Goodbye to the Rosebud Diner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Rosebud Diner during yard sale, June 1, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

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

Bel-Aire Diner, 1952 – 2012, Goodbye old friend!

Regular readers of Diner Hotline know that I have been following the saga of the Bel-Aire Diner of Peabody, Mass. for quite a while.  This diner was one of the closest to where I live, located about 4 miles north of Saugus on U.S. Route 1. Built by the Mountain View Diner Company (Car No. 359), it was bought brand-new in 1952 by brothers Peter & Bill Kallas, the diner remained being operated by members of the Kallas family until it closed abruptly around a half dozen years ago. Immediately after it closed it had two bright yellow banners that stated “Closed for Renovation” hanging from the front on either side of the entryway. Somehow though, I had a strong feeling that it would probably never reopen.

front of Bel-Aire Diner Breakfast Menu, circa 1980’s. From the
collection of Larry Cultrera

back of Bel-Aire Diner Breakfast Menu, circa 1980’s. From the
collection of Larry Cultrera

Prior to the diner being closed there had been reports that the Kallas family had been talking about redeveloping the site for quite some time. At one point, they were hoping to lease the property for a Hooters Restaurant but the City of Peabody was not willing to go along with those plans. Then within a few years of the diner’s closing, a large poster type sign was hung on the sign supports for the adjacent Gas Station (also owned by the Kallas’). The poster depicted a large building that would be built to house businesses related to the truck stop, including the diner and gas station. The new building was to be built around and over the diner (only the diner’s front facade was to be visible).


Before the plans were put into motion it was announced that the tenant for the restaurant portion of the new development was going to be the people who operate Red’s Sandwich Shop in downtown Salem. The new restaurant was to be called Red’s Kitchen and Tavern. About this time, I saw newly revised architectural drawings of the building and it looked different. The biggest difference was that the diner did not seem to be included anymore, an ominous sign to be sure!


the earliest known postcard image of the Bel-Aire Diner. From the
collection of Larry Cultrera

The second version of a Bel-Aire Diner postcard, it had aquirred awnings and the sign colors were changed. From the collection of Larry Cultrera

Soon there after, the diner was readied to be moved out of the way for the developers to start on the project, see…….


It was also announced that the diner was For Sale, see….
The diner stayed up on cribbing in the front of the property all thru the winter of 2010-11. See…….

In March of 2011 it was relocated to the extreme right corner at the back of the property. John Kallas was still hoping to sell the diner at this point.

photo on the back cover of a vinyl E.P. by The Peter Calo Band (a local band). circa 1983. The photo was shot with the band members sitting in the corner booth of the Bel-Aire Diner. From the collection of Larry Cultrera

As I just happen to drive by the diner 1 to 2 times a day during a normal work week (Monday thru Friday), I have been able to keep an eye on the situation. I also keep informed thru Google news alerts ( for Diners) and of course rely on the unofficial network of “Diner people” for tidbits, etc. In a recent news article, John Kallas was quoted as saying that if there were no buyers for the diner come springtime, he would make the decision to have the diner scrapped. Within the last 2 weeks, it was reported that  John Kallas was quoted as stating that if anyone wanted the diner, he was willing to give it away to anyone who would arrange to remove it from the property.

This news really meant it was nearing the end for the old stainless steel diner! Steve Harwin of Diversified Diners (Cleveland, Ohio), who in my opinion is the premier diner restorationist in the world, had been apprised of the situation and contacted Kallas. After a short conversation or 2 between Kallas and Harwin, as well as a little soul searching and some number crunching, Harwin decided he could not make the commitment to save this one unfortunately.

These next few photos are pretty much my earliest images that I shot of the Bel-Aire Diner……..

January, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

January, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

January, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

September, 1982 photo (at sunset) by Larry Cultrera

This next photo was shot circa 1990 by my buddy, Steve Repucci. I wanted some photos taken of me for a Society for Commercial Archeology (SCA) publication and this was one of those photos…..

man, what a difference 22 years make!

As I drove by the Bel-Aire on this past Monday after work, things looked pretty much the same, but by Tuesday afternoon it was a completely different story! Just as I was approaching the diner,  I glanced over at it and saw a dumpster as well as the left end of the diner already dismantled! I knew that this was it, the diner was pretty much history.

I was on my way home as my wife Denise and I had an appointment to meet a tradesman about some work we were planning on having done, so I knew I could not get my camera and go back for some photos. I did bring my camera to work with me the next day and was planning on getting over to the diner possibly at lunch to see if I could get some photos. I decided to see what was up and stopped at approximately 5:40 AM. I was able to pull right up almost to the fence that surrounded the diner and shine my high beam headlights on the what was left of the structure. It was demo’d back from the left end by a couple of windows as the next 3 images will show…..

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

Once I had seen how much was gone, I made the decision to get back sooner than lunch break to get more photos in daylight as I figured if I waited longer, there would not be anything left. I got back to the diner just before 9:00 AM and took the next bunch of shots…..

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

That is Doug Earp, owner of D.R. Earp Interior Demolition Co.
March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

Richard Currie of RC Recycling of Brentwood Inc. speaking with Doug Earp.
March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

Final shot before I went back to work.
March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

Before I left work for the day, I checked Facebook and saw that Gary Thomas had been by the site and the photo he posted showed the very last section of the diner (a small section of roof from the right end) left to be crunched and tossed into the dumpster. By the way, there were at least 3 dumpsters full of debris! I drove by just after 3:30 PM and there was nothing left of the old diner!

Well I can say I have had many a meal there over the last 30 years and I believe it is a shame that no one could have saved this diner so it could have possibly had another life at a different location. I am sure I will probably check out Red’s Kitchen and Tavern when they open for business in the near future, but I know it just won’t be the same!

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.

Diners of Lowell, Mass., circa early 1980’s

Back when I started documenting diners in the greater Boston area with my photographs in the early 1980’s, I discovered an interesting fact. The older mill towns still had the greatest concentration of diners still in existence. This fact holds true to a certain degree today only with diminished numbers. Attleboro, Lawrence, Lynn, Worcester and Lowell, Mass. stood out at that time.

Attleboro had four factory-built diners downtown (although one of these was closed) as well as one being used for other purposes on U.S. Rte. 1. Also, the Service Diner was still on U.S. Rte. 1 in Attleboro operating as Eddie & Myles’ Diner at that time.

Lawrence also had at least four spread out along Route 28 (again one was closed).

Lynn had four diners and all were still fairly original (and in operation).

Worcseter had the most with sixteen diners (not surprisingly) and all of them were open for food service (with the exception of  three), one being used as a real estate office and another sitting in a large garage unfinished while still another was being used as a residence.

This post will be dedicated to all the diners that were in Lowell at the beginning of the 1980’s. By my count there were at least seven factory-built diners (actually one was home-made, but this fact only came to light in recent years).

Owl Diner, 244 Appleton Street

The Owl Diner is Worcester Lunch Car No. 759 that dates to 1940 and originally operated in Waltham, Mass. as the flagship of the Monarch Diners (a chain of diners owned by the Decola brothers). It moved to Appleton Street in 1950 when it was replaced in Waltham with a large new stainless steel Jerry O’Mahony diner.

Owl Diner before the Shanahan’s owned it.
circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

In the early 1980’s it was being run by the Zouikis family and looked like the photos above and below. Take note that the wonderful neon sign mounted on the street pole was working at that time!

Owl Diner before the Shanahan’s owned it.
circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

A couple of years later the Shanahan family took over the reigns of the Owl after running the Peerless Diner on Chelmsford Street for a number of years. They were only leasing the Peerless and were able to purchase the Owl Diner. They renamed it the Four Sister’s Owl Diner and by all accounts it has been a huge success. They recently added a new large vestibule to the front of the diner (see photo below).

Four Sister’s Owl Diner today. 2010 photo by Larry Cultrera

Club Diner, 145 Dutton Street

The Club Diner is a 1933 vintage Worcester Lunch Car (No. 703) that was remodelled in the 1960’s. It has retained its basic shape but has an added-on diningroom which facilitated the exterior changes, making the whole building look more unified. The interior was updated a little as well but the footprint remains the same with the counter and stools on the right-hand end of the diner. There are also deuce booths (tables for 2) along the windows in front of the counter section and four large booths on the left end of the original building which is complimented by the add-on diningroom beyond and behind. It was originally owned by Arthur Turcotte but has been owned and operated by the LeVasseur family since 1938.

Club Diner circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

Club Diner circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

Club Diner (more) recent photo by Larry Cultrera

Arthur’s Paradise Diner, 112 Bridge Street

Arthur’s Paradise Diner is a 1937 vintage Worcester Lunch car (No. 727) and one of at least 3 diners with the Paradise name. Originally owned by John Decola and John Korsak, it has gone through countless different owners/operators since it was brand-new.

Arthur’s Paradise Diner circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

Arthur’s Paradise Diner circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

Arthur’s Paradise Diner (more) recent photo by Larry Cultrera

Gorham Street Diner, 984 Gorham Street

This diner was actually not built by a diner manufacturer but it certainly fooled the “diner experts” and “aficionados” for many years. It was not until Gary Thomas was researching for his “Images of America” book “Diners of the North Shore”, that the unique history of this diner came to light.

Thomas found out that this diner was constructed off and on during roughly a  five-year period between 1945 and the early 50’s in Salisbury, Mass. by Donald Evans. Evans was the brother of Jimmy Evans who ran first the Strand Diner in Salisbury and then two versions of Ann’s Diner in the same town.

Gorham Street Diner circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

In fact it was his brother Jimmy who actually paid Donald to complete the construction. It was located for a couple of years on Broadway in Salisbury where it traded as Evans’ Streamliner before being sold and moved to Gorham Street in Lowell in 1956 by Edward G. Bryer who operated the diner as Bryer’s Streamliner. According to Gary Thomas, the stainless steel covered front door you see in my photos came from the 2nd Ann’s Diner (WLC No. 824). He also said the diner had equipment and material that were purchased from the Worcester factory including stools and the hood with bill of fare menu boards that confused later “diner experts’ prompting them to think this was in fact built by Worcester.

Gorham Street Diner circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

I unfortunately never got to go inside this diner when it was operating. In the last few years of its life as a regular diner it went through a few operators and names. In John Baeder’s painting of it, it was called the Chateau Diner and as can be seen in my photos, the Gorham Street Diner. Shortly after I took the first photos as seen here, I made a return trip to find it undergoing a complete remodelling! (see below)

Gorham Street Diner in process of remodelling to become
Trolley Pizzaria, circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

They had stripped the exterior completely eliminating the slanted end walls and building new “rounded” end walls as well as adding the raised “trolley-like” clerestory making it look like a trolley car. They also relocated the entrance from the middle to both ends of the front facade and gutted the interior. The diner building itself is now just used as a dining area for the Trolley Pizzaria.

Trolley Pizzaria, 2010 photo by Larry Cultrera

Cupples Square Diner, corner of Westford Street
& Osgood Street

The Cupples Square Diner was a barrell-roofed Worcester car that was actually installed under the overhang of a store block. It probably dates to the 1930’s but I am not sure of its production number. It was an economy model without a lot of frills. I did manage to eat there a few times in the 1980’s but it was gone by the 1990’s. I assume it was dismantled as there is a regular storefront now where the diner used to be.

Cupples Square Diner, circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

Cupples Square Diner, circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

Ray and Paulette’s Diner, Gorham Street

Ray and Paulette’s Diner was located just a couple of doors down the block from Dana’s Luncheonette which sits at the corner of Appleton Street. It may have been a Worcester Lunch Car but I am also thinking it is roughly the same size as a diner pictured in Richard Gutman’s “American Diner Then & Now” book on page 79 (see below). This photo shows a diner (named Bob’s Diner) built by Pollard & Co. Dining Car Builders of Lowell being moved by truck. I am using a gut feeling and going out on a limb to say that these two diners are one and the same!

Ray and Paulette’s has certainly gone thru some changes (windows and exterior covering) so it is entirely possible. I was in this diner once although I never had a meal (kicking myself) but it seemed fairly intact on the inside. I do recall the tile wall on the front had a good-sized crack running through it. This diner was gone by the mid-1980’s.

Ray and Paulette’s Diner, photo circa 1981 by Larry Cultrera

Ray and Paulette’s Diner, circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

Bob’s Diner built by Pollard & Company of Lowell, photo that appears on page 79 of American Diner Then & Now. Courtesy of Richard Gutman (photo by George of Lowell)

Peerless Diner, Chelmsford Street

The Peerless Diner was originally located at 190 South Union Street in Lawrence prior to it being moved to Lowell. Worcester Lunch Car No. 764 dates to 1940. In the early 1980’s it was operated by the Shanahan family (see Owl Diner above). They only leased the building and when the Owl Diner became available they bought that and moved their business there. The Peerless was operated by someone else until it was moved to Worcester. It was bought by the late Ralph Moberly who also owned Ralph’s Chadwick Square Diner.

He stored it briefly next to the Chadwick Square Diner and made plans to move it to Key West, Florida. To facilitate this, he had to cut the diner length-wise so it could be transported over the bridges to Key West. It ended up being stored down there and unfortunately got picked apart by souvenir hunters and was eventually destroyed.

Peerless Diner, circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

Peerless Diner, circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

Peerless Diner next to Chadwick Square Diner in Worcester
circa late 1980’s photo by Larry Cultrera

Just to let you know there was in fact another diner in Lowell in the early 1980’s (photo not included here) but I never photographed it until the 1990’s. The Cameo Diner (which is still very much alive) has been around for many, many years although the current building is not factory-built. The story is it actually evolved from an old lunch wagon that was on its site. Maybe I’ll do another post that will include a “Cameo” appearance in the future!