Goodbye to the Rosebud Diner

Well as reported in the past few months, the Rosebud Diner of Davis Square in Somerville, Mass. has finally closed under the ownership of the Nichols family after a long run. The Nichols’ actually purchased the diner from its original owner back in 1957 and almost immediately they converted it to use as a Cocktail Lounge/Bar. The backbar was removed along with all the cooking equipment and the original ventilation hood when it became the cocktail lounge. It was operated this way right up until around 1989 when the family sold it. During the time period from 1989-1994 it was operated by at least 2 different entities, one of which was a Tex-Mex place called the Cuckoo’s Nest. At that point a couple of more changes were made to the already altered interior. The original stainless steel covered refrigerator was removed and the left end of the counter was chopped off. When the place closed circa 1994, the new owners defaulted on the mortgage that was held by the Nichols family. The Nichols’ ended up getting the diner back thru land court at this point. The diner had gotten a slightly bad reputation and the Nichols’ decided that it was time to bring the building back as a true diner.

Rosebud-with-Bill-&-Nicky_1995
Bill and Nicky Nichols on Grand Reopening day, February, 1995 at the
Rosebud Diner –  photo by Larry Cultrera

So the family spent a few months cleaning up the interior by refinishing the original woodwork getting some used wooden booths that were not too different than what had been there originally as well as installing a new left end of the counter. They also refurbished the neon sign on the roof. The menu from 1995 to now had been slightly upscale but the diner was now serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The back room which had operated as another space variously as an upscale Italian Restaurant, Night Club and eventually a venue for live music acts and bar & grill since 1995. About a year and a half ago rumors started flying that the diner was for sale. The first rumors never panned out but more recently the word got out that a guy named Marty Bloom was in the running to buy the place. Bloom had started the successful chain of upscale restaurants called Vinny Testa’s (later known as Vinny T’s) and eventually sold the chain and started other venues. Bloom’s reported plans for the diner have not sounded like he wants to retain the interior character unfortunately. He does say the exterior will remain the same and as I believe, the fact that the diner is listed in the National Register of Historic Places will not protect it from being altered. So I guess the future of this classic diner remains to be seen.

Back in March, Glenn Wells and Mike Engle decided they wanted to make a trip out from the Albany area to check out the Rosebud one last time. They were joined by myself, David Hebb, Gary Thomas and Bob Marville on March 3, 2013 and we all had breakfast. We kibitzed with Billy Nichols and Helen DeFransisco and shot some photos, etc.

Rosebud-1_3-3-2013
Left to right, Larry Cultrera, Glenn Wells (in back), David Hebb, Mike Engle, Gary Thomas and Bob Marville at the Rosebud Diner. March 3, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

I have been friends with Billy Nichols for around 30 years. Along with my friendship, I have actually designed the logo for their coffee mugs as well as a breakfast menu and 2 post cards for the diner. I actually had one last meal about 3 weeks ago on a Friday night and the diner closed after the day of business on Sunday May 26, 2013. I got an email this past Saturday morning from Dick Gutman who had placed a link for  a Craigslist ad  to a yard sale at the diner. They were selling off various and sundry things like dish ware, pots and pans, etc. Denise and I stopped by for one last visit.

Rosebud-with-Bill-&-Nicky_2013
Bill and Nicky Nichols on Saturday June 1, 2013 at the Rosebud Diner
 photo by Larry Cultrera

RoseBud-Diner-3_6-1-2013
 Rosebud Diner during yard sale, June 1, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

I’ll be keeping in touch with Billy Nichols and wish him well along with Helen DeFransisco, his dad Gally and brother Nicky. I hope the diner does not get trashed too bad, but I guess that will remain to be seen.

The Dining Car of Philadelphia, a family tradition!

The-Dining-Car-8
Close-up of the fantastic sign for The Dining Car in Philadelphia,
July 1, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

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

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

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

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

The-Dining-Car-3
View of the full front elevation of The Dining Car,
July 1, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

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

The-Dining-Car-5
View of the right side front elevation of The Dining Car,
July 1, 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you go, tell them Diner Hotline sent you!

A tale of 2 Twins (Diners, that is)

Twin Bridge Diner, AKA Rosie’s Diner

Back in the early days of diner hunting I was down in the Groton, Connecticut area one day (July 10, 1983 to be specific) when I stumbled upon the Twin Bridge Diner, another later model Silk City diner very similar to Norm’s Diner also of Groton. I had already documented Norm’s on an earlier excursion the previous year (Sept. 18, 1982). The Twin Bridge Diner seemed to be doing a great business that day and I got the best photos I could considering all the vehicles parked around  the building.


I was coming out of the parking lot of the Twin Bridge Diner when I saw this across the side street from the diner. I could not resist taking this photo!
July 10, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera


Twin Bridge Diner, Groton, CT – July 10, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera


Twin Bridge Diner, Groton, CT – July 10, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera


Twin Bridge Diner, Groton, CT – July 10, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera

By 1988 or so, this diner changed owners as well as names becoming Rosie’s Diner and continued to operate until September of 2005. The owners decided to replace this diner with a brand-new diner built by Mike Risko’s Classic Diners out of Michigan (thanks to Mike Engle for clearing that up) and renamed the new place the “Oh Boy Diner”. Incidently, the new diner did not fare so well and closed within a fairly short time. I just read that 5 Guys Burgers & Fries were slated to take over the building as of April of 2011.

Meanwhile, the old diner was bought by Steve Harwin of Diversified Diners and was transported to his property in Cleveland, OH. Steve’s plan, as always was to eventually find a buyer who wanted a 1950’s vintage modern stainless-steel diner. When the prospective buyer would come forward, then Steve would have his team of workers do some needed updating and restoration/rehabbing prior to the new owners taking delivery of the diner.

Well fairly recently (late 2011) those new owners came into the picture. That would be Jeff and Vonnie Castree of Baraboo, Wisconsin. They are naming the new restaurant the Broadway Diner. Steve Harwin sent some photos along a couple of weeks ago showing the diner starting the trek from Cleveland to Baraboo in mid-April, 2012 …..


The former Rosie’s Diner/Twin Bridge Diner moving from Cleveland to Baraboo, WI to become the Broadway Diner.
April 2012 photo by Steve Harwin


The former Rosie’s Diner/Twin Bridge Diner moving from Cleveland to Baraboo, WI to become the Broadway Diner.
April 2012 photo by Steve Harwin


Interior of the soon to be Broadway Diner of Baraboo, WI
April, 2012 photo by Steve Harwin

I wish Jeff and Vonnie Castree good luck with their new endeavor!

Twin Diner, AKA Spicy’s Bar-B-Que

I first knew of the Twin Diner of Riverhead, Long Island from a John Baeder painting. The Twin Diner was apparently two 1920’s vintage barrel roof diners that were placed side-by-side, end-wise to the street. John’s painting was actually of an interesting detail that was part of the linoleum tiled floor on the inside of the left-hand section of the diner. It was a cool little graphic, (almost primitive) showing as John put it…. “the little frivolous chef dancing the diner boogie”!


Scanned with permission from Page 82 of John Baeder’s book “Diners”

Well on one of my early trips to document diners on Long Island (September 22, 1984), you can be sure I wanted to see if the Twin Diner was still there. It actually was….. sort of. It had become Spicy’s Bar-B-Que and was not actually operating as a diner. The right-hand side had what was left of the counter, now sans stools and being used as a serving counter. The left-hand side was now exclusively the dining area with chairs and tables.


Interior of right-hand side of Spicy’s Bar-B-Que of Riverhead, Long Island
September 22, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera


Interior of left-hand side of Spicy’s Bar-B-Que of Riverhead, Long Island,
notice the inlaid graphics in the linoleum. Unfortunately, our little chef was missing! September 22, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

This configuration of 2 diners being attached has been termed a “Diner graft” and interestingly, it seems Kullman Diners came in circa the 1950’s and modernized the 2 1920’s vintage diners. This was done primarily by “wrapping” the street ends of both diners in a new stainless-steel facade making the the 2 diners look like one new diner as seen in this photo below.


Front view of Spicy’s Bar-B-Que of Riverhead, Long Island
September 22, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera


Side view of Spicy’s Bar-B-Que of Riverhead, Long Island. Here you can see the back section of the untouched left-hand barrel roof structure.
September 22, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera


Back view of Spicy’s Bar-B-Que of Riverhead, Long Island. Here you can see the 2 side-by-side diners. They actually have been extended back from the original cars. September 22, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

Recently I have heard from a friend of John Baeder by the name of Susan Walter. She contacted me to let me know of an Ebay auction she had of an old snapshot of the Twin Diner. I decided to bid on it and did actually get it. Below is the actual snapshot the way it looks, with blemishes and all….

Here is the same photo with some enhancement and cleaning up in photoshop…..

Notes from the Hotline, 3-21-2012

Another Diner bites the dust!!!!


The Diner house located at 93 Oxford Ave. in Dudley, Mass.
1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

This month has been horrendous with the closing of the Fish Tale Diner of Salisbury, Mass. and the demolition of the Bel-Aire Diner of Peabody, Mass. Well now we hear that yet another Bay State diner has met with a bulldozer! My friend Barry Henley, the proprietor of “My Brother’s Place” Restaurant in Webster, Mass. reports that the infamous (at least to me) “Diner house” has been demolished. Located at 93 Oxford Avenue in the town of Dudley, this diner has not operated as a food service establishment for approximately 40 years.

I have shown the above photo as part of a diner slide presentation for over 20 years. It is in the “repurposed diners” section of the show. I always introduced it as my ultimate fantasy, a diner as part of someone’s house! I personally have been aware of this place since the early 1970’s when my older brother Steve lived in Dudley.


The Diner house located at 93 Oxford Ave. in Dudley, Mass.
1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

We used to take the street commonly refered to as the “Dudley-Oxford road” as a short cut. I noticed the diner way back then but eventually forgot about it after my brother moved back to the Boston area. It was not until I started documenting diners with my photographs in the early 1980’s that I became re-acquainted with it. In fact, it was my brother Steve who reminded me of it. Since then I believe I photographed it at least 3 different times, the last being circa 1985.

When I started planning to write this post, I decided to check out Google maps and satellite view to see if I could see the structure. I found a street called Dudley Oxford Road (which was not exactly where I thought it should be). I looked up and down that road and nothing looked right! Turns out it was not the correct road. I checked back with Barry Henley and he gave me the correct address which when checked on Google maps coincided with what I remembered.

Barry was taking the perennial shortcut from Dudley to Oxford on Saturday the 17th of March when he could not help but notice the pile of rubble where the structure used to be! He snapped a photo out the side window of his vehicle and posted it to Facebook where I spotted it.


Photo by Barry Henley showing the remains of the demolished diner and house.

We do not know for sure if the diner actually ever operated in this location or was placed here to be a part of someone’s house. Someone I knew over 25 years ago actually went inside this place and said it was basically gutted and being used as a “family room”. The only recognizable thing on the inside was the former refrigerator built into the corner. It was being utilized as a shelf or something.

Barry Henley told me it had been altered since I last saw it and told me to check out a recent real estate listing that described it as…… Structure was originally a diner and converted into a single family residence. Septic will NOT pass Title V. Being sold “AS IS”. All offers considered. This listing also had some photos that showed the original diner windows had been replaced by inexpensive sliding windows. Other than that it was still recognizable.

You can see the listing here at this link…. http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/93-Oxford-Ave-Dudley-MA-01571/59207622_zpid/#1

Here are some of my other photos of it from the 1980’s…..


circa 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera


circa 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera


circa 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera


circa 1985 photo by Larry Cultrera

Allston’s Breakfast Club Diner gets a new on-site addition


early 1980’s photo of Ted’s Diner, Worcester Lunch Car No. 841
originally operated as Fahey’s Diner, it has been run under other names such as Henry’s Diner, Mike’s Diner and more recently as the Breakfast Club.
photo by Larry Cultrera

The diner currently operating as the Breakfast Club in the Allston section of Boston has recently been modified with a decent size handicapped accessible dining room addition. I was first informed about this by Mike Engle who had been by the diner with Glenn Wells and David Hebb after the Author Event for my “Classic Diners of Massachusetts” book in Somerville, Mass. back in November. So, in early December, Denise and I went over to the Breakfast Club for breakfast (of course). I snapped a couple of photos of which the next is one….


Dec. 12, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

As you can see the construction of the new addition was still in process. I was certainly curious about what they intended to do with the exterior covering. Naturally I was hoping for the best but as these things go, it could have been covered in a very uncomplimentary exterior material.

Early this past Saturday afternoon, I received an email from Bob Higgins informing me that he had been by the Breakfast Club and was completely impressed by what they had done. Needless to say, I took a ride over in the late afternoon to see for myself! Bob was right! I could not believe my eyes! Whomever did the work did an exemplary job recreating the “Worcester style” exterior on the new addition.

Here are my photos….


March 17, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 17, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 17, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

Seeing that this type of construction can still be done and really look decent makes me feel good inside to know that some owners realize what they have and don’t try to mess with it or modernize in a uncomplimentary way. Instead they decided to go the extra mile and do it right! Kudos to owner George Athanasopoulas on a job well done!

The nest generation of Diner Aficionado, revisited !!!!

I intended on writing this post a couple of weeks ago, but with the above mentioned closing of the Fish Tale Diner and the Bel-Aire Diner being demo’d, it just had to be put on the back-burner temporarily.

Back in 2005, in the Spring edition of the Society for Commercial Archeology’s Journal Magazine, I wrote about a few news items in that installment of the original hard-copy version of Diner Hotline. Among these was the announcement of the new exhibit at the Culinary Arts Museum (at Johnson & Wales University) called “Serving the World with Worcester Dining Cars”  accompanying the permanent exhibit “Diners: Still Cookin’ in the 21st Century”. The second piece of news was the release of Randy Garbin’s “Diners of New England” book, published by our friends at Stackpole Books.

There was also an installment of “Notes from the Hotline”  (not unlike this post) where I mentioned about the relocation of the old Cairo Diner (of Cairo, NY) which was hoped to be restored at that point in time, (it never happened as far as I know). Another piece in that “Notes” was about 2 national TV broadcasts featuring diners, Al Roker’s “Diner Destinations” (on the Food Network) and “Back to the Blueprint” featuring Steve Harwin’s Diversified Diners (on the History Channel).

I also had a small piece about my new friend Spencer Stewart describing him as the next generation of Commercial Archeologist. Spencer’s dad Michael, a member of the SCA had influenced his then 14-year-old son and fostered his interest in diners and other roadside places. Spencer had been reading his dad’s copies of the SCA Journal and essentially looked forward to reading “Diner Hotline”! He decided to contact me and introduce himself. I was certainly intrigued by this teenager’s fascination with diners and decided to write about him in the next Hotline. I eventually met Spencer and his dad Michael in September of 2010.


Larry Cultrera and Spencer Stewart at the Portside Diner in Danvers, Mass.
Photo by Michael Stewart

Even though I found Spencer’s love of diners refreshing (reminding me of myself at his age), this was not exactly new to me. You see, back in 1992, I was contacted by a lady from Fort Collins, Colorado by the name of Cindy Siefken, (now Cindy Banfield). She told me about her 7-year-old son Philip and how he developed a keen interest in “Diners”. Cindy related to me how he had been previously struggling in his personal life, in school as well as at home. One day she had come across a television special that featured various diners that she and Philip watched. He became very excited as the Siefken’s reside in a “diner poor” region and Philip had never actually seen a diner before! Cindy said that this new interest had started to bring Phil out of his shell and he wanted to learn all he could about this piece of Americana!

In our conversation she told me how she found my name. She had come across a copy of the November, 1986 edition of Smithsonian Magazine with the major article that I was included in. So she looked me up and found my phone number. I told her that Phil’s interest really intrigued me and that if she did not mind, I could send a little “care package” of diner ephemera and other extra odds and ends to start his collection. She was extremely grateful, especially when I told her I could make a special video tape with various television specials and shows that I had been interviewed for about diners.

Also during that initial conversation, she stated: “well, we don’t have any real diners in Colorado”. I then asked her… how close are you to Lakewood? She answered “not too far”. So I informed her that in fact there was a real honest to God diner called Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner at 9495 West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood. She was beyond ecstatic! As soon as she found out she made plans to take a little excursion with her husband Dave, daughter Emily and of course Phil! The little care package including the video tape I sent, became part of Phil’s Christmas present that year and the family took its first trip to Davies’ Chuck Wagon on Christmas vacation. These next few photos document their first visit to a “real” diner………


Dave, Phil and Emily Siefken outside Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner
December, 1992 photo by Cindy Banfield (formerly Cindy Siefken)


Dave, Emily and Phil Siefken outside Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner
December, 1992 photo by Cindy Banfield


Dave Siefken outside Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner. One of the best “diner” signs anywhere! December, 1992 photo by Cindy Banfield


Inside Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner December, 1992 photo by
Cindy Banfield


Phil and Emily (Dave is almost in the frame) sitting in a booth
December, 1992 photo by Cindy Banfield


Emily and Phil sitting at the counter. December, 1992 photo by
Cindy Banfield

These next photos show the next visit to Davies’ Chuck Wagon on the occasion of Phil’s 8th birthday on March 5, 1993


Phil with his friend Nick celebrating his birthday at Davies’ Chuck Wagon
March, 1993 photo by Cindy Banfield


Phil’s birthday cake, March, 1993 photo by Cindy Banfield

Here is another photo from May of 1993 (I do not know the occasion) showing Phil with a temporary tattoo…..


May, 1993 photo by Cindy Banfield

Well, I had basically fallen out of touch with Phil and his mom over the last number of years. I did have a more recent contact with Cindy a few years ago and found out she had gotten divorced and then remarried, so at least I knew that tidbit of information. But last year I was thinking of them again and got the bright idea to look them up on Facebook. Lo and behold I found both of them! We renewed our friendship and are now in touch more on a regular basis. He is currently employed as the Maintenance Manager of the Armstrong Hotel in Fort Collins!

I recently asked Phil about the photos his mother sent me back then. I figured they were from 2 different trips. I also asked him about his memories and feelings on his first visit to Davies’ Chuck Wagon back when he was 7-years old. He wrote back with this…..

Yes they were two different occasions. My parents took my sister and me there once before my birthday; in either January or February I assume (turns out it was December). I recall that when we went there for my Birthday, my friend Nick came with us. I remember I was so excited on the first trip there (about 60 miles from home) I was actually anxious because we were not sure if it would even still be there, having never been there before and only knowing by the post card you sent me that it had been there in the past.

I remember that my sister was not a willing participant, she was a picky eater at age 6 and it didn’t help that we drove by Casa Bonita a mile or two east of the Diner to get there. (Casa Bonita is a kid-oriented Mexican restaurant with cliff divers and an indoor waterfall & such). I was delighted when we got there and saw it for the first time. Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner was the first Diner I had ever seen. As you know we have almost none out west here and it seemed so exotic to me.

I loved the manufactured look and the gleaming stainless steel. As soon as we walked in, it didn’t feel as exotic, it felt incredibly familiar, humble, and intimate due to the small size (compared to other restaurants). My father was a truck driver and I had been to several truck stops before, so seeing features like the counter and stools. The career waitresses were another thing that made it seem humble. This was not the kind of place my parents would go after Church while pretending to be yuppies with a perfect family and I liked that. Davies’ invited you to be truly authentic and beautiful much like the diner itself. I honestly don’t recall how the food was or what the prices were like, but very little has changed since my first visit. It’s safe to assume that it’s always had good food at reasonable prices. Back in about 93 fake diners started popping up in this area and I remember despising them even as an 8 year old for being cheap knock-offs.

That conversation with Phil came earlier this month. I saw that it was Phil’s birthday (his 27th), boy does time fly! I of course wished him a Happy Birthday and he responded back to say he had made a special trip to Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner for lunch that day! He then posted  3 photos he had shot with his phone on his Facebook page. That is what got me thinking about this post. I mentioned I would like to use those shots and he said I was welcome to use them. So here are Phil’s shots from March 5th of this year…..


exterior photo of Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner by Phil Siefken


interior photo of Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner by Phil Siefken


exterior photo of Davies’ Chuck Wagon Diner by Phil Siefken


My friend Phil Siefken at 27 years of age!

I know if Phil ever travels out this way, he will get a tour of all the great diners here in the Greater Boston area from yours truly!

SRO in Somerville, next up… North Dartmouth!

The Author Event at the Somerville Public Library was a success! It became a standing room only crowd! There were more than quite a few books sold.


Some of my family showed up in Somerville, left to right, my brother Don and his wife  Jane, my brother Steve, me and my brother Rick.
photo by Denise Cultrera

This was billed as the first “Meet, Mingle and Read” event at the Library and Library Director Maria Carpenter was very gracious and pleasant to work with. My new slide presentation was well received and there were quite a few members of the audience that participated in the question and answer part after the presentation. The library had some catered “diner-like” food for people to partake of (it was from the local “Sound Bites” restaurant, none of the 3 diners in Somerville could accomodate the request for food).

Some members of my family showed up for this including my brothers Steve, Rick and Don and Don’s wife Jane, as well as Denise’s cousin Maryann Bancroft and her husband Rick. Another old friend, Vinny Bordonaro stopped by as well as a former co-worker of mine Ed Lecaroz and his friend Beth. Old friend and owner of the Rosebud Diner, Bill Nichols was there along with David Hebb, one of my long-time diner roadtrip buddies as well as newer friends Glenn Wells and Mike Engle. Glenn and Mike get the long distance award for driving all the way from the Albany, NY area to attend! Many thanks to my wife Denise for all her help including the photos she shot. I think she is getting pretty good with the Nikon Cool Pix camera.


left to right, David Hebb, Mike Engle, Glenn Wells and myself.
photo by Denise Cultrera

This coming Saturday at 11:00 am, it is on to Baker Books in North Dartmouth, Mass. as well as a radio interview with New Bedford’s Shawmut Diner owner and local radio personality Phil Paleologos at 10:15 am on Tuesday, November 22 (WBSM-AM). Here is a link to the event page at Baker Books….
http://www.bakerbooks.net/events.asp

April Vacation, 2011 – Part 1

This is the first time in about 3 years that I was able to take a week’s vacation in the early spring. I generally like to take a week in April and another week at the beginning of August when I can. So last Saturday I took a roadtrip out to Albany, NY by way of Route 2. This road has been a favorite of mine since I was young. You see my Dad used to love to take the family on “short rides”. Some were longer than others, but one in particular stands out. He got the family (with the exception of my older brother) into the car one day and said we were going on a short ride and we ended up in the Berkshire Hills on the Mohawk Trail (Rte. 2). To those unfamiliar with this area, we lived near Boston in eastern Massachusetts and the Mohawk Trail is in the extreme northwest corner of the state! Now that’s my kind of a short ride!

So continuing with this years April vacation, I was heading out to Albany to attend a Rock n’ Roll Expo. This Expo was basically your everyday vinyl record and rock n’ roll memorabilia collectors show. There were also performers at the show including Starz, a 1980’s band and also a John Lennon tribute band called “Imagining Lennon”. But the draw for me was that Tommy James (of Tommy James and the Shondells fame) was going to be there signing copies of his autobiography “Me, the Mob and the Music”, as well as a “meet and greet” with fans.

Denise decided not to accompany me on this trip, so I was on my own. Even though I missed her company, this was probably just as well as I needed to revisit some diners in the central and western areas of Massachusetts (on my way out and also coming back) for info and new photos for my “Classic Diners of Massachusetts” book and she would not have enjoyed all the stops at the diners. This trip out to Albany would provide a good opportunity to get some of that out of the way! So on the way out I stopped at the Blue Moon Diner in Gardner for breakfast. Owner, Jamie Floyd knew I was coming because I gave her a heads-up a day or so before on Facebook.

I got some great info and photos as well as a delicious breakfast while visiting Jamie. This is a diner I highly recommend if you are in the area!


Jamie Floyd, owner of the Blue Moon Diner in Gardner, Mass.
April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Interior of the Blue Moon Diner, April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Exterior of the Blue Moon Diner, April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

After leaving the Blue Moon, I continued heading west and got to Adams, Mass. about 9:00 am. I was expected at the Miss Adams Diner by owner Philomene Belair. We had been in contact for quite some time in the recent weeks. She had already sent me all the info I pretty much needed for the book and I wanted some new photos. Philomene and her husband Ric reopened the diner a little over a year ago on February 15, 2010. I am happy to report that it looks like this beleaguered diner is in good hands, and that hopefully down the line that they will have the money to bring the interior back to a semblance of what it used to be.


Interior of the Miss Adams Diner. Hopefully the Belairs will be able to restore the ceiling, getting rid of those LP vinyl records that were glued to the original formica panels by a previous owner!
April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


The crew at the Miss Adams Diner, Left-Right  Ric & Philomene Belair, Richard “Pip” Belair (Ric’s Dad) and Kelly Cross. 
April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Miss Adams Diner, April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

I spent a little over an hour visiting with Philomene and then continued on to Albany. I was driving into Troy, NY and called Glenn Wells to let him know I was in the area. When I told him where I was, he said you are about to go right past the “Famous Lunch”! Sure enough, he was right. I said I would call him after I visited Bill Brown over at the Miss Albany Diner and got off the phone. I went around the block and found a parking lot right next to the Famous Lunch and went in to try out a couple of their neat little hot dogs with “Zippy Sauce”, I had heard so much about.


Famous Lunch, 111 Congress St., Troy, NY
April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


The small hot dogs at Famous Lunch, photo from Famous Lunch website

Those 2 hot dogs I had were really scrumptious! If you are ever in Troy, you have to check this place out! The interior walls and ceiling are covered in green porcelain enameled steel panels! Their website is…. http://www.famouslunch.net/Welcome.html

I left Troy and drove a few miles down river to the Miss Albany Diner and visited briefly with Bill Brown. The place was hopping for an early Saturday afternoon!


Miss Albany Diner, April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

I met up with Glenn Wells at the Halfmoon Diner which is about a mile from where he lives. It is a very nice 1989 vintage DeRaffele-built diner that is currently undergoing a slight remodelling (by DeRaffele). The owner, Peter was very welcoming to me when Glenn introduced us. He had very warm feelings of dealing with Phil DeRaffele over the years and could not say enough good things about him and his company!


Halfmoon Diner, Clifton Park, NY. April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Halfmoon Diner, Clifton Park, NY. April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

We dropped my car off at Glenns house where I met his lovely wife Susan finally. We talked briefly and then Glenn and I left to shanghai Mike Engle from whatever he might have been doing! The first place Glenn took me was the Snow Man Ice Cream stand at 531 5th Avenue in Troy. I had seen photos of this place and wanted to get some for myself…..


Snow Man Ice Cream, Troy, NY. April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Snow Man Ice Cream, Troy, NY. April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Snow Man Ice Cream, Troy, NY. April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

After shooting the Snow Man photos, Glenn drove over to the Country View Diner in Brunswick, NY. This is a 1980’s Swingle Diner that was updated more recently by DeRaffele.


Country View Diner of Brunswick, NY
April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Country View Diner of Brunswick, NY
April 16, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

We also went by Dewey’s Diner and Inga’s Diner which happen to live right next door to each other on Fuller Road in Albany. Dewey’s is a 1940 vintage Kullman Diner that has seen better days (certainly on the outside) and Inga’s is an on-site built diner.


Dewey’s Diner, Albany, NY. April 16, photo by Larry Cultrera


Dewey’s Diner, Albany, NY. April 16, photo by Larry Cultrera


Inga’s Diner, Albany, NY. April 16, photo by Larry Cultrera


Inga’s Diner, Albany, NY. April 16, photo by Larry Cultrera

We visited 3 more diners last Saturday and I will continue this in the next post, stay tuned…..

Diner Hotline marking 30 Years of documenting Diners!

I always consider the weekend of Thanksgiving, specifically the Saturday after the Holiday, the anniversary of when I tentatively shot my first 35mm photo of a Diner. The actual date is November 29th (this coming Monday) but who’s counting? Me of course! It seems almost unbelievable that 30 years has gone by since that gray Saturday in Harrisburg, PA. I was with my brother Rick and old friend Scott Drown and we were visiting Steve Repucci whom we had helped moved to H’Burg the previous Labor Day Weekend.

The three of us had driven down from Massachusetts the day before and as I recall, our route down took us out I-90 to I-86 (a few years later I-86 was to be absorbed by I-84 in MA & CT), then I-84 all the way out to Scranton, PA, where we headed south on I-81.

I also recall the highway was shrouded in the thickest fog I have ever driven through, between Scranton and Harrisburg! I am glad it was the middle of the day, still it was one of the scariest rides I have ever been on!

Anyway, I do not recall what we did that Friday after we got down to Harrisburg but I know the next morning we drove down the street from where Steve and his room-mate Ed Womer were residing to the Bypass Diner on Herr Street (Rte. 22 bypass) in Harrisburg for breakfast. After the meal we went outside and I took out the old 35mm Mamiya camera and shot a photo from the left front of the diner.


Bypass Diner, Harrisburg, PA – Nov. 29, 1980 photo by Larry Cultrera
The diner has been operating for many years as the American Dream Diner

That is my 1979 blue Chevy Van in the parking lot. I drove that 271,000 miles between April of 1979 and December of 1988 and needless to say, a huge portion of that mileage (and time) was spent hunting Diners!

Since that day I have shot probably into the thousands of photos of diners throughout the northeast states as far down as Virginia and Tennessee, (skipped the Carolinas) and been able to document at least one in Georgia (Marietta Diner, Marietta) and then down to Florida to shoot a few more. I’ve also documented diners as far west as Ohio, Michigan and Illinois. According to my database diner log I have documented 815 diners with negative, slide and digital photography.

I have met some interesting people in the last 30 years including Richard & Kellie Gutman, John Baeder, David Hebb, Brian Butko, Randy Garbin, Glenn Wells, Mike Engle and Beth Lennon. I also want to acknowledge Diner owners who have become close friends…. Bob Fennell of the Capitol Diner,  Lynn, Mass. and Bill Nichols of the Rosebud Diner, Somerville, Mass. and Phil Paleologos of the Shawmut Diner, New Bedford, Mass.

I cannot forget to include the late Warren Jones, former owner of the Apple Tree Diner of Deham, Mass. as well as the late Owen Abdalian, former owner of the Main Street Diner of Woburn, Mass. who each passed away way too early and hold a special place in my memories.

Most of all I also want to acknowledge my wonderful wife Denise, who puts up with me, the collection of memorabilia and the obsession! Hopefully, I will continue this quest and be able to document more diners, although the long road trips have dwindled to a very few as years have gone by, and I will continue my efforts of passing along info to you my faithful readers with this blog, Diner Hotline!

Disclaimer: to be clear, this is not the 30th anniversary of the creation of Diner Hotline, just the 30th anniversary of shooting my first Diner photograph, the beginning of my efforts to document the American Diner, which of course spawned the creation of Diner Hotline in 1988 – LAC