The last Sunday at the Shawmut Diner

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The Shawmut Diner of New Bedford, Mass.
March 30, 2014 photo by Larry Cultrera

Well, it was a bitter-sweet trip down to New Bedford, Massachusetts on a rainy Sunday morning at the end of March! Part of our mission was to have a late (for us) breakfast at the incomparable Shawmut Diner. But the most important reason for the trip was to be witness to the last Sunday open for this diner. Phil & Celeste Paleologos have owned the diner since February of 1981 and made the diner not only a local landmark known for good food and and tons of hospitality, but it was also a must-visit destination for any diner lover who was anywhere near the South Coast area of the Bay State! Phil & Celeste have decided to hang up the spatulas and aprons and retire from the business.

They received an offer for the property (which they accepted) to be used for another type of business but they did not want to see the diner get destroyed. After all it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is a superb example of a late model Jerry O’Mahony diner. Phil did attempt to find someone to buy the building but time has run out, so he is paying to have the diner moved into storage locally until a suitable buyer comes forward. Phil says he has received offers from out-of-state buyers and so far has rejected those. Ideally, he wants to see the diner stay in the immediate vicinity and not be moved out of state. The diner’s last official day of business is tomorrow, March 31st.

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Interior view of the Shawmut Diner, the place was really hopping!
March 30, 2014 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Interior view of the Shawmut Diner, the place was really hopping!
March 30, 2014 photo by Larry Cultrera

I know Phil will stay busy with his afternoon radio show on WBSM and Celeste will be busy with their grandchildren! I am certainly conflicted as this diner holds a special place in my heart as well as my life, primarily due to the friendship I have with the Paleologos’! But I know we will remain friends and be in contact for many years to come and I wish them well for the future! Good luck Phil & Celeste until we meet again!

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Phil & Celeste Paleologos… the  extremely congenial hosts at Shawmut Diner!
March 30, 2014 photo by Larry Cultrera

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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.

The Dining Car of Philadelphia, a family tradition!

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Close-up of the fantastic sign for The Dining Car in Philadelphia,
July 1, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

Growing up in the Boston area, I recall all the various diners we had around thru the 1950’s and 1960’s. Most were built by the local Worcester Lunch Car Company (Worcester, Mass.) as well as more than a few Sterling Diners that were built in nearby Merrimac, Mass. by the J.B. Judkins Company. We also had a handful of  Fodero’s, Mountain Views and O’Mahony’s from New Jersey. There were quite a few Brill diners built in Springfield, Mass. for the J.G. Brill Company based in Philadelphia, PA as well as a couple of Valentine diners out of Witchita, KS.  I personally was also familiar with Swingle diners (another New Jersey company, 1957-1988) having grown up with two of their diners here, Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car of my hometown of Medford (1961) and the Victoria Diner of Boston (1965). These two diners were the most modern diners in the Greater Boston area.

After starting my documentation of existing diners in the early 1980’s, I made the acquaintance of Richard Gutman, a native of Allentown, PA who had relocated to the Boston area in the early 1970’s after graduating from Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art and Planning. Dick had authored the first real history book on this truly unique type of restaurant known as a diner. The book was titled Amercian Diner (this later was updated to a more comprehensive volume entitled Amercian Diner Then & Now).  From reading his book, I learned that the evolution of diners was an on-going process. Basically from the horse-drawn lunch wagons of the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, to the barrel-roofed and monitor-roofed railroad car inspired designs of the 1920’s, 1930’s and early 1940’s as well as the modern stainless steel streamlined diners of the late 1940’s thru the 1950’s. But from the early 1960’s into the early 1980’s the diner manufacturers had drifted away from the traditional “railroad car” styled diners to the larger multi-section diner-restaurants with their more updated Colonial and Mediterranean influenced designs.

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View of the left side front elevation of The Dining Car,
July 1, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

I would guess it was from Richard Gutman, that I had heard (not too long after I met him) of a new diner being built by Swingle Diners… the first ever retro-styled diner called The Dining Car of Philadelphia, PA. So in my travels on the diner trail, I planned on someday checking this new old-style diner out. I had heard that Swingle in collaboration with the Morozin family (owners of The Dining Car) had loosely based the design of the new Dining Car on the old Monarch model that the Jerry O’Mahony Dining Car Company had built back in the mid-to-late 1930’s. It featured a metal-sheathed monitor roof, not used since the 1950’s as well as a black enameled body (with the name of the diner lettered on) under the windows. It also included stainless steel trim on the corners of the building as well as the window sills. So it was in the middle of  a diner road-trip, July 17, 1984 to be precise that myself and Steve Repucci visited the Swingle Diner factory in Middlesex, NJ. We were given a tour of the plant by Eric Swingle, a nephew of owner Joe Swingle. We met Joe along with his chief designer Joe Montano. I asked Joe Montano about The Dining Car and he actually pulled out the blue prints to show us what it looked like! It wasn’t until July 1, 1985 that we actually set foot in the diner on a subsequent road-trip. We had lunch as I recall and I took quite a few exterior shots of this huge diner (which can be seen here). I found myself at The Dining Car one other time since then…. June 19, 1993 during the Delaware Valley Diner Tour which was part of the Diner Experience, a symposium conducted by the Society for Commercial Archeology. But going through my slide archive, it seems I did not photograph it that time.

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View of the full front elevation of The Dining Car,
July 1, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

To help with some background for this post, I recently spoke with Nancy Morozin, a friend of mine from Facebook who is the current general manager of the diner started by her dad, Joe Morozin Sr. Nancy runs the business along with her brother Joe Jr. and sister Judy. Joe Jr. oversees all back-of-the-house functions while Judy is responsible for the training of all front-of-the-house personnel. The Dining Car story goes back to Joe Sr’s. early days, basically from a teenager on – running various eateries with names such as the GI Inn, and another called the White Way among others. Jump to the year 1961 when Joe was ready for something new and larger, this is when he bought a brand-new Swingle Diner. Nancy describes it as an “L-Shaped” Colonial-styled diner with large windows and hammered copper hood. From the sounds of it, this would have made it a contemporary of Carroll’s Diner in Medford (the one I grew up with). This diner was known as the Torresdale Diner from 1961 – 1976. In 1976, the family updated the diner with a slight renovation that included some new victorian-styled decorations salvaged from an old Atlantic City hotel and decided to change the name to The Dining Car. It operated as  such until they approached Swingle Diners about building them the new larger diner in 1981. Contrary to some reports I have read (as well as being mentioned by Nancy), The Dining Car was not the last brand-new diner built by Swingle Diners. I know this for a fact because when I visited the factory in 1984, they were just completing the final sections of the Penny II Diner of Norwalk, CT. Ironically while we were there, they received a phone call that the first two sections of the diner, which had left the factory on the previous day, had arrived on site that morning! Also, according to Mike Engle (co-author of Diners of New York), the Country View Diner of  Brunswick, NY was possibly the last diner out of the factory. It was built in 1988 and opened in 1989 as the Stagecoach Inn.

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View of the right side front elevation of The Dining Car,
July 1, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

In the late 1980’s Bob Giaimo and Chef Ype Von Hengst of the proposed Silver Diner chain out of the Washington, DC area actually trained at The Dining Car to see how a large upscale diner operated. Giaimo and the Morozins remained friendy since then. In 1989, the Morozins decided they need to do something as the customers queuing up to purchase their baked goods from their in-house bakery were interfering with the other clientele who were attempting to pay for their meals. You see as Nancy explains it, the diner’s bakery is famous for its Apple Walnut Pie, which is similar to a cheesecake, baked in a pie shell with sweet apples folded inside and topped with walnuts rolled in brown sugar and cinnamon. Another popular item is the Jewish Apple Cake which is a European coffee cake baked with apples and cinnamon sugar. The diner received the “Best of Philadelphia” for that. So a new addition was planned to house and sell the baked goods. Looking for advice, Nancy approached Bob Giaimo to consult with as he previously had operated a chain of upscale bakery/cafés (American Café Restaurants). She hoped to get idea’s for the proposed “Market” addition. When all was said and done the new addition was grafted onto the front of the diner’s entryway. It was designed by the noted restaurant designer, Charles Morris Mount who also consulted along with Richard Gutman and Kullman Diners to design the first Silver Diner for Giaimo, located in Rockville, MD. As Nancy went on to tell me…. There are also a few food items that are uber popular that we sell in the “market” which is why she opted to call the new addition a “market” vs a “bakery”.

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Joe Morozin Sr. and Nancy Morozin holding a copy of the revised Edition of
Diners of Pennsylvania by Brian Butko, Kevin Patrick and Kyle Weaver
photo courtesy of Kyle R. Weaver

The diner employs a staff of around 130 and with later additions currently seats 260 patrons. Many of the staff have been working at the diner for years and even decades. This is because the staff is treated like family and the same can be said about the regular customers!

Another interesting story Nancy related to me about the regular customers was when the new diner was installed back in 1981, it was placed on the property adjacent to the old diner. They were basically sitting back to back with a fence between the back walls of both the buildings. Apparently there were a handful of these regular customers who wanted to have the official last meal in the older diner and the first one in the newer diner. So to help facilitate this, an opening was made in the fence between the two diners and the customers in the old diner picked up their plates and coffee cups and proceeded to walk thru the kitchen of that diner, out the back door, thru the opening in the fence and into the back door of the new diner. They went thru that kitchen and into the main part of this diner to finish their meals! What a delightful story, to say the least!

Up until a few years ago The Dining Car was one of a handful of family-run diners that had operated under 2 or 3 generations. There was the Melrose Diner operated by the Kubach family, the Mayfair Diner operated by members of the Morrison, Struhm and Mulholland families as well as the Country Club Diner operated by the Perloff family. Within the last 6 years or so all of those diners with the exception of The Dining Car were bought by Michael Petrogiannis.  In fact Nancy says they too were approached by at least two or three parties who were inquiring whether they wanted to sell their diner a number of years ago, but the Morozins were not interested in selling. As far as I’m concerned, I believe I speak for all their regular customers as well as myself when I say that I am glad as well as relieved to know that the Morozin family will continue to operate this long-time Philadelphia institution for many years to come!

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More recent view of the left side front elevation of The Dining Car, showing
the 1989 addition of the “Market” off the front of the entryway designed by
the late Charles Morris Mount, photo by Kyle R. Weaver

If you are ever in the Philadelphia area I highly recommend you visit The Dining Car, it is located at 8826 Frankford Avenue. Telephone is 215-338-5113 and you can also check out The Dining Car’s website at… http://www.thediningcar.com/

If you go, tell them Diner Hotline sent you!

Notes from the Hotline, Jan. 20, 2013

Well, it is the middle of winter and I am feeling sort of lazy. But I also feel neglectful to my regular readers as well so I am forcing myself to get my rear end in gear and do a quick blog post on things that are happening. Subjects I will talk about  include the planned resurrection of a diner that has not operated since the early 1970’s and been in storage for close to 27 years, news about 2 diners that are featured in my book “Classic Diners of Massachusetts”, an upcoming author event I instigated and a long-time local 5 & dime department store that is closing. Also a link to an interesting blog post about the closing of someone’s favorite diner, so, here we go…..

Former Monarch Diner gets a new lease on life

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Left to right…. the former Olympia Diner of Braintree, Mass and
the former Monarch Diner of Dover, NH
December 22, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

I heard from Retro Road gal Beth Lennon in November via Facebook. She asked if I was interested in getting together with her and her hubby Cliff Hillis on the weekend before Christmas. She had recently made the acquaintance of  Roger Elkus and Daryl McGann, (Roger is the owner of Me & Ollie’s a small chain of Bakery/Cafe’s in the southeastern part of New Hampshire
and Daryl is his Production Manager see… http://www.meandollies.com/). They informed her of their plans for a 1950 vintage stainless steel O’Mahony diner they had acquired.

Cliff and Beth were driving up from Pheonixville, PA to visit with family in Massachusetts and New Hampshire for the holidays. Part of the itinerary included a stop at Kane’s Donuts in my hometown of Saugus on the way to a family gathering in New Hampshire. The plan was for Denise and I to meet Beth and Cliff at Kane’s and then motor up to Salisbury to meet up with Roger and Daryl at the the storage yard where the old diner they were buying has been located for a number of years.

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Beth Lennon & yours truly outside Kane’s Donuts. Dec. 22, 2012 photo
by Cliff Hillis

So after a cup of coffee at Kane’s (where I introduced them to Peter Delios, whose family runs the donut shop) – as planned, it was off to Salisbury where we met Roger and Daryl. We were all surprised to find the gate to the storage yard closed, as it usually was opened. Luckily the chain that locked the 2 gates was loose enough that we could squeeze thru (a little tight for me but I made it). Roger brought a step ladder along to climb up into the diner.

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Daryl McGann and Roger Elkus inside the former Monarch Diner
December 22, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

During our visit to the diner in Salisbury, Roger showed us where the serial number for the diner was located. It was on the stainless steel molding for the front door frame directly under the bottom hinge.

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An extreme close-up of the Serial number for the old Monarch Diner
from Dover, NH.  According to Gary Thomas’  – “Diners of the North Shore” book, the other O’Mahony the DeCola’s bought for Waltham, Mass. was Serial number 2179-50. The number “50” denotes the year it was built.
December 22, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

P.S.  That other 1950 vintage O’Mahony incidentally is currently operating as the Tilt’n Diner in Tilton, NH…… LAC

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Beth Lennon and Cliff Hillis inside the former Monarch Diner
December 22, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

Now for a little back story on this diner…. it was originally one of a chain of diners owned and operated by the DeCola brothers of Waltham, Mass. (in some cases they leased the diners to other operators) Most of the diners they ran were called the Monarch Diner. The flagship was located in Waltham with other Monarch’s in Dover, NH and Milford, NH as well as Saugus, Mass. They had other diners they ran with names like the Littleton Diner of Littleton, Mass. as well as a diner called the Paradise Diner in Lowell, Mass. (not the current one, there were 2) and another diner in either Billerica or Chelmsford (I cannot recall which or even if it was a Monarch). The diner we were in Salisbury to look at was the former Dover, NH Monarch Diner which operated at 530 Central Ave. in that southeastern New Hampshire city.

According to Will Anderson’s “More Good Old Maine” book (1995 – Will Anderson Publishing), even though the diner was owned by the DeCola’s, it was more than likely leased by at least 3 different operators until December of 1968 when it was purchased by Edward & Phyllis Neal who moved the diner to North Berwick, Maine. The Neal’s intended to utilize the diner as a flower shop initially, but after the diner was installed at the new location, they ended up leasing the diner to Lois Griffin who ran it as Lois’ Diner. The diner reportedly closed in 1973 and sat vacant until 1986 before being moved to Phyllis Neal’s property in Sanford, Maine.

I actually knew of the diner back in March of 1989 when I visited a friend who lived in the Sanford area. He used to drive by the diner’s storage location twice a day. We got to his house and he said let’s take a ride, keeping the destination as a surprise. We came around a bend in the road and there was the diner sitting up on blocks!

Fast forward to the early 2000’s when Dave Pritchard of Salisbury convinced Phyllis Neal to sell the old diner. Dave had bought up 3 other old diners and stored them on his property in Salisbury. The other 3 were the Englewood Diner, Olympian Diner and Miss Newport Diner. Pritchard had no concrete plans for any of the diners until he eventually sold the Miss Newport (now reopened as the Miss Mendon Diner) and more recently the Englewood (which is reportedly in private hands).

Roger Elkus and Daryl McGann in the last year or so were discussing the possibility of obtaining an old diner to operate in conjunction (but separate) with the Me & Ollie’s Cafes. To make a long story short, they found their way to Salisbury and Dave Pritchard. They eventually convinced Pritchard to sell them the old Monarch and hopefully before this year is out, their plan is to relocate the diner and restore it and have it operating. I will post a more detailed story about this in the next few months.

Peabody, Massachusetts’ Little Depot Diner
under new ownership

One of the diners featured in my book “Classic Diners of Massachusetts” has recently changed hands. This was not unexpected news. Right around the same time my book was being printed (September, 2011), the Miles family – owners of the diner since 2008 abruptly closed the diner. But within a month they reopened it with only weekend hours basically keeping it a viable business while searching for a new owner to operate it. Well back in November I received an email from Peter Scanlon of North Easton, Mass. who informed me his son Ross and new daughter-in-law Alicia had taken over the reigns of the 1929 vintage Worcester Lunch Car.

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The Little Depot Diner in Peabody, Mass. Photo by Larry Cultrera

The Miles family stayed with them to show them the ropes for a short time. After Ross and Alicia’s wedding and honeymoon around Thanksgiving the newlyweds reopened the diner, again testing the water with only weekend hours. After the first of the year, the diner is now open 6 days a week, Tuesday thru Friday: 7:00 am – 1:30 pm, Saturday & Sunday: 7:00 am – 1:00 pm. Denise and I have been there twice since they reopened and found the food to be good quality and the service very friendly! The diner is located at 1 Railroad Avenue, just behind the Courthouse in downtown Peabody.

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Peter, Ross and Alicia Scanlon @ The Little Depot Diner, Peabody, Mass.
December 15, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

Al Mac’s Diner of Fall River, Mass. set to reopen

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Al Mac’s Diner, Fall River, Mass. Photo by Larry Cultrera

Back in late July I posted the news that Al Mac’s Diner of Fall River closed abruptly. (see… https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/news-flash-al-macs-diner-of-fall-river-mass-closes/). This was disturbing to me as this was again another featured diner in my book “Classic Diners of Massachusetts”.  Well it now looks like the diner will reopen under new ownership around February 1, 2013. I saw the news back on December 11, 2012 from The Herald News out of Fall River.
Here is the story was written by Brian Fraga……..

FALL RIVER —

Robert Dunse II remembers when he was a kid eating his first chocolate chip pancake at Al Mac’s Diner. “I sat down at the end of that counter top. My parents used to bring us here,” Dunse, 25, said Tuesday inside the historic diner at 135 President Ave., which will reopen next month. Dunse, his sister, Laura Reed, and their mother, Susan Dunse, all Fall River natives, recently leased the diner, which the previous owner, Norman Gauthier, closed in July, citing financial difficulties.

On Tuesday, construction workers were busy inside the diner, updating the interior and preparing the space for a series of additions that will include new vinyl booths, and possibly a jukebox. The building’s exterior, including the famous Al Mac’s sign, is also being refinished. There is even a new website — http://www.almacsdiner.net — in development. “I’m basically redoing the whole place. It’s getting a major, major facelift,” said Dunse, a 2008 graduate of Johnson & Wales University who previously worked for a catering company in Providence. Before that, Dunse said he worked as a personal chef for New England Patriots owner Robert Craft.

The family signed the lease for the diner in early November. Dunse said he moved home to Fall River in the summer when he saw the “For Lease” sign in Al Mac’s window. “I was moving all my stuff. I had a full carload full of furniture and everything,” Dunse said. “I saw the ‘For Lease’ sign. I called (his mother), asked, ‘What do you think?’ I got the information on it, made the phone call.” Susan Dunse, a former employee with the Fall River School Department, said the family had always talked about opening up a restaurant. She said Robert’s great grandfather and his brother owned the old Columbus Cafe in Fall River.

“Restaurants and food is kind of in the family,” she said. Robert Dunse said he expects to reopen Al Mac’s by early January. He said the menu will be updated with American, Italian, Polish and Southern comfort fare, among other family favorites. “We really want more of a classic diner feel, with the milk shakes, with the late night, with the crazy breakfast specials, the large portion sizes, the working-man lunch specials,” he said. “Everything is going to be fresh. We’re bringing good food to the city. My motto is four-star food at a one-star price.”

Dunse said his sous chef — the second in command — left his job in fine dining to come work at the new Al Mac’s. “Lot of talent here,” Dunse said. Al Mac’s has been part of Fall River’s landscape for more than a century. Its founder, Al McDermott, started the business in 1910 on a six-seat, horse-drawn wagon. The stainless steel diner on President Avenue was built in 1953. The diner was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.

“We’re from Fall River. It’s Fall River people, bringing stuff back to Fall River,” said Susan Dunse, who remarked Tuesday that the interior still looks much as it did during the 1950s. “We’re bringing back the booths. People are very excited about the booths,” she said. Robert Dunse said he believes customers will return and keep the diner financially viable this time around.

“If you have good food, people will come,” he said. “If you provide a great environment where people feel comfortable and at home, and you develop personal relationships, people are going to come no matter what.”

Lord’s Department Store of Medfield, Mass. set to close

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Lord’s Department Store, 446 Main St. (Rte. 109) in Medfield, Mass.
January 13, 2013 Photo by Larry Cultrera

Back on January 4th, I got a message from Beth Lennon who was concerned about a local landmark…. Lord’s Department Store, a long-time fixture in the small town of Medfield, Massachusetts. She had heard that the store is set to close its doors at the end of February and was concerned about the great neon sign that was mounted on the building.I was somewhat familiar with it most like from Beth’s posts about it on her Retro Roadmap blog, see…. (http://www.retroroadmap.com/). So after I was aware of this news I did a little research and this is what I found out……

Started as a small “5 and 10 cent” store in 1940, the place was opened by Raymond Lord, a former employee of Kresge’s 5 and 10 cent stores out of New York City. The story goes that Mr. Lord had used some faulty marketing research that was done by the Kresge organization on likely towns that might support a 5 an 10 cent store. It seems Medfield had a population of around 4500 which seemed perfect. So Mr Lord left Kresge’s to open his own store in the seemingly bustling community of Medfield. He opened his store in an existing storefront down the street from the current store and was surprised to see that there was hardly any business for the first week.

He ended up talking with an employee of the local U.S. Post Office and asked the man where are all the people that are supposed to be living here? He told him that he had heard the population was around 4500 and the man said yes, that was possibly true, except for one thing, about 3000 of  those people were locked up in the State Hospital! So much for marketing research circa 1940!

Well Mr. Lord stuck it out and pretty much from day one, he had the able help of William Kelly, a local lad who was an extremely hard worker. Mr. Kelly had the people skills and strong work ethic that appealed to Lord who eventually gave the young Kelly more and more responsibility. After Kelly returned from service during WWII, he was made the manager of the store.

In the early 1950’s Bill Kelly took over the day to day operations as a partner to Ray Lord. By the late 50’s the store moved to it’s current location and eventually Kelly bought the business. It has been run by Bill and more recently his son Tom and daughter Nancy Kelly-Lavin. Bill passed away this past May and Tom and Nancy by the end of the year decided that they would close the store and sell the property.

The store has become the heart and soul of the downtown area, everyone who lives in the vicinity has great memories of the store which had a little bit of everything. It was open 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It featured a lunch counter/soda fountain and recently was operated as Ruthie’s Diner.

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Ruthie’s Diner inside Lord’s Department Store
January 13, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

Denise and I took a ride down this past Sunday Jan. 13th and had a cup of coffee at the lunch counter. We also walked around the store and as we were leaving, we met Nancy Kelly-Lavin.  We had a nice conversation with her as she related some stories to us. We wished her well and went on our way. The latest word is that there is a possibility the classic neon sign may be kept on the building by the new owner, giving the towns people a little piece of mind that their downtown might still have a bit of their local landmark for generations to come.

Eulogy for the Harvest Diner, by Michael R. Fisher

My friend Rich Wilhelm of Phoenixville, PA (a neighbor and friend of Beth Lennon and Cliff Hillis) sent me a link to a blog post his nephew Michael Fisher wrote lamenting the closong of his local diner. I read the piece and asked Michael permission to  re-post it here……

After nineteen years in business, my diner is closing.

Like all residents of suburban South Jersey, I have (sadly, as of this coming Sunday, had) a go-to diner. And while many of my SoJerz brethren may have thought of the local diner as little more than a necessary stop on the way home from the bar on a woozy Saturday night, the Harvest has meant much more to me.

Whether playing its role as hangout, employer, home away from home or whathaveyou, the Harvest was always a welcoming, reliable beacon of 24-hour light thrusting upward from the middle of the disenchanted-and-we-like-it-that-way Jersey suburbs. See, I’m a city kid; the general artlessness of the ‘burbs, taken (not incorrectly) by its devoted residents as the signature of comfort and stability, has always turned me off in a Springsteenesque “it’s a death trap/it’s a suicide rap” kind of way, albeit less melodramatically. But the diner was always necessary. Its policy of being open all night encouraged coffee talk, which is still the highest form of human interaction, save perhaps tantric sex. Nobody in their twenties lives at home if things are going well for them, so the 24-hour diner became the haven of late-night plotting and dreaming and decompressing as we faced the future armed only with coffee and cigarettes and the nametags given us by our retail jobs. That is, until we lost those jobs and started working at the diner.

It sounds like that diner could have been any diner, and maybe it was after all just happenstance that made the Harvest our diner, but that doesn’t matter. It was ours, and it was special. It was owned by the Savvas, the nicest family of Cypriot-Americans you’d ever hope to meet; people who offered me work–twice–when the doors of the rest of the world slammed in my face; people who were never shy about helping their friends. I worked there off and on for three years, and while nobody’s saying that waiting tables is next to godliness, I can say that you’d be hard-pressed to find a better work environment, and that’s the rarest of compliments when it comes to Jersey diners.

(As a point of comparison, I once worked at another diner, which shall remain nameless. On my fourth day of employment, after being harassed from the first minute about keeping up with their post-Steinbrenner wardrobe and grooming requirements, I showed up for a shift with sideburns that reached about two-thirds of the way to my ear lobes. My manager instructed me to go home, trim the sideburns down to where they met my hairline, then come back to work and finish my shift. I went home, but I did not return, and I have not set foot in that diner since.)

With the closing of the Harvest Diner, the Chekhovian drama of our lives as confirmed (if reluctant) townies comes to a crashing climax. Our hangout spot is deserting us just as our precious youth is doing the same. It may seem overwrought, but the whole point of the Harvest, far beyond being a place to get breakfast at any hour, was to be the great, comforting constant in the lives of its beloved regulars. We all have stories in which the Harvest plays a key part; having been a fixture there for some ten years, I probably have more than most. Inside jokes were born there; strangers discovered mutual interests and became friends within its green-and-yellow booths. The Harvest was the trusty nightwatchman of our past, and as long as it stood, our past was safe and our youth preserved. Now that it is saying goodbye, we are shaken into an understanding of our mortality. If the Harvest and all of those wonderful times there can just vanish, so, then, can we.

As this is happening, I am twenty-six years old. I have a 9-to-5 job and student loan payments. I am looking at homes in other towns. I am preparing to leave my old neighborhood, and though wherever I go will not be far, the closing of the Harvest is a cold reminder that life is changing. Of course, not all moments of transition carry the kind of Last Picture Show gloom that I’ve been insinuating. I’m sure the changes in my life will spur growth, maturity, independence, responsibility–all those sacred middle-class values. One day I may even be able to behave like a proper adult. I will be fine, and my friends will be fine. But the Harvest, sadly, will not be there to go back to.

Good luck to my friends, the Savva family, and all those currently employed at Harvest. And thank you.

Here’s a link to the original blog post…. http://michaelroyfisher.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/euology-for-the-harvest-diner/

On a further note, I read in the last couple of days that the diner will close but eventually reopen in the spring with a new name and a new look by the owners of the Sage Diner of Mt. Laurel, NJ…. LAC

Author Event slated for Bestsellers Cafe in Medford, Mass.
January 27, 2013

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I arranged an Author Event with Rob Dilman owner of the newly reopened Bestsellers Cafe in Medford, Mass. (the city I grew up in). I have gotten together a small group of local authors to participate. With the exception of myself all the other authors have published books about Medford either thru Arcadia Publishing (Images of America books) and/or from my publisher, The History Press. The other authors include Anthony Mitchell Sammarco, author of “Medford” (Arcadia) as well as countless other titles from the Greater Boston area. Barbara Kerr who authored “Medford in the Victorian Era” for Arcadia and “Glimpses of Medford” for The History Press. Dee Morris authored “Medford, A Brief History” for The History Press (among other local titles) and Patricia Saunders who wrote “Medford – Then & Now” for Arcadia.

We will all be signing copies of our books as well as speaking about them. The event will take place at Bestsellers cafe, 24 High Street, Medford, Mass. on Jan. 27th, Sunday afternoon, 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Check out Bestsellers Cafe’s website for directions, etc…..
http://www.bestsellers-cafe.com/event

Carroll’s Bar & Grille looking at Spring opening in Medford, Mass.

As most regular readers of Diner Hotline know, I usually feature posts about diners and other roadside establishments. This particular post will be slightly different as it is about a new restaurant that will be located in an existing commercial building in downtown Medford, Massachusetts (the city where I was born and raised).  This new restaurant, Carroll’s Bar & Grille has roots that go back to circa 1930 when Maurice W. Carroll bought a used “Brill” steel diner and moved it (from I believe the town of Reading, although it is not substantiated), and placed it adjacent to a building on Main Street in Medford that housed his primary business, the Medford Battery Company.

The following photos and scans will take you on a timeline showing the Carroll family’s history of commercial achievements in the city of Medford as I know it….

Below we see an image scanned from a book I have in my collection called “Medford, Past and Present, 275th Anniversary 1905” published by the local newspaper, “The Medford Mercury”. This image apparently shows the 1905 offices and plant of the newspaper located on Main Street, where Carroll’s Diner would eventually be located.

This next image shows the same building on the left along with its next door neighbor, the Medford House Inn. Beyond the Inn you can see the old Fire Department Headquarters on the other side of South Street where it intersects with Main St. The Medford House was owned by the Carroll family until it was torn down.

Below is an ad from a trade publication, possibly circa 1930 or so showing the same building, although enlarged and modified to be Medford Battery Co. which was also an Esso Gasoline station. Maury Carroll III told me it had previously operated as a Beacon Gas Station before rebranding to Esso. (Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)

Next is a touched up image showing the original Carroll’s Diner in front of the Medford Battery Co. I believe this is right before the delivery of the 1948 stainless steel Jerry O’Mahony diner that replaced the first diner.
(Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)

This image shows the interior of the first Carroll’s Diner circa 1939
(Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)

Below is a 1948 newspaper piece from the Medford Mercury on the delivery of the new Carroll’s Diner. At the time this was delivered, the original Medford Battery Co. building was altered to make space. The front of the building was cut back almost to the chimney shown in the earlier photos. This created the space to move the first diner back enough to attach the second diner in front, thus utilizing the first diner as expanded kitchen space for the new diner.

Here you can see the second diner in place in  front of the altered building. The first diner was small enough that one cannot see it from this angle, sandwiched between the newer diner and the building behind. At the right edge of the frame is the Esso Gas Station that superseded the old Medford Battery Co. (Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)

Interior view of the 1948 Carroll’s Diner.
(Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)

By 1948, when the stainless steel diner came along, the business was being operated by Maurice Carroll’s sons, Maurice, Jr. and John F. “Jack” Carroll. They had purchased the new diner from Joseph Swingle, a World War II veteran like themselves who had just started working as a salesman for the Jerry O’Mahony Dining Car Co., (Mr. O’Mahony happened to be Joe’s wife Kay’s uncle). In fact in 1987, Joe Swingle himself told me that Carroll’s Diner was the very first diner he sold after getting into the business.

Below…. an image of a matchbook cover for the 1948 vintage Carroll’s Diner,
at this time the diner’s address was listed as being at 89 Main Street.

This next image is a slightly later version of a Carroll’s Diner matchbook cover, probably from the mid-to-late 1950’s showing a new logo they started using for the diner.

The Carroll brothers continued to operate the diner, very successfully I might add and between 1948 and 1961 had started to acquire more of the property that surrounded the diner. Fronting on Main St. from Emerson St. to South St. (not counting the Esso Gas Station site) they had a fairly good-sized piece of property, including a portion of the land behind the diner and the gas station, By 1960 they were ready for a new larger diner.

But by this point in time, the Jerry O’Mahony Company had been out of the business for at least 5 years, but Joe Swingle was still in the business. He had left O’Mahony to become the sales manager at Fodero Diners in the early 1950’s and by 1957 was ready to start his own company called Swingle Diners. So Maury and Jack Carroll got in touch with Joe Swingle and contracted with him to build a big new diner for them.

In the late 50’s and early 60’s, the old railroad car style of diner was being phased out by the manufacturers and in its place, a new look was being offered that borrowed from early Americana…. the colonial style. These diners generally had large picture windows and a minimum amount of stainless steel, primarily for trim on the exterior. Ironically the first diner that the Swingle Diner Co. had built was a traditional stainless steel diner…. Twaddell’s of Paoli, PA in 1957. This was a large “L”-shaped 2 section diner with a corner entryway/vestibule.

Here is a photo of Twaddell’s Diner upon completion at the Swingle Diner factory in Middlesex, NJ. This was taken prior to it being moved to its operating location in Paoli, PA (Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)

The above photo was provided to the Carroll brothers along with quite a few other 8″ x 10″ publicity photos from Swingle to help them make a decision as to what style and size diner they might want to purchase. Well they ended up purchasing a large “L” shaped, 3 section diner similar to Twaddell’s, but of colonial design. Next we can see a blurb from an August, 1961 news clipping about the arrival of the new diner……

Here we see the 3 sections of diner heading east on State Route 60, High Street in West Medford in front of the Brooks School, out of the shot to the left. (Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)

Next we see the diner approaching its operating location on Main St. The old stainless steel diner can be seen on the left and the Medford Fire Dept. Headquarters can be seen behind the diner. At this point, the Mystic Valley Parkway (Route 16) was at a grade crossing intersection just beyond the Fire Station with Medford Square in the background. I was told that the man in a black suit with his back to the camera was indeed Jack Carroll. The Medford Police Patrolman is Jack Kirwan, a close friend of the Carroll’s. (Thanks Mike!)  (Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)

Below is another great shot showing the 3 sections of the diner on 3 different trucks coming down Main St. (Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)

I personally remember driving by the site with my family and seeing the pieces of the new diner waiting to be placed on the foundation. I was around 8 years of age and this was totally interesting to me.

Here we can see the new diner open for business, it looks to be the winter of 1961-62 with the snow on the ground. This diner was undoubtedly the newest, most modern diner in Massachusetts at this time. The old diner is still on site at this point over to the right just out of the frame. (Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)

Here is a slightly closer view of the brand-new Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car
(Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)

A great close-up of the sign featuring the diner’s logo. Note the interesting timeline here, when the diner was delivered, there was no overpass for the Mystic Valley Parkway to cross over Main St. By the time the diner was operating a few months later, the new overpass was in place! You can also see the old 1948 diner in this shot. (Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)

Here is a new matchbook cover advertizing Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car,
and mentioning the function rooms they now offered.

Next we see one of the Swingle Diners manufacturer’s tag from Carroll’s.
I obtained  both of them in 1987, after the diner had been closed …….

Here is a postcard from my collection for the exterior view of Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car, not too long after opening.

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Postcard from my collection showing the interior view of Carroll’s
Colonial Dining Car.

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I recall going to Carroll’s Diner with my family for breakfast on Easter Morning after church. I believe we did this for at least 2 years in a row when this Swingle diner was brand  new. It might actually have been some of the few times my whole family ever ate breakfast out together in a diner!

The photo below was taken on the night of the Great Northeast Blackout
of  November 9, 1965. According to Maury Carroll III, the diner had some power, possibly enough to use the cooking equipment and the staff utilized candles so patrons could eat their meals. (Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)

The image we see next is an architectural rendering circa 1970 of the proposed Sheraton Hotel the Carroll family hoped to build. They had acquired even more property which would have given them plenty of room to build what was going to be a 6-story, 150 room full service hotel, something Medford did not have at that time. The diner is visible here sandwiched between the hotel and the dining room addition. Unfortunately, these plans were never realized. (Image scanned from the 1997 Medford Police Relief Association Sponsor Booklet, courtesy of the Carroll family)

During the early to mid 1970’s, Carroll’s Diner was the place I hung out with all my friends. It was open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and was always busy. I can recall the lines out the door waiting to get in at 3:00 am after going to night clubs, etc. It was the place to be and be seen for sure. Also by the 1970’s, the next generation of Carroll’s had started working at the diner. There were brothers, Maury (III), Tom, David and Paul as well as their cousin John F. (Jr.) who all held various positions over the years.

This next photo is a time exposure I shot in February of 1982 showing the diner at night. You can see in this shot the large dining room/function room addition that was grafted to the right side of the diner by the early 1970’s. This addition also housed upstairs offices for the complex. It was known as Carroll’s Restaurant by this time.
(note:  I digitally removed street lights from this photo)

Below is another photo from August of 1983 showing the restaurant around 9:00 am one weekday morning. Carroll’s was by now operating with shorter hours and no longer open for breakfast. (photo by Larry Cultrera)

One of the last matchbook covers they offered at Carroll’s, note the address has changed to 101 Main Street (from 89 Main St.)
(Image courtesy of Diane Carroll DeBenedictis)

By March of 1986, the restaurant was still operating when freelance writer Donald Dale Jackson contacted me,  Diner Historian Richard Gutman, as well as others in advance of penning a feature article on “American Diners” for a prestigious magazine.  I am honored to say that I was one of 2 guys from Medford that were featured in the article, the other guy was none other than John F. Carroll, Jr. In fact, I actually met Don Jackson at Carroll’s Restaurant where we started the interview! The article was called “The American diner is in decline, yet more chic than ever” and appeared in the November, 1986 edition of Smithsonian Magazine. Ironically, unbeknownst to me and a lot of other people, Carroll’s Restaurant was about to close for good. This happened in late December of 1986, the month after the Smithsonian article came out!

It was mentioned in the Medford Mercury early in the month of December that a local developer had bought the property for a great amount of money in order to build a large office building on the site and that the restaurant would close by the end of the month. I managed to take a long lunch on December 17th from my job about 15 miles away in Bedford by inviting my friend Duane Marshall (the engineering supervisor at my place of employment) who had never been to Carroll’s. We managed to get there around 12:30 pm as I recall and got to sit in the last booth in the right front of the diner next to the dining room. As we left, I approached Maury Carroll Jr. and told him I was going to miss the place and wished him good luck! I also asked for one of the menus as a souvenir and he graciously handed me one .

I got home later in the afternoon from work and found out that the restaurant had closed right after lunch. I did not realize it but that particular day was planned to be the last day of regular operation for the place and I had made it to the last official sitting.

March, 1987 – that is me sitting on the brick wall at the base of the sign.
In the background you can see signs in the windows announcing the public auction for equipment  and a large sign that said “Restaurant Closed” and thanking customers for their patronage! (Photo by Steve Repucci)

The whole structure was torn down in June of 1987 as shown in the next photo…….

One day during the demolition (which spanned a few days), I walked into the rear parking lot to see what was out there and was surprised to see the old neon sign that had been mounted to the roof of the 1948 O’Mahony diner! The guys from the demo crew told me it had been lying on the roof! I am not sure but it looks like it was tossed off the roof to the parking lot……

Shortly thereafter, construction began for the 101 Main Street professional building with an underground garage as well as some above ground parking on the South St. side of the building.

This large professional building is what replaced Carroll’s Diner at 101 Main Street. (Feb. 19, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera)

A few years before Carroll’s Restaurant had closed, John Carroll, Jr. had started a consulting business with his dad and cousin Maury Carroll III called Cornell Concepts and managed places like the Memory Lane Restaurants that were in Somerville and Malden, Mass. as well as Newington, and Manchester, NH. There was also a place in Charlestown called “The Front Page”. These were all casual dining and cocktail places, that had eventually closed by the early 1990’s.

Around 1992 or 93, I got a phone call from John Carroll, Jr. Although we were both featured in the above mentioned Smithsonian article from 1986, we had never met or even been in touch. He asked to get together to talk, so we met up at the Main Street Diner in North Woburn one weekday for lunch. We had a great conversation and became instant friends. We remained friends and would talk or get together periodically right up until he passed away due to complications from cancer in 1996.

Also in the  years since Carroll’s closed in 1986, Maury Carroll, Jr’s sons Maury Carroll III and  Tom Carroll have stayed in the hospitality business working at or operating quite a few establishments in the Boston area. In fact Tom was the function manager at Montvale Plaza, a function facility in nearby Stoneham, Mass. and helped arrange the wedding reception for my wife Denise and I in 1991.

More recently, Maury and Tom have continued with a side business called Carroll’s Distinctive Catering and attempting to open another restaurant in Medford. In fact in 2008 they had  started a project to convert a former bank into a new restaurant called 55 High which I wrote about here, see…..

https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2008/10/16/diner-hotline-and-yours-truly-mentioned-in-newspaper-article-about-a-new-restaurant-to-be-opened-in-medford-massachusetts-by-maury-tom-carroll/

They had moved forward on that project to a certain point but due to circumstances and the economy, it never came to fruition. More recently they had an option to lease space in another building on High Street that is undergoing an extended renovation. That building renovation seemed to have been stalled temporarily when the former Il Faro Italian Restaurant around the corner at 21 Main Street closed its doors last year. They immediately saw their chance and secured a lease to take over not only the former Il Faro space, but also the Nail Salon that had closed next door. With the expanded space they now were set up to bring the Carroll’s name back to a restaurant in Medford, within 2 blocks of the site where the diner was located!

On February 15th (last week) I noticed Sean M. Walsh posted a photo on the “You Know You’re From Medford When……” Facebook page of the new Carroll’s Bar & Grill. They had just installed the signage and awnings that morning. I was excited to see this and made plans to get there later in the day to take my own shots! The photo immediately below is my first one showing the new signage. I was especially pleased to see the old logo from the diner being used for the new restaurant! This is the first time in 26 years that the Carroll’s logo has appeared on a restaurant in Medford.

The next shot is a close up of the entrance to Carroll’s Bar & Grill…..

Next we see Maury Carroll (on the left) with 2 friends standing in front of the restaurant. This is the very first photo showing the lights shining on the sign and awning!

Carroll’s Bar & Grill is slated to open either in late March or early April, so when it does, I will do a follow up post here reporting on the restaurant and the menu they will be offering. I wish Maury & Tom as well as the rest of the Carroll family good luck with this new venture!

I want to thank Maury Carroll for his continued friendship and help in proofreading this post for factual purposes as well as providing me with photos over the years. I also want to thank both the late Jack Carroll and John F. Carroll, Jr. for their friendship over the last years of their lives as well as providing me with other photos and memorabilia for my collection.

Virginia’s Hillsville Diner still going strong

Back in October of 1986, Steve Repucci and I were road tripping, driving down U.S. Rte. 11 from Harrisburg, PA toward Knoxville, TN. Our ultimate destination was Nashville to visit John Baeder. When I had helped John Baeder move a huge portion of his belongings from New York City to Nashville back in 1983, we had driven I-81 south from Pennsylvania to Tennessee. I noticed that U.S. Rte. 11 was parallel to the highway. So I decided back then that if I ever made the same trip in the future, I would certainly take Rte. 11, as the old road was calling me!

When Steve and I were driving through Virginia we found that at a certain point, Rte. 11 ended up on I-81 for a number of miles. Being that we were trying to avoid being on the Interstate, we attempted to follow backroads hoping for an old alignment for Rte. 11. Well, we never found an old alignment and ended up getting pretty far afield from Rte. 11 and I-81. So at a certain point I told Steve we needed to get back on track. Steve is one of the best navigators with a map (besides me) and started finding a reasonable route back toward where we needed to be.

I recall we ended up taking a right hand turn heading north into downtown Hillsville, VA where shortly on the right we saw the Hillsville Diner. We were amazed as we had no idea it existed and being that we were basically there by happenstance, it was a delight to stumble upon! It was as I remember, a Saturday afternoon and the diner was not open for business but I did get some decent photos before we went on our way.


Hillsville Diner, October 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera 

The Hillsville Diner is a 1920’s vintage Jerry O’Mahony diner and was originally called the Mount Airy Diner (its first location was in that North Carolina city). In fact legend has it that a young Andy Griffith had patronized the diner when it was in Mount Airy (his hometown).


Hillsville Diner, October 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera


Hillsville Diner, October 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

My story sort of comes full circle as I received an email from John Baeder a few days ago asking what I knew about this diner a new friend of his (Tony Craig of Virginia) was telling him about, (he sent me the link here…)
http://www.virginia.org/site/description.asp?AttrID=33467   a webpage from Virginia.org that mentions the diner. There are a couple of mistakes, one that the diner was built by the Mahoney Streetcar Company (actually Jerry O’Mahony Dining Car Builders) and second that it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (it is actually a contributing part of the Historic District it is located in, not individually listed).

I told John that I first saw it on my way down to visit him in 1986. He also sent this photo that his friend Tony was able to obtain. I assume this was when it was operating at its first location (the building next door is different and the name on the diner in this shot says Mount Airy).


Mount Airy Diner photo, courtesy of Tony Craig & John Baeder

According to John, Tony Craig raves about the Hillsville Diner, says they have the best pancakes he’s ever had! Hopefully someday I can get back to this diner when it is open and check out those pancakes myself. Also, I have 2 friends who live in Floyd, VA which is really close by to Hillsville and we could meet there for a meal, who knows?