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.

fillin-station-4
Exterior view of the Whately Diner Fillin’ Station
April 18, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

fillin-station-2
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!

fillin-station-6
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.

carroll-pc1
Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car – 1962 post card exterior view

carroll-pc2
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!

carrolls-8-83
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…

olympian-diner-1a
The Olympian Diner, South Braintree, Mass.
May, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

olympian-diner-2a
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.

fasanos-diner-matchbook
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.

victoria
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.

victorias-diner-1_6-26-11
Victoria’s Diner, Boston, Massachusetts
June 26, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

victorias-diner-4_6-26-11
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.

pizza-pub-1
Known as K’s Diner, D.B.A. Pizza Pub back in the early 1980s.
September 5, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

pizza-pub-2
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.

new-market-steak-house-13
New Market Steak House, Boston, Massachusetts
June, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

new-market-steak-house-14
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…

bickfords-restaurant-2
Bickford’s Restaurant, Brockton, Massachusetts
March 1, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

bickfords-restaurant-4
Bickford’s Restaurant, Brockton, Massachusetts
February, 1991 photo by Larry Cultrera

bickfords-restaurant-15
Bickford’s Restaurant, Brockton, Massachusetts
June,1998 photo by Larry Cultrera

bickfords-grille-3
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…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Roadside related books in my library…

I have recently added 3 new (to me) books to my ever increasing personal “Roadside related” library that I highly recommend to anyone who has an interest, whether in passing or as an avid aficionado!

The first title I want to recommend is…

Remembering Roadside America

I came across this one by happenstance two or three months ago. I happened to “Google” my name and clicked on “books” and a reference came up to this new book with the subtitle “Preserving the Recent Past as Landscape and Place”  published by the University of Tennessee Press (Knoxville, TN) and written by coauthors John A. Jakle, Emeritus Professor of Geography at the University of Illinois, Urbana- Champaign and Keith A. Sculle, the former head of research and education at the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. They have coauthored other roadside related titles already in my personal library such as; Fast Food: Roadside Restaurants in the Automobile AgeThe Motel in America and The Gas Station in America. Being familiar with these past titles and the scholarly approach the authors used, I was spurred on to purchase this book and see for myself how I ended up being mentioned within the context of this book, (I was definitely curious, to say the least)!

Remembering-Roadside-America-cover
Cover of John A. Jakle and Keith Sculle’s book, Remembering
Roadside America

The blurb on the back cover on the book is a good synopsis describing the content…

The use of cars and trucks over the past century has remade American geography-pushing big cities ever outward toward suburbanization, spurring the growth of some small towns while hastening the decline of others, and spawning a new kind of commercial landscape marked by gas stations, drive-in restaurants, motels, tourist attractions, and other retail entities that express our national love affair with the open road. By its very nature, this landscape is ever changing, indeed ephemeral. What is new quickly becomes old and is soon forgotten.

 In this book, a summation in many ways of the authors’ decades of combined research, John JakIe and Keith Sculle ponder how “Roadside America” might be remembered, especially since so little physical evidence of its earliest years survives. In lively prose supplemented by copious illustrations, they survey the ways in which automobility has transformed life in the United States. Asking how we might best commemorate this part of our past-which has been so vital economically and politically, so significant to Americans’ cultural aspirations, yet so often ignored by scholars who dismiss it as kitsch-they propose the development of an outdoor museum that would treat seriously the themes of our roadside history.

 Museums have been created for frontier pioneering, the rise of commercial agriculture, and the coming of water- and steam-powered industrialization and transportation, especially the railroad. Is now not the time, the authors ask, for a museum forcefully exploring the automobile’s emergence and the changes it has brought to place and landscape?

OK, so this is in keeping with their particular style of writing and gives you a good idea about what the book is like. Upon receiving my copy of the book I found the mention pertaining to me in the “Preserving Roads and Roadsides” chapter! It turns out that I was not mentioned here by name but I was referred to in the text on Page 122…  “one aficionado who wrote and illustrated a column on diners for the Society for Commercial Archeology’s publications for 19 years recalled how he first became interested in diners when he was six years old and how he had continued this interest throughout his life” (Index note 70). That was a mind blower for sure, so I turned to the Index notes on Page 258 for that chapter and here is where I was mentioned by name along with “Diner Hotline” (the original print version that preceded this blog)…
70. Larry Cultrera, “Diner Hotline”, SCA Journal 25 (Fall 2007): 36; and Larry Cultrera, “Diner Hotline”, SCA Journal 21 (Fall 2003): 24-25.

I spoke with Keith Sculle after reading the book and conveyed my gratitude for he and John Jakle mentioning myself and Diner Hotline in their book! I told him that I felt extremely honored by the gesture! He expressed his personal disappointment in my discontinuing the Diner Hotline column in the SCA Journal back in 2007 and often wondered as to why I did that. I told him that I thought I felt that I had brought the column to a point where I was not enjoying the writing and the deadlines any longer and needed a change. I also said that this event gave birth to this Weblog shortly thereafter and it became the Diner Hotline it was finally meant to be (in my mind).

Coauthors Jakle & Sculle also went on to mention my friend Brian Butko and his efforts with the Lincoln Highway in the same way on Page 125 (same chapter)… “The Lincoln Motor Court, astride the Lincoln Highway at Tulls Hill, PA, enables one to peer over a long time into the time travelers’ transcendent quest. Built in 1944, the Lincoln Motor Court was off the beaten path by the 1970s. Jakle & Sculle mention that the current owners Bob & Debbie Altizer had purchased the motel in 1983. By 1993, nostalgic yearnings and boosterism amid the nationwide culture of leisure gave birth to a new Lincoln Highway Association. This is where the authors refer to Brian Butko – “A historian and photographer engrossed in his work on a travel guide of the (Lincoln) highway in Pennsylvania and an eager proponent for combining heritage tourism and road and roadside preservation counseled the owners of the Lincoln Motor Court on the possibility of reviving their business by appealing to travelers seeking to re-enact a trip on the Lincoln Highway. Advertising its historical qualities made the retro business profitable, and other entrepreneurs near the Altizers also successfully adopted the strategy” (Index note 76). Turning to the Index notes on Page 258 … 76. Ibid., 8-9; Brian A. Butko, “Historic Highway Preservation: Not a Dead End Street!” CRM16 (1993): 36; and Brian A. Butko, Pennsylvania Travelers’ Guide: The Lincoln Highway (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1996), 188-90.

I will say that Jakle and Sculle’s books are not your typical “coffee table” variety of roadside history tomes and are fairly heavy reading owing to both of the author’s educational/historic preservation backgrounds. But they certainly have a wealth of information within their books and that those readers willing to read thru them will be rewarded with a new perspective in how they look at preserving or at the very least documenting the American Roadside which in the long run will benefit future generations!

The second book I acquired was a book with a much more local focus…

New England Notebook: One Reporter, Six States, Uncommon Stories

This book was published in 2013 by Globe Pequot Press and written by Ted Reinstein. For those who might not be familiar with Mr. Reinstein, he is best known around New England as a longtime correspondent for “Chronicle,” the equally longtime and celebrated nightly newsmagazine which airs on Boston’s ABC affiliate, WCVB-TV. I have been watching Chronicle from its inception in the early 1980s and have always enjoyed the show. In fact, I was actually on a Chronicle show back in the July 25, 1991 along with Richard Gutman and Randy Garbin among others in a show called “Devoted to Diners.  More recently I was featured in a segment of New Hampshire Chronicle (WMUR-TV’s version of the show) highlighting my latest book “New Hampshire Diners: Classic Granite State Eateries”. Anyway, to get back to Ted Reinstein, he signed on to Chronicle as a correspondent in the late 90s and he quickly became one of my favorite people to watch as his segments seem to be among the most enjoyable to me. I was certainly aware that his book had been published and had actually thumbed thru it once or twice at the local Barnes & Noble but did not purchase it until he came to do a slide lecture/author event at the Saugus Public Library March 30, 2015!

New-England-Notebook-cover
Cover of Ted Reinstein’s book New England Notebook

I met Ted at his author event and immediately found him to be as entertaining in person as he comes across on television! He engages his audience thru the TV show or in the book as well as at one of his author appearances, and when he talks about a person, place or thing, you know he has done his homework. Not only because it is his job, but because he has a genuine interest and therefor keeps his audience interested in the subject at hand! I was informed about his upcoming event at the Saugus Public Library by a friend Bob Teal back in mid-March. Ironically, Ironically Ted’s Saugus event followed another author event/lecture he did for the Parker Lecture Series up in Lowell, Massachusetts on March 19th as well – exactly one month before I did one ending the season for that series!

New England Notebook features some of Ted’s favorite stories that he has covered over the years… the people and places that stood out in his and respectively, the viewers minds! Just from watching him on the show I knew he was a kindred spirit and has a love of diners. He has a better than average grasp of New England diner history which gives his reporting on the subject a huge amount of credibility! In the final chapter of this book (Chapter 10 – The Foods) there is a section called “Diners: A New England Specialty” and features the late lamented Rosebud Diner of Somerville with a great night-time photo by my friend Elizabeth Thomsen (OK, I know the Rosebud building is still there but the classic interior is completely gone and the menu offered is not even close to a diner).  Other diners included are Becky’s Diner of Portland, ME, the Boulevard Diner and Miss Worcester Diner of Worcester, Mass., the Deluxe Town Diner of Watertown, Mass., and Agawam Diner of Rowley, Mass., as well as the Main Street Station Diner of Plymouth, NH and the Red Arrow Diner of Manchester, NH. I hope to someday join Ted for a decent Diner “Breakfast” in the near future, maybe even at Tim’s Diner in Leominster, I know Ted has not been there yet! This book is filled with other entertaining stories flavored with Ted Reinstein’s wit & wisdom and well worth the read!

So if you are ever in the Boston area, check out Chronicle on WCVB-TV (Channel 5), it is on Monday thru Friday at 7:30pm. Even if Ted is not on, it is an award winning show that always seems to offer something for the discerning viewer!

The third book I purchased and read was recommended to me by Debra Jane Seltzer…

Road Trip: Roadside America From Custard’s Last Stand
to the Wigwam Restaurant

Published by Universal Publishing – this book is written & illustrated by Richard Longstreth, an architectural historian and professor at George Washington University. Longstreth directs the graduate program in historic preservation at the university and is the author of numerous books and articles including “The American Department Store Transformed 1920-1960″ and Looking Beyond the Icons: Midcentury Architecture, Landscape and Urbanism”. In fact Mr. Longstreth is quoted quite a bit by John Jakle & Kieth Sculle in pretty much all their books on the American Roadside, so I was certainly familiar with his name over the years but this is the first book of his that I have actually bought! This book is chock-full of color photos that he shot from the late 1960s into the 1980s in his travels!

Roadtrip-America_Lonngstreth-cover
Cover of Richard Longstreth’s book, Road Trip, from Custard’s
Last Stand to the Wigwam Restaurant

A lot of these places in Longstreth’s photos are either long gone or partially to extremely altered at the time of this books publishing. But we are certainly the lucky recipients of his foresightedness in his documenting these roadside treasures that are somewhat reminiscent of John Margolies best work. The difference is that Margolies has been known to remove litter and debris from his subject matter prior to shooting the photos and Longstreth, like most of us, does not! The one thing he does like Margolies is wait for the right “light” to take the shots of his subject (in most cases, but not all), something I always wished I had the luxury of doing back in the 1980s!

The places he photographed are from pretty much all over the country! From motels, to gas stations, to diners – Mr. Longstreth covers it all! There are period supermarkets, Drive-In Movie Theaters and other roadside attractions. The one drawback to the book is the choice of small type/font that was used for the text as well as captions (kind of small in my opinion) but in fact, the photos are what truly shine in this book and I can certainly overlook that little drawback! This is the kind of book that makes me wish that I should have started taking my own roadside photos much earlier than 1980! I sort of wish that there was such a thing as time travel, I would take my camera and go back in time to take the photos I never had a chance to!

Well, be that as it may, Mr. Longstreth did take all these shots and we can certainly appreciate and admire them!

Fred Casey, owner of Natick, Massachusetts diner passes away

Casey's-Diner-3
Casey’s Diner, Natick, Massachusetts September 5, 2009 photo by Larry Cultrera

I got a message yesterday (Saturday the 7th of February) from Facebook friend Timothy Wood with a link to an obituary for Fred Casey, the long-time owner of Casey’s Diner in Natick, Massachusetts. Fred was only 63 years of age (a year older than me). I had not heard if he had been sick, in fact I have not seen Fred for quite a while as every time I have been to the diner in recent years, his son Patrick was running things. Fred was the third generation of the Casey family operating the current 1922 vintage Worcester Lunch Car. His grandfather (also Fred Casey) opened it in 1927, buying it as a used diner from from where it had operated in nearby Framingham. Fred’s late father Joe had been running the diner since 1952 and Fred took over the reigns in the 1980s. Here is the article from Wicked Local online about Fred’s passing…

Natick: Customers remember Casey’s Diner owner

By Brian Benson/Daily News Staff
Posted Feb. 6, 2015 at 3:42 PM

NATICK – Amid the hustle and bustle of lunchtime at Casey’s Diner, customers remembered Friday owner Fred Casey for his friendly demeanor and the family-style atmosphere he maintained in the historic eatery. “It’s a sad day,” said Rick MacDonald of Framingham as he munched on a burger.  “You don’t talk about Natick and not mention Casey’s Diner.” Casey, 63, of Natick, died Thursday at Oak Knoll Healthcare Center of Framingham. He started working at Casey’s Diner when he was 10 years old and carried on a family tradition that dates to the 1890s. Vin Kerrigan, 66, of Natick, said he has been coming to the diner since he was in high school. “You always feel welcome,” he said of the atmosphere Casey fostered.

Elaine Griffin, who lives in Medway and estimated she has been coming to Casey’s Diner for four decades said Casey “was a great jovial man.” While the diner was bustling Friday, it will be closed Monday when Casey’s funeral is scheduled to take place. A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Patrick Church, 44 E. Central St., Natick. Visiting hours will be from from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday at John Everett & Sons Funeral Home, 4 Park St. – See more at: http://natick.wickedlocal.com/article/20150206/NEWS/150207503#sthash.50MNtt3t.AabuA2a6.dpuf

I recall my first visit to Casey’s Diner back in early 1981. I had just had breakfast at the Apple Tree Diner in Dedham and met the owner Warren Jones for the first time. I told him I was going over to photograph Casey’s (I knew they were not open for the day). I got over there and parked the Chevy Van outside just past the diner and got out, leaving the engine running to take a few photos. While I was shooting the diner Fred’s dad Joe came out and invited me in. I must have spent a good 20 minutes talking with him about diners while my van was still running outside!
In fact I remember that Joe showed me his copy of John Baeder’s book “Diners”. Up until that point I had “American Diner” by Dick Gutman and “Diners of the Northeast” by Donald Kaplan and Alan Bellink in my personal library but I had not yet acquired a copy of John Baeder’s book. Needless to say the very next day I bought one at the old Wordsworth Bookstore in Harvard Square after seeing Joe Casey’s copy!
Below is a photo by Richard Howard that appeared in an article written by the talented late Donald Dale Jackson entitled “The American diner is in decline, yet more chic than ever! This was in the November, 1986 issue of Smithsonian Magazine and it gave national exposure to myself and Dick Gutman among other people including another native of my home town of Medford, John Carroll, Jr. If you can locate a copy of the mag, it still is a pretty good read! The photo shows Dick Gutman standing with Fred Casey in front of Casey’s Diner!

Dick-G-&-Fred-Casey_Richard-Howard-photo
Richard Howard photo from November 1986 Smithsonian Magazine

Casey’s Diner will be still be operated by Patrick Casey (and I believe his son) who will continue the tradition of serving the town of Natick and vicinity from this old-time diner that has been in their family for well over 80 years. Rest in Peace Fred!

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”.

Joe-Sr.-&-Nancy-Morizon(1)
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!

The Famous Apple Tree Diner, a most unforgettable experience

Since my book “Classic Diners of Massachusetts” published by The History Press came out almost a year ago, it has done well enough to actually make it to a third printing. The publisher found me because of this blog and it has gone almost full circle to the point that I was recently asked to be a guest blogger on their History Press Blog. They had made a suggestion or two about which direction I should write this but I decided to go in a slightly different direction. I chose to tell the story of possibly one of the most memorable experiences I have had in my 32 plus years of diner hunting. The link to that blog post is here…… http://www.historypressblog.net/2012/08/28/classic-diners-of-massachusetts-author-recalls-world-famous-apple-tree-diner/

The History Press blog people added an introduction to this version and it was edited slightly. Also, one photo was dropped….  so I decided to post the blog the way I wrote it here in its entirety, blemishes and all………

The World Famous Apple Tree Diner

Last year I authored a book for The History Press entitled Classic Diners of Massachusetts which has become another chapter in my almost 32 year personal research project of documenting American diners with my photographs. Looking back there have been many interesting stories and moments to reflect on. All the people I have met and all the miles I have driven, not to mention the countless friendships that developed on the “diner trail”. I guess that is one of the reasons why I write my blog, Diner Hotline. It is a way to show off my hundreds if not thousands of photographs and tell a few stories and anecdotes as well.

The blog was started on October 31, 2007, but evolved from a long running column I penned for the Society for Commercial Archeology’s Journal magazine. I wrote that column (also called Diner Hotline) for 18 years before retiring it. A good friend, Brian Butko knew I wanted to move on and do something a little different and convinced me to start the blog. Well since that time, I truly feel that Diner Hotline is now the way I think it always should have been and I truly enjoy writing it as well as getting almost instantaneous feedback from a lot of my regular readers!

My interest in diners goes back to my childhood in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Later, I recall having some great times hanging out with my friends at Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car in the years following my graduation from high school in 1971. Situated in the downtown area of Medford, Mass. (my hometown), Carroll’s central location and 24 hour service was a huge draw, especially in the early morning hours after the clubs and bars closed. Between 1978 and 1980, I had been noticing a few newspaper articles and stories about a fairly new trend at that time of diners being moved from long-time business locations. One such example – the Englewood Diner in Dorchester (a section of Boston) was forced to move due to the property under the diner being sold. Another example, the owners of the Kitchenette Diner of nearby Cambridge retired and the diner was closed and subsequently moved, are two of the stories that I recall. There was also a feature story about diners written by Richard J.S. Gutman, then the co-author of the newly published American Diner book (Harper & Rowe). Gutman’s co-author of this book was Elliot Kaufman (and it was written in collaboration with David Slovic). This was the first comprehensive history ever published on the history of diners.  There was another news story featuring Alan Bellink and Donald Kaplan talking about their book Diners of the Northeast (The Berkshire Traveller Press), a guide to diners in New York, New Jersey and New England.

Along with these news articles there also was my own sense of recognizing that a lot of the diners I recalled seeing as a youngster in and around the greater Boston area seemed to be swiftly disappearing from the urban and suburban landscape. Around this time I had started a weekly ritual of taking short Sunday morning road trips with my buddy Steve Repucci, which usually started off at a local diner. This expanded into picking a different diner every week to determine which direction to take the morning excursion. I was just getting into 35mm photography and in the back of my mind I thought I might start photographing the diners I visited on these little trips. But I confess I was a little hesitant and self conscious about standing in front of a packed diner and shooting one or two photos. I finally broke the barrier after Steve Repucci moved to Harrisburg, PA. He moved there in Labor Day Weekend of 1980 and a little over two months later on November 29th, I shot one photo of the Bypass Diner (in Harrisburg). Since that date I have photographed over 820 diners.

After Steve moved to Harrisburg, I did not have my regular road trip companion on Sunday mornings anymore, at least for a year and a half. But I did continue to go to diners by myself or with my brother Rick, among other people. One of the diners high on my list to visit was the Apple Tree Diner of Dedham, Massachusetts. As a little background, the diner was built in 1929 by the Worcester Lunch Car Company as car number 641 for William F. Schroeder who operated it as Bill’s Diner. It continued to operate as Bill’s Diner after Schroeder sold it to William Cogan who ran it for 43 years according to Richard Gutman. It has not been determined when the diner acquired the “Apple Tree” name but we know it had it by the early 1970’s or so.


Top of Apple Tree Diner Guest Check)

Proclaimed as “The Famous Apple Tree Diner” by 1980, this was printed on their guest checks as well as the T-shirts they were selling at that time. This description was certainly one of the draws for me, how could I not check this place out? I had read about this diner in one or two of the news articles as well as my newly bought copy of Diners of the Northeast. It was early November as I recall, just prior to photographing the above mentioned Bypass Diner in Harrisburg, PA. I had made plans to drive down to Dedham from my home in Medford. I knew that the diner was located at 702 WashingtonSt. which was designated State Route 1A and that it was the continuation of the same Washington St. that started in downtown Boston.

So I basically decided to start my journey in Boston and drove all the way through the neighborhoods of the South End, Roxbury, Jamaica Plain and Roslindale on Washington St. before leaving the City of Boston. I was now in Dedham and knew the diner was south of the downtown area. Anticipation was very high and when I got to the point where Court Street comes into Washington St. from the right, I looked up ahead to the left and saw this bright red monitor-roofed Worcester diner sitting in the middle of a dirt parking lot surrounded by all forms of car and truck!

I was truly excited! Even after patronizing quite a few diners up to this point, this place was a completely unaltered piece of roadside Americana! I could tell already and I had not even stepped foot inside yet! I hurriedly parked my Chevy Van and literally ran from the parking lot and slid open the sliding door. The place was packed! There was one stool open right by the door…. I immediately sat down and soaked in the atmosphere of the bustling lunch car! I recall thinking…. this is the way a diner should be! Unbeknownst to me and probably a lot of other people, the diner would only be serving customers for another eight months or so.

The diner was being operated at that time by Warren Jones and his friend Joanne Dummeling as well as a very capable staff. In fact during that first visit, with all the rushing back and forth by the staff, it almost seemed like there were as many people working behind the counter as there were customers on the other side (there was probably only four people behind the counter). I subsequently ordered a cup of coffee and more than likely pancakes and bacon (my go-to breakfast at that time) and even with the diner being fully packed with customers, I can recall the food came to me fairly quick. The overall feeling of that first visit to the Apple Tree Diner was to me one of the purest diner experiences I can ever remember. In fact it might be safe to say that of the hundreds of diners I have visited since 1979, I have never experienced the same strong feeling that I did walking into the Apple Tree Diner on that Saturday in early November of 1980.

I finally shot my first two photos of the Apple Tree Diner on my second visit in January of 1981. That date and the date of my first visit unfortunately are somewhat lost to obscurity. You see I started my Diner Log book on July 28, 1981. After that date, whenever I documented a diner with photographs from then on, it got listed in the log. This meant first visits only, not subsequent later visits unless a particular diner was moved and reopened. Now I actually photographed over one hundred diners between Nov. 29, 1980 and July 28, 1981 and none of those hundred plus diners are logged properly with a specific date.


My first photo of the Apple Tree Diner, January, 1981)


My second photo of the Apple Tree Diner, January, 1981)

Back to the Apple Tree Diner….. It was during this second visit that I made the acquaintance of Warren Jones. Warren was two or three years older than I and we hit it off right from the start. He was very personable and friendly. I told him of my interest in diners and we conversed briefly as he was actually going into the house behind the diner for some supplies he needed, so he had to get back to work. I managed to get back to the diner again soon after that second visit for lunch, possibly the only non-breakfast visit I ever had there. Warren and I spoke a little more about my diner obsession and he mentioned knowing Dick Gutman. I informed Warren that I had come down that afternoon with the hopes of obtaining some contact info for Mr. Gutman and I asked him if he had a phone number so I could get in touch, Warren gladly wrote it out on a guest check for me. Soon thereafter I did phone Dick Gutman and introduced myself as a “Diner Freak” and as I recall he stated “join the club”! So it was on February 28, 1981 during my fourth visit to the Apple Tree Diner that I met Dick & Kellie Gutman for the first time.

I cannot recall how many times I got to the Apple Tree after that visit with Dick Gutman but I do know I was there on July 4th of that year. I had been raving to Steve Repucci about how he needed to check the place out the next time he was back to visit family and friends. So Steve had driven up from Pennsylvania for the long weekend and we went to the diner which was jammed as usual. It was all decked out in red, white & blue bunting with an American Flag hanging over the front door. Seeing the diner being so busy that weekend made it extremely hard to envision that by the end of that month the diner was closed and getting ready to be moved off the site!


My final photo of the Apple Tree Diner in operation, July 4, 1981)

You see, like a lot of older diners, the Apple Tree was operating on leased property and that the owner of the property sold the lot for development. The reason the diner got moved was that Warren Jones owned the building. He had put together a plan to sell shares in an attempt to help fund the relocation to another operating site. He found a pad site in a shopping center on Route 140 in Foxboro, Mass. and by the end of July, it was moved to Foxboro.


Apple Tree Diner, prepared to move – July, 1981


Apple Tree Diner leaving old site, July, 1981, That is Warren Jones
(back to the camera) in the red T-shirt.


Apple Tree Diner on the approach to I-95 from U.S.Rte. 1, July, 1981


Apple Tree Diner arriving in Foxboro, July, 1981

After the move to Foxboro, Warren then began the process of stripping years of paint from the body of the diner and removing all the roof shingles. He sand blasted the metal panels and primed and repainted it as well as installing a brand new roof covering. This was all in preparation for setting the diner on a new foundation. The next is a series of photos showing the stripping and repainting of the diner while still in Foxboro, photos circa 1981

Another part of his plan was possibly obtaining another old diner to include at the new site for expanded seating. Both diners would be placed at 90 degrees sitting in an “L” shape surrounding a new building with kitchen and restrooms. Unfortunately, the project lingered for a few months and never got close to being completed. Warren had to relinquish his claim to the pad site at the shopping center and soon had the diner moved to a storage site in nearby Mansfield.


Apple Tree Diner in Mansfield storage location, photo circa Dec., 1982

Warren was then looking at the possibility of obtaining a new site in Mansfield that was going to be located on a corner of the then new iteration of a re-routed Route 140. That plan also never came to fruition and eventually the Apple Tree Diner was moved to Paul J. Dias’ yard in Hanson, Mass. in 1985. Dias was an auctioneer who was contacted by Warren Jones’ parents (Richard and Ona) who now had control of the diner.


Apple Tree Diner at Paul Dias’s yard in Hanson, sometime between
1985 & 1988


Interior view of Apple Tree Diner at Paul Dias’s yard in Hanson, sometime
between 1985 & 1988

The Jones’ (with help from Dias), eventually sold the diner to Lawrence Shevick of Boston, in May of 1988 to be precise. Mr. Shevick did not keep the diner long as he resold it to Dave Waller also of Boston by November of that same year. Dave Waller had just started on his now long-time hobby of rescuing old neon signs at that point and the reason that he decided to buy the diner when Shevick told him about it was because of his grandfather, Jack Hines. Hines used to own and operate a similar Worcester Lunch Car known as the Flying Yankee Dining Car in Lynn, Mass. So after purchasing the diner, Waller had the structure relocated to some family property up in New Hampshire where he proceeded to have the diner repainted closer to the color scheme of his grandfather’s diner.

By 1992, Dave Waller and his new bride Lynn had purchased a building that would ultimately be their home as well as a home to the Apple Tree Dining Car (the new name given to the place by Waller). It was a unique idea because the building they bought was a former fire station that had been decommissioned. It was sitting unused and deteriorating after being damaged by a fire. The city still owned the property and was debating as to what they would do with the structure. Along came the Wallers with a proposal for the ultimate reuse of the damaged building. This turned out to be a win-win situation as the city got a reasonable purchase price for a property that they (the city) could now collect property tax on.

After the purchase, the Waller’s started to rehabilitate the building. The first thing they did was to rebuild the fire damaged roof and started to clean up the interior. It still was no where close to being ready for habitation, but was basically ready to move in their largest possession, the diner! So on November 10, 1992, Bryant Hill of O.B. Hill Trucking Co. and his capable crew installed the diner into its new home. To get the diner into the building, the “Apparatus” doorway on the left-front elevation of the structure had to be altered temporarily. This was accomplished by removing quite a lot of the brickwork on the left side of the entry enough to allow the diner to be inched in on low-profile rollers. What a sight it was to see! It took at least two or three hours to get the diner inside the building. When this was accomplished, the Waller’s then had to have the brickwork restored. From the outside, one would never know what was just inside the doorway. To this day that is where the Apple Tree Diner lives, ironically within two miles from where I was living in 1980 when I first drove down to Dedham to experience this diner for the first time.


Apple Tree Diner in Malden awaiting the installation into its new home,
November 10, 1992


Apple Tree Diner in Malden being installed into its new home, November 10, 1992


Apple Tree Diner in Malden being installed into its new home, November 10, 1992)

I remained good friends with Warren Jones from 1981 to the late 1980’s when. he and his family moved to North Carolina. I actually never saw him again after that point, but we did remain in touch until his untimely passing away within the last 6 years from cancer. I am glad I got to eat in the diner at least a few times in its final months in actual operation and I am also happy that it remains in good hands. At the very least we know that the diner is well protected, being inside a building and that it will remain so for some time to come.


Apple Tree Diner in Malden during a get together by SCA members in August, 1995


Apple Tree Diner in Malden during a get together by SCA members in August, 1995

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.

carroll-pc1

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, 12-26-2011

 

Southwest Diner chain, 5 & Diner sets plans in motion with expansion program. Has new connections to Massachusetts

5 & Diner, a 1950’s retro-diner chain started in Phoenix, Arizona back in 1989 has announced new expansion plans that have a local connection to Massachusetts. According to the info below that was reported in an article on Restaurantnews.com, the chain currently has 12 outlets in five states, including one here in the Bay State. Back in 2007 I was watching the locally produced “Phantom Gourmet”  TV show and they did a piece on the newly opened (August, 2006) 5 & Diner located at 525 Lincoln Street in Worcester, Mass. Up until that time I had no knowledge that one of these had been opened up this way!

So on February 24, 2007 I took a ride out to Worcester with my brother Rick and pal Steve Repucci to check this place out. One thing I found curious is that the restaurant did not open until 7:00 am, which is late for this area. Especially in Worcester as there are so many classic diners that in fact do open earlier.


5 & Diner @ 525 Lincoln Street, Worcester. Feb. 24, 2007 exterior photo
by Larry Cultrera


5 & Diner @ 525 Lincoln Street, Worcester. Feb. 24, 2007 exterior photo
by Larry Cultrera


5 & Diner @ 525 Lincoln Street, Worcester. Feb. 24, 2007 interior photo
by Larry Cultrera

These diners are built on site although I understand it comes in prefabricated pieces like a kit (this is unsubstantiated). The news piece below mentions the new ownership of  5 & Diner as Bob and Laurie Watson of LPM Holding Company located in Maynard, Mass. They were the ones who opened the Worcester location. Anyway the company is starting a new franchise program and have contracted with two national firms to help with the undertaking. Below is the piece from restaurantnews.com with all the details…..

’50s-style restaurant franchise forms Strategic Partnerships to help with Re-Launch of franchise program

Maynard, MA  (RestaurantNews.com)  As part of its aggressive franchise growth plan to bring back the roadside diner experience across the country, 5 & Diner has announced strategic relationships with retail commercial real estate service provider Cassidy Turley and retail construction specialists Northboro Builders, to help potential franchisees with site selection and store build outs.

What started in 1989 as a one-store concept in Phoenix quickly became known throughout the region as the most authentic, unique, and cool ‘50s diner experience in the country. The franchise, which has developed over the years to 12 locations in five states, is entering a new stage of growth as it looks to propel the brand name throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions by attracting new franchisees with a fresh prototype, revamped menu and new leadership.

5 & Diner’s relationship with Cassidy Turley, a leading commercial real estate services provider, will ensure proper execution of site search and real estate processes.

“We’re looking forward to partnering with 5 & Diner and supporting their identification and selection of properties across the nation,” said Rick Bagy, Vice President of Cassidy Turley. “We’ve built a scalable growth model that enables our restaurant and retail clients to open more than 4,000 locations annually and we’re excited to help 5 & Diner reach their growth goals with the right locations.”

In addition, the partnership with Northboro Builders will assist franchisees with turn-key packages that include architecture, construction, project management and permitting, for opening new restaurants.

“I have been working closely with 5 & Diner as they plan their national expansion of the brand. I applaud the team they have assembled and their dedication to enhancing the concept and having the best product possible for their new franchisees,” said Ken Nahigian, Vice President of Business Development & Operations with Northboro Builders. “Northboro Builders is unique in our complete turn-key approach to national franchise build-outs and we look forward to contributing to 5 & Diner’s inevitable success.”

To help attract new franchisees, 5 & Diner has launched a new prototype designed to lower development costs and introduce a non-freestanding development option. The authenticity and unique nature of the business means that franchise competition is nearly nonexistent – as an authentic ‘50s diner concept, 5 & Diner isn’t just another burger joint or family dining chain. And with locations currently in five states there is plenty of room to grow. Typical development costs range from $450,000-$750,000 and the average unit sales volume is more than $1.1 million.

Heralded and loved for its classic ‘50s décor complete with chrome, bright lights, juke boxes and open seating, 5 & Diner is cashing in on the $33 billion family dining segment. To inquire about franchise opportunities, visit www.5anddinerfranchise.com.

About 5 & Diner

Founded in Phoenix, Arizona in 1989, 5 & Diner has become known for its no-holds-barred ‘50s flashback theme, top-quality food at an affordable price, and award-winning burgers and shakes. Currently with 12 locations across five states, 5 & Diner prides itself on providing the customer with the most authentic ‘50s diner experience in America. In 2008, 5 & Diner was purchased by Bob and Laurie Watson of LPM Holding Company, Inc. with a vision to spread the company across the nation and share the joy that it brings them everyday. For franchise opportunities, visit www.5anddinerfranchise.com, and for general information visit www.5anddiner.com.

About Northboro Builders

Northboro Builders, Inc. is a retail construction specialist established in 1998 that provides self-performing construction and project management for retail store projects nationwide. The company offers complete turn-key packages which include architecture, construction, project management and permitting. From coast to coast, Northboro gives every job the same meticulous attention to detail while setting and meeting tight deadlines. Visit www.northborobuilders.com for more information.

About Cassidy Turley

Cassidy Turley is a leading commercial real estate services provider with more than 3,400 professionals in more than 60 offices nationwide. The company represents a wide range of clients—from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, from local non-profits to major institutions. The firm completed transactions valued at $18 billion in 2010, manages 455 million square feet on behalf of private, institutional and corporate clients and supports more than 25,000 domestic corporate services locations. Cassidy Turley serves owners, investors and occupiers with a full spectrum of integrated commercial real estate services—including capital markets, tenant representation, corporate services, project leasing, property management, project and development services, and research and consulting. In 2010, the firm enhanced its global service delivery outside of North America through its partnership with GVA. Visit www.cassidyturley.com for more information.

I will be keeping tabs on this to see what future developments occur!

L.A.’s Phil’s Diner closes after only being open for 8 months

After spending thousands of dollars and 12 plus years of time, Phil’s Diner in the NoHo section of L.A. was opened to a lot of fanfare close to 8 months ago. Restored and reopened by Malissa and Casey Hallenbeck, they hoped it would help herald the beginning of a new era, not just for this 1920’s vintage diner but for the burgeoning neighborhood.

According to Richard Gutman’s American Diner Then & Now, Phil’s Diner was more than likely built by Charles Amend, a transplanted Easterner who quite possibly had previously worked for P.J. Teirney Sons prior to coming to California. Originally part of J.F. (Phil) Phillips’s chain of diners This diner closed by 1998 and needed to be relocated because of a proposed new North Hollywood Metro Red Line Station.


old snapshot of Phil’s Diner at it’s old location from my collection
I’m not sure whose photo this is or where I even got it from.
(I seem to recall a John Baeder connection)


I received this photo by Joe Freeman, Circa 2001


I received this photo by Joe Freeman, Circa 2001


I received this photo by Joe Freeman, Circa 2001


Phil’s Diner Fresh n’ Fast prior to reopening. Photo from Phil’s Diner
Facebook page

Here is a report dated 12/20/2011 from the Daily News Los Angeles website by Gregory J. Wilcox, Staff Writer….

Phil’s Diner closes in NoHo, seeks new owner

Phil’s Diner, which brought some nostalgic panache to the NoHo’s Arts District in its brief second life, has closed. For now. The $1.1 million undertaking fell victim to bad timing, said Casey and Malissa Hallenbeck, the former owners who closed the retro eatery on Dec. 11, eight months after opening it.

Construction activity at the adjacent Laemmle NoHo 7, an art house film complex that opens today, hurt business as did the weak economy, the Hallenbecks said. “We’re going to try to recover financially as much as possible…and move forward,” said Casey Hallenbeck, who is also a set decorator in the entertainment industry. The longtime North Hollywood residents said they invested $600,000 of their own money in the project and the City of Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency contributed $460,000. The 1920s era diner underwent an extensive restoration and was moved from the west side of Lankershim to the east side.

But this is not the end of Phil’s. NoHo developer JH Snyder Co. is in the process of taking over ownership and will find a new owner for the 26-seat diner with an outdoor patio. And it looks like this might not be a tough task.

“Folks right now are coming to us,” said Kacy Keys, Snyder’s senior vice president and general counsel. “We’ve gotten four or five phone calls so far and the Hallenbecks brought someone in to see us as well.” The Hallenbecks had a 25-year lease on the property in the 5400 block of Lankershim Boulevard with options for 30 more years.

“We wanted them to succeed. We’re sorry to see them go but we’re happy to see other parties interested,” Keys said. The redevelopment agency is comfortable with the situation, too. “It’s unfortunate the operator was unable to make a go of it, but we’re optimistic that Snyder will be able to quickly find another operator that can ensure that Phil’s Diner continues serving the Valley for decades to come,” spokesman David Bloom said in an email.

Malissa Hallenbeck said the diner closing just before the theater next door opens “does seem kind of ironic.” “It also is a telltale sign that it’s not our time to move forward,” she said. “Personally I feel that I’ve grown a lot and I’ve learned a lot. Situations like this really remind you what’s important, like health, family and a marriage.”

Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, who represents North Hollywood, said the diner’s closure is a temporary setback for the district. “I’m sorry our friends at Phil’s Diner were not able to weather the startup. We can’t control every wind and it was a windy time to get started,” he said. And today’s opening of the theater complex is the most important development for NoHo since the Red Line subway, LaBonge noted.

The theater and diner will eventually get a chance to complement each other, said Keys. “We think there is a strong market there and the theater will make it even stronger,” she said. Nancy Bianconi, editor of nohoartsdistrict.com, a community website, is also sad that the Hallenbecks could not find success. “Everybody in the community was waiting for Phil’s to open and I can tell you from personal experience the food was good,” she said. “I’m hoping that Melissa and Casey can go onto the next chapter. I’m glad they stuck with it so that Phil’s Diner has a new life.”

The Hallenbecks acquired the diner in 1998 with plans to restore it. And Casey Hallenbeck considers that part of the project a success. “My love was not running a restaurant. It was the love of the project — to build it and restore it — and put it there for the community,” he said.