Contrary to popular belief, Diners in the Bay State did enter the modern era…

I recently posted a group of photos on my Facebook page which gave me the idea for this Diner Hotline blog post! Back in the late 1950s, the designs and size of diners were evolving past the railroad car imagery of the previous decades. The manufacturers were highly influenced by modern design and quite possibly zoning regulations that may have restricted what type of building the cities or towns would allow.  Some of the newer diners were being designed with larger windows, flared-out or folded plate roof lines similar to the modern California Coffee Shops and even fast food restaurants. Other designs were looking back to “colonial revival-influenced” and other historical adaptations using brick or form-stone  for exterior surfaces with less stainless steel.

As history has shown, the central and northern New England region is known more for their classic smaller diners dating from the 1920s thru the 1950s. These states including Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont & Maine seemed to have held onto their older diners a lot longer then other places. Connecticut is basically the only state in the region that managed to continually get newer diners over the decades and the reason for this was that it was closer to the existing diner builders in New York and New Jersey. For the most part, people here in this region are not familiar with the post modern diners that were being built by the diner manufacturers at the end of the 1950s thru the 1970s and right up to the present.

These style of diners were prevalent in the mid-Atlantic region more so than central & northern New England as the price for building the larger diner-restaurants and transporting them to the area became pretty much restrictive to the conservative New Englanders. We were used to seeing the smaller older diners built by local manufacturers like the Worcester Lunch Car Company and J.B. Judkins (Sterling Diners), with product from the occasional mid-Atlantic builders like O’Mahony, Tierney, Fodero or Mountain View diners thrown into the mix. Once the local manufacturers went out of business, the purchasing and transporting of diners dwindled considerably.

Well, this post will prove that Massachusetts actually did not quite stay with the status quo and in fact did receive more than a handful (although scattered throughout the state) of these more modern diners and I will attempt to show these chronologically to give an idea about these standout examples of modern diners in the Bay State!

Whately Diner Fillin’ Station, 372 State Road, Routes 5 & 10,
exit 24 off I-91,
Whately, Massachusetts
circa 1960 Kullman Diner

The diner currently operating in the town of Whately known as the Whately Diner Fillin’ Station was delivered to Chicopee, Massachusetts circa 1960 (although the website says it was built in 1958). Built by the Kullman Dining Car Company as a showcase Princess model, its first operating name was in fact the Princess Diner. In the early 1970s, the diner was bought by F.L. Roberts, a local company that had convenience stores, car washes and gas stations in the area. They moved the diner to the current location where it became part of a 24 hour truck-stop. The diner was operated here originally as the Maverick Diner prior to the current name.

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Exterior view of the Whately Diner Fillin’ Station
April 18, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

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another exterior view of the Whately Diner Fillin’ Station
April 18, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

This diner was undoubtedly a great example of the space-age influenced designs the manufacturers were using at the dawn of the 1960s. The large canted-up-& out windows with a flared out roof-line along with the shallow wall below the windows was cutting edge for its time!

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Interior view of the Fillin’ Station Diner
April 18, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

The interior of this place still evokes a beautifully appointed modern feeling and those light fixtures that looked like flying saucers (I refer to them as “George Jetson” light fixtures) are totally fantastic and one of my favorite features! This place has been operating for decades and serves the local area residents as well as long-distance truckers. I read a report just last week that stated the Roberts company recently divested itself of some of its businesses and the diner/truck-stop is in fact one of them. Hopefully the new operators can see the value in maintaining the integrity of this diner and not make any drastic changes!

Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car, 101 Main Street,
Medford, Massachusetts
1961 Swingle Diner

This is one diner that I basically grew up with since I was 8 years old and frequented it right up until it closed and was demolished in the late 1980s. Growing up in the city of Medford, I recall the diners we had in the late 1950s through to the 1980s. We had the Star Lite Diner (a 1948 Worcester Lunch Car – #817), Bobbie’s Diner (circa 1925 Jerry O’Mahony) and just barely, Howard Rust’s Rad-a-Mat (two 1948 or 49 Valentine Diners, part of a short lived chain). We were also lucky to have Carroll’s Diner, located just outside Medford Square – the first Carroll’s Diner was a late 1920s vintage Brill Diner that Maurice Carroll Sr. bought used circa 1930 to add to his Main Street business, The Medford Battery Company and adjacent gas station. A new generation of the Carroll family, brothers Maurice Jr. and Jack, Maurice Sr’s sons just back from WWII took over operation of the diner in the late 1940s and decided to upgrade the diner at this time. The Brill was superseded in 1948 by an up-to-date modern streamlined Jerry O’Mahony Diner with a stainless steel and red striped exterior. The Brill diner was retained as a kitchen for the newer diner. Business was booming by the end of the 1950s and the Carroll brothers again decided to upgrade. In the years between 1948 and 1960, they had acquired adjacent parcels of land giving them room to expand to an even larger diner. This is when they brought in the 3 section colonial style Swingle Diner in August of 1961.

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Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car – 1962 post card exterior view

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Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car – 1962 post card interior view

I can recall the 3 sections of the new diner sitting in what would be the new parking lot adjacent to the 1948 O’Mahony Diner awaiting installation on the new foundation. After the diner opened I recall going there with my family after Easter Church services for breakfast at least a couple of years in a row. During and after my high school years, I started frequenting Carroll’s and for a while it was a hang-out for myself and my friends. This place was great for being a meeting place as it was open 24 hours a day as well as centrally located. Not long after I started photographing diners in the early 1980s, I started shooting the occasional image of this place. The following photo is quite possibly my favorite!

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Carroll’s Restaurant – August, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera

By the mid 1980s, Carroll’s was the lone survivor in the city as Howard Rust’s Medford Square location (at the end known as the Humpty Dumpty Diner) was gone by 1960, and their Hillside location (later known as the White House Cafe & at the end Bacigalupe’s Diner) near Tufts University lasted until the early 1970s. The Star Lite was gone in 1968 and Bobbie’s demolished circa 1981 or 82. Carroll’s Restaurant closed in December of 1986 when the large parcel of land it occupied was sold for redevelopment. The restaurant was demolished in June of 1987 to make way for a large professional building with an underground parking garage. I wrote a more detailed history of Carroll’s  a few years ago when the next generation of Carroll’s opened a new place 2 blocks away from the old location of the diner in 2012. That history can be found at this link… https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/carrolls-bar-grille-looking-at-spring-opening-in-medford-mass/

Olympian Diner – 38 Hancock Street
South Braintree, Massachusetts
1964 Fodero Diner

When I started photographing diners in November of 1980, I was aware of many of the existing diners from earlier explorations around the Boston area. I also knew of other places from word of mouth, my own memory, as well as newspaper articles  and books that had appeared around that time. But the Olympian Diner was one I just happened to stumble across one Saturday afternoon driving from Quincy through Braintree.

Not knowing anything about its existence, I was very excited to come across this place in May of 1981. I do not have the exact date as I had not started documenting the places in what became my Diner Log book. That log book came into existence a little over 2 months later at the end of July. (I converted the log into a computerized data base to help in the organizing of my 35mm slides & negatives archive of diner images in the early 2000s).

As I said I was very excited to see this example of a newer diner located on the South Shore and immediately parked my van and shot two or three photos. The following two photos are from that day…

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The Olympian Diner, South Braintree, Mass.
May, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

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The Olympian Diner, South Braintree, Mass.
May, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

I have since learned that the diner was originally bought and operated by Angelo & Mary Fasano who appropriately called it Fasano’s Diner. They operated it from 1963 until 1975 when it was sold to another couple, Paul and Collette Ricciarelli who ran it for 5 years as Collette’s Diner. The Ricciarelli’s in turn sold the diner in 1980 to Paul and Helen Margetis who renamed it the Olympian.

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a matchbook cover advertising Fasano’s Diner from when the diner was brand new

The Olympian Diner operated until 1998 when the owners of some adjacent parcels of property decided to sell out to a chain pharmacy. The Margetis family was left with little choice but to do the same. They attempted to find another location nearby to relocate the diner to, but were unsuccessful. Seeing that the fate of the diner was in limbo, Ralph Fasano, a member of Angelo & Mary’s family offered to buy and move the diner. The Margetis’ in turn gave it to him as they knew it would be in good hands. The diner was moved and placed in storage by Fasano and eventually was purchased a few years later by Dave Pritchard of Aran Trading Ltd. of Salisbury who stored it on his property until 2014 when he sold it to a man who moved it to Leominster, where it sits today on private property. The Olympian Diner as a business was resurrected a few years after the diner closed when the Margetis family rehabbed a storefront almost across the street from the old site to become the new Olympian Diner, still in business today.

Victoria Diner-Restaurant – 1024 Massachusetts Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts
1965 Swingle Diner

I was 12 years old in the summer of 1965 and one day I was enjoying my summer vacation from school. The next day I was drafted into helping out at the family business, a small meat market and grocery store. My job was primarily to deliver orders to customers using an old bicycle with a large basket. I also waited on customers and sliced deli meat/cold cuts as well as stocking shelves, sweeping floors and whatever else my dad wanted me to do. Bye bye summer vacations! It was an adventure to work with my dad and my grandfather (Papa) who was still alive at that point. Papa passed away suddenly that fall at the young age of 66.

Anyway, from the first day I got to go with dad to work, I learned that his morning ritual was to stop for breakfast at a local diner on the way to the wholesale meat markets in Boston to get some needed supplies prior to going to the store to work. Papa was the one who would open the store and greet the first customers before we got back from Boston. Around noon time Papa would go home for the day and my dad & I would stay until closing time, usually by 5:00 pm or 5:30 pm.

I am telling you this as a prelude to talking about the Victoria Diner-Restaurant. As the early days of my new working life progressed, I soon found out that dad did not always stop at the same place for breakfast. One day it might be the Star Lite Diner and the next it might be Bobbie’s Diner (both in Medford). Other times he might stop at the White Tower in nearby Somerville or one or two places near Faneuil Hall Market/Quincy Market when that place was in fact the old location for these wholesale meat purveying establishments, prior to it being cleaned up and made into a tourist destination.

The one place that dad stopped for breakfast that is still in existence today is the Victoria Diner-Restaurant. Now known as Victoria’s Diner and under new ownership. The place was brand-new in 1965, owned and operated by brothers Charles & Nicholas Georgenes, it replaced a 1949 vintage Jerry O’Mahony diner that their dad George had bought brand-new. So, I got to experience the Victoria  when it was newly delivered and have been going there ever since.

Richard Gutman noted in his book, American Diner Then & Now, that when the Georgenes’ were looking to buy a new diner, they were lobbied hard by Fodero Diners but opted to go with Swingle Diners. In fact they especially liked a particular “Colonial style” that Fodero offered, so Joe Swingle said that he in fact could manufacture a similar diner for them.

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a publicity still from Swingle Diners featuring the Victoria Diner-Restaurant at the factory
courtesy of Richard J.S. Gutman collection

The diner came from the factory with white form stone  “posts” on the exterior with beach pebble panels under each window. The diner also had two small decorative cupolas which were removed in the late 1980s when some new heating & ventilation duct-work was installed on the roof. The white form stone was replaced by red brick possibly in the 1970s and the roof-line stainless steel trim was covered with a brown standing-seam treatment possibly at the same time.

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Victoria’s Diner, Boston, Massachusetts
June 26, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Victoria’s Diner, Boston, Massachusetts
June 26, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

The Georgenes family sold the diner in the early 2000s and the current operators are in fact the third to do so since the Georgenes’ sold out. The diner is still popular and does a decent business from all acounts!

K’s Diner D.B.A. Pizza Pub, – 2391 Boston Road,  U.S. Rte. 20
Wilbraham, Massachusetts
circa 1965 vintage DeRaffele Diner

I am not exactly sure when this diner was delivered to this location personally, but have heard recently from Jen of the Dinerville website and Facebook page… https://www.dinerville.info spoke with the owners of Gregory’s Restaurant (current name) who claim the diner is from 1965. I would have guessed earlier myself. Be that as it may, this is the only example of this far-out space-age diner with a zig-zag roof-line (AKA folded plate) that made it this far north. Built by DeRaffele Diners out of New Rochelle, NY, this place was still snazzy looking until the mid-to-late 1980s when it was expanded and covered over. I have been told that not much of the original diner exists today and I believe it. I am happy that I got the photos I did shoot before it was completely redone.

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Known as K’s Diner, D.B.A. Pizza Pub back in the early 1980s.
September 5, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

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another view of K’s Diner, D.B.A. Pizza Pub, Wilbraham, Mass.
September 5, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

New Market Steak House, 274 Southampton Street
Boston, Massachusetts
1971 Fodero Diner

This is another diner-restaurant that I also was pretty much unaware of when I started photographing diners circa 1980. Even though it was within walking distance of the Victoria Diner, I guess I never knew it was there because I never drove down that section of Southampton Street. Also, I might not have recognized the brick building as being a late model, factory-built diner. Originally called the Supreme III Diner-Restaurant, it was owned and operated by the Passanisi family. This large “colonial style” diner is the third diner on this site. I do know the first one was in fact a Fodero from around 1940 or so but have no idea what the second diner was (I am guessing Fodero as well) as to my knowledge, no photos exist of the second one. Sometime before I first photographed it, the name had been changed to the New Market Steak House, probably by the end of the 1970s. It continued to be operated under this name until it closed in 1984.

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New Market Steak House, Boston, Massachusetts
June, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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New Market Steak House, Boston, Massachusetts
June, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

The building still exists but has been altered somewhat and has not been used as a restaurant since it closed. For many years it housed the Beckwith Elevator Company. It is currently being used for other purposes.

Bickfords Grille, 37 Oak Street Extension
Brockton, Massachusetts
1970s vintage Kullman Diner

And yet another newer diner I did not know existed until my friend David Hebb informed me about it. I believe I may not have been moved to photograph it the first time I saw it in the early 1980s. I recall it did not have a mansard roof like it has now and I know I do not have photos of it that way. I think it had the wooden railing on the top edge of the slightly flared-out roof-line that Kullman usually used on this design. I also recall that the foundation under the building was not finished off with brick at that point. According to my records I managed to photograph it on March 1, 1984 which may have been my second visit there and actually had a meal. I do recall it still had a counter and stools that first time I went in. By the next visit, they had been removed. I understand the building had a fire within the last 20 years and the interior has changed more. These group of four photos will demonstrate how the building has looked over the years…

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Bickford’s Restaurant, Brockton, Massachusetts
March 1, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Bickford’s Restaurant, Brockton, Massachusetts
February, 1991 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Bickford’s Restaurant, Brockton, Massachusetts
June,1998 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Bickfords Grille, Brockton, Massachusetts
October 10, 2016 photo by Larry Cultrera

The Bickford’s chain started out with cafeteria style restaurants and was known for years as Hayes & Bickford’s. They even had a small chain of diners from the late 1920s thru the 1970s in Boston. Denise and I recently visited this place for lunch back on Columbus Day and as evidenced by my new photo, the exterior has been updated again. The whole chain has been upgrading the menu and look of the restaurants and the name has changed to reflect this. They dropped the “apostrophy” in Bickfords and it is now called a “Grille”. This ouitlet has the distinction of housing their corporate offices. I hope to find out sometime in the future waht the original name for this diner was and when it first got here…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Marking 35 years of documenting Diners!

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The very first photo I ever shot of a diner… The Bypass Diner of Harrisburg, PA
(now known as the American Dream Diner).
November 29, 1980 photo by Larry Cultrera

Well, it’s Thanksgiving weekend, 2015. This means I am marking 35 years of documenting Diners with my photographs! The date of the first diner photograph I shot was November 29, 1980 when I was 27 years old. What led me up to that point started when I was very young, probably when I was around 5 or 6 years old. I was very observant as a child whenever my parents would be driving around our hometown of Medford, Massachusetts as well as the Greater Boston area, I noticed the different buildings and signs located along the roadside, whether it was in the city or out in the more rural areas. I certainly knew some things by sight such as Howard Johnson’s Restaurants with their cupolas and bright orange roofs (The Landmark for Hungry Americans, like the commercials said). Gas stations also stood out but what really ended up catching my eye was the abundance of these small buildings that looked somewhat like railroad cars. In fact I distinctly recall driving down Mystic Avenue in Medford with my dad and I asked him about this bright blue building sporting a rounded roof set back from the street. I asked him what the place was, remarking that it looked like a railroad car. Dad said that it was a diner, a type of restaurant that was built in a factory and was in fact designed to look like a railroad car. I later learned that the diner in question was in fact Worcester Lunch Car No. 817, the Star Lite Diner. This diner was delivered to its site at 383 Mystic Avenue on November 9, 1948. Its only owner operator was James S. Theodore (I knew him as Jim). I recall both Jim and his son Richie running the place when I first started going there with my dad and brothers when I was around 12 years old. In the summer of 1968 I recall the diner closed for their usual 2 week vacation and unfortunately never reopened! I was totally disappointed by this situation! I know the diner stayed closed for a short while and then was moved. I never exactly knew what happened but the rumor is that it was brought to a scrap-yard in nearby Chelsea, Mass. and to my knowledge was never put back into service!

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The Star Lite Diner, 383 Mystic Avenue, Medford, Massachusetts
December , 1948 photo courtesy of the Medford Police Dept. archives

I always noticed diners in my later travels and in fact continued to visit some including the Victoria Diner in Boston and Carroll’s Diner in Medford. In fact I used to hang-out at Carroll’s with a bunch of my friends in the early to mid 1970s. Both Carroll’s and the Victoria were more modern diners (in fact the most modern in the Boston area). Both of them were built by Swingle Diner Company out of Middlesex, NJ.

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Carroll’s Diner, Medford, Mass. – August, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Victoria Diner, Boston, Mass. – July, 2004 photo by Larry Cultrera

Carroll’s closed in 1986 and was torn down in June of 1987 but the Victoria Diner is still operating!
Since 1980 I have personally photographed approximately 851 Diners! Not all are classic factory-built diners though. When I first started, I was sort of what I call a “Diner-Snob”. I only wanted to photograph the older ones that dated from the 1920s thru the 1950s or 60s. I know I may have passed up quite a few newer ones in my travels but that changed over time. I now document non-factory-built diners (built on-site) as well as the prefab ones! In fact, the last “new ” diner photo I shot recently was of a place I have been a patron of for quite a few years, The Hammersmith Family Restaurant in my current hometown of Saugus.

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Hammersmith Family Restaurant, Saugus, Mass.
April 22, 2015 photo by Larry Cultrera

Hammermith is not diner-like in appearance and the place never had a counter or stools but the food, service and friendly atmosphere is very much like any local diner and has become a favorite stop for both myself and my wife Denise! Anyway, sometimes I cannot believe it has been 35 years since that first photo of the Bypass Diner! On my bucket list is a road-trip back to H’burg to visit friends and some of the diners I was going to back in the 1980s, hopefully on a Thanksgiving weekend again!

Notes from the Hotline, Jan. 20, 2013

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

Former Monarch Diner gets a new lease on life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peabody, Massachusetts’ Little Depot Diner
under new ownership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FALL RIVER —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eulogy for the Harvest Diner, by Michael R. Fisher

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

After nineteen years in business, my diner is closing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carroll’s Bar & Grille opens in Medford, Mass.


The newly opened Carroll’s Bar & Grille in Medford, Mass.
May 2, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

As a follow up to the post I did back in February about the history of Carroll’s Diner and the upcoming opening of the Carroll family’s new restauarant in Medford, Mass., see………. https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/carrolls-bar-grille-looking-at-spring-opening-in-medford-mass/    I am happy to announce that Carroll’s Bar & Grille has finally opened its doors on May 3, 2012!

My friends Maury and Tom Carroll have realized their dream of opening a new restaurant in their hometown just 2 blocks away from the former location of  Carroll’s Restaurant (formerly known as Carroll’s Colonial Diner). Three incarnations of Carroll’s Diner operated from 1930 to 1986 at 101 Main Street. I have been following their progress in renovating  the groundfloor space they leased in the “City Building” that wraps the corner of High Street and main Street in Medford Square. The Bar & Grille is located on the Main Street side (21 Main St.) adjacent to the Craddock Bridge which spans the Mystic River.


The newly opened Carroll’s Bar & Grille in Medford, Mass.
May 2, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

I had been told they would have a “soft opening” on May 2nd, so Denise & I went over there in the late afternoon to check it out only to find the opening was pushed back to the next day! But Maury welcomed us in to see the finished restaurant and let me shoot some photos. The following photos show the decor of the restaurant and bar area prior to opening.


Interior view showing the dining room after entering the front door. This room has kept the original tin ceiling that had been hidden for years by a dropped ceiling. May 2, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


view from the right side of the entrance showing an uncovered brick wall that was the original side wall of the building before it was expanded. You can see 2 of the large poster-size black & white photos on the brick wall. These show the exterior of the 1948 Carroll’s Diner at night and further back, the interior of the 1930 vintage Carroll’s Diner. The unadorned right-side wall will eventually have other historical photos.
May 2, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


view of the bar area with windows that look out onto views of the Mystic River as well as the adjacent Mystic Valley Parkway.
May 2, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera



Looking down the bar you can see the exposed brick wall and the dining room beyond. If you look closely at the furthest point on the brick wall, you will see the stainless steel “C” that once adorned the large brick chimney on the back of the old diner complex.
May 2, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


A close-up of the “C”, it is again mounted on a brick chimney but this time it is on the interior of the building. At one time there were 4 of these. When the former diner was being torn down 2 of these were sold to someone and I am not sure if they still exist. I was the one who got the remaining 2 of which this is one. May 2, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


Looking down the bar toward Main Street.
May 2, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


Another shot looking down the bar toward Main Street.
May 2, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

Denise and I got back to eat at the new restaurant on Friday, May 4th in the late afternoon. I presented Maury with a signed copy of my “Classic Diners of Massachusetts” book as a Grand Opening present to show my appreciation for all the photos his family have provided to me over the years for my collection of diner memorabilia. The menu for dinner is slightly upscale, and the prices reflect this. But on the other hand, the food and service were surpisingly excellent for the second day of operation. They bake their own bread for the meals, be it for the “bread basket” or the roll for a sandwich. We will certainly make many return visits in the future!

They will be open only for dinner for the foreseeable future until any kinks are ironed out and will expand the opening hours for lunch as soon as they believe they are ready. The restaurant features a full bar as well as a “raw bar” with flat screen TV’s in the bar area.

I want to wish Maury and Tom Carroll all the success. With the new restaurant being hugely busy these first few days, I can certainly say that it seems like all of Medford has been waiting  for 26 years (since the diner closed) for the Carrolls to bring their magic back!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

carroll-pc2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes from the Hotline, 01-14-2012

Classic Diners of Massachusetts Slide Presentation
January 23rd in Medford, Mass.

I will be doing a slide presentation based on my Classic Diners of Massachusetts book at the Medford Public Library on January 23, 2012. The presentation will be similar to the one I did for the Somerville Public Library with some modifications. These will include some images of diners from Medford’s past.

Here is the blurb the Library posted on their website….

Classic Diners of Massachusetts A Lecture by Larry Cultrera

Monday, January 23 at 7:00 p.m.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts was the birthplace of “night lunch wagon” manufacturing industry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These horse-drawn food carts eventually evolved into classic American diners. For many years, diner builders like the Worcester Lunch Car Company and J.B. Judkins Company operated in the Bay State, although few new diners opened for business after 1960. This left the state with a high concentration of some of the best-preserved diners built during the early to mid-twentieth century, including the Capitol Diner in Lynn, the Route 66 Diner in Springfield and Buddy’s Diner in Somerville.

Medford native Larry Cultrera is a diner historian and the author of the Diner Hotline blog. His new book Classic Diners of Massachusetts has just been released by the History Press.The Library is located at 111 High Street (Route 60) on-street parking as well as a small parking lot behind the building is available.

 

Rosebud Diner of Somerville, Mass. changing owners soon


Rosebud Diner postcard designed by Larry Cultrera

I got a phone call on January 1st from old friend Arthur Krim, a founding member of the Society for Commercial Archeology. It seems he was contacted by Kristi Chase of the Somerville Historical Comission who was concerned about the future of the Rosebud Diner. Arthur asked me if I had any knowledge of the possible sale of the diner, I told him that I had not heard anything. I last saw Bill Nichols (whose family owns the diner) back in November at my “Author Event” held at the Somerville Public Library and nothing was mentioned then. Arthur informed me that Kristi had heard from someone who stated he was in the process of purchasing the Rosebud and wanted to change or alter the neon sign on the roof. I told Arthur that I would look into the situation.

I called Bill Nichols shortly after talking with Arthur and asked him what was happening. He said everything was fine and that he knew nothing about any changes concerning the diner. So I thought, well maybe this was just a rumor. The next day I called Kristi Chase and she in turn reitierated what she told Arthur and the news sounded credible. Because the diner is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Historical Commission needs to be informed on possible changes to listed properties. Well I called Bill back and told him what was said. Needless to say he was surprised and a little upset, it seems his dad  was selling the diner and had not yet informed him.

I again contacted Bill this past week after he had spoken with his dad who told him that someone had approached him with an offer to by the building/business. Bill says he is not sure of the actual timeline but estimates the change in ownership will happen possibly within the next month or month and  half. I am sad for this change and hope that nothing drastic happens to this long-time landmark in my life.

 

Glenn Wells’s RoadsideFans website migrates to WordPress

Good friend, colleague and occasional road trip buddy Glenn Wells received a nice Christmas present from his stepson Ray Milstrey, an updated website/blog. Ray also created the old RoadsideFans website, but now that the site has migrated to WordPress, it will become interactive. Here is what Glenn says about the move……

The new RoadsideFans.com is a WordPress blog, and if that seems familiar, it’s because several other roadside-related web sites already use WordPress – Diner Hotline, Retro Roadmap, Diner Hunter, and Lincoln Highway News among them. As with the others, visitors to RoadsideFans will now have a chance to leave comments – simply click the arrow at the top right and scroll down to the bottom of the posting. There will probably be more new features yet to come as I become more familiar with WordPress.

You will find several features from the old web site on the new RoadsideFans.com. By clicking FEATURES on the bar above, you can access the Howard Johnson’s, barbecue chicken, and Taconic Parkway features from the old web site. However, the Online Diner Tours and some other photo features from the old site have been retired. Most of these were a decade or more old, and many of the places no longer exist or have changed names. I am considering uploading the pictures to a Flickr account to maintain the historical record. 

I want to congratulate Glenn on the updated website and wish him good luck. I know I have enjoyed using wordpress for Diner Hotline! You can find a link to RoadsideFans in my blogroll as well as here….
http://www.roadsidefans.com/

Rare view of Medford, Mass., Circa 1950

I have been collecting postcards of Medford, Mass., the city I grew up in for somewhere around 32 years now. In that time, I have managed to amass quite a collection. Well, I was on Ebay earlier this week and checked all my usual categories and found an extremely rare view of Riverside Avenue in Medford Square, circa 1950. This black & white photocard showed an atypical view of this street. It was taken from the east looking toward the middle of Medford Square and it’s subject matter presumedly was to showcase the newly built Shopping Center along the south side of the street.

As noted in an article about the first shopping malls in the Bay State, (specifically about “Shopper’s World” in Framingham), written by Kathleen Kelly Broomer for the Society for Commercial Archeology’s Journal Magazine (Volume 13 –  Number 1, Fall-Winter, 1994-95 edition), it was mentioned that the Medford Square Shopping Center was one of the earliest developed in-town shopping centers that predated the suburban ones built in the following decades.


Riverside Avenue, Medford Square – circa 1950 postcard

Anyway, I was excited to see this card for a couple of reasons, the first was because I had never seen it before. The second reason was that I was able to date this pretty much because of what was shown in the scene. Chief among this was the shopping center on the left, next and very obvious was the large brick structure across the street with the blank wall. This was the old Square Theater which I personally do not remember in my lifetime (I was born in 1953). Although I do not know for sure when exactly this happened, the theater was redeveloped (I conjecture) within a few years from when this photo card was shot, to become more retail space. The top half of the building was removed and a new street-level facade was built to house a good 7 or 8 stores that are still in use today.


Close-up showing Howard Rust’s Radamat, a Valentine Diner
(under the Mobilgas sign)

Also seen in the post card at the base of the eastern end of the theater, just under the hanging Mobilgas sign, is a small box-like white building. This is as far as I know the only streetview that shows the legendary (in my opinion) Howard Rust’s Radamat. The Radamat was a 1948 or 49 vintage Valentine Diner that was extremely rare for this part of the country. Whoever Howard Rust was, he was kind of ahead of his time. He attempted to open a chain of small diners (all Valentine diners, built in Witchita, KS) that featured an early version of Microwave cooking.


Rare postcard image of Howard Rust’s Radamat, this was the one on Riverside Avenue in Medford Square. Courtesy of the Stephen Lintner collection

In doing some research in the early 1990’s, I found an old ad that featured Howard Rust’s Radamat. It was from the July 15, 1949 edition of the Medford Daily Mercury. The ad is frustrating as it tells of “Existing and Proposed Locations” without actually saying which were real and which never existed!


1949 advertisement for Howard Rust’s Radamat

I do know there were at least 2 of them, the one in Medford Square and the one on Boston Avenue (Medford Hillside). The Malden location sounds real as it gets specific about what was across the street. The chain reportedly went out of business fairly quickly. The Medford Square location became known as the Humpty Dumpty Diner before being torn down circa 1959 or 1960 when the current professional building was built there. The Medford Hillside location went under various names such as, the White House Cafe and the Jumbo Diner. I also recall it being called Pacigalupe’s or Bacigalupe’s before that was demolished in the 1970’s.

Jonathan Yonan asked me how a rare Valentine Diner made it so far afield from Witchita, Kansas after I posted the image of the postcard on Facebook. I told him that there had been a dealer based in Long Island, NY, basically, it was Valentine’s East Coast sales office, National Diner Sales in West Hampstead. (Thanks to Dick Gutman’s American Diner, Then & Now). It would be safe to assume that any Valentine Diner that made it into the New England market, as well as anywhere in the Northeast was sold by National Diner Sales.


Same view as the postcard, May 14, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Slightly closer view, May 14, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Although things have changed a little in Medford Square since 1950, the view is still identifiable by the fact that Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church is visible in the distance on High Street at the other end of the Square.