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.

Bob's-Diner-2
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!

GoFundMe page to help defray costs in transporting a 1920s vintage Diner from Pennsylvania to Rhode Island

I was contacted recently by Chris Tunnah in the last month. Chris is a restaurateur  based in  New York state operating restaurants as a General Manager & Consultant in NYC for the last 15 years, working with celebrity chef’s such as Tom Colicchio, Missy Robbins, Scott Conant and Floyd Cardoz to name just a few. Although living and working in New York, Chris also has a home in the Newport, Rhode Island area and has had a dream of bringing a small classic factory-built diner back to that area.

This is actually not the first time I had heard from Chris. We exchanged some emails back in March of 2013, when he was trying to obtain the long-closed Skee’s Diner of Torrington, Connecticut and move it to Newport or Middletown, RI, Unfortunately this plan ultimately fell thru. Also in that 2013 email Chris went on to say “Before Skee’s, two years ago I discussed purchasing the Red Rose Diner in Towanda, Pennsylvania from Mike Holt, but he was unable to commit to the sale….. and I await a change of heart from Mike. The Red Rose would be fantastic in Newport”.

I get daily “News blurbs” about “Diners” thru Google and was aware that Chris ‘s dreams about bringing a diner back to Rhode Island might be coming closer to reality. It seems the Red Rose Diner project was revived after the more recent closure of that diner. In the news pieces I have seen, it was mentioned that Chris had to jump thru some hoops to get approval for his plans to bring the diner to a new location im Middletown, CT. Unfortunately, this, along with the purchase price of the diner and property have stretched his savings account to the limits.

To complete his objective, Chris has started a GoFundMe page to help defray costs in bringing his Red Rose Diner from Pennsylvania to Rhode Island.  you can check out the GoFundMe page here for further details…  https://www.gofundme.com/save-one-of-last-1920039s-us-diners

As I happen to know a bit about this particular diner, let me fill in some of the details as I know them… The story of the Red Rose Diner goes back much further than its recent time in Towanda, PA. It is a 1927 vintage Tierney diner that has spent its whole life in Pennsylvania since it left the factory in New Rochelle, NY. It was originally built as the Lackawanna Trail Diner and operated under that name for many years in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.

Lackawanna-trail

Lackawana-Trail-Diner-postcard
Post card from my collection of the Lackawanna Trail Diner

I had first learned about this diner through a “before and after” piece John Baeder included in his 1984 book “Gas, Food and Lodging” (A Post Card Odyssey Through the American Roadside). In the book he showed the above post card image from his vast collection as well as a more recent photo he had shot in May of 1979 when it sported a weathered wooden shingle skirt under the windows and was called Besecker’s Diner.

Besecker's-Diner_John-Baeder_05-1979
May, 1979 photo by John Baeder when it was Besecker’s Diner

I first documented the diner in June 29, 1985, not too long after Gas, Food and Lodging first came out. By then the diner lost the wooden shingles and was painted white and operating as Jerry’s Diner. The diner continued to operate at the original location until the mid-to late 1990s.

Jerry's-Diner-4
June 29, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera when it was Jerry’s Diner

In the late 1990s, the closed Jerry’s Diner became available and there was more than one entity interested in rescuing it. One of these entities was none other than my old friend Gordon Tindall of Decorah, Iowa. Gordon had previously rescued the Clarksville Diner from Clarksville, NJ near where he grew up. He had heard it was threatened because of new development that was happening in that area and he arranged to move it to Iowa in the late 1980s. After a lot of work restoring and equipping that diner, he was able to re-open it and operate it for 5 or 6 years. He eventually sold that diner and it was moved to France where it is today.

Well Gordon was not through after the first restoration and approached the owners of Jerry’s Diner and convinced them to sell it to him. He relocated the diner to a storage location in Lancaster, PA where he worked on the diner and brought it back to near original condition. He had hopes of keeping it in Lancaster but was never able to secure the location he wanted. That is when the diner ended up moving to Towanda. These next few photos are courtesy of Chris Tunnah of the Red Rose Diner in Towanda.

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Tindall operated this diner for another 5 years after opening it before moving on to another project. This would be the complete rebuild of an extremely rare diner that was saved by Michael Engle initially. This would be the former Village Diner of Wellington, Ohio. Also known as Cecil’s Trackside Diner before it closed at that location, this diner was built by Goodell Hardware out of the Silver Creek, New York area, a model that resembled ones built by Ward & Dickenson Diners.

Engle moved the diner from Ohio to Gilbertsville, NY but did not have the wherewithal to complete a restoration. In the meantime he had made the acquaintance of Tindall and finally asked him if he wanted to take on the daunting task to complete the job. So while Tindall was operating the Red Rose Diner, he had started to work on the new diner in his spare time. I wrote about that diner here on Diner Hotline back in June of 2009…  https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2009/06/28/gordon-tindalls-spud-boy-diner-gets-nice-write-up-and-it-is-almost-a-year-away-from-opening/

Anyway, we wish Chris Tunnah well in his endeavor and hope he can realize his goal of getting this classic diner re-opened again soon.

 

11th Anniversary for Diner Hotline blog

Well, another year has rolled around. October 31st marks the 11th year this blog has been up and running. Granted, I have not posted much for most of this year as I have been feverishly scanning the photo archives, 35mm slides and prints (this scanning process started in earnest in the last year and a half).  I started shooting 35mm photos in the summer of 1980 and documented the first diner on November 29, 1980. The slides are all scanned (diner & non-diner shots) effectively covering a span of 35 years, (I switched from 35mm print film to slide film circa March of 1983).

Most Diner Hotline readers know, but for those who do not, my obsession with diners started  when I was very young. I had been very observant as a child, whenever we were going on errands around town or just little road trips in and around the Bay State, I always noticed places along the roadside. Diners seem to always catch my eye and in the late 1950s into the early 1960s, there were still plenty of them here in New England. The seed of knowledge was planted when I was approximately 5 or 6 years old when I asked my dad about this building we used to pass on Mystic Avenue in South Medford near the Somerville town line.

It was a blue colored building with a rounded roof that featured “Old English” lettering on it that said Star (left side of the center entrance) and Lite (to the right of the entrance). My question to my dad was, is that a railroad car? He answered no, it is a restaurant called a diner. He went on to explain that diners were built in factories and were designed to resemble railroad cars. The Star Lite Diner was a 1948 vintage Worcester Lunch Car and a huge amount of the diners in our area looked similar to the Star Lite as Worcester Lunch Car Company was the local diner builder.

Star-5
There is only one photo that exists of the Star Lite Diner
the above is my colorized version. Note: the trim along the
roof and overhang should actually be yellow…

So basically my obsession was intact very early and I have memories of eating at quite a few diners when I was a kid including the Star Lite, Bobbie’s Diner and Carroll’s Colonial Diner, all in my hometown of Medford as well as others in the area. In fact I hung out at Carroll’s for a few years after graduating from high school in 1979. The diner was a large “L” shaped structure with huge windows and an additional dining room addition that was open 24-7 through the 1970s.

After purchasing my first “new” vehicle (as opposed to a used vehicle), a 1979 Chevy van, I was able to increase the area of my own little road trips without the worry of a vehicle breakdown. I started going on Sunday morning road trips with my good friend Steve Repucci which always started at a diner, originally Genia’s Diner in North Woburn, Mass. We eventually decided to start visiting other diners that we either knew about or just drove in search of a diner thus determining the direction to drive in.

The late 1970s saw the publication of two watershed books on Diners. The first was the 1978 Diners by artist John Baeder. This featured paintings and sketches  in color and black & white along with some wonderful text in John Baeder’s distinctive style of story telling.

Diners-by-Baeder

The second book was American Diner by Richard Gutman and Elliot Kaufman (in collaboration with David Slovic) published in 1979. This became the first book ever to delve into the history of diners.

American-Diner

In 1980, another book was published called Diners of The Northeast by Donald Kaplan and Alan Bellink. This was a guide to a selection of diners in New Jersey, New York and New England. This was actually the first book that I bought and it became the catalyst that sparked my interest in diners to a fever pitch.

Diners-of-Northeast

The diner obsession lead to my photographing over 860 diners in almost 38 years. I became a member of the Society for Commercial Archeology (SCA) in 1981 which eventually lead to me contributing to the SCA publications in the form of the first ever regular column called Diner Hotline (1989-2007). I retired the SCA Diner Hotline column in 2007 and began the Diner Hotline weblog as stated on October 31, 2007. The blog also lead to the publishing of my own two books, Classic Diners of Massachusetts (2011) and New Hampshire Diners, Classic Granite State Eateries (2014).

I hope to be increasing the amount of blog posts soon as the digital archive of my photos and slides are now closer to completion.

37 years down the road…

It is still hard to even wrap my brain around the fact that I took my very first “Diner” photograph 37 years ago on November 29, 1980! Although my interest in Diners goes back to the 1950s when I was around 5 or 6 years old, the groundwork for this first “Diner” photo op was a few months in the making. I had purchased a used 35mm camera in the summer of 1980 and started taking some scenic photos after being inspired by my pal Steve Repucci.

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The Bypass Diner, Herr Street in Harrisburg, PA. The first “Diner”
photograph featuring my blue 1979 Chevy Van parked in front!

To backtrack a little, Steve and I crossed paths after I had started a new job in September of 1976 at Analogic Corporation in Wakefield, Massachusetts. Steve had been employed there since 1974. We became acquainted through our shared employment between 1976 and all thru 1977, but did not socialize much outside of work until June 24, 1978, when we had gone on a camping trip to the Lake George, NY area for a weekend.

After that weekend, we became fast friends and I soon learned of Steve’s passion for 35mm photography! At that time I had always had a Kodak Instamatic camera around just for taking snapshots. I was not an avid photographer at all. But seeing some of the photos that Steve shot inspired me to look at photography seriously as a new hobby.

In April of 1979, another critical high point came when I purchased my first brand-new vehicle, a 1979 Chevy Van. From 1971 until that April, I had always owned used vehicles which got me around adequately enough, but there was always that looming cloud of possible mechanical problems which could hinder long distance travel. In purchasing the new van, this cloud had finally dissipated! In fact during that year, Steve and I had started our weekly Sunday morning short road trips, usually stopping for breakfast at local diners. This got our heads wrapped around the idea of tailoring the Sunday morning ride destinations either driving to already known diners to just flat out exploring to find new places to have breakfast.

So with the purchase of the new van in 1979, this allowed me the opportunity to increase the scope of my traveling. And then with the subsequent purchase of my first 35mm camera, the stage was set that led me to that first “Diner” photo! September of 1980, Steve had realized his plans of moving to Harrisburg, PA for a change of scene. A good friend of his from the U.S. Air Force, Ed Womer, lived there and gave Steve the incentive to relocate.

I was one of the people who helped in getting Steve moved (owning a van back then, I was always being asked to help people move). So this was my first time traveling to Pennsylvania. On that initial trip, I noticed a few diners while I was there, although I do not recall eating in any on that trip. It was the next time down over the long Thanksgiving Day weekend when I took that first shot of the Bypass Diner which was a mile or so from where Steve and Ed had their shared apartment. Nowadays, the Bypass Diner still exists although it has been operated as the American Dream Diner for many years.

Now that 37 years have elapsed and I have photographed over 860 diners in that time. I can’t help but think back on this personal trip, especially since I have been scanning all my slides and photos in earnest for the last 2 and 1/2 years, (I stopped using 35mm film and went fully digital in 2008). With this scanning project, I am building up my digital archive of photos. It seems that whenever I scan any particular photo, be that of a diner or any other miscellaneous subject, I tend to relive those days.

But really, it all started when I was a kid, living in Medford, Massachusetts. My dad Sebastian “Sam” Cultrera loved diners and was the guy who first told me about them. He brought me out to breakfast to places like the Star Lite Diner, on Mystic Ave. in Medford…

Star-5
The one and only photo of the Star Lite Diner known to exist.
This is my colorized version (using Photoshop).

The Star Lite was fairly close to my family’s meat market and I also used to ride the delivery bike from the store down to the diner for lunch. I recall playing tunes on the juke box and kibitzing with the owner Jim and his son Richie. They closed for their usual 2 week vacation in the summer of 1968 but unfortunately never reopened. The diner reportedly was moved to a salvage yard in nearby Chelsea, Massachusetts.

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My large scale scratch-built model of the Star Lite Diner.

We also frequented Bobbie’s Diner, also located on Mystic Ave. in Medford. My dad actually supplied hamburger meat and Italian Sausage to Bobbie’s Diner from our family meat market, the Blue Eagle Market.

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My one and only photo of Bobbie’s Diner, not long before it
was demolished.

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I was driving by one morning and saw that the diner had been
dismantled and placed in a dumpster.

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The next day it was almost completely gone…

Later, when I became friends with David Hebb, he gave me one of his definitive photos of Bobbie’s Diner for my collection…

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David Hebb’s photo of Bobbie’s Diner from circa 1980 or so.

I have since learned a bit of the history of this diner and that it was located prior to World War II in Haines Square a commercial center just off the Fellsway in Medford.
It was originally known as Jack’s Diner. The family that owned it moved it in the early 1940s to the yard adjacent to their home for a few years before relocating it to Mystic Avenue where it again operated as Jack’s before being sold.

Jack's
Jack’s Diner being moved from Haines Square.

The last diner to operate in Medford was Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car, a circa 1961 vintage Swingle Diner. This replaced 2 earlier diners at its location on Main Street. I recall my family going for breakfast on Easter morning after church for a couple of years when this diner was brand new. Later, after graduating from high school, Carroll’s became the go-to hang out for my friends and I for quite a few years.

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A night-time photo I shot in the winter of 1982

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Carroll’s Diner, from a photo I shot in 1983.

Carroll’s closed in 1986 and was demolished to make way for a new office building. More recently the Carroll family opened a new restaurant a couple of blocks away just off Medford Square called Carroll’s Bar & Grill.

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Carroll’s Bar & Grill on Main Street in Medford Square.
May 5, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

When I started this trip 37 years ago, little did I know that it would eventually lead to me writing this blog as well as 2 books. I want to give a shout-out to all the friends I have made during this journey, chief among them, Richard J.S. Gutman, John Baeder, David Hebb and all the diner owners I have come to know personally. I wonder what the next decade or two might have in store???

 

 

Diner Hotline weblog – 8 years old today!!!

Diner-Hotline-decal

October 31, 2015 is of course Halloween, but also the date marks the 8th anniversary of the creation of this blog! As some of my readers know, Diner Hotline started as the first regular column to ever appear in the publications of the Society for Commercial Archeology (SCA). It was suggested to me by Mike Jackson (then president of the SCA) in the Fall of 1988 during a phone conversation that I could possibly write a piece to appear in the SCA News Journal. The News Journal was the organization’s only regular publication at the time that was a combination newsletter/magazine.

When he suggested to me about writing a column, I first thought… I am not a writer, but then again I read a lot and could probably relate personal tales associated with diners and happen to have had some good info and sources at my disposal to possibly attempt something like this. I also thought that it was an opportunity to be one of the few “non-academic voices” (basically the average everyday roadside enthusiast) contributing to the publication. I even recall saying to Mike… I already have a name for the column, “Diner Hotline”, which had been a sort of inside joke between myself, David Hebb , Dick Gutman and John Baeder. I had been known to call any and all of these guys on the phone when I had some juicy tid-bits of news and other information about a diner. As soon as they answered the phone, I would preface by saying “DINER HOTLINE, DINER HOTLINE” and then impart the info!

Thus, Diner Hotline became a reality and the first short piece appeared in the Spring 1989 edition (Volume 10, Number 1) of the SCA News Journal continuing through to when the publication separated into two different entities, the SCA News (a newsletter) and the SCA Journal (a full fledged magazine) The News was published more frequently while the Journal was twice a year. I opted for Diner Hotline to continue in the Journal (only two deadlines a year). My Hotline contributions went though a whole host of Journal editors over the years and continued until  the Fall 2007 edition of the SCA Journal when I retired the column.

Shortly after I retired the column (almost immediately actually) my good friend Brian Butko mentioned to me in passing that I should start a blog! So I asked him some questions about how to go about doing this and by the last day of October of 2007, the blog was born!

a-road-well-taken

So I want to mention that coming up really soon, I will be reviewing the new book about my pal John Baeder (John Baeder’s Road Well Taken). Written by Jay Williams, it is an extremely heavy book (figuratively as well as literally). It is filled with many of his paintings (diner and non-diner) and delves into John’s psyche and how all the influences in his life lead him to become one of the internationally renowned artists of our time.

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Also, I have another Author event coming up on Friday evening, November 6th at Gibson’s Bookstore (Concord’s indie bookstore since 1898) in downtown Concord, NH. Starting at 5:30pm with a small slide presentation followed by a book signing for my New Hampshire Diners: Classic Granite State Eateries. Gibson’s Bookstore is located at 45 South Main St, Concord, NH 03301

http://www.gibsonsbookstore.com/event/nh-diners

Ralph A. Corrado Jr, long-time owner of Rosie’s Diner passes away

Throughout the last almost 35 years of documenting diners with my photographs, I have made a lot of friends. A huge portion of those friends are kindred spirits who are also traveling the great American roadside documenting with their own photographs the commercial-built environment that developed and grew with the advent of the automobile. A smaller but no less cherished group of friends I’ve met have been various diner owners from quite a few states in the northeast region of the country. I am honored to say that a couple of those friends include the father & son team of Ralph & Arnie Corrado, who were the long-time owners of Rosie’s Farmland Diner (AKA Rosie’s Diner), formerly of Little Ferry, NJ. I became friendly with them in January of 1990, in fact the last weekend that the diner was open for business in New Jersey (more about that later in the post)!
I am sorry to report that Ralph Corrado has just passed away this past Thursday, August 6, 2015.

Ralph-C-1
Ralph A. Corrado standing in front of Rosie’s Diner
Photo courtesy of the Corrado family.

A brief history about the diner that became known as Rosie’s… At one time, this diner was arguably one of the most viewed diners in the USA, if not the world! Rosie’s had been used as the location for many commercials over the years including quite a few for New Jersey Bell, which usually had the famous actor James Earl Jones featured! The most famous commercials shot at the diner were for Bounty Paper Towels. These commercials featured the late actress Nancy Walker as “Rosie the waitress”  who was forever cleaning up spills made by her clumsy customers with Bounty – The Quicker Picker-Upper!!!!

Well this sort of all began back when Ralph was a little boy in Hoboken, NJ. His dad Raphael (Tex) Corrado operated a small Kullman Diner as Ralph recalled. He also recalls when his dad decided to upgrade with a brand-new 1946 Paramount deluxe stainless steel model that was built in 2 large sections and placed at the Traffic Circle on Route 46 in Little Ferry. The new diner was named the Silver Dollar Diner. Tex continued to operate the diner until the early 1960s with Ralph Jr. working along side him and learning the ropes! Ralph took the diner over and eventually renamed it the Farmland Diner. Ralph’s son Arnie who had a short recording career as a pop singer in the mid-to-late 1960s also worked at the diner, eventually becoming Ralph’s right hand man. The diner started becoming noticed by art directors for major New York City ad agencies who noted that this quintessential  stainless steel diner was perfect for shooting commercials and print ads, inside and out! After the Bounty Paper Towel commercials put the diner on the map (so to speak) Ralph decided to take advantage of the publicity and renamed the place “Rosie’s Farmland Diner, Home of the Quicker Picker-Upper”!

Ralph,-Nancy-&-Arnie-1a
Ralph Corrado with Nancy Walker and Arnie Corrado
Photo Courtesy of Arnie Corrado

I originally learned about Rosie’s Diner through the wonderful 1980 book “Diners of The Northeast” authored by Allyson Bellink and Donald Kaplan and published by the Berkshire Traveller Press. In this book they visited a whole slew of diners from New Jersey, New York and New England! This was the catalyst for my burgeoning interest to take hold! They featured Rosie’s in the New Jersey section and I finally got to visit the diner on Memorial Day – May 31, 1982. Steve Repucci and I were on the way back home from a visit to Harrisburg, PA via Baltimore! We stopped at Rosie’s in the early afternoon for some photos and a quick break from the road. Another reason was to use the public telephone at the diner to call John Baeder who was actually in New York City to do a massive rewrite for his upcoming book “Gas, Food & Lodging”. I had become friends with John earlier that year through correspondence and phone conversations. During a conversation just before the Memorial Day Weekend I mentioned to John that we would be coming through New York on the way home and that maybe we could hook-up briefly!

Well, I called John from Rosie’s and he said to give him another call when we got to another diner in Manhattan, this was the Kitchenette Diner that had been moved from Boston not too long before. So when we got to the Kitchenette, I again called John who was ready for a quick break. He cabbed it over to where we were and we spent a good hour or so together before he needed to get back to work! We gave him a lift to where he needed to be and headed home to Boston!

I also revisited Rosie’s a few times over the years including a little over a year later on the way to a meeting of the Society For Commercial Archeology in Wildwood, NJ. The following photo is from that visit.

Rosie's-Diner_June-1983-2
Rosie’s Farmland Diner at the Route 46 Traffic Circle in Little Ferry, NJ
June, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera

Fast forward to late 1989 – I received a phone call from my new friend, ceramic sculpture artist Jerry Berta who told me he was buying Rosie’s Diner and was going to move it to Rockford, Michigan next door to his Art Studio/Showroom “The Diner Store”. The Diner Store was housed in the former Uncle Bob’s Diner, formerly of Flint, MI. Jerry saved that one from the wrecker’s ball and moved it to some property he had in his hometown. To make a long story short (sort of) I arranged to meet Jerry and his pal Fred Tiensivu in New Jersey in mid-January of 1990 for the last 3 or 4 days that Rosie’s Diner was open. It was quite the experience as the place was completely bombed with customers. We all lent a hand where it was needed – I recall giving people directions on how to get to the diner when they called on the phone and even bussed tables! I had showed up early for breakfast on that last Sunday morning and Ralph asked me if I would do him a favor, it seems a lady (who did not speak much English) was stranded earlier that morning, being basically “dumped” by the guy she was with near the diner. Ralph asked me if I would give her a ride to her neighborhood in the Bronx, which I did – my good deed for the day!

The following text was written by me for the original “hard copy” version of Diner Hotline
that appeared in the summer 1990, volume 11, no. 2 edition of the Society for Commercial Archeology’s News Journal. This piece told the story about the last weekend that Rosie’s Diner was open for business in New Jersey and the subsequent move to Michigan (I have also included the original photos that ran with it in full color here)….

Rosie’s Diner Saved by SCA Member

Jerry Berta of Rockford, Michigan, has accomplished something that few preservationists can claim. He has saved not one, but two classic diners from destruction. Berta, who first created a name for himself by fashioning ceramic and neon replicas of his favorite subject — diners – moved Uncle Bob’s Diner of Flint, Michigan, to Rockford in 1987 and restored it to its original appearance. But instead of selling food, he converted it into a combination gallery and studio, called “The Diner Store.” After opening for business, the Diner Store proved to be a big success, but frequently people driving by would stop, thinking it was a restaurant. Jerry was forced to put a new sign in his window proclaiming: No FOOD, JUST ART. Due to the number of people who stopped to seek food and the lack of functioning diners in the state of Michigan, Jerry started thinking about finding another diner and setting it next to his store, where he could lease it to someone who would run it as a classic diner. In November 1989, Jerry was attending a crafts show in New York City, and decided to drive across the George Washington Bridge and revisit Rosie’s Diner in Little Ferry, New Jersey. He had visited this diner years before, and describes it as a pivotal moment in his awakening interest in these classic eateries. After shooting some photographs and videos of the diner, he began talking to the owner, Ralph Corrado, about diners and Jerry’s connection with them. Corrado informed Jerry that Rosie’s was for sale, and that if no one bought the diner, it would be tom down. Jerry and Ralph negotiated for approximately ten minutes, and made a hand-shake deal that was finalized by Christmas. Rosie’s is a vintage 1945 Paramount Diner, which was purchased brand new by “Tex” Corrado, Ralph’s father. It was originally named the Silver Dollar; when Ralph took over operations about 1960, he renamed it the Farmland Diner. Around 1970, Ralph was approached by Proctor & Gamble, which was interested in using the diner as a location for a series of commercials for Bounty paper towels. These commercials featured the actress Nancy Walker as Rosie, a street-smart waitress who was forever wiping up spills with “The quicker picker-upper.” Ralph decided to take advantage of the publicity, and renamed the diner “Rosie’s,” the home of the “Quicker Picker-Upper.” Ralph and his family decided to sell the diner when Ralph retired and his son, Arnie, needed to spend more time with his wife and young children. Ralph was able to sell the land and diner to his next-door neighbor, an auto-glass company. 

Rosie's-Diner_June-1983-5
Rosie’s Diner in Little Ferry, New Jersey
June, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera

Unfortunately, the diner itself did not fit into the new owner’s plans. When Jerry appeared on the scene, Ralph was delighted to know that the diner would have a new home with someone who loved it as much as he did. Both Jerry and Ralph used all their contacts in the media, and they created a publicity blitz from coast to coast. Both Cable News Network and the Associated Press ran stories on the closing, which took place January 13-15, 1990. Hundreds of people came by to have one last meal at the famous diner, including several SCA members. With the Massachusetts contingent were Dave Hebb from Cambridge, Gail Rosen from Newton, and myself. Steve Lintner and Christine Guedon from Gloucester City, New Jersey, were there on Saturday, and Bill McLaughlin came up from Paoli, Pennsylvania on Sunday morning. There were also many diner aficionados in attendance. I returned to Rosie’s the following weekend to assist in and to document the move. I watched with interest while the diner was split in to two sections and placed on flat-bed trucks for the move to Michigan. Rosie’s arrived safely in Rockford three days later. Special thanks go to the crew who helped in the move: Fred Tiensivu, Ian McCartney, John Boucher, and Charlie Green, along with the guys from Superior Transit. If things go according to schedule, the diner should be re-opening at the end of the summer. We’ll keep you posted. For more information about the Diner Store or Rosie’s, call Jerry Berta at 616/696- CLAY.  

Rosie's-final-days_Jan-1990-22
SCA members pay a farewell visit to Rosie’s in January, 1990
(left to right – David Hebb, Christine Guedon and Steve Lintner)

Rosie's-final-days_Jan-1990-34
Jerry Berta, Bill McLaughlin and June Roberts at Rosie’s

I had managed to maintain contact with Arnie and his wife Jeanne for a few years but eventually we lost touch as our lives got busy after 1993 or so. I am happy to say I got back in touch with Arnie & Jeanne within the last 2 years and we talk to each other at least twice a month! I also spoke with Ralph once since Arnie and I resumed our friendship and I knew that Ralph’s health was in decline.  So I was not surprised when Arnie contacted me this past weekend to let me know that his dad had passed away! If the wake had been on Saturday and not Sunday, I would have made every effort to be there for the family! Ralph was a true gentlemen of the old school and I can still hear his soft voice with that great New Jersey accent in my mind! Rest in Peace my friend, you are certainly missed!
Here is the obituary for my friend Ralph Corrado…

Ralph Corrado Jr. of Hoboken, NJ passed away Thursday, August 6th.  Ralph was the proprietor of Rosie’s Farmland Diner in Little Ferry, NJ, which operated from 1946-1990.  Ralph was extremely proud of his Italian-American heritage and Hoboken roots.  He loved the Yankees, Joe DiMaggio, and Frank Sinatra whom he personally assisted backstage at the Paramount Theater in New York in 1943.  Known for his quick-witted sense of humor and street-smart mentality, Ralph’s greatest legacy is the unwavering love and devotion that he possessed for his family members and close friends (especially his life-long friend who pre-deceased him, Alfred Avitable).

He will be fondly remembered by his devoted wife, Bonnie Corrado (nee
Bittner); faithful sons, Arnold Corrado and Marc Antonuccio; loving daughter-
in-law, Jeanne’ Corrado (nee LaForte); cherished grandchildren, Matthew Corrado,
Jenna Corrado, and Rowan Antonuccio; and admiring nieces and nephews,
including Lucille Corrado.
Ralph is rennited with his parents, Raphael “Tex” and Carmella
“Milly” Corrado; sister, Mildred Casella; and brothers, James “J.J.”, Johnny, and
Carmen “Sonny” Corrado.

A Funeral Mass was offered on Monday August 10, 2015 – 11:00 AM at St.
Ann’s Roman Catholic Church, Hoboken. Entombment will follow at Holy Cross Chapel
Mausoleum, North Arlington, NJ. Continuous visitation was held on Sunday
August 9, 2015 beginning at 4:00 PM and concluding at 8:00 PM. There was to be no
gathering at the funeral home prior to the Funeral Mass. Relatives and friends were
asked to gather directly at St. Ann’s Church no later than 10:45 AM. Valet parking
was available in rear of memorial home off Sixth Street. Arrangements by Failla
Memorial Home, 533 Willow Avenue, Hoboken, NJ 07030

Embassy Grille, AKA Market Square Diner (with Brill diner primer)

This blog post is ultimately about the Embassy Grill (or Grille), a diner that lived most of its operating life fairly close to the factory that built it. But before I get into the details (as I know them) about that diner, I want to relate a little history (a primer if you will) about the company that built it and how few of these diners survive today!  The info for the history of Brill Diners comes from the research of my friend Dick Gutman…. The Embassy was built by Wason Manufacturing Company of Springfield, Massachusetts, one of two subsidiaries of the J.G. Brill Company which was based out of Philadelphia, PA.  Brill was noted for their line of trolley cars and train trucks (the wheel assemblies for railroad rolling stock). The other subsidiary being the G.C. Kuhlman Car Company out of Cleveland, Ohio, which presumably served a more mid-western customer base. For a period of time in the late 1920s and early 1930s they also produced a line of steel diners. There were countless examples of Brill Diners located in the eastern U.S., especially in the northeast. We had many in and around the Boston area. Places I personally know about such as Caverly’s Diner in Charlestown, the Pine Tree Diner in Somerville (both gone by the end of the 1970s) as well as the very first version of Carroll’s Diner in my hometown of Medford. The lone surviving Brill diner currently operating in the northeast is the Capitol Diner in downtown Lynn, Massachusetts. In point of fact, the Capitol may be the only operating Brill diner left anywhere!

Brill diners all had monitor style roofs with the raised  clerestory highly reminiscent of railroad cars. The exteriors were covered in painted steel panels and had cast iron light fixtures with round white globes affixed to the curved section on the roof hanging just over the windows.  Most if not all Brill diners featured glass-topped counters where the diner operators would display pies and other baked goods and the cooking was done right behind the counter, short order style. The next few photos will show you some of the distinctive features of a typical Brill Diner…

capitol2
The exterior of the Capitol Diner in Lynn, Mass. The exteriors almost
always had a door situated at the corners of the front facade flanking
at least 8 windows. Some may have been built with a door centered
on the front facade.

Capitol-2_6-5-11
The interior of the Capitol Diner showing the glass-topped counter. This diner’s interior
has been altered mostly due to a fire in the late 1970s but still retains the original feel.
(photo by Larry Cultrera)

restored-exterior-light
An exterior light fixture from my personal collection. It was removed from the Capitol
Diner when the roof was recovered in the early 1990s. Some were broken and in fact
they had not been used in years. I removed several layers of paint and restored what looked
to be the original dark green finish. The white globe was obtained by the National Heritage
Museum in Lexington, Mass. when the light fixture was loaned to them for a major diner exhibit.
(photo by Larry Cultrera)

The next few photos are of other examples of Brill Diners here in the northeast that lasted past the middle of the 20th century…

carroll1
The original Carroll’s Diner of Medford, Mass. (1930-1948). This diner actually lasted until
1961, being used as a kitchen annex for a newer version of Carroll’s Diner that replaced this
one in 1948.

Carrolls-#1-interior
Interior view of Carroll’s Diner prior to 1948.

Caverly's-diner_exterior-2
Caverly’s Diner, Charlestown, Mass. lasted into the 1970s. This was in pretty much original
condition (albeit fairly worn out) by the time this photo was taken. (source – Life magazine archives)

Pine-Tree-Diner_Snowstorm
The Pine Tree Diner of Somerville, Mass. also lasted into the 1970s. By the time this was
demolished for the MBTA Red Line subway extension, it was pretty much disguised.
(photo courtesy of David Guss)

Brill-diner_Arlington-Heights
An old photo from my collection featuring a Brill diner located on Massachusetts Avenue
at Arlington Heights – Arlington, Mass. This diner would later be replaced in the 1950s by
a large stainless steel Fodero diner that operated briefly here as part of the Monarch Diner
chain before moving to Cambridge to become the Kendall Diner. The site was then occupied
by a Worcester streamliner known as the 
Pullman Diner until that closed in the mid-1970s.
(photo from my collection)

1st-Walsh's-Diner
Walsh’s Diner looks to be an earlier & larger Brill diner that was located on the corner
of West Water Street & Main Street in Wakefield, Mass. until the early 1950s when it
was replaced by a streamline modernistic Jerry O’Mahony diner. This diner went on to
another operating location on Bridge Road – U.S. Rte. 1 in Salisbury, Mass. as Bossy Gillis’
Diner for an unspecified amount of time. (photo from my collection)

Miss-Troy3
The Miss Troy Diner of Troy, NY though somewhat altered, lasted until the early 2000s
before it was demolished. (photo by Larry Cultrera)

Deluxe-Diner_Brill
A little further afield was the Deluxe Diner of Pomona, CA. This Brill diner was longer and
wider than most and had the rare center front door configuration. Notice the cast iron light
fixtures here with the white globes. (photo from my collection)

Well, now that you know a little about Brill Diners, I will get down to the nitty gritty on the Embassy Grill. What got me to think of this diner was that a friend from Facebook & Flickr (Greg MacKay) had pointed me toward a link to the website Masslive.com that featured a bunch of photos of restaurants in the greater Springfield area that no longer exist. The Embassy Grill showed up in 2 photos!

Masslive-1
photo of the Embassy Grill in Chicopee from the late 1970s, possibly right after the diner closed at
its original location. (Masslive.com)

Masslive-2
photo of the Embassy Grill at its second location in South Hadley adjacent to the Riverboat Restaurant,
circa 1980s. (Masslive.com)

After seeing those two photos, I decided to revisit this  diner (so to speak) and dig up info including my own involvement in documenting this place and any other facts I had in my archives. Some of those facts came from some great detective work by Will Anderson. Will wrote about this diner in his book “Lost Diners and Roadside Restaurants of New England and New York” (2001). According to what Will dug up, this diner was originally located at 253 Front Street in the Market Square area of Chicopee, Massachusetts, the next town to the north of Springfield (where Wason Manufacturing was located). Opened in 1928, it was operated as the Market Square Diner by owner Bill “Winkie” Theroux. Ironically I was speaking on the phone to John Baeder about this upcoming post and mentioned Will Anderson and John informed me that Will had recently passed away on March 7, 2015. I was saddened to hear this and later spoke with Will’s wife Catherine Buotte to reminisce as well as express my condolences.

Market Square Diner MB
old matchbook cover from page 86 of “Lost Diners and Roadside Restaurants of New England
and New York”, Will Anderson, 2001

I personally first knew of this diner through an image that was depicted on page 73 in John Baeder’s 1978 book “Diners”. John photographed the diner back in the 1970s. He normally would have done either a watercolor or oil painting of the image but had decided to expand his horizons by looking at other mediums. In this case he teamed up with master printer Donn H. Steward (1921-1985). A plate was created to be used in the printing of the soft-ground etching (the black & white image in his book). Ironically, years later I would become the guardian of a number of “Artist’s Proofs” of the soft-ground etching of the Embassy that had been stored for years in John’s “walk-up” apartment in New York City. When he was cleaning out the old apartment in 1988, I helped him pack up the rest of his belongings and the Trial Proofs were there. He asked me to take care of them for a period of time, which turned out to be close to 20 years or so. After finally sending off the proofs to John a few years ago, he sent an autographed one back to me and is a treasured part of my collection!

Embassy-Grille_soft-ground-etching
John Baeder’s soft-ground etching of the Embassy Grill from 1976
Embassy-Grille-letter
The letter of Authentication for the soft-ground etching Artist print

The-Embassy-15-43-42-13
A more recent painting by John Baeder more than likely from the same image that
the soft-ground etching came from. EMBASSY, “24 x 36” oil on canvas, 2011
(Courtesy, John Baeder)

When I first saw the image of the diner in John Baeder’s book, I had no idea if it even still existed. After becoming friends with John in 1982, I learned John was residing in Nashville, Tennessee after moving there from New York City. He’d been there for a couple of years already but had recently bought the house he now lives in. He was planning on coming back to New York City to pack up a portion of his belongings and truck them down to Nashville. I ended up offering my services to him so in October of 1983, I met John down in NYC and helped him load a rental truck with a huge amount of books, memorabilia and other personal objects. I actually stayed at his old apartment for 2 or 3 days and at one point found an old Kodak slide carousel box that was being used for storage of some papers and memorabilia, etc. I saw 2 or 3 yellowed news clippings (from the Springfield Morning Union newspaper) someone had sent John that were dated from 1979 or so and they were all about the Embassy Grille (that’s how it was spelled here) being moved to South Hadley, Massachusetts by Anthony W. Ravosa Sr. Mr. Ravosa was known around greater Springfield as a band leader (Tony Ravosa Orchestra), Attorney and the owner of restaurants and real estate. In 1969, he purchased a small ramshackle bar on the banks of the Connecticut River in South Hadley called the River Lodge, which he would later remodel and expand dramatically over many years into the storied Riverboat, a celebrated, four-star restaurant of wide renown.

Back to the Embassy… the Theroux family continued to operate the diner under its original name (Market Sqaure Diner) until 1966 according to Will Anderson. At that time it was mostly being run by Bobby Theroux, Winkie’s son. Theroux decided to expand the diner by building a brick addition on the right end of the building to increase seating in the establishment. This was when the name change occurred “to something a little more classy”… the Embassy Grill! If you look at the old images of the Embassy you will see that the diner has a barrel roof instead of the monitor that a Brill diner always had. I believe when the annex was built, it was decided to add the newer barrel roof over the original monitor to make the connection to the new building work better. Though not common at least it was better than a mansard roof!

The Embassy continued to operate until 1978 when Bob Theroux sold the property the diner was on to the city of Chicopee for a street widening project. This is when Theroux sold the diner to Anthony Ravosa. Those news clippings I got from John Baeder spelled out the problems that Mr. Ravosa unfortunately ended up having when he moved the diner. He ran into a roadblock briefly when the Town of South Hadley claimed that Ravosa moving the diner to his property adjacent to the Riverboat Restaurant violated zoning laws and that it needed special building permits, etc. Be that as it may, Ravosa ended up doing what he needed to do to get the old diner situated on the new location. Unfortunately his plans did not include using it as a traditional diner but an oyster bar connected to the larger restaurant!

After helping John Baeder pack up a rental truck and move his belongings down to Nashville that Ocotber, 1983 – (what a roadtrip that was!), I was now armed with a location to finally document with photographs the Embassy Grill! So on November 13, 1983, Dave Hebb  and myself took a ride out to South Hadley to locate the old diner. After a little hunting we did find the location on River Lodge Road and found the restaurant complex by then operating as DeLuca’s Riverboat Restaurant! After recently speaking with Anthony Ravosa Jr., I learned that his father had given up daily operation of the restaurant and started leasing the place to other operators. In fact at one point it was a dance club and may have been known as Mark Twain’s.

Embassy-Grille-3
Exterior view of the Embassy Grill being used as an Oyster Bar in South Hadley, Mass.
It looks like they attempted to make the diner look more like a caboose.
(November 13, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera)

Embassy-Grille-2
Emabassy Grill in South Hadley, Mass. The interior of the diner had been stripped and just had tables
and chairs if I recall. Curiously, the Belding Hall refrigerator was still where it always was – for some
reason, they kept it. (November 13, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera)

Embassy-Grille-7
My photo looking from across the Connecticut River using a telephoto lens – DeLuca’s Riverboat
with the Embassy Grill. (November 13, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera)

From speaking with Anthony Ravosa Jr. as well as Randy Garbin, it looks like the complex lasted here in South Hadley until the early 1990s when the property was redeveloped into townhouse condos. So there is no trace of the former Embassy Grill or the Riverboat Restaurant left! The diner could have ceased to exist back in 1978 or so but lived a fairly short second life not too far away from its long-time operating location and probably still within 10 miles or so of where it was manufactured, making it the second to last operating Brill diner in Massachusetts! On a final note the former owners of the Embassy Grill passed away in the last 5 years, Anthony Ravosa Sr. on May 10, 2010 and Bobby Theroux more recently at the age of 100 years on August 26, 2013.