Another Diner bites the dust!!!!
This month has been horrendous with the closing of the Fish Tale Diner of Salisbury, Mass. and the demolition of the Bel-Aire Diner of Peabody, Mass. Well now we hear that yet another Bay State diner has met with a bulldozer! My friend Barry Henley, the proprietor of “My Brother’s Place” Restaurant in Webster, Mass. reports that the infamous (at least to me) “Diner house” has been demolished. Located at 93 Oxford Avenue in the town of Dudley, this diner has not operated as a food service establishment for approximately 40 years.
I have shown the above photo as part of a diner slide presentation for over 20 years. It is in the “repurposed diners” section of the show. I always introduced it as my ultimate fantasy, a diner as part of someone’s house! I personally have been aware of this place since the early 1970’s when my older brother Steve lived in Dudley.
We used to take the street commonly refered to as the “Dudley-Oxford road” as a short cut. I noticed the diner way back then but eventually forgot about it after my brother moved back to the Boston area. It was not until I started documenting diners with my photographs in the early 1980’s that I became re-acquainted with it. In fact, it was my brother Steve who reminded me of it. Since then I believe I photographed it at least 3 different times, the last being circa 1985.
When I started planning to write this post, I decided to check out Google maps and satellite view to see if I could see the structure. I found a street called Dudley Oxford Road (which was not exactly where I thought it should be). I looked up and down that road and nothing looked right! Turns out it was not the correct road. I checked back with Barry Henley and he gave me the correct address which when checked on Google maps coincided with what I remembered.
Barry was taking the perennial shortcut from Dudley to Oxford on Saturday the 17th of March when he could not help but notice the pile of rubble where the structure used to be! He snapped a photo out the side window of his vehicle and posted it to Facebook where I spotted it.
We do not know for sure if the diner actually ever operated in this location or was placed here to be a part of someone’s house. Someone I knew over 25 years ago actually went inside this place and said it was basically gutted and being used as a “family room”. The only recognizable thing on the inside was the former refrigerator built into the corner. It was being utilized as a shelf or something.
Barry Henley told me it had been altered since I last saw it and told me to check out a recent real estate listing that described it as…… Structure was originally a diner and converted into a single family residence. Septic will NOT pass Title V. Being sold “AS IS”. All offers considered. This listing also had some photos that showed the original diner windows had been replaced by inexpensive sliding windows. Other than that it was still recognizable.
You can see the listing here at this link…. http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/93-Oxford-Ave-Dudley-MA-01571/59207622_zpid/#1
Here are some of my other photos of it from the 1980’s…..
Allston’s Breakfast Club Diner gets a new on-site addition
early 1980’s photo of Ted’s Diner, Worcester Lunch Car No. 841
originally operated as Fahey’s Diner, it has been run under other names such as Henry’s Diner, Mike’s Diner and more recently as the Breakfast Club.
photo by Larry Cultrera
The diner currently operating as the Breakfast Club in the Allston section of Boston has recently been modified with a decent size handicapped accessible dining room addition. I was first informed about this by Mike Engle who had been by the diner with Glenn Wells and David Hebb after the Author Event for my “Classic Diners of Massachusetts” book in Somerville, Mass. back in November. So, in early December, Denise and I went over to the Breakfast Club for breakfast (of course). I snapped a couple of photos of which the next is one….
As you can see the construction of the new addition was still in process. I was certainly curious about what they intended to do with the exterior covering. Naturally I was hoping for the best but as these things go, it could have been covered in a very uncomplimentary exterior material.
Early this past Saturday afternoon, I received an email from Bob Higgins informing me that he had been by the Breakfast Club and was completely impressed by what they had done. Needless to say, I took a ride over in the late afternoon to see for myself! Bob was right! I could not believe my eyes! Whomever did the work did an exemplary job recreating the “Worcester style” exterior on the new addition.
Here are my photos….
Seeing that this type of construction can still be done and really look decent makes me feel good inside to know that some owners realize what they have and don’t try to mess with it or modernize in a uncomplimentary way. Instead they decided to go the extra mile and do it right! Kudos to owner George Athanasopoulas on a job well done!
The nest generation of Diner Aficionado, revisited !!!!
I intended on writing this post a couple of weeks ago, but with the above mentioned closing of the Fish Tale Diner and the Bel-Aire Diner being demo’d, it just had to be put on the back-burner temporarily.
Back in 2005, in the Spring edition of the Society for Commercial Archeology’s Journal Magazine, I wrote about a few news items in that installment of the original hard-copy version of Diner Hotline. Among these was the announcement of the new exhibit at the Culinary Arts Museum (at Johnson & Wales University) called “Serving the World with Worcester Dining Cars” accompanying the permanent exhibit “Diners: Still Cookin’ in the 21st Century”. The second piece of news was the release of Randy Garbin’s “Diners of New England” book, published by our friends at Stackpole Books.
There was also an installment of “Notes from the Hotline” (not unlike this post) where I mentioned about the relocation of the old Cairo Diner (of Cairo, NY) which was hoped to be restored at that point in time, (it never happened as far as I know). Another piece in that “Notes” was about 2 national TV broadcasts featuring diners, Al Roker’s “Diner Destinations” (on the Food Network) and “Back to the Blueprint” featuring Steve Harwin’s Diversified Diners (on the History Channel).
I also had a small piece about my new friend Spencer Stewart describing him as the next generation of Commercial Archeologist. Spencer’s dad Michael, a member of the SCA had influenced his then 14-year-old son and fostered his interest in diners and other roadside places. Spencer had been reading his dad’s copies of the SCA Journal and essentially looked forward to reading “Diner Hotline”! He decided to contact me and introduce himself. I was certainly intrigued by this teenager’s fascination with diners and decided to write about him in the next Hotline. I eventually met Spencer and his dad Michael in September of 2010.
Even though I found Spencer’s love of diners refreshing (reminding me of myself at his age), this was not exactly new to me. You see, back in 1992, I was contacted by a lady from Fort Collins, Colorado by the name of Cindy Siefken, (now Cindy Banfield). She told me about her 7-year-old son Philip and how he developed a keen interest in “Diners”. Cindy related to me how he had been previously struggling in his personal life, in school as well as at home. One day she had come across a television special that featured various diners that she and Philip watched. He became very excited as the Siefken’s reside in a “diner poor” region and Philip had never actually seen a diner before! Cindy said that this new interest had started to bring Phil out of his shell and he wanted to learn all he could about this piece of Americana!
In our conversation she told me how she found my name. She had come across a copy of the November, 1986 edition of Smithsonian Magazine with the major article that I was included in. So she looked me up and found my phone number. I told her that Phil’s interest really intrigued me and that if she did not mind, I could send a little “care package” of diner ephemera and other extra odds and ends to start his collection. She was extremely grateful, especially when I told her I could make a special video tape with various television specials and shows that I had been interviewed for about diners.
Also during that initial conversation, she stated: “well, we don’t have any real diners in Colorado”. I then asked her… how close are you to Lakewood? She answered “not too far”. So I informed her that in fact there was a real honest to God diner called Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner at 9495 West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood. She was beyond ecstatic! As soon as she found out she made plans to take a little excursion with her husband Dave, daughter Emily and of course Phil! The little care package including the video tape I sent, became part of Phil’s Christmas present that year and the family took its first trip to Davies’ Chuck Wagon on Christmas vacation. These next few photos document their first visit to a “real” diner………
These next photos show the next visit to Davies’ Chuck Wagon on the occasion of Phil’s 8th birthday on March 5, 1993
Here is another photo from May of 1993 (I do not know the occasion) showing Phil with a temporary tattoo…..
Well, I had basically fallen out of touch with Phil and his mom over the last number of years. I did have a more recent contact with Cindy a few years ago and found out she had gotten divorced and then remarried, so at least I knew that tidbit of information. But last year I was thinking of them again and got the bright idea to look them up on Facebook. Lo and behold I found both of them! We renewed our friendship and are now in touch more on a regular basis. He is currently employed as the Maintenance Manager of the Armstrong Hotel in Fort Collins!
I recently asked Phil about the photos his mother sent me back then. I figured they were from 2 different trips. I also asked him about his memories and feelings on his first visit to Davies’ Chuck Wagon back when he was 7-years old. He wrote back with this…..
Yes they were two different occasions. My parents took my sister and me there once before my birthday; in either January or February I assume (turns out it was December). I recall that when we went there for my Birthday, my friend Nick came with us. I remember I was so excited on the first trip there (about 60 miles from home) I was actually anxious because we were not sure if it would even still be there, having never been there before and only knowing by the post card you sent me that it had been there in the past.
I remember that my sister was not a willing participant, she was a picky eater at age 6 and it didn’t help that we drove by Casa Bonita a mile or two east of the Diner to get there. (Casa Bonita is a kid-oriented Mexican restaurant with cliff divers and an indoor waterfall & such). I was delighted when we got there and saw it for the first time. Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner was the first Diner I had ever seen. As you know we have almost none out west here and it seemed so exotic to me.
I loved the manufactured look and the gleaming stainless steel. As soon as we walked in, it didn’t feel as exotic, it felt incredibly familiar, humble, and intimate due to the small size (compared to other restaurants). My father was a truck driver and I had been to several truck stops before, so seeing features like the counter and stools. The career waitresses were another thing that made it seem humble. This was not the kind of place my parents would go after Church while pretending to be yuppies with a perfect family and I liked that. Davies’ invited you to be truly authentic and beautiful much like the diner itself. I honestly don’t recall how the food was or what the prices were like, but very little has changed since my first visit. It’s safe to assume that it’s always had good food at reasonable prices. Back in about 93 fake diners started popping up in this area and I remember despising them even as an 8 year old for being cheap knock-offs.
That conversation with Phil came earlier this month. I saw that it was Phil’s birthday (his 27th), boy does time fly! I of course wished him a Happy Birthday and he responded back to say he had made a special trip to Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner for lunch that day! He then posted 3 photos he had shot with his phone on his Facebook page. That is what got me thinking about this post. I mentioned I would like to use those shots and he said I was welcome to use them. So here are Phil’s shots from March 5th of this year…..
I know if Phil ever travels out this way, he will get a tour of all the great diners here in the Greater Boston area from yours truly!