hard to photograph.


This particular day was sunny, but I managed to squeek out a couple of decent shots.

Before the end of the 1980’s, the diner was rearranged on the property. Basically the building was turned 90 degrees, counter clockwise and a new kitchen was built on the back. This way the large piece of property could be redeveloped into the strip mall that currently exists here.


Here is the diner turned and re-installed at the same location. Because of this new configuration, the diner has become more photogenic as it faces west now. By the way, that sign in this second photograph was brand-new and replaced the one in the older photograph which had rotted and ultimately fallen down.


Here is another “oil on canvas” painting by John Baeder from 1991. This image proves just how photogenic this diner became when it was turned around.

You can see more of John’s paintings here at his website….
http://www.johnbaeder.com/Gallery1.htm

Al Mac’s is a great place to have a meal when you are in the area and currently one of only 2 diners mentioned here that are still operating.

Andy’s Rockland Diner

This diner located at 1019 South Main Street in Fall River was known as just the “Rockland Diner” when I first came across it on March 13, 1982. This diner was built by J.B. Judkins of Merrimac, Mass., the manufacturers of Sterling Diners. This is in fact a Sterling Dinette, a fairly small diner model. This was one of at least two that I knew to exist in Massachusetts. The other was the Old Colony Diner in Mansfield (now The Catman Cafe). In fact both of these dinette models were enlarged by removing the left side wall and placing it on the front elevation.


The Rockland Diner in Fall River, The wall with 3 windows at the extreme
left of the front wall were originally the side wall of the diner.


The diner was enlarged even more with the brick addition on the right.

As I understand it, the diner is now completely encased in brick and fairly unrecogizable as a diner now. After Al Mac’s, the Rockland Diner is the only other diner that is still operating in Fall River.