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.

bypass-diner_11-29-1980
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.

starlt3
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.

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

Bobbie's-2_July-1981
I was driving by one morning and saw that the diner had been
dismantled and placed in a dumpster.

Bobbie's-3_July-1981
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…

Bobbie's-Diner_David-Hebb-photo
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.

car2-82a
A night-time photo I shot in the winter of 1982

Carrolls-8-83
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.

Carroll's-10_5-2-2012
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.

title-block-logo-1

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.

Fred Casey, owner of Natick, Massachusetts diner passes away

Casey's-Diner-3
Casey’s Diner, Natick, Massachusetts September 5, 2009 photo by Larry Cultrera

I got a message yesterday (Saturday the 7th of February) from Facebook friend Timothy Wood with a link to an obituary for Fred Casey, the long-time owner of Casey’s Diner in Natick, Massachusetts. Fred was only 63 years of age (a year older than me). I had not heard if he had been sick, in fact I have not seen Fred for quite a while as every time I have been to the diner in recent years, his son Patrick was running things. Fred was the third generation of the Casey family operating the current 1922 vintage Worcester Lunch Car. His grandfather (also Fred Casey) opened it in 1927, buying it as a used diner from from where it had operated in nearby Framingham. Fred’s late father Joe had been running the diner since 1952 and Fred took over the reigns in the 1980s. Here is the article from Wicked Local online about Fred’s passing…

Natick: Customers remember Casey’s Diner owner

By Brian Benson/Daily News Staff
Posted Feb. 6, 2015 at 3:42 PM

NATICK – Amid the hustle and bustle of lunchtime at Casey’s Diner, customers remembered Friday owner Fred Casey for his friendly demeanor and the family-style atmosphere he maintained in the historic eatery. “It’s a sad day,” said Rick MacDonald of Framingham as he munched on a burger.  “You don’t talk about Natick and not mention Casey’s Diner.” Casey, 63, of Natick, died Thursday at Oak Knoll Healthcare Center of Framingham. He started working at Casey’s Diner when he was 10 years old and carried on a family tradition that dates to the 1890s. Vin Kerrigan, 66, of Natick, said he has been coming to the diner since he was in high school. “You always feel welcome,” he said of the atmosphere Casey fostered.

Elaine Griffin, who lives in Medway and estimated she has been coming to Casey’s Diner for four decades said Casey “was a great jovial man.” While the diner was bustling Friday, it will be closed Monday when Casey’s funeral is scheduled to take place. A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Patrick Church, 44 E. Central St., Natick. Visiting hours will be from from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday at John Everett & Sons Funeral Home, 4 Park St. – See more at: http://natick.wickedlocal.com/article/20150206/NEWS/150207503#sthash.50MNtt3t.AabuA2a6.dpuf

I recall my first visit to Casey’s Diner back in early 1981. I had just had breakfast at the Apple Tree Diner in Dedham and met the owner Warren Jones for the first time. I told him I was going over to photograph Casey’s (I knew they were not open for the day). I got over there and parked the Chevy Van outside just past the diner and got out, leaving the engine running to take a few photos. While I was shooting the diner Fred’s dad Joe came out and invited me in. I must have spent a good 20 minutes talking with him about diners while my van was still running outside!
In fact I remember that Joe showed me his copy of John Baeder’s book “Diners”. Up until that point I had “American Diner” by Dick Gutman and “Diners of the Northeast” by Donald Kaplan and Alan Bellink in my personal library but I had not yet acquired a copy of John Baeder’s book. Needless to say the very next day I bought one at the old Wordsworth Bookstore in Harvard Square after seeing Joe Casey’s copy!
Below is a photo by Richard Howard that appeared in an article written by the talented late Donald Dale Jackson entitled “The American diner is in decline, yet more chic than ever! This was in the November, 1986 issue of Smithsonian Magazine and it gave national exposure to myself and Dick Gutman among other people including another native of my home town of Medford, John Carroll, Jr. If you can locate a copy of the mag, it still is a pretty good read! The photo shows Dick Gutman standing with Fred Casey in front of Casey’s Diner!

Dick-G-&-Fred-Casey_Richard-Howard-photo
Richard Howard photo from November 1986 Smithsonian Magazine

Casey’s Diner will be still be operated by Patrick Casey (and I believe his son) who will continue the tradition of serving the town of Natick and vicinity from this old-time diner that has been in their family for well over 80 years. Rest in Peace Fred!

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

Here is another blast from the past, a road-trip from late in 1984 that encompassed parts of Staten Island, New York City, New Jersey and upstate New York. It seems the reason for this trip other than shooting photos of some diners was to get to the opening day of an exhibit of John Baeder paintings at the OK Harris Gallery in Soho.  According to my Log Book, that Saturday was November 10th and it looks like Steve Repucci, Dave Hebb and myself got into New York City fairly early and had some time to kill, so we grabbed the Staten Island Ferry to check out that most southern borough of NYC. I believe Dave had already done some exploring on his own there previously so he knew the lay of the land somewhat. The first diner we visited was the Victory Diner on Richmond Rd. not too far from the ferry dock. Victory-1
Victory Diner, Richmond Rd., Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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

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

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

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

Victory_Jan-Somma-Hammel

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

Joe's-Diner_Staten-Island-1
Joe’s Diner at 84 Lincoln Ave. on Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

Joe's-Diner_Staten-Island-3
Joe’s Diner at 84 Lincoln Ave. on Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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

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

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

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

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

Whoopsie's-1
Exterior shot of Whoopsie’s Diner, Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

Whoopsie's-3
Exterior shot of Whoopsie’s Diner, Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

Whoopsie's-4
Interior shot of Whoopsie’s Diner, Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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

Moondance-2
Moondance Diner, 6th Ave., Manhattan
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

Moondance-3
Moondance Diner, 6th Ave., Manhattan
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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

Baeder_Comet

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

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

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

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

Lido-Diner-3
The Lido Diner on Rte. 22 in Springfield, NJ
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

Lido-Diner-4
The Lido Diner on Rte. 22 in Springfield, NJ
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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

Bendix-@-nite-3
The Bendix Diner at night…. Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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

Arena-Diner-4
Arena Diner, U.S. Routes 1 and 9 – South Kearny, NJ
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

Arena-Diner-2
Arena Diner, U.S. Routes 1 and 9 – South Kearny, NJ
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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

miss-jersey-1
Miss Jersey City Diner, Jersey City, NJ
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

miss-jersey-2
Miss Jersey City Diner, Jersey City, NJ
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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

Dekay's-Diner-2
Dekay’s Diner, Jersey City, NJ
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

Dekay's-Diner-3
Dekay’s Diner, Jersey City, NJ
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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

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

Off-Broadway-Diner-3
Off Broadway Diner, North White Plains, NY
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

Off-Broadway-Diner-2
Off Broadway Diner, North White Plains, NY
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera