Classic Diners of Massachusetts Presentation/Lecture – Sunday April 19th 2:00PM, Lowell, Mass.

Parker Lecture Series blurb
I will be doing another slide lecture/presentation this coming Sunday for the Parker Lecture Series in Lowell, Massachusetts. It will be held at the Lowell National Historical Park Visitor Center 246 Market Street in Lowell, Massachusetts. The lecture starts at 2:00 PM
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Here is a link to their website that explains about this long running lecture series…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Owl Diner, 244 Appleton Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

Club Diner, 145 Dutton Street

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

Club Diner circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

Club Diner circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

Club Diner (more) recent photo by Larry Cultrera

Arthur’s Paradise Diner, 112 Bridge Street

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

Arthur’s Paradise Diner circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

Arthur’s Paradise Diner circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

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

Gorham Street Diner, 984 Gorham Street

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

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

Gorham Street Diner circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

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

Gorham Street Diner circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

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

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

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

Trolley Pizzaria, 2010 photo by Larry Cultrera

Cupples Square Diner, corner of Westford Street
& Osgood Street

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

Cupples Square Diner, circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

Cupples Square Diner, circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

Ray and Paulette’s Diner, Gorham Street

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

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

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

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

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

Peerless Diner, Chelmsford Street

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

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

Peerless Diner, circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

Peerless Diner, circa 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

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

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

Notes from the Hotline, 10-2-2010

Saturday Breakfast at the newly opened
Dinky’s Blue Belle Diner

Dinky’s Blue Belle Diner, Shrewsbury, Mass. – Photo by Larry Cultrera

As promised in the last post, Denise & I took a ride out to Shrewsbury to check out the Blue Belle Diner which has finally reopened at a new location after it was uprooted from its old long-time operating location on Prescott Street in Worcester 12 years ago. The Blue Belle is a 1948 vintage Worcester Lunch Car (No. 814) and was originally located on Chandler Street in Worcester prior to moving to the Prescott Street site.

Dinky’s Blue Belle Diner, Shrewsbury, Mass. – Photo by Larry Cultrera

We had a great breakfast and were served by pleasant waitresses. I missed getting to see owner Bruce Trotto probably by just a few minutes but left my card to let him know I was there. The Blue Belle which was added on to Trotto’s Dinky’s Diner (an on-site building) looks fantastic, especially on the exterior! I was even surprised to see the diner had all its original exterior light fixtures which have not survived on other Worcesters of this vintage. The diner, along with a large kitchen, entryway/diningroom was grafted onto the existing building. I am told the old Dinky’s section which is currently closed is going to be made into a bar by the end of the year.

Dinky’s Blue Belle Diner, Shrewsbury, Mass. – Photo by Larry Cultrera

I recall visiting the Blue Belle Diner back in the 1980’s and at that time I wondered why the interior seemed different (from other Worcesters of the same period). I have figured out that sometime along the way between when it was first built and when I first saw it, there had been a fire. As I noticed in my 1980’s visit, the hood was missing over the cooking area which to my eyes made it look sort of empty, devoid of some character.  It also now has a wooden ceiling which replaced its original Pearlescent Formica ceiling after it was damaged (I assume) by the fire.

In fact upon today’s inspection while sitting at the counter, I gave it a good looking over and the whole back-bar area (behind the counter) is not original. From left to right every piece of original equipment and cabinetry is gone. In its place are some commercial stainless steel cabinets, tables, pastry cases and griddle area. The griddle area is just used for display as all cooking is done out back in the new large kitchen.

On the bright side everything on the other side of the counter is pretty original from the marble counter-top and ceramic tile counter apron and walls to the stools and booths although it does have new ceiling lights as well as smaller light fixtures between the windows by the booths.

Overall, I highly recommend that if you are in the Shrewsbury area check out Dinky’s Blue Belle Diner located at 70 Clinton Street (Rte. 70) about a mile or so from the Worcester town line. Its phone is 508-981-8007. Say hi to Bruce if he is there, tell him Diner Hotline sent you!

The new entryway/waiting area at the Four Sister’s
Owl Diner is pretty much complete

Regular readers of Diner Hotline should recall that I was involved in a collaboration with Richard Gutman in the creation of a large entryway/waiting area that was built on to the front of the existing Worcester Semi-streamlined diner known as the Four Sister’s Owl Diner in Lowell, Mass. Because a major portion of the front wall of the diner was going to be covered by this new entryway, it was decided to make all new porcelain steel panels with baked in graphics similar to the old panels for the whole front wall (including the entryway).

The panel that has the “R” took the place of the original “Booth Service”
panel on the right side of the front wall.

My part was to translate Dick Gutman’s hand drawn mechanical drawings to vectorized computer files that the Cherokee Porcelain Enamel Company requested. Using the images that Dick sent me as templates I recreated then in Adobe Illustrator. One of the panels I did not have from Dick was the “Booth Service” panel which I photographed to be used as a template.

New panels showing the rest of the graphics.

The panels with graphics included the “Booth Service” panel on the front left corner of the diner and the panels that “The Owl” in old english font on the front of the entryway and the new “Diner” panels in an italicized font on the right side of the diner. These included stripes at the top as well as the small arrow stripes at the bottom of the 2 end panels. Because the entryway went past the front door of the diner, the panels with the word “Diner” had to move to the right . This meant sacrificing the “Booth Service” panel on the right end.

Diner from the left side showing the new entryway.

Anyway, the exterior was mostly done earlier this year but the interior of the entryway took a little longer. But the wait was worth it as the custom tile work on the floor and walls successfully replicated what the Worcester Lunch Car Company’s tile people (Bianchi Brothers I believe) did in 1940.

Interior of entryway showing a fantastic custom tile job on the floor and walls replicating the interior tilework of the diner.

Patriot Diner opens in Bourne, Mass.

Patriot Diner with newly installed replacement stainless steel skin
Photo courtesy of Richard Gutman and Steve Spencer of the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales University

10 years ago a devastating arson fire destroyed the My Tin Man Diner, an extremely rare double-ended Sterling Streamliner diner built by J.B. Judkins Company of Merrimac, Mass. This diner originally operated as Jimmie Evan’s Flyer on U.S. Route 6 in New Bedford, Mass. for many years until it was moved to the Pocasset section of Bourne near the Otis Air Force Base.

The diner was run under quite a few names over the years including The Otis Rotary Diner and Mary’s Muffins prior to Claire Bergeron’s purchase of the property circa 1985. In 1990 she leased the diner to Barbara Lind who changed the name to My Tin Man Diner. It was the estranged husband of one of Barbara’s employees who set the arson fire that burned the old diner.

The burned remains of the old Sterling Streamliner diner was moved off the property a number of years ago and currently sits in storage at the Handy Hill Creamery Ice Cream stand in Westport, Mass. Since then Claire Bergeron ended up purchasing the former Berlin Diner (Berlin, NJ) from Steve Gasior who had moved the 1950’s Mountain View Diner (No. 428) from New Jersey to East Hampton, CT where he had hoped to put it back in business.

Gasior’s plans had fallen thru due to various reasons and the diner was never put into service in the Nutmeg State, thus the purchase by Ms. Bergeron a few years later. Ms. Bergeron subsequently got the diner moved to the former site of the My Tin Man Diner and installed it on a new foundation where its restoration stalled.

Eventually she contacted Richard Gutman at the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales University about her dilemma in finishing the diners exterior restoration. He put her in touch with Steve Spencer, the Museum Operations manager who contracted to install the new replacement stainless steel skin on the diner with the assistance of his son earlier this year.

I had heard from a few people recently that the diner now being called the Patriot Diner was preparing to open and in fact there came reports a couple of days ago about the diner was in fact now open for business. Here is an article from Cape Cod Online about the diner….

New Bourne diner opens a decade after arson fire

By Heather Wysocki
October 02, 2010
The Cape’s longest wait for a short stack of pancakes is finally over. Nearly 10 years after a devastating arson fire destroyed the diner that had sat just off the Otis Rotary in Bourne for nearly a half century, the property’s owner has opened a new eatery on the same spot.
Now called the Patriot Diner, the stainless-steel throwback opened its doors Monday to serve up old-fashioned food and helpings of nostalgia for patrons who remember coming to the spot for years dating back to the mid-20th century.

“It was a landmark to people,” said Claire Bergeron of Wareham, who has owned the property since 1985. “It had served different generations. I felt responsible for bringing it back.”

In November 2000, the diner, then called My Tin Man Diner and run by Barbara Lind, was destroyed in a fire set by the estranged husband of a restaurant employee. “There was nothing left. I walked into where the kitchen was and I could look up at the sky,” Bergeron said.

A series of misfortunes, including having an unreliable restoration expert and insurance woes, made the wait for a new diner drag for years, she said. Diner patrons got another chance at pancake-and-patty-melt bliss in 2008, when Lind and her daughter, Susan Kettell Lind, opened the new incarnation of My Tin Man Diner at 70 County Road in North Falmouth.

But it wasn’t until Bergeron met longtime Cape restaurateur Don Cox that she could fulfill her promise to bring back a diner at the Otis Rotary. “This was a long journey,” said Cox, who operates the new Patriot Diner. “I just helped her get across the finish line.” Cox opened the diner last week with little fanfare and abbreviated hours, he said, but the community is already showing enthusiasm.

“It’s so nice to have it back here,” said customer Carol Goss of Bourne, who ate breakfast at the diner Wednesday morning. Goss said she had frequented the restaurant when it was My Tin Man Diner. Others remember the place just as fondly. “It was always a hot spot,” said Anita Landers of Pocasset, a waitress at the diner whose mother and two sisters worked at the eatery decades ago. “You can hear a hundred stories a day about the history of this place,” Cox said.

This time around, the diner’s theme pays tribute to the military men and women from the nearby Massachusetts Military Reservation. Many armed service members have already become some of the restaurant’s most loyal customers, Cox said. “We were kind of inspired by the people that we’ve met … and the sacrifices they and their families make,” he said.

The tiny hallway leading to the new diner’s bathrooms is decorated with beach and dune scenes, but it also features a sign listing the distances to Middle Eastern and South Asian cities where Cape soldiers are currently stationed. A Blackhawk helicopter model with a Red Sox logo on its nose, painted to resemble those from Camp Edwards flying in Afghanistan and Iraq, hovers over the sand, and the restaurant’s handicapped-accessible bathroom has hand-painted images of Coast Guard boats and helicopters.

A few things will stay the same as they always were at the old diner: Cox’s menu includes old-fashioned comfort food favorites, and Bergeron made sure to replicate her original restaurant’s look by purchasing a defunct circa-1955 diner car from a small town in Connecticut. And, in a nod to the diner culture of earlier years, when area teens would grab a bite to eat after a night on the town, Cox plans to extend the diner’s hours to 24 hours a day on Fridays and Saturdays, he said.

Bergeron feels the new diner will be just as special to Bourne residents as its predecessor. “So many people were asking when it was going to reopen, I just felt it was my obligation,” she said. “I’m 65, I’ve never broken a promise in my life, and I’m too old to start now.”

Here is a timeline that the article put together about the diner…


1985: Claire Bergeron buys the diner that has operated at the same location for decades.

1990: Bergeron leases the restaurant to Barbara Lind, who names it the My Tin Man Diner.

2000: Arson fire set by estranged husband of a diner employee razes the eatery.

2002: William R. Taylor of Bourne is sentenced on federal arson charges to five years in prison.

2008: Lind and her daughter, Susan Kettell Lind, open a new My Tin Man Diner in North Falmouth.

2010: The Patriot Diner opens at the MacArthur Boulevard location.

Source: Claire Bergeron and Times archives