Another Diner Road Trip – 27 years ago this weekend

I have been rather delinquent in posting recently. In part due to laziness and also because I have been contemplating this post, I just needed to scan a bunch of slides for it. A few months ago I scanned some slides for Michael Gabriele that he may or may not end up using in his forthcoming book – The History of Diners in New Jersey for my publisher, The History Press. Two of the slide boxes I left out purposely to remind me about this post and get busy scanning.

Well that really did not spur me into action and they sat (and sat). Finally a little over a week ago I got off my rear end and started scanning because Memorial Day Weekend was fast approaching and the post I wanted to write was about a Diner road trip I took on Memorial Day Weekend in 1986!

When I had scanned the slides of Paul’s Diner of Kearny, NJ for Mike G., I looked at the other slides in the box and remembered that trip. I also realized there was one other box of slides (as well as 5 slides in yet a third box) that were associated with that trip. So today I completed the scanning process and decided to get on with this post before the weekend is over!

Memorial Day Weekend in 1986 was May 24th thru 26th (Saturday to Monday). These road trips were usually taken with either Steve Repucci or David Hebb (or both). I believe this was a Dave Hebb trip….. well anyway, we more than likely took off early as I usually liked to do on Saturday, May 24th and made it down to Fairfield, CT and Larry’s Diner, as it was the first one photographed on this trip. That Saturday was pretty overcast, weather-wise as the photos will show.

I had already been to Larry’s 3 years earlier according to my Diner Log, so it was not listed in the log on this trip in 1986. We may even have had breakfast here but more than likely it was at the very least a coffee stop and photo op. This diner was built by the Jerry O’Mahony Co. in the early 1930’s and was still in extremely original condition at this point.

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Larry’s Diner, U.S. Rte. 1 in Fairfield, CT  –  Right Front corner
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Larry’s Diner, U.S. Rte. 1 in Fairfield, CT   –  Left Front corner
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Larry’s Diner, U.S. Rte. 1 in Fairfield, CT  – Left front showing the interesting
addition to the diner – a lunch wagon sized annex with a frosted window!
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Larry’s Diner, was moved around the corner from this location in the 1990’s and completely gutted on the interior to become the front of another restaurant. The outside was also changed.

Our next stop was George’s Diner at 71 Main Street in Norwalk, CT. This was a Mountain View Diner that was also fairly original inside and out with one exception, there was a brick facade under the windows facing Main St. and on the entryway. The rest of the facade was intact. The diner is still there and operating under the name “Family Diner” now.

George's-Diner-1George’s Diner, 71 Main St.  in Norwalk, CT
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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George’s Diner, 71 Main St.  in Norwalk, CT
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Down the road a piece just off U.S. Rte. 1 in Cos Cob, CT was a small 1920’s vintage barrel-roofed diner called Thanh’s Diner. It had formerly been known as Pal Joey’s Diner. This was believed to be an old Tierney diner built down the road in New Rochelle. This diner does not exist anymore.

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Thanh’s Diner, just off U.S. Rte. 1  in Cos Cob, CT
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Thanh’s Diner, just off U.S. Rte. 1  in Cos Cob, CT
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

A diner I had first read about in the book Diners of the Northeast by Donald Kaplan and Allison Bellink was the Chinatown Diner, a late 1940’s vintage diner (could be a Kullman but more than likely DeRaffele) located at 301 Halstead Ave. in Harrison, NY. It had been serving primarily Chinese food as well as an American breakfast menu when Don and Allison had visited it. By the time I finally got there in 1986, it had become an upscale bistro called the Silver Spoon Cafe.

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Silver Spoon Cafe, 301 Halstead Ave.  in Harrison, NY
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Silver Spoon Cafe, 301 Halstead Ave.  in Harrison, NY
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

When I originally wrote this post I thought the Silver Spoon Cafe was the final photo op of the day. But alas, it turns out I missed a couple of images of yet another diner that was previously logged (it did not show up in the May of 1986 section of the log, that is why I forgot to upload these). It seems we got over to the northwest corner of the Garden State and checked out Prout’s Diner in Sussex by late afternoon.

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Prout’s Diner, Main Street.  in Sussex, NJ
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Prout’s Diner, Main Street.  in Sussex, NJ
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

It looked like the weather was finally turning for the better before night came on and sure enough, bright and early on the morning of May 25th (my 33rd birthday), it was a very sunny day which made for a great breakfast and even better photos at Pal’s Diner on Rte. 17 in Mahwah, NJ.

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Pal’s Diner, Rte. 17  in Mahwah, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Pal’s Diner, Rte. 17  in Mahwah, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Pal’s Diner is one of a very few diners I have photographed that was built by Manno Diners. It was moved in the 1990’s to Grand Rapids, Michigan where it continues to operate to this day!

The next diner photographed that morning (according to the order of slides in the box) was in fact another diner I had previously visited, the White Manna on River Street in Hackensack, NJ. This was the first of several “small” diners we documented on this trip. All of these particular small diners were built dating from the late 1930’s to early 1950’s. Most offered limited menus offering hamburgers, etc. Being that it was Sunday morning, it was not open at the point in time that I stopped. I was able to document it pretty well on the exterior but the fact that it was closed offered me a great opportunity to get some great interior “thru-the-window” shots as well.

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White Manna, 358 River St.  in Hackensack, NJ
May 25, 1986 exterior photo by Larry Cultrera

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White Manna, 358 River St.  in Hackensack, NJ
May 25, 1986 exterior photo by Larry Cultrera

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White Manna, 358 River St.  in Hackensack, NJ
May 25, 1986 interior photo by Larry Cultrera

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White Manna, 358 River St.  in Hackensack, NJ
May 25, 1986 interior photo by Larry Cultrera

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White Manna, 358 River St.  in Hackensack, NJ
May 25, 1986 interior photo by Larry Cultrera

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White Manna, 358 River St.  in Hackensack, NJ
May 25, 1986 interior photo by Larry Cultrera

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White Manna, 358 River St.  in Hackensack, NJ
May 25, 1986 interior photo by Larry Cultrera

Next up was another small diner….. the White Diamond on St. Georges Ave. (Rte. 27) in Linden, NJ. This looks to be built by Mountain View diners and I believe it was moved to another location not too far away within the intervening years since I documented it.

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White Diamond, St. Georges Ave.  in Linden, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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White Diamond, St. Georges Ave.  in Linden, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Another small diner and possibly the jewel of the bunch was the Short Stop located at 26 Washington Ave. in Belleville, NJ. One of the cutest diners I have ever photographed, this diner was bought quite a few years ago by Steve Harwin of Cleveland, Ohio’s Diversified Diners. As far as I know, Steve still has this one in storage.

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Short Stop Diner, 26 Washington Ave.  in Belleville, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Short Stop Diner, 26 Washington Ave.  in Belleville, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

We made it over to the Harrison/Kearny area after this and saw Max’s Grill, but probably due to the morning light and Max’s being on the wrong side of the street… I did not shoot any photos of it. Just up the street from Max’s on the opposite side just over the line in Kearny we came across another small diner, the Blue Castle System. This diner has since disappeared. There is a Shell Gas Station on the sight now according to Google street view.

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Blue Castle System Diner, 829 Harrison Ave.  in Kearny, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Blue Castle System Diner, 829 Harrison Ave.  in Kearny, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Just down the street from the Blue Castle was Paul’s Diner, a 1940’s vintage Fodero. I have recently found out the diner is still there and operating as the Cardinal Diner. The only visible change I could determine was that it now sports a mansard roof that covers the original monitor style roof.

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Paul’s Diner, 1002 Harrison Ave.  in Kearny, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Paul’s Diner, 1002 Harrison Ave.  in Kearny, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

We got over to the Orange, NJ area shortly after and located the closed (taken for back taxes) Orange Diner on Lincoln Ave. behind the U.S. Post Office. This was a nice looking Mountain View diner. I do not know what happened to this diner other than the fact that the space is currently occupied by a parking lot.

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Orange Diner, Lincoln Ave.  in Orange, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Orange Diner, Lincoln Ave.  in Orange, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Also in Orange we found the State Diner over on Valley Road. This 1950’s Kullman diner as far as I know is still there, although I do not know if it is currently in operation.

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State Diner, Valley Rd.  in Orange, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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State Diner, Valley Rd.  in Orange, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Next up was the nicely preserved 1930’s vintage Summit Diner located at the corner of Summit Ave. and Union Place in downtown Summit, NJ. This was typical of what the Jerry O’Mahony diner company was building by the late 30’s. The diner is still there and operating.

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Summit Diner, Summit Ave. & Union Pl.  in Summit, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Summit Diner, Summit Ave. & Union Pl.  in Summit, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Here is the last small diner we saw that day… the 2nd of 3 White Diamond Hamburger places (we did not see the 3rd one located in Clark, NJ on this trip). This one was located at the corner of Bayway Ave. and Thomas St. in Elizabeth, NJ. I just checked Google street view and there is a Dunkin Donuts on the same location now.

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White Diamond, Bayway Ave. & Thomas St.  in Elizabeth, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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White Diamond, Bayway Ave. & Thomas St.  in Elizabeth, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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White Diamond, Bayway Ave. & Thomas St.  in Elizabeth, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

After Elizabeth, NJ we were back on the road for home and made one last stop for a photo op back in Norwalk, CT. This was for the former Norwalk Diner at that time operating as Cafe Osman. This looks to be a 1940 vintage DeRaffele diner, the type that resembled what Fodero was building at the same point in time. This diner had been altered by bricking up the facade under the windows. In fact the diner which was situated end-wise to the street had a door that was in the center of the facade facing the driveway/parking area that apparently was not used anymore. This door had been “bricked-up” as well with only the top half of the window showing. I do not know if this is still there.

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Cafe Osman, Main St.  in Norwalk, CT
May 25, 1986 exterior photo by Larry Cultrera

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Cafe Osman, Main St.  in Norwalk, CT
May 25, 1986 exterior photo by Larry Cultrera

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Cafe Osman, Main St.  in Norwalk, CT
May 25, 1986 interior photo by Larry Cultrera

The next road trip was not until August 1st of 1986when Dave Hebb and I photographed a couple of diners in Verbank and Millbrook… in eastern upstate New York.

The Dining Car of Philadelphia, a family tradition!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!

November 10th thru 11th, 1984 – Staten Island, New York & New Jersey Roadtrip

Here is another blast from the past, a road-trip from late in 1984 that encompassed parts of Staten Island, New York City, New Jersey and upstate New York. It seems the reason for this trip other than shooting photos of some diners was to get to the opening day of an exhibit of John Baeder paintings at the OK Harris Gallery in Soho.  According to my Log Book, that Saturday was November 10th and it looks like Steve Repucci, Dave Hebb and myself got into New York City fairly early and had some time to kill, so we grabbed the Staten Island Ferry to check out that most southern borough of NYC. I believe Dave had already done some exploring on his own there previously so he knew the lay of the land somewhat. The first diner we visited was the Victory Diner on Richmond Rd. not too far from the ferry dock. Victory-1
Victory Diner, Richmond Rd., Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Victory Diner, Richmond Rd., Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

Here is an aside about this post… what inspired me to do this particular post is the news that the Victory Diner which had been moved from the location seen here a number of years ago recently made the news again! That move happened in fact back in 2007 and I wrote about it in the last installment of the former hard-copy version of Diner Hotline that appeared in  the Fall 2007 edition of the SCA (Society for Commercial Archeology) Journal magazine.

The last owners were retiring and the spot where the diner was located was slated for redevelopment. This meant the diner was slated for a possible demolition. A group of preservationists stepped in before this could happen and had the diner relocated to the Ocean Breeze waterfornt, specifically, Midland Beach. Since the move in 2007, the diner has remained in storage behind a chain link fence. This fence only partially protected it but it has been reported that the diner has received some vandalism over the last 5 years.  But to top the whole thing off, the October 29th Super Storm Sandy virtually destroyed what was left of the diner, basically leaving the steel frame and roof.  It seems the above info was incorrect when a report surfaced not too long after I wrote this stating that the diner had been stripped and the materials removed were placed in a storage trailer on the site in anticipation of restoration….. LAC

Here is a photo from the (Dec. 4, 2012) Staten Island Advance by Jan Somma-Hammel showing what is left of the diner…….

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Now back to 1984……. the next diner we saw on Staten Island was Joe’s Diner. At least that is what I have in the Log Book. I am not sure how we even knew what the name was for this place as it looked like it was not in operation anymore. It seemed to be well cared for as my photos will show and a current Google street view of the address shows the place pretty much still looks the same now as it did back then.

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Joe’s Diner at 84 Lincoln Ave. on Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Joe’s Diner at 84 Lincoln Ave. on Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

I am not sure who manufactured this diner but it looks interesting for sure!

The next diner must have been a drive-by as I only shot one photo of it. In fact I did not even have it officially in my Log Book until I was creating the data base a number of years ago. I also did not have a name or an address for the place until I scanned the slide a week ago for this blog post. There is a sign for the diner in the shot but it was hard to read the name. So I looked at the adjacent business….. Grant Tailors and did another Google search. This turned up an address. The address turned out to be 140 New Dorp Lane and from that I was able to deduce that the name of the diner was the Lane Diner!  By the way Grant Tailors is closed and out of business.

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Lane Diner, 140 New Dorp Lane on Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

This place looks to be a modern stainless steel diner that was covered over – “Mediteraneanized”, so to speak. The dimensions are certainly right. The diner is still there and operating as a Los Lobos Mexican Restaurant as of 2012.

The next diner was the last stop on Staten Island before getting back to John Baeder’s exhibit at OK Harris was one diner Dave Hebb recalled for sure from an earlier roadtrip. This was an old 1920’s vintage barrel-roof diner known as Whoopsie’s Diner located on Jennett Ave. on Staten Island. It was closed and for sale, besides being in a little bit of rough shape but still usable. The building itself was modified at an earlier time, it seems someone decided to change the location of the entrance by “slashing” the corner of the diner.

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Exterior shot of Whoopsie’s Diner, Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Exterior shot of Whoopsie’s Diner, Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Interior shot of Whoopsie’s Diner, Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

We got back to the city prior to John’s exhibit opening and I finally got to take a couple of shots of the Moondance Diner around the corner from OK Harris. I had seen this diner on earlier trips when it was operating as the Tunnel Diner, but never documented it with photos. In the intervening years it had been reopened…. resurrected as the upscale Moondance Diner.

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Moondance Diner, 6th Ave., Manhattan
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Moondance Diner, 6th Ave., Manhattan
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

Here is a sort of crappy shot of John Baeder’s painting of the Comet Diner (Hartford, CT) at the OK Harris Gallery. It was based on a slide I shot for John back then.

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Shot of a John Baeder painting of the Comet Diner at OK Harris Gallery
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

After visiting with John and checking out the exhibit, we left with our ultimate destination being New Jersey. On the way out we saw a former White Tower Restaurant somewhere in lower Manhattan (I did not document the location unfortunately).

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former White Tower Restaurant in lower Manhattan
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

After going thru the tunnel over to New Jersey, we somehow made it over to Springfield, NJ and the Lido Diner on Route 22, (in my opinion one of the most scary sections of highway anywhere)! The Lido Diner on the other hand was a great 1960 vintage Paramount diner that has since been demolished for a bland, boxy 7-Eleven convenience store. I had previously documented this one on one of my first trips coming home from Harrisburg, PA by way of New Jersey.

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The Lido Diner on Rte. 22 in Springfield, NJ
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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The Lido Diner on Rte. 22 in Springfield, NJ
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

The Bendix Diner in Hasbrouck Heights was our last stop for the day, this time for dinner. I had been there before so I did not need to log it but I did try 3 nighttime shots… here is one of them.

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The Bendix Diner at night…. Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

The next morning we checked out 3 New Jersey diners for photos. The first was the Arena Diner, a large Kullman circa 1940’s vintage was on the U.S. Rte. 1 truck route and was most certainly a truck stop. Closed on Sundays, this one was rough around the edges but still in operation.

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Arena Diner, U.S. Routes 1 and 9 – South Kearny, NJ
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

Arena-Diner-2
Arena Diner, U.S. Routes 1 and 9 – South Kearny, NJ
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

After South Kearny we ran across a very old Silk City diner similar to the West Shore Diner in Lemoyne, PA. This was the Miss Jersey City Diner farther up U.S. Routes 1 & 9 in Jersey City. This place was closed and pretty much derelict…. not long for this world!

miss-jersey-1
Miss Jersey City Diner, Jersey City, NJ
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

miss-jersey-2
Miss Jersey City Diner, Jersey City, NJ
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

The next place we found was a complete rarity for the Garden State, a Sterling Dinette located at Newark Ave. and 6th St. in Jersey City. This is possibly the only known example of a Sterling diner in New Jersey!

Dekay's-Diner-2
Dekay’s Diner, Jersey City, NJ
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Dekay’s Diner, Jersey City, NJ
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

A current Google street view shows an empty lot where this place used to be!

The last diner we documented for this road-trip was in North White Plains, NY, just off Route 22 near the Post Office. It was appropriately operating as the Off Broadway Diner (Rte. 22 is called Broadway here). Not sure who built this one, but my guess would be Kullman. It may also be a renovated model, who knows for sure but I believe the place is gone now.

Off-Broadway-Diner-3
Off Broadway Diner, North White Plains, NY
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Off Broadway Diner, North White Plains, NY
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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

“Diner” the movie hits 30 year old milestone


recreation of the opening graphic for the movie “DINER”

I’m not sure when I first heard that there was going to be a movie coming out called “DINER”, but I seem to recall the news came from an old acquaintence of mine by the name of Bob Festa. But if I had to guess, I would say it was possibly the summer of 1981. I am sure that I had not heard what the storyline was going to be and that probably would not have mattered. With a name like Diner, I was definitely going to see it!  Anyway the movie came out in the spring of 1982 and was the first movie written and directed by Barry Levinson, a journeyman writer and sometime actor who had cut his teeth writing for TV variety shows and Mel Brooks movies.


The publicity poster from the movie. This version was reworked by adding Paul Reiser to the image for the release of the DVD a number of years ago.
The original did not have Reiser in the shot.

Levinson, a Baltimore native had been telling stories to his Hollywood friends and acquaintances for years about his experiences hanging out with his buddy’s at Brice’s Hilltop Diner in Northwest Baltimore in the late 50’s and early 60’s. He got encouragement from Brooks and others that the stories he was relating could be made into a movie. So Levinson took a leap of faith and wrote the screenplay. Long story short, Diner was born.

He did all the filming primarily in Baltimore but there was one big hangup, Brice’s Hilltop Diner was not being used as a diner anymore. It was now a liquor store and somewhat disguised. Also, the neighborhood had gone downhill since Levinson and his pals had frequented the area.


recent photo of the former Brice’s Hilltop Diner, currently operating as Pepper’s Liquors. Photo courtesy of Randy Garbin


recent photo of the former Brice’s Hilltop Diner, currently operating as Pepper’s Liquors. Photo courtesy of Randy Garbin

A true factory-built diner was needed for the exterior and interior scenes and Levinson found out that there was a used diner at the Paramount Modular Concepts factory in Oakland, NJ that could fill the bill! The diner that was at Paramount was the former Westbury Grill that had operated for years in Westbury, Long Island (NY). This diner evidently was taken in on trade for a newer replacement. It was in pretty original condition when Levinson’s production people saw it. The decision was made to use the diner and it was transported down to Boston Street in the Fells Point area of Baltimore and set up to be filmed for the movie.


former Westbury Grill as filmed in the movie.


Levinson outside the diner during filming of the movie.
Photo courtesy of The Baltimore Sun

The film featured a group of young actors. A few had been in other films previously including Steve Guttenberg, Daniel Stern, Mickey Rourke and Kevin Bacon. Newcomers were Ellen Barkin, Timothy Daly and Paul Reiser. Levinson made it a point to have the cast hang out together prior to and during filming which helped the illusion that these people were longtime friends and made the premise of the film work. The characters were loosely based on real people who Levinson knew. In some cases a character may have been a composite of more than one person for story-telling purposes.


A scene from the movie with L – R… Tim Daly, Mickey Rourke, Daniel Stern,
Kevin Bacon and back to the camera, Steve Guttenberg and Paul Reiser.


another scene featuring Kevin Bacon and Daniel Stern


A prize piece of my collection. A promo coffee mug that was made available to me by Jim Dunn, a friend and co-worker from around 1990.

I am not going to get into a description of the whole movie except to say the plot revolves around this group of friends who have spent a number of years hanging out at the diner. It involves how they relate or not relate to women in their lives, with varying degrees of success. The have all come altogether around Christmas, 1959 to celebrate the upcoming marriage of Guttenberg’s character Eddie. It also covers to a degree their reaching a point in their collective lives when they realize that like it or not, the world as they know it is changing and they collectively have to grow up and figure out what they are going to do.

I have watched it too many times to keep track of. In fact I watched it again just a week ago (in preparation for this post) and it still holds up tremendously! An all-time favorite of mine to be sure! As mentioned in a previous post, after seeing the movie for the first time, I was planning a trip down to Baltimore to see if I could photograph the diner and possibly have a meal.

Well myself and Steve Repucci did make it down on Memorial Day weekend of 1982 and quickly found out that the diner was only there for the filming of the movie. We did find the neighborhood and the empty lot where the diner had been……


the empty lot where the diner had been for the movie.


another recognizable view from the movie, just across the street from where the diner had been.

So needless to say no meal and no photos of the Fells Point Diner that day. In fact as time went on, we found out bits and pieces of the puzzle, lttle by little. On August 26,1983, David Hebb visited the Paramount Modular Concepts Company and shot the next photo…..


the former Westbury Grill at PMC in Oakland, NJ. This was of course after the movie was shot. Photo courtesy of David Hebb

Earlier this year, The Baltimore Sun ran a piece detailing this diner’s history in Baltimore:

1981 — Location scouting begins for the MGM production “Diner,” which is to be filmed in and around Baltimore. The Hilltop Diner, the northwest Baltimore hangout that inspired Barry Levinson’s screenplay, has by now devolved into a liquor store, unrecognizable as its former self.

The production team eventually discovers and leases the diner it wants from Paramount Modular Concepts of Oakland, N.J. The diner, which was manufactured by Mountain View Diners of Singac, N.J., was formerly the
Westbury Grill on Long Island, N.Y., according to Paramount sources. The “Diner” is not a replica of the Hilltop Diner, however.

For filming, the diner was placed on a Canton lot near the intersection of Boston and Montford streets, currently the site of the Anchorage town homes.  After filming, the diner is returned to Paramount.

March 3, 1982 — Diner has its world premiere at the Senator Theater.  In the movie, the title hangout is named the Fells Point Diner. Mayor William Donald Schaefer puts the return of the diner to Baltimore on a much publicized “wish list,” a plea for private citizens to donate goods and services to the city. WBAL Radio fulfills the diner wish, purchasing the diner back from Paramount for $34,000 and donating it to the city.


The above article was given to me around 1988 by John Messinger a co-worker I had around that time who recalled the piece and still had the magazine. The age of the diner mentioned in the article is slightly wrong, it is a 1950’ish diner. In fact it is Mountain View Diner No. 326.

January 1984 — The diner is trucked back from New Jersey to Baltimore and placed at the corner of Saratoga and Holliday streets, where it stands today.  The diner is camera-ready but not ready for customers – it has no kitchen or
bathrooms. Local businesses and private citizens donate nearly $1 million in cash, services and equipment to renovate the diner and set it up as a training center for entry-level restaurant jobs.

September 18, 1984 – The Kids’ Diner opens. The diner is run by the city schools and the mayor’s office of volunteer services. “Food service is one of the largest industries in the United States,” says Fontaine Sullivan of
the volunteer office. “(The Kids’ Diner) will be unique training ground for vocational educational students.” The first customer is Mayor Schaefer, who is talked into ordering an “SOS,” which turns out to be a creamed chip
beef on toast. “It’s good but it’s not great,” the mayor says.


Kid’s Diner 400 East Saratoga Street, Baltimore. July 1, 1985 photo by
Larry Cultrera


Kid’s Diner 400 East Saratoga Street, Baltimore. July 1, 1985 photo by
Larry Cultrera


Kid’s Diner menu cover from my collection

As evidenced by the previous 3 photos, I managed to finally have a meal at the Diner from the movie Diner! In fact after the diner was back in Baltimore, it made it convenient for Barry Levinson to shoot some scenes for his movie “Tin Men”, the second of his Baltimore movie series.

Here is more of the diner’s timeline in Baltimore…..

October 1984 – Dissatisfied with the offerings and prices at the newly opened diner, the mayor orders an assessment of the operations.  “The prices were out of line,” Schaefer says — a hamburger is $2.35, a grilled
cheese sandwich is $1.95.

April 1986 — A May 14 closure is announced.  According to news reports, the Kids’ Diner runs a $100,000 deficit per year. City officials float the idea of turning over the diner’s operations to Baltimore Culinary Institute (later the Baltimore International College). Alternate proposals include keeping the diner under the school system, allowing the BCI takeover and relocating the diner to the downtown fish market (now the home of Power Plant Live),
where it would be run by private owners. But by month’s end the city reconsiders, and Schaefer defends the diner’s mission, saying that it was never intended to make money.

1991 –A Brooklyn (Md.)-based nonprofit, the Chesapeake Foundation for Human Development (now the Chesapeake Center for Youth Development), takes over the diner’s daily operations, working under a contract with the city’s department of juvenile services.  By May, the diner is shuttered by the finacially strapped city department, and Chesapeake applies to take over the diner’s financial management.  In September, Chesapeake reopens the newly named Hollwyood Diner and begins offering six-month training program for
juvenile offenders. An informal placement program with the Stouffer Harborplace Hotel, now the Renaissance Harborplace, is inaugurated.  The diner continues to lose money, a Chesapeake official say, but not as much. 
“We might lose $20,000 to $25,000 per year compared with the Kids’ Diner, which lost $100,000 to $200,000 per year. “

ca. 2001 – The Chesapeake Center signs a 20-year lease on the Hollywood Diner with the city’s office of real estate, according to Ivan Leshinsky, the Chesapeake Center for Youth Development’s  current executive director.

September 2009 – Crema Coffee Company, which operates eateries at the University of Maryland’ s downtown law and medical centers, takes over the diner under an operating agreement with CCYD.  Training remains part of the diner’s mission.

November 2010 — Crema Cafe at the Hollywood Diner closes in November 2010. “It was tough,” owner Terry Jett says, “It’s been a really hard year.” Jett admits that Crema’s home-made ingredients and locally sourced
coffee and breads may not have appealed to a value-seeking lunch audience.  Attempts at keeping late-night hours, in what has evolved over the years into a small nightclub district, ends up costing Crema more in security than it makes in sales, Jett says. By December, Chesapeake has lined a new operating partner, Cheryl Townsend, a caterer of southern-style food and owner of the former Red Springs Diner on Calvert Street.

March 2011 – Hollywood Diner presents Red Springs Cafe opens with a menu of Southern food.

September 2011 – Townsend posts a closing notice, saying that she will use the diner as catering facility until her contract with Chesapeake runs out. But Chesapeake balks, saying that Townsend is contractually bound to operate it as training facility. Red Springs Cafe stays open.

October 13 – The comptroller’s office informs Chesapeake that its lease is being terminated. The center is given 60 days to vacate the premises. Chesapeake clears out by Dec. 14, but Townsend does not.

Feb 2012 –  After a brief hiatus for renovations and menu updates, Townsend reopens the diner. The comptroller’s office says, though, that Townsend will only remain on the property until the end of March.
The city announces on Feb. 17 that it will seek a new operator for the diner and will issue formal request for proposals in April 2012


a recent photo of the Hollywood Diner courtesy of The Baltimore Sun

Happy 30th anniverary to the movie DINER, my favorite!

Memorial Day roadtrip – 1982

1982 was a pivotal year in my life, some really good things along with one huge event. That huge event happened in January of that year when my dad Sam died suddenly at the young age of 59 (the age I currently am now). In retrospect I must have been unconsciously trying to get things going in a positive direction after my dad’s passing.

So in February of 1982, I  started a temp job at Megapulse Corp. in Bedford, Mass. (a job that would become a permanent position and last 5 years). This was to this day one of the best jobs I have had due in part to the lasting friendships I had made there. Even after a layoff in 1987, I kept my bridges intact with Megapulse which eventually lead to another stint with the company from 1991 to 1995.

Also in that month I contacted John Baeder for the very first time as well as helped my good friend and roadtrip buddy Steve Repucci move back to Boston from a year and a half sojourn in Harrisburg, PA. In fact, it was on that trip to move Steve back that I located the “Abandoned Luncheonette” and was able to document it before it was ultimately destroyed within the next 2 years. Another landmark event happened early in 1982 when the movie “Diner” came out. I had been waiting to see what this movie was about and was certainly not disappointed. I made a mental note about the possibility of checking out Baltimore in the near future after seeing this movie.

The actual next roadtrip Steve and I went on was in March of 1982 (to Harrisburg again) where as I recall we actually took a little detour to Sussex, NJ to have breakfast at Prouts Diner, a 1940-ish Silk City diner that I had known thru a painting that John Baeder had done previously. When we got there I noticed there wasn’t any signage on the diner (that I recalled from John’s painting). I was kind of disappointed but took a couple of photos anyway. I don’t recall too much else from the March roadtrip, guess I’ll need to check the logbook when I have time.

Moving on to May, another great thing happened, my niece Katie was born on the 17th of that month, 2 years from the day that her parents (my brother Steve and sister-in-law Ann) were married. Two weeks later on May 29, 1982, Steve Repucci and I are back on the road to Harrisburg again. Just like the previous time we stopped at Prouts Diner for breakfast, where I was happy to see the signage back up after a remodeling had occurred to the building behind the diner. This remodeling had entailed installing new vinyl siding on the house as well as new roofing. This included a new roof structure that sloped down from the house and covered the raised section of the “monitor” roof of the diner. That is why the sign was removed temporarily!


Prouts Diner, Sussex, NJ  –  May 29, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera


Prouts Diner, Sussex, NJ  –  May 29, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

After breakfast at Prouts, we made it to Stroudsburg where I  photographed the Colonial Diner. I had seen the Colonial Diner on previous trips thru Stroudsburg and finally decided to document it. This diner it turns out was a streamlined Paramount model  not too different from Rosie’s Diner (of Bounty Paper Towel commercial fame). Unfortunately the Colonial had previously acquired a stone facade over its stainless steel exterior as well as an orange mansard roof. This remodeling was to be reversed a few years later.  I also found out that there was an addition built on to the diner by Fodero Diners. The workmanship on the addition matched exactly to what Paramount had originally done when the diner was first built.


Colonial Diner, Stroudsburg, PA  – May 29, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera


Colonial Diner, Stroudsburg, PA  – May 29, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

There were no other diners placed in the log book for the remainder of that day or the next after getting to Harrisburg. So on Monday morning, May 31, 1982, we started back home from Harrisburg. But instead of heading northeast we went southeast to Baltimore to see if we could find the diner from the movie “Diner”.

We got down to Baltimore and went searching for the Fells Point Diner. We found the area but no diner. We must have driven Boston Street for 2 or 3 miles and did not find it. We finally stopped and asked a couple of guys and they pointed us back from where we had come. They said the diner was not there anymore. We came across the empty lot on the harbor side of Boston Street near the intersection of Hudson Street and South Montford Avenue, that upon closer examination  was recognizable as the place where the diner was located for the movie.


The lot on Boston Street in the Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore
where the diner was located for the movie “Diner”
May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera


This building was in at least 2 or 3 scenes in the movie as it was diagonally across the street from where the diner was located.
May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

What we later found out is that the diner was only there for the shooting of the movie. Barry Levinsion’s production company actually leased the diner (a used 1950’s Mountain View diner) from Paramount Modular Concepts (formerly Paramount Diners) of Oakland, NJ. They had the diner transported from New Jersey to the Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore. When filming was complete the diner ended up back at the Paramount lot in Oakland, NJ. So needless to say we did not have breakfast at the Fells Point Diner the morning of May 31, 1982, (ironically, that diner made it back to Baltimore a year or so later and we did finally eat there).

So, having figured out that our goal for breakfast was not attainable, we started driving north on Route 40 out of Baltimore. We came across the Double-T Diner in Rosedale, MD, a diner I had known about thru a postcard I had in the collection.


Double -T Diner sign, Rosedale, MD – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera


Double -T Diner, Rosedale, MD – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera


Double -T Diner, Rosedale, MD – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

After breakfast at the Double-T, we proceeded north on Route 40 and saw the closed Magnolia Diner in Joppa, MD.


Magnolia Diner, Joppa, MD – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera


Magnolia Diner, Joppa, MD – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

Before we left Maryland we found the fantastically preserved New Ideal Diner in Aberdeen.


The New Ideal Diner, Aberdeen, MD – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera


The New Ideal Diner, Aberdeen, MD – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

After leaving Maryland we came across this diner located near Hares Corners and State Road, Delaware (hard to tell which town it was actually in). It was known as the Grecian Diner at this point in time and much later, my friend Spencer Stewart found out it was once part of the Hollywood Diner chain of Delaware.


Grecian Diner, State Road, DE – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera


Grecian Diner, State Road, DE – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

I became much more intimate with this diner years later when it was moved to Somerville, Mass., 2 and a half miles from where I was living in Medford at the time. It has been operating as Kelly’s Diner in the Ball Square neighborhood of Somerville since 1995.

After Delaware we left Route 40 and ended up on Route 130 where we saw the Deepwater Diner in Penns Grove, NJ


Deepwater Diner, Penns Grove, NJ – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera


Deepwater Diner, Penns Grove, NJ – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

The Deepwater Diner remained relatively untouched until recently when it was horrendously remodeled by the current owners. No accounting for taste.

Not far up the road we came across the recently closed Joe’s No. 2 Diner in Verga, NJ, a 1950’s Fodero diner. This was another diner I had a postcard of in my collection prior to seeing it.


Joe’s No. 2 Diner, Verga, NJ – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera


Joe’s No. 2 Diner, Verga, NJ – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

Continuing north on Route 130, we made it to Burlington and saw yet another diner I had a postcard of, the Burlington Diner.


Burlington Diner, Burlington, NJ – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera


Burlington Diner, Burlington, NJ – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

We also saw Irene’s Windsor Diner on Route 130, a 1939 or 40 vintage Jerry O’Mahony diner. This had previously been the Melrose Diner in Philadelphia prior to being replaced by a large custom-built Paramount diner in the mid-1950’s.


Irene’s Windsor Diner, Windsor, NJ – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera


Irene’s Windsor Diner, Windsor, NJ – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

We then got off of Route 130 and made it over to Hightstown to see the Hightstown Diner….


Hightstown Diner, Hightstown, NJ – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera


Hightstown Diner, Hightstown, NJ – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

After Hightstown we hightailed it up U.S. Rte. 1 to Route 46 to check out Rosie’s Farmland Diner in Little Ferry, NJ. Rosie’s originally was named the Silver Dollar Diner but took on the newer name after it became famous for being the backdrop  in the series of Bounty Paper Towel commercials featuring actress Nancy Walker as Rosie the waitress who was always cleaning up after her messy customers with “the quicker picker upper”.  The “Farmland” part of the name was eventually dropped and it became Rosie’s Diner. Business was pretty slow that afternoon (it was a holiday I suppose) when we stopped in.


Rosie’s Farmland Diner, Little Ferry, NJ
May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera


Rosie’s Farmland Diner, Little Ferry, NJ
May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

I called John Baeder on the payphone from Rosie’s as he was in New York City doing a marathon rewrite for his soon to be published book, “Gas, Food, and Lodging” that weekend and I was hoping to finally meet him face to face.

He told me on the phone that he was really busy with the rewrite but that he may be able to break away and that I should call him when we had crossed the river and made it into the city. So off we went thru the Holland Tunnel and ended up in lower Manhattan where I photographed the Square Diner on Leonard Street.


The Square Diner, New York City – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera


The Square Diner, New York City – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

We then drove uptown to see the former Kitchenette Diner that operated for years in East Cambridge, Mass. It had been moved from Cambridge to the Allston section of Boston by a man named Tony Bosco. Bosco located it next door to his “House” Restaurant and did a slight sprucing up of the diner and sold ice cream from it for a short period of time. He called it the “Diner on Wheels”, as it still had its original wagon wheel attached. Ironically, the diner got a lot of attention when he moved it which was noticed by the producers of the locally filmed movie “The Brinks Job”. They paid Bosco some decent money to have the diner moved to a vacant lot in Reading, Mass. where they set it up for one scene in the movie.

After the diner’s short stay in Allston, Bosco moved it to New York City which is where I saw it again on this Memorial Day in 1982.


The Diner on Wheels, New York City – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera


The Diner on Wheels, New York City – May 31, 1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

I called John Baeder on the phone when we got to the old Kitchenette and he did manage to Cab it over to the diner where I showed him my diner photo albums I had with me. We had a very memorable meeting and to top it off, we gave him a ride back to where he was doing the rewrite for the book. Needless to say this topped off the roadtrip weekend we had and made it back to Massachusetts that evening.

Bel-Aire Diner, 1952 – 2012, Goodbye old friend!

Regular readers of Diner Hotline know that I have been following the saga of the Bel-Aire Diner of Peabody, Mass. for quite a while.  This diner was one of the closest to where I live, located about 4 miles north of Saugus on U.S. Route 1. Built by the Mountain View Diner Company (Car No. 359), it was bought brand-new in 1952 by brothers Peter & Bill Kallas, the diner remained being operated by members of the Kallas family until it closed abruptly around a half dozen years ago. Immediately after it closed it had two bright yellow banners that stated “Closed for Renovation” hanging from the front on either side of the entryway. Somehow though, I had a strong feeling that it would probably never reopen.


front of Bel-Aire Diner Breakfast Menu, circa 1980’s. From the
collection of Larry Cultrera


back of Bel-Aire Diner Breakfast Menu, circa 1980’s. From the
collection of Larry Cultrera

Prior to the diner being closed there had been reports that the Kallas family had been talking about redeveloping the site for quite some time. At one point, they were hoping to lease the property for a Hooters Restaurant but the City of Peabody was not willing to go along with those plans. Then within a few years of the diner’s closing, a large poster type sign was hung on the sign supports for the adjacent Gas Station (also owned by the Kallas’). The poster depicted a large building that would be built to house businesses related to the truck stop, including the diner and gas station. The new building was to be built around and over the diner (only the diner’s front facade was to be visible).

See…… https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2010/04/10/notes-from-the-hotline-4-10-2010/

Before the plans were put into motion it was announced that the tenant for the restaurant portion of the new development was going to be the people who operate Red’s Sandwich Shop in downtown Salem. The new restaurant was to be called Red’s Kitchen and Tavern. About this time, I saw newly revised architectural drawings of the building and it looked different. The biggest difference was that the diner did not seem to be included anymore, an ominous sign to be sure!

See…… https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/bel-aire-diner-to-become-reds-kitchen-tavern/


the earliest known postcard image of the Bel-Aire Diner. From the
collection of Larry Cultrera


The second version of a Bel-Aire Diner postcard, it had aquirred awnings and the sign colors were changed. From the collection of Larry Cultrera

Soon there after, the diner was readied to be moved out of the way for the developers to start on the project, see……. https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2010/08/28/notes-from-the-hotline-8-28-2010/

and…. https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/bel-aire-diner-goes-airborne/

It was also announced that the diner was For Sale, see….

https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/more-bel-aire-diner-info-from-salem-news/
The diner stayed up on cribbing in the front of the property all thru the winter of 2010-11. See…….

https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/notes-from-the-hotline-3152011/

In March of 2011 it was relocated to the extreme right corner at the back of the property. John Kallas was still hoping to sell the diner at this point.
See…… https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2011/03/27/new-storage-spot-for-bel-aire-diner/

photo on the back cover of a vinyl E.P. by The Peter Calo Band (a local band). circa 1983. The photo was shot with the band members sitting in the corner booth of the Bel-Aire Diner. From the collection of Larry Cultrera

As I just happen to drive by the diner 1 to 2 times a day during a normal work week (Monday thru Friday), I have been able to keep an eye on the situation. I also keep informed thru Google news alerts ( for Diners) and of course rely on the unofficial network of “Diner people” for tidbits, etc. In a recent news article, John Kallas was quoted as saying that if there were no buyers for the diner come springtime, he would make the decision to have the diner scrapped. Within the last 2 weeks, Randy Garbin of Roadside Online http://www.roadsideonline.com/ reported that he got a message from John Kallas stating that if anyone wanted the diner, he was willing to give it away to anyone who would arrange to remove it from the property.

This news really meant it was nearing the end for the old stainless steel diner! Steve Harwin of Diversified Diners (Cleveland, Ohio), who in my opinion is the premier diner restorationist in the world, had been apprised of the situation and contacted Kallas. After a short conversation or 2 between Kallas and Harwin, as well as a little soul searching and some number crunching, Harwin decided he could not make the commitment to save this one unfortunately.

These next few photos are pretty much my earliest images that I shot of the Bel-Aire Diner……..


January, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera


January, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera


January, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera


September, 1982 photo (at sunset) by Larry Cultrera

This next photo was shot circa 1990 by my buddy, Steve Repucci. I wanted some photos taken of me for a Society for Commercial Archeology (SCA) publication and this was one of those photos…..


man, what a difference 22 years make!

As I drove by the Bel-Aire on this past Monday after work, things looked pretty much the same, but by Tuesday afternoon it was a completely different story! Just as I was approaching the diner I just happened to give Randy Garbin a call to ask him what he thought about the possibility that Dave Pritchard from Salisbury might be interested in rescuing the diner. As the phone was ringing I glanced over at the diner and saw a dumpster as well as the left end of the diner already dismantled! Randy answered the phone and I told him what was happening. We both knew that this was it, the diner was pretty much history.

I was on my way home as my wife Denise and I had an appointment to meet a tradesman about some work we were planning on having done, so I knew I could not get my camera and go back for some photos. I did bring my camera to work with me the next day and was planning on getting over to the diner possibly at lunch to see if I could get some photos. I decided to see what was up and stopped at approximately 5:40 AM. I was able to pull right up almost to the fence that surrounded the diner and shine my high beam headlights on the what was left of the structure. It was demo’d back from the left end by a couple of windows as the next 3 images will show…..


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

Once I had seen how much was gone, I made the decision to get back sooner than lunch break to get more photos in daylight as I figured if I waited longer, there would not be anything left. I got back to the diner just before 9:00 AM and took the next bunch of shots…..


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


That is Doug Earp, owner of D.R. Earp Interior Demolition Co.
March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


Richard Currie of RC Recycling of Brentwood Inc. speaking with Doug Earp.
March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


Final shot before I went back to work.
March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

Before I left work for the day, I checked Facebook and saw that Gary Thomas had been by the site and the photo he posted showed the very last section of the diner (a small section of roof from the right end) left to be crunched and tossed into the dumpster. By the way, there were at least 3 dumpsters full of debris! I drove by just after 3:30 PM and there was nothing left of the old diner!

Well I can say I have had many a meal there over the last 30 years and I believe it is a shame that no one could have saved this diner so it could have possibly had another life at a different location. I am sure I will probably check out Red’s Kitchen and Tavern when they open for business in the near future, but I know it just won’t be the same!