Memorial Day roadtrip – 1982

1982 was a pivotal year in my life, some really good things along with one huge event. That huge event happened in January of that year when my dad Sam died suddenly at the young age of 59 (the age I currently am now). In retrospect I must have been unconsciously trying to get things going in a positive direction after my dad’s passing.

So in February of 1982, I  started a temp job at Megapulse Corp. in Bedford, Mass. (a job that would become a permanent position and last 5 years). This was to this day one of the best jobs I have had due in part to the lasting friendships I had made there. Even after a layoff in 1987, I kept my bridges intact with Megapulse which eventually lead to another stint with the company from 1991 to 1995.

Also in that month I contacted John Baeder for the very first time as well as helped my good friend and roadtrip buddy Steve Repucci move back to Boston from a year and a half sojourn in Harrisburg, PA. In fact, it was on that trip to move Steve back that I located the “Abandoned Luncheonette” and was able to document it before it was ultimately destroyed within the next 2 years. Another landmark event happened early in 1982 when the movie “Diner” came out. I had been waiting to see what this movie was about and was certainly not disappointed. I made a mental note about the possibility of checking out Baltimore in the near future after seeing this movie.

The actual next roadtrip Steve and I went on was in March of 1982 (to Harrisburg again) where as I recall we actually took a little detour to Sussex, NJ to have breakfast at Prouts Diner, a 1940-ish Silk City diner that I had known thru a painting that John Baeder had done previously. When we got there I noticed there wasn’t any signage on the diner (that I recalled from John’s painting). I was kind of disappointed but took a couple of photos anyway. I don’t recall too much else from the March roadtrip, guess I’ll need to check the logbook when I have time.

Moving on to May, another great thing happened, my niece Katie was born on the 17th of that month, 2 years from the day that her parents (my brother Steve and sister-in-law Ann) were married. Two weeks later on May 29, 1982, Steve Repucci and I are back on the road to Harrisburg again. Just like the previous time we stopped at Prouts Diner for breakfast, where I was happy to see the signage back up after a remodeling had occurred to the building behind the diner. This remodeling had entailed installing new vinyl siding on the house as well as new roofing. This included a new roof structure that sloped down from the house and covered the raised section of the “monitor” roof of the diner. That is why the sign was removed temporarily!

Prouts Diner, Sussex, NJ  –  May 29, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

Prouts Diner, Sussex, NJ  –  May 29, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

After breakfast at Prouts, we made it to Stroudsburg where I  photographed the Colonial Diner. I had seen the Colonial Diner on previous trips thru Stroudsburg and finally decided to document it. This diner it turns out was a streamlined Paramount model  not too different from Rosie’s Diner (of Bounty Paper Towel commercial fame). Unfortunately the Colonial had previously acquired a stone facade over its stainless steel exterior as well as an orange mansard roof. This remodeling was to be reversed a few years later.  I also found out that there was an addition built on to the diner by Fodero Diners. The workmanship on the addition matched exactly to what Paramount had originally done when the diner was first built.

Colonial Diner, Stroudsburg, PA  – May 29, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

Colonial Diner, Stroudsburg, PA  – May 29, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

There were no other diners placed in the log book for the remainder of that day or the next after getting to Harrisburg. So on Monday morning, May 31, 1982, we started back home from Harrisburg. But instead of heading northeast we went southeast to Baltimore to see if we could find the diner from the movie “Diner”.

We got down to Baltimore and went searching for the Fells Point Diner. We found the area but no diner. We must have driven Boston Street for 2 or 3 miles and did not find it. We finally stopped and asked a couple of guys and they pointed us back from where we had come. They said the diner was not there anymore. We came across the empty lot on the harbor side of Boston Street near the intersection of Hudson Street and South Montford Avenue, that upon closer examination  was recognizable as the place where the diner was located for the movie.

The lot on Boston Street in the Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore
where the diner was located for the movie “Diner”
May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

This building was in at least 2 or 3 scenes in the movie as it was diagonally across the street from where the diner was located.
May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

What we later found out is that the diner was only there for the shooting of the movie. Barry Levinsion’s production company actually leased the diner (a used 1950’s Mountain View diner) from Paramount Modular Concepts (formerly Paramount Diners) of Oakland, NJ. They had the diner transported from New Jersey to the Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore. When filming was complete the diner ended up back at the Paramount lot in Oakland, NJ. So needless to say we did not have breakfast at the Fells Point Diner the morning of May 31, 1982, (ironically, that diner made it back to Baltimore a year or so later and we did finally eat there).

So, having figured out that our goal for breakfast was not attainable, we started driving north on Route 40 out of Baltimore. We came across the Double-T Diner in Rosedale, MD, a diner I had known about thru a postcard I had in the collection.

Double -T Diner sign, Rosedale, MD – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

Double -T Diner, Rosedale, MD – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

Double -T Diner, Rosedale, MD – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

After breakfast at the Double-T, we proceeded north on Route 40 and saw the closed Magnolia Diner in Joppa, MD.

Magnolia Diner, Joppa, MD – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

Magnolia Diner, Joppa, MD – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

Before we left Maryland we found the fantastically preserved New Ideal Diner in Aberdeen.

The New Ideal Diner, Aberdeen, MD – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

The New Ideal Diner, Aberdeen, MD – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

After leaving Maryland we came across this diner located near Hares Corners and State Road, Delaware (hard to tell which town it was actually in). It was known as the Grecian Diner at this point in time and much later, my friend Spencer Stewart found out it was once part of the Hollywood Diner chain of Delaware.

Grecian Diner, State Road, DE – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

Grecian Diner, State Road, DE – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

I became much more intimate with this diner years later when it was moved to Somerville, Mass., 2 and a half miles from where I was living in Medford at the time. It has been operating as Kelly’s Diner in the Ball Square neighborhood of Somerville since 1995.

After Delaware we left Route 40 and ended up on Route 130 where we saw the Deepwater Diner in Penns Grove, NJ

Deepwater Diner, Penns Grove, NJ – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

Deepwater Diner, Penns Grove, NJ – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

The Deepwater Diner remained relatively untouched until recently when it was horrendously remodeled by the current owners. No accounting for taste.

Not far up the road we came across the recently closed Joe’s No. 2 Diner in Verga, NJ, a 1950’s Fodero diner. This was another diner I had a postcard of in my collection prior to seeing it.

Joe’s No. 2 Diner, Verga, NJ – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

Joe’s No. 2 Diner, Verga, NJ – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

Continuing north on Route 130, we made it to Burlington and saw yet another diner I had a postcard of, the Burlington Diner.

Burlington Diner, Burlington, NJ – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

Burlington Diner, Burlington, NJ – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

We also saw Irene’s Windsor Diner on Route 130, a 1939 or 40 vintage Jerry O’Mahony diner. This had previously been the Melrose Diner in Philadelphia prior to being replaced by a large custom-built Paramount diner in the mid-1950’s.

Irene’s Windsor Diner, Windsor, NJ – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

Irene’s Windsor Diner, Windsor, NJ – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

We then got off of Route 130 and made it over to Hightstown to see the Hightstown Diner….

Hightstown Diner, Hightstown, NJ – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

Hightstown Diner, Hightstown, NJ – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

After Hightstown we hightailed it up U.S. Rte. 1 to Route 46 to check out Rosie’s Farmland Diner in Little Ferry, NJ. Rosie’s originally was named the Silver Dollar Diner but took on the newer name after it became famous for being the backdrop  in the series of Bounty Paper Towel commercials featuring actress Nancy Walker as Rosie the waitress who was always cleaning up after her messy customers with “the quicker picker upper”.  The “Farmland” part of the name was eventually dropped and it became Rosie’s Diner. Business was pretty slow that afternoon (it was a holiday I suppose) when we stopped in.

Rosie’s Farmland Diner, Little Ferry, NJ
May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

Rosie’s Farmland Diner, Little Ferry, NJ
May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

I called John Baeder on the payphone from Rosie’s as he was in New York City doing a marathon rewrite for his soon to be published book, “Gas, Food, and Lodging” that weekend and I was hoping to finally meet him face to face.

He told me on the phone that he was really busy with the rewrite but that he may be able to break away and that I should call him when we had crossed the river and made it into the city. So off we went thru the Holland Tunnel and ended up in lower Manhattan where I photographed the Square Diner on Leonard Street.

The Square Diner, New York City – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

The Square Diner, New York City – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

We then drove uptown to see the former Kitchenette Diner that operated for years in East Cambridge, Mass. It had been moved from Cambridge to the Allston section of Boston by a man named Tony Bosco. Bosco located it next door to his “House” Restaurant and did a slight sprucing up of the diner and sold ice cream from it for a short period of time. He called it the “Diner on Wheels”, as it still had its original wagon wheel attached. Ironically, the diner got a lot of attention when he moved it which was noticed by the producers of the locally filmed movie “The Brinks Job”. They paid Bosco some decent money to have the diner moved to a vacant lot in Reading, Mass. where they set it up for one scene in the movie.

After the diner’s short stay in Allston, Bosco moved it to New York City which is where I saw it again on this Memorial Day in 1982.

The Diner on Wheels, New York City – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

The Diner on Wheels, New York City – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

I called John Baeder on the phone when we got to the old Kitchenette and he did manage to Cab it over to the diner where I showed him my diner photo albums I had with me. We had a very memorable meeting and to top it off, we gave him a ride back to where he was doing the rewrite for the book. Needless to say this topped off the roadtrip weekend we had and made it back to Massachusetts that evening.

Kitchenette Diner aka The Diner on Wheels

Kitchenette Diner, First & Rogers Streets, Cambridge, Mass.
Photo by Doug Yorke from March 1977 Yankee Magazine

I recently purchased a book entitled Big Screen Boston (subtitled From Mystery Street to The Departed and Beyond), written by my new friend Paul Sherman. In this book Paul lists all the movies that were filmed either totally or partially on location in the Boston area. He details subjects like cities and towns that were used for locations, whether authentic  “Boston accents” were used and how much “Local Color” was seen. Check out his website at….

Cover of Paul Sherman’s Big Screen Boston

Some of the movies are documentary-type while others were filmed by major studio production companies. One of the movies mentioned is The Brink’s Job, a 1978 film directed by William Friedkin and starring Peter Falk, Peter Boyle, Allen Goorwitz, Warren Oates, Gena Rowlands and Paul Sorvino. Paul does a good job detailing this film in the book but failed to mention an appearance by the former Kitchenette Diner of Cambridge, Mass.

The diner was operated at the corner of First & Rogers Streets in the Lechmere area of East Cambridge by Russ Young from 1934 until he lost the lease to the property in 1978.  The diner was a late 1920’s vintage Worcester Lunch Car, No. 594 that originally operated on Ipswich Street in Boston as the A&M Diner prior to being moved to East Cambridge. I recall going by the diner in the 1970’s. I always thought it was not operating, there was no signage per se and with all the trees growing up around it, it really looked abandoned.

When it was announced back in 1978 that the diner would have to close and might be demolished, a man named Tony Bosco (owner of the unique House Restaurant in Allston, Mass. heard about this and offered to buy the old diner and move it out of harms way. When he started the process of extracting the old lunch wagon from the site, he discovered the building was not on a foundation per se but it was actually sitting on the wooden and steel wheels it was manufactured with!

When Bosco saw the wheels still attached to the diner, he went for a photo-op and hired a team of horses to move the diner. This proved almost unworkable as the wheels had rotted somewhat (after being embedded in the sandy soil for decades) and did not roll well, not to mention the horses could not handle the load. I believe they only moved it a few blocks in this fashion before they realized a truck was the way to transport it.

Meanwhile with all the publicity generated by the move, the producers of the Brink’s Job movie saw an opportunity and contacted Bosco. They wanted to use the diner in a scene for the movie! The movie company paid for having the diner transported to an empty lot off Birch Meadow Drive/John Carver Road near Reading Memorial High School in Reading, Mass.  (I drove by this site yesterday and believe it is now fairly grown over and currently marked by a sign for town conservation land). After the diner was on the location, the movie company painted the diner white and then dirtied it up a little with oil and dirt to make it look like it had been there forever.

photo shot off of a TV screen showing the diner located temporarily in Reading, Mass. for its scene in the Brink’s Job movie.

After the diner was done with its star turn it was transported back to Allston on property adjacent to the House Restaurant. Over the next few months Bosco did a thorough cleaning of the diner and partial restoration. He then used it to serve Emack & Bolio’s Ice Cream out of the now renamed “The Diner on Wheels”.

The Diner on Wheels sitting next to the entrance to the House Restaurant in Allston, circa 1981

One day not too long after I shot the photograph above, I was driving past the diner on Cambridge Street and saw that they had a tow truck attached to the diner and were about to move it. These next few shots show the move….

Diner being moved to a different spot on the Allston site April of 1981

They were moving it to a different spot on the property for whatever reason. I stopped to get a bunch of photos of it.

Diner being moved to a different spot on the Allston site April of 1981

Diner being moved onto Cambridge St., April of 1981

Diner being moved onto Cambridge St., April of 1981

During the move, traffic had to be stopped as the truck with diner came out onto busy Cambridge Street. When they moved the diner back into the lot they hit a soft spot in the gravel base and the diner lurched and fell off the tow truck.

The diner sitting on the ground after falling off the truck.

Workman preparing to get the end of the diner hoisted back up to continue the move.

Finally moving the diner into its new spot on the property.

Settled again!

Well the diner only stayed there a few months and was moved again, this time to New York City!

 The Diner on Wheels at the corner of 39th Street and 9th Avenue, NYC

Here is the Diner on Wheels at the corner of 39th Street and 9th Avenue in NYC, May 31, 1982. Notice the sort of mural on the wall of the building behind the diner. That was actually one of the props used in the Brink’s Job movie when they were filming in Boston.

On a side note, this is the day I met John Baeder face to face for the first time. He was in New York City to do a major re-write for his upcoming “Gas, Food and Lodging” book on that long holiday weekend 28 years ago and Steve Repucci and I were passing thru NYC from Harrisburg, PA. I called John from Rosie’s Diner in Little Ferry, NJ and told him we would be in the city shortly. He met us at The Diner on Wheels where we talked diners. I showed him my photo albums that I had with me and we had a great visit before I gave him a ride back to where the re-write was happening.

 The Diner on Wheels at the corner of 39th Street and 9th Avenue, NYC

It was moved twice again within Manhattan in the next 2 years. I found it abandoned at its last location in 1984, completely trashed, it was later demolished.

The Diner on Wheels, NYC just prior to demolition, 1984

I am not sure what happened in New York City to Tony Bosco or the Diner but it did unfortunately end up in the scrap heap. The diner did get some recognition again in the mid 1990’s when the independent film produced by David Sutherland,  “Down Around Here” was shown on WGBH-Boston for PBS. 

Here is a quote from Matt Ashare of the Boston Phoenix…. 
It’s been 20 years since documentary filmmaker David Sutherland took his Super-8 camera into East Cambridge’s Kitchenette Diner and began work on his first project. But it wasn’t until earlier this year that the footage he shot over a two-year period was restored and edited into the 27-minute Down Around Here. Sutherland’s film … for all its grit, succeeds as a poignant and remarkably resonant sketch of Boston’s rapidly fading past.

This little film won some awards as well…

* First Prize, Super-8/Film Award, New England Film and Video Festival, 1996
* Finalist, USA Film Festival, 1996
* Taos Talking Picture Festival, 1996
* Metropolitan Film Festival, Detroit, MI, 1996
* Big Muddy Film Festival, 1996

Check it out at David Sutherland’s website….

Thanks to Paul Sherman for jogging my memory on this almost long forgotten diner!