A friend’s recent book launch leads to my first real “Diner” road-trip in many years!

As you may have noticed, this is my first blog post in a while. Again I apologize for the infrequent posts but I have been scanning my collection of 35mm slides and prints, which has consumed a lot of spare time for a few years. The slides are all scanned but the prints take more time. The outcome so far is that the digital archive of Diner photos is growing.

Starting this past June, I have officially “Semi-retired” from my job, working only Tuesday thru Thursday, with 4 day weekends. That being said, an opportunity arose to actually plan a road-trip to New Jersey (which took place at the end of September). Now the last time I was even in the Garden State was just over 21 years ago – in June of 1998 to be exact.

The opportunity that presented itself was the publishing of a new book by my friend Michael Gabriele of Clifton, New Jersey. The book is his 5th book overall published by The History Press and 2nd book about New Jersey Diners. The new book is entitled Stories From New Jersey Diners: Monuments To Community. Gabriele had announced within the last couple of months that he would be having an official book launch at the Nutley (NJ) Museum on the evening of September 27th, a Friday night. This fit in perfectly with my new 4-day weekend schedule. I was actually thinking about keeping it a surprise and just showing up, but immediately nixed that idea, mainly because there were a few people I wanted to see when I got down there. So I let Michael Gabriele in on the possibility of my attending and he was extremely enthusiastic about my proposed plan and encouraged me to make the effort.

At the top of the list of people I wanted to get together with was Donald Kaplan, co-author of the very first book on Diners I ever bought, Diners Of The Northeast! I refer to this book along with Diners by John Baeder and American Diner by Richard J.S. Gutman & Elliott Kaufman as the Holy Trinity of Diner books that came out in the late 1970s and into 1980.

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Cover of the original edition of Diners Of The Northeast, by
Donald Kaplan and Alan Bellink, the first “Diner” book that
I purchased circa October, 1980.

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The cover sleeve of the original hard cover edition of
American Diner by Richard Gutman & Elliott Kaufman.
The second “Diner” book which I purchased in late 1980.

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The cover of the first edition of Diners by John Baeder.
This is the third “Diner” book I purchased, circa January, 1981.

Even though I may have been aware of the books authored by John Baeder (Diners) and Richard Gutman (American Diner) had been published in 1978 and 1979 respectively, Donald Kaplan and his co-author Alan (now Allyson) Bellink’s book came out around September of 1980 right at the flash point where my diner awareness was just starting to take hold.

I had been a diner aficionado since I was very young and already started taking Sunday morning road-trips with my pal Steve Repucci since late 1979 to discover (or rediscover) diners for Sunday morning breakfasts. Also, I had just purchased my first 35mm camera and the thought was beginning to form in my brain to document these diners that were fast disappearing from the landscape here in New England. I estimate that I purchased Diners Of The Northeast sometime in October of 1980 and it swung the door wide open for the almost 40 year obsession that followed!

I purchased the other books American Diner and Diners within 3 months and had started taking my first tentative photos as well as expanding my already existent post card collection with a “diner category”. Now early in 1981, I had met and become friends with Richard Gutman and about a year later the same happened with John Baeder. But connecting with the co-authors Kaplan & Bellink did not happen until 1996 when I met briefly with Alan Bellink at a diner-related get together. My budding friendship with Donald Kaplan started much later (2010 or so) thru Facebook. Donald, (who lives in the Bronx) and I have become fast friends in the last couple of years. We speak at least once a week. I of course let Donald Kaplan in on my plans for a trip down toward New York and New Jersey.

So as far as the proposed New Jersey road-trip, I convinced my wife Denise that we should do this. Believe me, that is a very hard sell with her. I got reservations at the Hampton Inn in Carlstadt (near the Meadowlands Sports Complex) which put me in a very central location for where I wanted to be. I had called my old friend Arnie Corrado to let him know of my plans. Arnie, who along with his late father Ralph, owned and operated Rosie’s Diner in Little Ferry, NJ until they sold and closed it in 1990. We had lost touch for a number of years until I made the effort about 6 years ago and we have been in constant contact since.

There were other people I planned to meet up with at the event. These people included Les Cooper (from the family that manufactured Silk City Diners), Gloria Nash from Queens, NY (who I actually met within the last couple of months in Massachusetts), Mark Oberndorf ( a painter of vernacular buildings as well as homes, etc.) and Alex Panko (who, with his family owned and operated the Peterpank Diner in Sayreville, New Jersey).

Which brings us to the weekend of September 27 thru 29th of 2019. Denise and I left Saugus around 3:30 AM on Friday (the27th). We made our first stop for coffee and a bathroom break at the Vernon Diner which is located at Exit 65 right off of I-84 southbound in Connecticut. This place is an easy off/on to the highway and is housed in a former Howard Johnson’s Restaurant. The place is nicely done up as a modern diner including a vast display case of baked goods. Unfortunately, it was dark and I did not get photos.

Our next stop was Exit 10 in Newtown, CT. I wanted to get new photos of the Sandy Hook Diner, a small barrel-roofed diner that probably dates to the 1920s. After those photos, we drove back to the nicely redone Blue Colony Diner at the exit to have another coffee and bathroom break. I had photographed both of these diners back in the early 1980s. The Sandy Hook had not changed significantly but the Blue Colony, originally built by Manno Diners had a complete makeover in the last 20 or so years, done by DeRaffele Diner Company.

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The Sandy Hook Diner, Newtown, Connecticut.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, September 27, 2019

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The Blue Colony Diner, Newtown, Connecticut.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, September 27, 2019

Continuing on, we got back on I-84 and made it to Exit 2B on the western end of Danbury, before the New York state line. Taking U.S. Route 6 to NY Route 22 in Brewster, NY, we continued driving south to North White Plains. We took I-287 west to Exit 1 in Elmsford and got Route 119 south past the Eldorado Diner to the Saw Mill River Parkway and headed south on that road until it became the Henry Hudson Parkway. We got off at Exit 23 and headed south on Broadway through the Bronx to 231st Street. We continued west on 231st to Tibbett Avenue and south one block to the Tibbett Diner, where we met up with Donald Kaplan.

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The Tibbett Diner, 3033 Tibbett Avenue, Bronx, New York.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, September 27, 2019

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Donald Kaplan & Larry Cultrera outside the Tibbett Diner.
Photo by Denise Cultrera, September 27, 2019

After meeting up and spending some time with Donald, he convinced me to head a few miles south on Broadway to take the George Washington Bridge over to New Jersey, instead of going back to the Tappan Zee area and taking the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge over to the Garden State. I took his advice and it worked out fine, saving us some time. After crossing the GWB, we headed toward Little Ferry on Route 46 and contacted Arnie Corrado. We made plans to meet at the White Manna Diner in nearby Hackensack. No sooner did I get off the phone with Arnie, Michael Gabriele called to see where we were. I informed him of the White Manna plans and he immediately said he would meet us there…

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The White Manna Diner, 358 River Street, Hackensack, New Jersey.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, September 27, 2019

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Michael Gabriele, Larry Cultrera & Arnie Corrado at the White
Manna Diner. Photo by Denise Cultrera, September 27, 2019

Now Michael Gabriele and I have been friends for around 6 years since he contacted me after he contracted to do his first New Jersey diner book for our publisher, The History Press. But until the 27th of September, we had never met face-to-face! At the White Manna, Michael, Arnie and I partook of some wonderful sliders and enjoyed the atmosphere of this fantastically preserved Paramount Diner. Afterward, Michael went home and Denise and I visited with Arnie briefly at his home in Little Ferry before heading to our hotel to check in. After we were settled in our hotel room, we went out and searched for a late lunch and found the Candlewyck Diner in East Rutherford, NJ. The Candlewyck is a circa 1970s vintage Kullman Diner that was renovated on site in recent years and the new look, inside and out represents yet another evolution in diner design!

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The Candlewyck Diner 179 Paterson Street,
East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Photograph by Larry Cultrera, September 27, 2019.

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Michael Gabriele’s new book published by The History Press.

So, the major reason to come to New Jersey was to attend the launch of Michael Gabriele’s new book at the Nutley Museum. In fact I was slated to give a short slide presentation along with Michael and the other guest speaker, Les Cooper. It was lucky I had spoken with Michael on the afternoon before the trip. He informed me that the Museum’s laptop computer was on the fritz and wondered if I was bringing my own laptop PC. I of course was bringing it to use to get online, etc when I was at the hotel. So the evening of the book launch we setup with the museum’s large screen TV and fired up Power Point….

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Gloria Nash, Arnie Corrado and Denise Cultrera attending
book launch event at the Nutley Museum. Photo by
Larry Cultrera, September 27, 2019.

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Michael Gabriele speaking at the Nutley Museum.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, Spetember 27, 2019.

I also finally got to meet Alex Panko and Les Cooper both of whom I have known for a few years but had never met. Alex was a trip, pretty much the way I expected, he is extremely outgoing (not to mention a little hyper, he drinks an ton of Coca Cola). Les was also pretty much the person I expected, interesting and well spoken.

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Larry Cultrera, Alex Panko and Les Cooper at the Nutley Museum.
Photo by Denise Cultrera, September 27, 2019

The next morning (Saturday the 28th), Denise and I went to have breakfast at the Bendix Diner on Route 17 in Hasbrouck Heights. It was wonderful to see all the neon in working order. The diner itself, a rare Master Diner, is really starting to show its age, both inside and out unfortunately. I shot some photos as the morning light was coming up and then revisited it in the early afternoon to get great daytime shots…

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Bendix Diner, Route 17 in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey.
Early morning photo by Larry Cultrera, September 28, 2019

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Bendix Diner, Route 17 in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey.
Early afternoon photo by Larry Cultrera, September 28, 2019

Around mid-morning, Denise and I drove over to Michael Gabriele’s home in Clifton and met his wife Julie as well as one of his sons (sorry Mike, I forgot his name). Then Michael gave us a little tour around the area to let me document some diners that I had not previously photographed. Let me say the light for taking photos this particular weekend was totally perfect and I lucked out. The following places were shot during that little excursion with Michael.

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The Colonial Diner, 27 Orient Way in Lyndhurst, New Jersey.
This is a 1950 vintage Mountain View Diner modified with that
new roof topper and sign, while maintaining the original design.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, September 28, 2019.

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The Red Hawk Diner located on the campus of
Montclair State University, Montclair, New Jersey.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, September 28, 2019.

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The Park West Diner on Route 46. A nicely renovated Kullman
diner, originally known as the Golden Star Diner in the
Woodland Park/Little Falls area.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, September 28, 2019.

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The Little Falls Diner, 11 Paterson Avenue, Little falls, New Jersey.
This place has been closed for many years.

On Sunday morning (the 29th), Denise and I got on the road early and headed north on Route 17. We stopped while it was still dark at the State Line Diner in Mahwah for breakfast! What a great place, I would have loved to get some photos if it were in daylight! We crossed the Hudson on I-287 over the recently completed Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. We reversed our path using the same roads we traveled down on Friday to head back to Connecticut.  On the way up Route 22, we bypassed into Katonah, New York to possibly stop for coffee at the Blue Dolphin Diner. Unfortunately, the diner was not open on Sunday morning and I noticed it is now operating as an upscale bistro. I also noticed the interior was extremely compromised with almost nothing original remaining. Very sad, but at least the outside still looked great.

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The Blue Dolphin Diner, 175 Katonah Avenue, Katonah, New York.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, from September 28, 2019.

Just prior to crossing the state line into Connecticut, we stopped at Bob’s Diner in Brewster. It looks the same as the last time I saw it back in the 1980s with the exception of the paint color on the outside. A nice little downtown diner.

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Bob’s Diner, 27 Main Street in Brewster, New York.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, September 28, 2019.

Shortly after crossing the state line, I stopped at the Mill Plain Diner (formerly the Windmill Diner) on Mill Plain Road (U.S. Route 6) in Danbury. I remember this diner as having a brick facade with a mansard roof back in the 1980s. Within the last year or so the place had an extreme makeover, inside and out by DeRaffele Diners and looks fantastic. I heard it is now owned by the same people who have the Blue Colony Diner in Newtown.

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The Mill Plain Diner, 14 Mill Plain Road in Danbury, Connecticut.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, Spetmeber 28, 2019.

To finish off this early fall road-trip, we made one last stop in Connecticut before making it back into Massachusetts. We got off the highway briefly in East Hartford and I revisited a diner I had eaten in back in the 1980s, but never photographed. It has been on my bucket list for a while and I finally got my photos. The AAA Diner is a 1970s vintage brick diner with mansard roof that on the outside still looks similar to the way I remember it. The interior has gotten an update and is now bright and airy….

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The AAA Diner, 1209 Main Street in East Hartford, Connecticut.
Photo by Larry Cultrera, September 25, 2019.

As I stated earlier, the weather could not have cooperated more than it did for this long-awaited interstate road-trip and I was extremely happy to get the photos I did, as well as meet new friends and reconnect with old friends. I will follow up soon with a review of Michael Gabriele’s book in the near future!

November 10th thru 11th, 1984 – Staten Island, New York & New Jersey Roadtrip

Here is another blast from the past, a road-trip from late in 1984 that encompassed parts of Staten Island, New York City, New Jersey and upstate New York. It seems the reason for this trip other than shooting photos of some diners was to get to the opening day of an exhibit of John Baeder paintings at the OK Harris Gallery in Soho.  According to my Log Book, that Saturday was November 10th and it looks like Steve Repucci, Dave Hebb and myself got into New York City fairly early and had some time to kill, so we grabbed the Staten Island Ferry to check out that most southern borough of NYC. I believe Dave had already done some exploring on his own there previously so he knew the lay of the land somewhat. The first diner we visited was the Victory Diner on Richmond Rd. not too far from the ferry dock.
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Victory Diner, Richmond Rd., Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

Victory-2
Victory Diner, Richmond Rd., Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

Here is an aside about this post… what inspired me to do this particular post is the news that the Victory Diner which had been moved from the location seen here a number of years ago recently made the news again! That move happened in fact back in 2007 and I wrote about it in the last installment of the former hard-copy version of Diner Hotline that appeared in  the Fall 2007 edition of the SCA (Society for Commercial Archeology) Journal magazine.

The last owners were retiring and the spot where the diner was located was slated for redevelopment. This meant the diner was slated for a possible demolition. A group of preservationists stepped in before this could happen and had the diner relocated to the Ocean Breeze waterfornt, specifically, Midland Beach. Since the move in 2007, the diner has remained in storage behind a chain link fence. This fence only partially protected it but it has been reported that the diner has received some vandalism over the last 5 years.  But to top the whole thing off, the October 29th Super Storm Sandy virtually destroyed what was left of the diner, basically leaving the steel frame and roof.  It seems the above info was incorrect when a report surfaced not too long after I wrote this stating that the diner had been stripped and the materials removed were placed in a storage trailer on the site in anticipation of restoration….. LAC

Here is a photo from the (Dec. 4, 2012) Staten Island Advance by Jan Somma-Hammel showing what is left of the diner…….

Victory_Jan-Somma-Hammel

Now back to 1984……. the next diner we saw on Staten Island was Joe’s Diner. At least that is what I have in the Log Book. I am not sure how we even knew what the name was for this place as it looked like it was not in operation anymore. It seemed to be well cared for as my photos will show and a current Google street view of the address shows the place pretty much still looks the same now as it did back then.

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Joe’s Diner at 84 Lincoln Ave. on Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Joe’s Diner at 84 Lincoln Ave. on Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

I am not sure who manufactured this diner but it looks interesting for sure!

The next diner must have been a drive-by as I only shot one photo of it. In fact I did not even have it officially in my Log Book until I was creating the data base a number of years ago. I also did not have a name or an address for the place until I scanned the slide a week ago for this blog post. There is a sign for the diner in the shot but it was hard to read the name. So I looked at the adjacent business….. Grant Tailors and did another Google search. This turned up an address. The address turned out to be 140 New Dorp Lane and from that I was able to deduce that the name of the diner was the Lane Diner!  By the way Grant Tailors is closed and out of business.

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Lane Diner, 140 New Dorp Lane on Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

This place looks to be a modern stainless steel diner that was covered over – “Mediteraneanized”, so to speak. The dimensions are certainly right. The diner is still there and operating as a Los Lobos Mexican Restaurant as of 2012.

The next diner was the last stop on Staten Island before getting back to John Baeder’s exhibit at OK Harris was one diner Dave Hebb recalled for sure from an earlier roadtrip. This was an old 1920’s vintage barrel-roof diner known as Whoopsie’s Diner located on Jennett Ave. on Staten Island. It was closed and for sale, besides being in a little bit of rough shape but still usable. The building itself was modified at an earlier time, it seems someone decided to change the location of the entrance by “slashing” the corner of the diner.

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Exterior shot of Whoopsie’s Diner, Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Exterior shot of Whoopsie’s Diner, Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Interior shot of Whoopsie’s Diner, Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

We got back to the city prior to John’s exhibit opening and I finally got to take a couple of shots of the Moondance Diner around the corner from OK Harris. I had seen this diner on earlier trips when it was operating as the Tunnel Diner, but never documented it with photos. In the intervening years it had been reopened…. resurrected as the upscale Moondance Diner.

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Moondance Diner, 6th Ave., Manhattan
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Moondance Diner, 6th Ave., Manhattan
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

Here is a sort of crappy shot of John Baeder’s painting of the Comet Diner (Hartford, CT) at the OK Harris Gallery. It was based on a slide I shot for John back then.

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Shot of a John Baeder painting of the Comet Diner at OK Harris Gallery
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

After visiting with John and checking out the exhibit, we left with our ultimate destination being New Jersey. On the way out we saw a former White Tower Restaurant somewhere in lower Manhattan (I did not document the location unfortunately).

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former White Tower Restaurant in lower Manhattan
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

After going thru the tunnel over to New Jersey, we somehow made it over to Springfield, NJ and the Lido Diner on Route 22, (in my opinion one of the most scary sections of highway anywhere)! The Lido Diner on the other hand was a great 1960 vintage Paramount diner that has since been demolished for a bland, boxy 7-Eleven convenience store. I had previously documented this one on one of my first trips coming home from Harrisburg, PA by way of New Jersey.

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The Lido Diner on Rte. 22 in Springfield, NJ
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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The Lido Diner on Rte. 22 in Springfield, NJ
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

The Bendix Diner in Hasbrouck Heights was our last stop for the day, this time for dinner. I had been there before so I did not need to log it but I did try 3 nighttime shots… here is one of them.

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The Bendix Diner at night…. Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

The next morning we checked out 3 New Jersey diners for photos. The first was the Arena Diner, a large Kullman circa 1940’s vintage was on the U.S. Rte. 1 truck route and was most certainly a truck stop. Closed on Sundays, this one was rough around the edges but still in operation.

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Arena Diner, U.S. Routes 1 and 9 – South Kearny, NJ
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Arena Diner, U.S. Routes 1 and 9 – South Kearny, NJ
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

After South Kearny we ran across a very old Silk City diner similar to the West Shore Diner in Lemoyne, PA. This was the Miss Jersey City Diner farther up U.S. Routes 1 & 9 in Jersey City. This place was closed and pretty much derelict…. not long for this world!

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Miss Jersey City Diner, Jersey City, NJ
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Miss Jersey City Diner, Jersey City, NJ
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

The next place we found was a complete rarity for the Garden State, a Sterling Dinette located at Newark Ave. and 6th St. in Jersey City. This is possibly the only known example of a Sterling diner in New Jersey!

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Dekay’s Diner, Jersey City, NJ
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Dekay’s Diner, Jersey City, NJ
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

A current Google street view shows an empty lot where this place used to be!

The last diner we documented for this road-trip was in North White Plains, NY, just off Route 22 near the Post Office. It was appropriately operating as the Off Broadway Diner (Rte. 22 is called Broadway here). Not sure who built this one, but my guess would be Kullman. It may also be a renovated model, who knows for sure but I believe the place is gone now.

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Off Broadway Diner, North White Plains, NY
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Off Broadway Diner, North White Plains, NY
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera