Thursday, February 16, 2012

In reply to Randy Garbin of

This is in reply to Randy Garbin's "Diner Holocaust" essay published at

[ Let me give the people reading this some background. When I first got interested in diners, I reached out to the two most prominent names I saw in the diner world, Randy Garbin and Daniel Zilka. I associated with Daniel Zilka because I knew of no other person at the time who was actively saving diners and was approachable. Daniel helped to save the current Hullaballoo's in Texas and my former diner, which Gordon Tindall now has beautifully restored. Those diners would not exist today if it was not for Daniel Zilka. There are more on that list of saved diners because of Daniel Zilka.

Now Randy has serious issues with Daniel Zilka. you can check Randy's site for the list of complaints. They are out there, it is public. I'm not writing this to get into a pissing match. All I have motioned for Randy Garbin to admit is essentially this: Daniel has done some good. And Randy refuses, and I have continually pushed him to tell a fair story instead of being completely one sided. I have never pushed Randy to say that Daniel is innocent of anything. Randy is allowed his opinion, but as someone who calls himself an ambassador for the diner fan world, he should not be allowed to be completely one sided.

I know that there are people out that that do not want to deal with any of this crap, and stay away from the bickering. They just want to save and/or promote diners. Unfortunately in the last 10-15 years, as a newbie you essentially had to choose sides. Over the last few years I have tried to associate myself with those people who didn't care about choosing a side. Few people have saved more diners than Gordon Tindall, yet he has been crapped on by Randy for this or that in his sanctimonious rants about Gordon's projects . If you talked to Gordon like I have the privilege of doing, then you would know he even wants to save more diners. It is in his blood. He doesn't deserve any negative talk, yet he gets it from Randy Garbin and others.

I am writing this reply because I am again disgusted by some things that are written by Randy Garbin, even if I agree with a lot of what is written in this essay. The biggest grind was his comment, "Frankly, I don't get that last part of it. I never did."

My comments are in [bold] and are in reply to pieces of Randy's essay.

Written by Randy Garbin

As a fan of not only diners, but also of design, quality, history, and heritage, few things crush my heart more than seeing that photo of the once-pristine diner where its owners have seen fit to completely obliterate all those traits that made us fall in love with such places. You cannot, of course, turn back the clock, but if at any moment I wish I had Superman's powers to reverse time, I would have moved it back a month to just before the point just before the worker applied the crowbar to the Deepwater's facade.

In the twenty-odd years of Lou-Roc-ian infamy, some have yet to get the message. Some never will, of course, but I have to think that too much of this insult to our landscape comes from simple ignorance. People just don't know better. [Just like democrats and republicans will never understand the other side, some owners just have no faith in restoration being the key. They think in money and see the chains busy, so they try to imitate the chains instead of recognizing the asset in what they have. They are too close to their own business, and sometimes they just want a total change.] Perhaps we spread the message a little too well that we have no one left to do proper and affordable restoration work. When faced with the difficulties of finding the right contractor who will properly restore the diner as opposed a more expedient solution to keep the losses to a minimum, the owner walks the path of least resistance. Plus, when the contractor comes up and sells "modernization" because that's all they know, the operator with little or no knowledge or appreciation of the diner's inherent charms and marketing advantages hears a siren song too seductive to resist.

Of course, it doesn't help matters that those of us who carry this torch don't actually work in the business. [Steve Harwin could carry the torch if he so chose to. He restores diners and would be a great voice.] Who's going to listen to a group of whiney preservationists in numbers too small to fill a Greyhound, and who among themselves can't even seem to get along?

Frankly, I don't get that last part of it. I never did. [You have to be kidding me. YOU do not get along with so many other people because of one person, YOURSELF. Don't sell us this sanctimonious crap. ] My original goals for Roadside were pretty simple: Get more people to appreciate diners and get them together to speak with one voice. [Then you lost your way.] Sadly, some among us have chosen instead to co-opt this effort for their personal gain, [ You mean Daniel Zilka, correct? Because you sure as hell better not mean Ron Dylewski and Glenn Wells for starting their own blogs/web sites. ] taking more from the community than they have given, and in the process caused a pointless schism that has effectively diminished our collective voice. [ You could fix much of this. Great people don't let bad events/people cause divides. I can only speak for myself, but you're the one who chose to swear at me on-line and take away access to your site. You've done it to others. Can you tell us all why? Please send a private message to EVERY person you have banned from your site, and explain why they were banned.

I have contributed to your diner finder, giving you at least a dozen updates and some new "finds." Yet you have thrown away the opportunity for more updates to your list. ]

For the record, I have made every attempt at inclusion [Wrong! You have banned myself and other people from your site. If they would like to name themselves, they can, but they're much more prominent names in the diner world than mine.] and have gladly shared whatever knowledge I have gained from my travels and efforts on behalf of this preservation effort. I have actively recruited other voices, I have involved myself and Roadside in ongoing efforts to build this community, [and yet you destroy it at the same time.] and I have opened the site to other contributors, giving them access to the audience we've built over twenty-three years of publishing and outreach. I have made the Diner Finder freely available and have sought your participation to keep it the largest and most accurate database of such information. (If you disagree with my claims, I'm all ears. I'll even buy you lunch.)

I have done all this as part of my personal effort to keep this flow of information running freely, because I see it as the only way to stem what looks to me like a diner holocaust. Unless we establish a more robust network of correspondents, we will continue to find ourselves tragically surprised by the travesties of the Deepwater, the Oasis, the Hollywood, and whatever else currently lurks out there threatening to homogenize our landscape and strip even more joy from our the back roads and Main Streets explorations.

Sometimes preemptive action does work. Back in 1995 when the then-owner of the Branchburg Diner enthusiastically described his planned renovations to me, I not only pleaded with him to change his mind, but I mounted a media campaign that not only convinced him to reconsider the renovations, it increased his business.

These efforts work, but we have to know in advance to apply the pressure in a more timely fashion, because after they pry away all the stainless and toss it in a dumpster, it's just too late.

Help stop the madness. When you get word of threatened diner, let us know. Take pictures and send them in. Tell the owner to give me a call, because I know of resources that will help him or her preserve their diners, make more money, and give us all good reasons to stop in for multiple visits. Lou-Roc'ing not only destroys a precious part of our heritage, it's good money thrown after bad. The financial case can be made, and from experience I can tell you that this is the only argument that 99% of those owners really care about anyway. [And I don't disagree that you can probably be very persuasive and effective. ]

Sunday, February 12, 2012

followup on Connecticut Ward & Dickinson

In 1964, the Ward & Dickinson was replaced by a diner that came to Meriden via Hartford, CT.
Some brief history of the diner. In January, 1931, it was announced that Fred Klett had to file a building permit for a diner that was arriving from Silver Creek, NY in about a week. Klett committed suicide in 1936, and his wife ran the diner until November, 1938 when it was sold to Wilson Veillette who ran the diner until about 1956 when he sold it to Clifford Hourigan who replaced the diner in 1963. The article said the diner was being demolished. So my theory of this being the diner that is currently in Willimantic is probably not good. But you never know.
This story does leave a few more questions to search concerning Klett.
Klett ran diners in Hartford, CT and Detroit, MI before coming back to Meriden to open the Ward & Dickinson. Did he have other Wards in Hartford and Detroit? also, in 1916 he had a "Uneeda Lunch" for four years, which he was selling. Uneeda was a popular lunch car name, which was also used by a few Closson Lunch Wagons at times. Might this explain why he was familiar with Ward & Dickinson. Of course, he could have also seen the factory traveling back form Detroit by car on US Route 20. Hartford supposedly had a Ward & Dickinson for sale in the 1940s, so Klett's name will have to be researched in Hartford.

Monday, February 6, 2012

new Ward & Dickinson in Connecticut?

Ward & Dickinson sent a few diners to Connecticut. Records have six diners spending some time in Connecticut in the past plus a seventh still around in Willamantic. Three of them moved on to different states, with one spending eight years in Connecticut before being foreclosed on and sold to sold to Silver Creek, NY resident Howard Hovey for $300. Hovey moved the diner to Columbia, Pennsylvania.
Diner #3(third diner built by the company) went to Niantic after spending time in Jamestown, NY and Mt. Jewett, PA. This would have been a wooden diner, so it probably did not last too long.
Arthur H. Young put a Ward in Waterbury, and advertised with a rare drawing of a Ward & Dickinson on their matchbooks. The diner was in Waterbury from maybe 1930 to about 1950. He also used the matchbook as seen here, which is a nicer drawing of a Ward & Dickinson.

The last Ward on my list comes from a photograph taken by a traveling salesman around 1932/1933. It shows a "new" Ward in Stratford. upon researching this diner, it turns out Homer R. Ladd put the diner there around 1932/3 before moving to Schenectady, NY two years later to run a diner and gas station. By the 1960s, the location became a restaurant, so the diner was either replaced or remodeled so greatly.

So why this look at Connecticut?
Well, it is because of this matchbook seen on EBAY. This is more than a simple drawing of a Ward & Dickinson diner, but this one shows some landscaping that Ward & Dickinson used after about 1929 on their company issued matchbooks. I am hoping that this is another company issued matchbook. So look for more information in the future as I research this diner. Hopefully I will have one more Ward & Dickinson diner to add to my list of about 200 plus diners. I know the company built at least 310 diners, and probably not many more, so each new one is big.