Notes from the Hotline, 8-28-2010

Diner Hotline meets Diner Hunter

Larry Cultrera and Spencer Stewart inside the Portside Diner
photo courtesy of Michael & Spencer Stewart

I have known Spencer Stewart for a half-dozen years. He contacted me back in 2004 to let me know how he was an avid Diner Buff (at the young age of 14) and that he was a regular reader of the old print version of Diner Hotline (SCA Journal).  I found this intriguing and actually wrote about him back then in another “Notes from the Hotline” (Spring 2005, SCA Journal).  I referred to Spencer as “the next generation of commercial archeologist” in that piece. 

We almost met a few years ago when he was on his way up north with his dad Michael for a family vacation I recall, but did not connect on that trip due to bad logistics. As a side note, about a year after I started the Diner Hotline Weblog, Spencer created his Diner Hunter blog……. ( We finally got the chance to meet this week when again Michael & Spencer were on their way north, this time to Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia for the beginning of Spencer’s sophomore year at that school (with a stop in Maine along the way).

Their timing was perfect driving up from Baltimore, as they were coming into my hometown of Saugus, Mass. at exactly the same time I was driving home from work! I brought them into the house to meet Denise and to show them some of the collection on display and then we went out for a bite to the Portside Diner in Danvers. It was great to finally meet these guys!

Michael & Spencer Stewart inside the Portside Diner
photo by Larry Cultrera

Larry & Spencer standing in the drizzle outside the Portside Diner
photo courtesy of Michael & Spencer Stewart

Larry sitting in a booth, waiting for his meal at the Portside Diner
photo courtesy of Michael & Spencer Stewart

Something’s starting to happen at the Bel-Aire Diner

Bel-Aire Diner, U.S. Rte. 1 in Peabody, Mass.
photo by Larry Cultrera

I posted not long ago about the reported eventual redevelopment of the Bel Aire Diner located on U.S. Route 1 in Peabody, Mass. As I drive by the site twice a day to and from work, I have been keeping a close eye on it. Well things started to happen this week as I noticed the utility wires that connected to the diner were removed and the parking lot behind and to the right of the diner had been excavated. The gas station next door was also being dismantled.

rear view showing back of Bel-Aire Diner kitchen (w/door open)
also the partially dismantled gas station in back ground

Looking along the right side of the diner w/parking lot torn up

partially dismantled gas station, the office (to the right) will still be
used – at least temporarily.

looking back toward the diner thru the dismantled wall of the gas station

Even though I wrote in a previous post that the diner was going to be included in the newer, larger building to be built on this site, I have had conflicting reports that it may or may not actually be used and it is either going to be moved out or worse case scenario, destroyed. I looked inside the open back door to theon-site-built  kitchen and saw that it has been completely stripped of any and all equipment. The diner itself has a lot of things being stored inside from what I can tell. Also, there are architectural drawings and renderings on a wall in the gas station office that give conflicting info. The renderings show the diner as part of the new building and the newer drawings show something completely different. One thing is for sure, Red’s Sandwich Shop of Salem will be operating a restaurant in whatever building is used for food service on the site (whether it is the reused diner or something completely new).

Worcester Lunch Car’s, No’s. 811 thru 819

Over the years I have photographed 812 diners. As I write this I see that number is ironic. It is ironic mainly because I wanted to show a series of Worcester Lunch Car built diners, No’s. 811 thru 819. All the diners in this group (except for one) represent the only example of diners known by any manufacturer to still exist enmasse as consecutive numbered output. These diners were delivered to their respective operating locations between June 1948 and March 1949. The exception to this is No. 817 which was only 20 years old in 1968 when it was sent to a scrap yard. All the others still exist and are currently operating as food establishments.

Shamrock Diner, WLC No. 811

Worcester Lunch Car No. 811, now operating as Beachmont Roast Beef
at its only operating location, 629 Winthrop Ave. Revere, Mass.

The Shamrock Diner was delivered on June 15th, 1948 and is the first Worcester with the new flat overhangs over the end walls. These overhangs acted as a sort of canopy providing some cover for the side entrances. This diner is probably the most disguised of this group, having been made more into a roast beef sandwich and fried food place around 30 years ago. The counter stools have been removed although the counter is still there. It now has a raised section to utilize it as more of a serving counter. The ceiling has been dropped and the original booths are gone. Below is how it looked not long after it became the current establishment.

Beachmont Roast Beef when you could still see the “diner”.

Miss Worcester Diner, WLC No. 812

Worcester Lunch Car No. 812, the Miss Worcester Diner at its only
operating location, 300 Southbridge St. Worcester, Mass.

The Miss Worcester is fairly original inside and out. The interior has generic booths (not original) and the outside porcelain panels have been repainted but other than that it is much the same as it was when it was moved across the street from the factory on June 14th, 1948.

Cape Ann Grill, WLC No. 813

Worcester Lunch Car No. 813, now operating as the Portside Diner,
2 River St., Danvers, Mass.

The Cape Ann Grill was delivered to 214 Main St. in Gloucester, Mass. on June 8th, 1948. It replaced the slightly smaller WLC No. 800 which had been delivered the year before (March 28th, 1947). Apparently business was so good with the first diner that owners Henry Schluter and Augustus Mulrenin decided to upgrade immediately to a larger diner. According to reports they did not do as well with this larger one. Eventually it was bought by Roland Michel who operated it from 1952 to 1959. He sold the diner in 1959 and it was moved to its current location where it has continued to operate under a few different owners.

Blue Belle Diner, WLC No. 814

Worcester Lunch Car No. 814, the Blue Belle Diner at Dinky’s Restaurant,
70 Clinton St., Shrewsbury

The Blue Belle Diner has spent all of its operating life in Worcester. It was delivered to its first location on 86 Chandler St., July of 1948. It reportedly moved to 47 Prescott St. in 1972 and operated there until 1998. It then made a series of moves to storage locations in Shrewsbury, Milford, Worcester and Princeton. Each time it landed, it was hoped to be put back into service but things never seemed to work out until May of 2009. That is when Bruce Trotto bought the diner and moved it to his “Dinky’s Restaurant” on Rte. 70, just over the Worcester town line in Shrewsbury. Look for a summer, 2010 opening for this diner.

Miss Toy Town Diner, WLC No. 815

Worcester Lunch Car No. 815 currently operating as the Blue Moon Diner
102 Main St., Gardner, Mass.

The Miss Toy Town Diner according to the Worcester Lunch Car drawings book, was delivered to Winchendon, Mass. at the corner of Spring & Lake Sts. on April 4, 1949. This is either a mistake or it was held back at the factory for almost a year. No’s. 814 and 816 were delivered in 1948. Something of a mystery! Anyway it was moved from Winchendon to Gardner (various sources say this happened in 1954 but a new friend of mine who has the Gardner Nostalgia Facebook page informed me it was moved in 1964 and this sounds credible as he himself witnessed it) to replace the Blue Moon Coffee Shop & Grill, an earlier Worcester Lunch Car. In the late 1980’s owner Skip Scipione contracted with Richard Gutman to have 3 new porcelain steel panels made with the name “Blue Moon” emblazened on them. Denise & I actually had breakfast there this morning and had a pleasant visit with owner Jamie Floyd who is carrying on the diner tradition in this old mill town. Check out their website at….

Akins Diner, WLC No. 816

Worcester Lunch Car No. 816 currently operating as Charlie’s Diner at
32 W Main St, Spencer, Mass.

Akins Diner (or Aikens) was delivered to its location on the Cranberry Highway in Wareham, Mass. on August 26th, 1948. It remained in Wareham until either the late 1950’s or the early 1960’s when it was moved to Worcester to become the 2nd Charlie’s Diner. It operated at 244 Plantation St. until forced to move in April of 2003. It has since reopened at a new location in Spencer, Mass. It will soon have a bar & grill attached to the right side of the entryway/kitchen.

Star Lite Diner, WLC No. 817

Worcester Lunch car No. 817, the Star Lite Diner just after delivery to
383 Mystic Avenue in Medford, Mass.

The Star Lite Diner was delivered to 383 Mystic Ave. in Medford, Mass. on November 9th, 1948. I used to patronize this place with my Dad and brothers in the mid-1960’s. They closed for their usual 2 week vacation in the summer of 1968 and never reopened. It was reportedly moved to a scrap yard in Chelsea shortly after the closing and to my knowledge did not survive. The Portside in Danvers is the closest diner (style-wise and set-up-wise) to the Star Lite.

Miss Portland Diner, WLC No. 818

Worcester Lunch Car No. 818, the Miss Portland Diner

The Miss Portland Diner was the first model to receive the modified overhang, basically continuing the roofline which curves down on the ends. It was delivered to its first location on Forest Ave., February 17th, 1949. It was later moved in 1964 to 49 Marginal Way where it operated until March of 2004 when the land it was on was sold for development. The diner was donated to the City of Portland whose mission was to find someone to buy the diner and relocate it down the street to city owned property . In 2007 Portland native Tom Manning stepped in and set the diner up on its new location and opened it October 31, 2008 at 140 Marginal Way. Check out their website at….

Wilson’s Diner, WLC No. 819

Worcester Lunch car No. 819, Wilson’s Diner

Wilson’s Diner has always operated at this location, 507 Main St. (U.S. Rte. 20) in Waltham, Mass. It is probably 97% original on the inside and 100% original on the outside. It was delivered on March 24th, 1949.

And now that I think about it,  WLC No. 820, the Stadium Diner is gone but WLC No’s. 821 thru 828 are all still around as well,  (Miss Adams, 821), (Carmen’s Diner, 822), (Miss Newport, 823), (Ann’s, 824), (the Bluebonnet Diner, 825), (Jigger’s, 826), (Peterboro, 827) and (the Miss Beverly Diner, 828). Carmen’s is completely gutted and operating as The Computer Exchange store on U.S. Rte. 1 in Attleboro, Mass. the Miss Newport is now the Miss Mendon in Mendon, Mass. and Ann’s is now Pat’s Diner and the Miss Beverly is heavily altered as a Subway now.