Notes from the Hotline, 9-14-2013

A Brand-new book on New Hampshire Diners in the works

Littleton Diner – Littleton, NH, July 30, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

I have been fairly inactive for over a month, as far as posting anything new here. No excuses, just a little end of the summer laziness on my part. But not to worry….. I have been getting out on the road recently, mostly starting at the end of July right thru to Labor day Weekend, with a few trips to the Granite State (New Hampshire for those non-local readers).  The reason for this is that I was contacted by Katie Orlando, a Commissioning Editor for my publisher, The History Press. She inquired if I was interested in writing another book for them, this time on Diners of New Hampshire. I told her that I would need to think about it as well as talk it over with my wife Denise.

Plain Jane’s Diner – Rumney, NH, July 30, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

After some consideration, I got back to Katie and told her I thought that this book was a possibility and she sent the “Authors Proposal” for me to fill out. I took my time filling it out as I needed to think about how this book would work, as opposed to my first one, Classic Diners of Massachusetts. I realized fairly quickly that the new book could not be set-up like the first. You see, Massachusetts has clearly defined regions with many diners. This approach would not be workable with New Hampshire’s geography and diner count.

Route 104 Diner – New Hampton, NH, August 3, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

After coming to this conclusion, I started putting the proposal together which included a rough outline for the book. It was easier this time around because I did not have to include any writing samples. I just told them to refer to the first book!  I finally sent this proposal to Katie, within the last couple of weeks.  As of this Wednesday The History Press gave the project a green light.

Tilt’n Diner – Tilton, NH, August 3, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

In the meantime, in anticipation of the project I started taking some updated photos of New Hampshire diners. Some of my photos of them go back 30 years. I figured that I would get a jump while the good weather was here and try to hit some of the far-flung diners and meet the current owners, gathering new photos and info. My deadline is fairly long this time around (on purpose), that is part of the reason I took my time in getting the proposal in. So any photos I do not get in the next couple of months, I can surely make up for in the spring and early summer of 2014. So, here we go again!

Mt. Pisgah Diner – Winchester, NH, August 31, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

By the way, on a side note, the new book will not be titled “Classic Diners of New Hampshire” as I had hoped. I did want to continue the theme but Katie informed me that a guy named Bruce D. Heald, an historian and author of many books about New Hampshire is slated to bring a book with that title out in the spring (for Fonthill Media). I respect Mr. Heald’s credentials and would be interested to see what he comes up with but, he is not a known diner aficionado and to my knowledge, has not contacted anybody who could be described as an expert in this field of interest as of yet.

Hillsborough Diner – Hillsborough, NH, August 31, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

I have not decided on a title yet but will be working on this in the near future.

The History Press to release 2 new “Diner” books this Fall

Speaking of “Diner” books, I am happy to report that my publisher is about to release 2 new titles this fall…. the second and third after my Massachusetts book. Toward the end of September, Michael Gabriele’s The History of Diners in New Jersey will be available. I believe I will be mentioned in this book as well as some photos of mine might actually show up in the book. I am anxious to see what he has put together.


Following the NJ book, sometime in October, Garrison Leykam’s “Classic Diners of Connecticut” book will be out. I was surprised to see my name (along with Christopher Dobbs) on the cover. We both contributed Forewords to this book.


Iron Town Diner opens within walking distance of my house

I have been waiting all summer for the opening of a new diner located right around the corner from where I live. Toward the end of May, a sign went up on a vacant storefront in the Village Park Shopping Center that is situated on Main Street at the corner of the Lynn Fells Parkway in Saugus, Mass. This storefront had been occupied for years by J.Pace’s, an Italian Deli/specialty store. Pace’s moved down the street about a quarter mile to a new building that they built, leaving the storefront vacant for almost 2 years. The landlord has subdivided the location and Iron Town diner is in not quite half of Pace’s spot.

Iron Town Diner sign – Saugus, Mass., May 19, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

The owner of the Iron Town Diner is George Varelas and I actually stopped by back in August and spoke with Athena, George’s mother. She was gracious and gave me a little tour of the as yet unfinished diner. I was impressed with what they had done to essentially a blank canvas. The interior was well laid out with a small “L” shaped counter on the left side along with tables and chairs as well as booths. She mentioned the diner would hold upwards of 90 patrons, a pretty decent size! Athena said they were looking at an early September opening.

I met George last Sunday morning and he told me they were opening the next day (Sept. 9th). I told him we would stop by on bright and early on Saturday ! True to my word, Denise and I stopped in this morning and before we actually step a foot within the diner, I saw a familiar face….. Saadia Zraizaa was a waitress there! We became friendly with Saadia last year when she and her husband had been running the Medford Square Diner in my hometown of Medford. We had found out that Saadia had worked for 10 years at the Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown. I had heard thru the grapevine that she had sold the business in Medford a few months ago and was not surprised to see her here, as she lives in nearby Revere. She is very pleasant and during our conversation this morning, I realized that I had actually met her years ago when she worked for Judy’s Diner in Malden for 7 years in the late 1980’s and early 90’s.

Iron Town Diner –  Saugus, Mass., September 14, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

Anyway we had a very good breakfast at Iron Town Diner (named for the Historic Saugus Iron Works, a National Historic Site). The portions are pretty good sized and prices reasonable and the service is pleasant. I understand they have been doing a pretty decent business since they opened their doors! I know one thing, I could easily become a regular customer here for sure!

Notes from the Hotline, 2-9-2010

Worcester Lunch Car #850 now known as Route 104 Diner

Last year the diner located on Route 104 in New Hampton, NH was auctioned after being closed for a short time. The last diner completed by the legendary Worcester Lunch Car Company (WLC #850), had been operating as Bobby’s Girl Diner since it was placed at this site in 1994, was bought at the auction by Alex Ray and is now trading as the Route 104 Diner. 

Reopened October 8, 2009  after some cleaning and updating, the Route 104 Diner is actually being run as a venture between Plain Jane’s Diner of Rumney, NH and Alex Ray’s Common Man family of restaurants based in the Granite State. Besides Plain Jane’s Diner, The Route 104 Diner joins 2 others within this group, The Tilt’n Diner of Tilton, NH and The Airport Diner of Manchester, NH.

I have photos of this diner dating back to the early 1980’s covering almost its entire history. When this diner left the Worcester Lunch car factory in May of 1957, it was delivered to 2760 Hartford Avenue (U.S. Rte. 6) in Johnston, RI and the owner was Lloyd Hopkins (of No. Scituate, RI). It operated as Lloyd’s Diner until it closed in 1988.

Lloyd’s Diner of Johnston, RI circa 1980’s photo by Larry Cultrera

Lloyd’s Diner ready to leave Johnston, RI, circa 1988 photo
by Larry Cultrera

It then was moved to South Weymouth, Mass. to become part of Sh-Boom’s Dance Club. After a brief time, Sh-Booms closed and it morphed into a different night club and the diner was sort of disguised.

WLC #850 as the front of Sh-Booms Dance Club, Aug. 1989 photo
by Larry Cultrera

This did not last long either and the diner was again moved, this time into storage at O.B Hill’s yard in Natick, Mass. where it awaited possible sale to the Fat Boy’s Diner chain in England. 

WLC #850 in storage at O.B. Hill’s yard, June, 1991 photo
by Larry Cultrera

The deal with Fat Boy’s Diners did not pan out and the diner was actually sold to Alexis Stewart, daughter of Martha Stewart. Ms. Stewart had the diner transported to Bridgehampton, NY on Long Island where she hoped to get approval to set it up as The Delish Diner. Her plans ran into a roadblock when the town fathers basically dragged their feet and eventually nixed the concept. It did not fit into their town apparently. The diner ended up sitting in a field for 2 years.

WLC #850 sitting in Bridgehampton, NY, June 1992 photo
by Larry Cultrera

In 1994 Bob and Gloria Merrill decided to get back into the diner business. Circa 1990, the Merrill’s had successfully moved, set-up and operated the former Bell’s Pond Diner, (long closed in upstate New York) as Glory Jean’s Diner in Rumney, NH (now Plain Jane’s Diner). They sold that diner after a couple of years to operate a different business but within a year or so decided they missed running the diner and started looking for another one.

They finally settled on WLC #850 and purchased it from Alexis Stewart. The diner was moved ironically within walking distance of my wife Denise’s sister and brother-in-law’s home in New Hampton, NH where I photographed it right after it got on site……..

WLC #850, soon to be Bobby’s Girl Diner, circa 1994 photo
by Larry Cultrera

Not long after the diner got on it’s new foundation I stopped in to talk with the Merrills whom I had met a few years before. The attached buildings were being built and they were there with a contractor. They pointed out that the diner was missing 2 stools over on the left end of the counter. I told them when I saw it on Long Island 2 years before, it still had them. Someone had broken into the diner and ripped them right out of the floor!

They asked me if I knew where they could get 2 stools like that. They said that someone had told them that the stools in the diner were not original factory installed stools, and I would almost agree. They were not the typical stools that Worcester used. Ironically I told them that the person who told them that these were not factory installed was basically wrong. They wanted me to explain how I knew and I told them I had 2 just like them that had been removed from WLC #849, the former Georgetown Diner (now operating as Fat Boy’s Diner in London, England). They were being stored at my mother’s home in Medford, Mass. and I immediately told them I was willing to sell them for short money as I had no plans for them. Needless to say they were ecstatic! They were able to complete the diner and open it.

Bobby’s Girl Diner, photo by Larry Cultrera

The Merrills again operated this diner for quite a few years before selling it to new owners who ran it until recently. The diner was closed for a short time before the auction last year.

After learning of the new ownership, I had been planning on checking it out to see what changed. Denise and I went up to her sister’s home in Laconia for a couple of days (this past weekend) and we finally got over to The Route 104 Diner for breakfast on Saturday. The first thing I noticed was that the awnings were removed and they did something else that surprised me, they extended the parapet above the windows! Normally this is something I hate to see but this modification was done very sympathetically.

The Route 104 Diner, photo Feb. 6, 2010 by Larry Cultrera

The Route 104 Diner, photo Feb. 6, 2010 by Larry Cultrera

The Route 104 Diner, photo Feb. 6, 2010 by Larry Cultrera

We had a decent breakfast with wonderful service from our waitress, Althea! I went back to the diner mid-morning to shoot these photos and met the General Manager, Mark D. Grotheer. The diner was packed at that point (as the amount of cars in the parking lot can attest). You can check the Route 104 Diner out on the web as well as the other diners and restaurants in The Common Man chain at the website,
I highly recommend this place!

The Airport Diner, another part of the Common Man family

To continue on this theme, I also got a chance to stop by The Airport Diner in Manchester, NH. This as I stated above, is also part of The Common Man chain. Opened since 2005, it is not a factory-built diner like The Route 104 Diner or The Tilt’n Diner. This is built on-site as part of the Holiday Inn on Brown Avenue just off exit 2 of I-293 near the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. Unfortunately they were completely packed at noontime on Sunday when we stopped there on the way home. There was a line of customers waiting to get in. So I will have to check it out some other time but at least I got some decent photos!

The Airport Diner, Manchester, NH, Feb. 7, 2010 photo
by Larry Cultrera

The Airport Diner, Manchester, NH, Feb. 7, 2010 photo
by Larry Cultrera

Paugus Diner of Laconia, NH now operating as
The Union Diner

We also got to check out the Union Diner on Union Avenue in Laconia. It had changed hands last year after being operated as the Paugus Diner since arriving from it’s first location in Concord, NH many years ago. This is Worcester Lunch Car # 831 and was originally named the Manus Diner. I had heard from Bob Higgins recently about his recent visit to this diner and as I recall, he was not impressed. I have to say that I did not have any problems with the food or the service but of course, we usually get to these places first thing in the morning and as was the case here, we were the first customers of the day.

The diner still seems to be in great shape and is 95% original. I stopped by a couple of hours later to shoot some photos and the place was mobbed!

Union Diner, Union Ave., Laconia, NH, Feb.7, 2010 photo
by Larry Cultrera