Awakenings: The All-American Diner

See on Scoop.itTraveling Through Time

A classic of classics, like baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet…that’s the all-American diner! Often epitomized with an exterior of stainless steel, the diner is unique in its architecture. Then, of course, there is the interior: a casual atmosphere, a counter, stools and service area along a back wall.

The Rosebud Diner, (below), is a restored 1941 Worcester Lunch Car #773, as it appeared in 2012. Somerville, MA

The Bendix Diner in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey, is an example of Art Deco style and neon signage.

But, how did it all get started and by whom?

Walter Scott, a part-time pressman and type compositor in Providence, Rhode Island,founded the first diner. It all started around 1858 with Scott supplementing his income by selling sandwiches and coffee from a basket.

Newspaper night workers welcomed the services and by 1872, he had developed a very lucrative business. So much so, he quit his printing work and sold food at night from a horse-drawn covered express wagon parked outside the Providence Journal newspaper office. Walter Scott unknowingly inspired the birth of what would become one of America’s most recognized icons — the diner.

Empower the Present. Are diners still around today?

The interest in the American Diner continues today. Just ask Guy Fieri of Drive-ins, Diners and Dives! A significant number of vintage diners have been rescued from demolition and relocated to new sites in the United States and Europe. Manufacturers of diner structures are experiencing new orders or remodeling projects in a retro style.

Photo credit: Marilyn Armstrong, author of The 12-Foot Teepee. You can visit Marilyn at her blog, Serendipity, where you will be enlightened by her writing, nature, photography, history, arts, nostalgia, humor and so much more!

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

Diners are uniquely American, our culture incarnate.

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Categories: #American-history, History

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13 replies

  1. One word about Diners, Benjamin. PICKLES!!!


  2. Had a Greek-American friend in college whose family owned a diner. She said that like Chinese restaurants, Greek-American diners provided a safe, simple way to bring family members and good friends into the USA without the quotas, hassles, and expense of legal immigration.

    The history of the American diner is a grand tale, beginning in trackside food stands for those who built the railways.

    The diners also offered a means for relatively easy entry into the restaurant business. Since Greeks and other “non-American-looking” did generally not have entry (for financial or cultural reasons) into the mainstream restaurant business, they used old railroad and trolley cars to set up in. The railroad- and trolley car builders soon realized what was happening and began making transport cars outfitted specifically for use as diners.

    And in this, I suspect, were the roots of the mobile home and RV industries today.

    I loved diners SO much that the only reason I ever even thought of going to grad school was so that I could be rewarded (with a degree) for reading and writing about something I loved so much. Back then it was hard to find anything about diners — our culture just took them for granted, I guess, with the exception of New York, where they are appropriately revered as cultural icons.


    • In recent years. diners have been recognized as the unique Americana they are. No place else has anything like them, unless you want to count street vendors which has a tradition going back to the beginning of human civilization. But diners and the diner experience, copious amounts of ordinary food at modest prices, intended to serve the working people of the country is different. There are always, everywhere, cheap restaurants to serve the less affluent … but diners are not restaurants. They are diners. They look different. They have that smell, look, feel And I do love them. They are finally coming back in Massachusetts. Lots of old ones are being rehabbed and put back into service which I think is great.

      Miss Mendon is alive and back in Mendon where she began. She’s my next photo excursion!

      On Sun, Apr 28, 2013 at 10:26 AM, SERENDIPITY


  3. Fortunately, there are a few good All American diner type places around here. Comfort food plus old fashioned comfort atmosphere. I love the pic above.


    • For a while, there were almost no diners in Mass, but in the last couple of decades, they’ve been restoring them all over the state. We’ve got a few good ones around here, locally. We don’t have much, but we have diners 🙂 Love’em!

      On Sat, Apr 27, 2013 at 10:07 PM, SERENDIPITY


  4. I like Diners too as you know. Gimme a nice pice of Apple Pie a la mode please?


  5. Thank you, Marilyn! You notice I just had to plug your book! Hugs! BTW Is Gabe your Garry? Um-m-m-m? What have I been reading? Where?



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