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June 27, 2014


I love your observations here. We had a "fifties diner" in Hilo that was used in a Japanese film about honeymooners in Hawaii.Shortly thereafter the diner was torn down and replaced with a parking lot.

What is the world coming to, when a waitress doesn't know what a milkshake is?! Good heavens.

I love these photos, though, and your gentleness in this post. It makes me happy somehow that someone whom I know to have sophisticated taste in cuisine can also enjoy a cup of hamburger macaroni soup. :-)

Hattie, there are still quite a lot of diners -- both the silver kind and the more homespun versions like this -- in the northeast and J. and I like stopping at them to eat. The soup and the pies are almost always way better than you'd get elsewhere, and sometimes you luck out and get real home cooking, homemade bread -- the works.

Oh yes, Rachel, I may eat and make a lot of different kinds of food but I don't especially like "fancy" food, and have never forgotten my origins. My go-to diner order is a BLT or a grilled cheese sandwich with some soup, and I like hot dogs and hamburgers, fries and a soda as much as anyone -- just try not to indulge too often. I also feel very sad about what's happened in upstate and central New York and so many other regions of the country where jobs have fled, the economy has tanked, debt is high, properties and main streets are run-down, and people have to drive long distances to work while gas prices go up and up. This has happened quickly enough that many remember a time when their towns were vibrant and things were much better; they feel forgotten, used, and helpless, and to a large extent they are. I try to be sensitive when I write a post like this because I don't want what I write to come off as critical or, especially, superior, because it's not the way I feel at all: this is where I came from, and the people deserve better.

Love this Beth....upstate New York is sad....even the finger lakes region has obviously seen much better days. Geneva the town where Hobart &William Smith is located almost had a feel of desperation to it clear back when Chris attended school there over 10 yrs. ago. Please tell J. hi!!!

I love these 'real' old diners, not the packaged nostalgia kind. But, not to know a milkshake is a mournful effect of modernity. There are still places where they make them, and serve them in the stainless-steel blender container, so you can top up your glass.

I envy you access to diners. Even when the internals are up-to-date they are in effect a special version of time travel machines - places where time stands still. It's a question of attitude on both sides: customers expect a comparatively narrow range of items done to perfection, the owners - if they want to stay in business - provide just that. Day in day out

Personally, I take expectations a little further. Whenever I use a diner I enter a land where it's forever breakfast. A land where eggs and bacon reign supreme. Where coffee is served in a cup as substantial as an Epstein. Where coffee just comes. Where efficiency is prized above chat. Where hairy-chested males always sit on the stools.

After eleven o'clock diners lose some of their special identity, they become as other caffs. The land of breakfast closes down for another twenty-four hours.

To me the US is not skyscrapers and big cities, but the suburbs. It is also certain humdrum rituals which will always be slightly foreign to my upbringing. Here's one: you take your car in for service then you eke out the wait in a diner. You eat breakfast and read a newspaper, never a book (or, if needs must, a paperback). You don't wear a tie. You drink lots of coffee and you're never hassled. To assist in the diner's cash-flow you order a slice of pie which you may not really want and may not even eat (though you take it away in a doggie bag). The mechanic works on your car and the short-order cook scrapes the big flat griddle with a palette knife which, I'm sure, he doesn't call a palette knife. The world does what you hope the world should do.

Diners and milkshakes in great abundance here. No more "sweatburgers" since Ozzie left the grill, but with the auto shop next door, D+D's would fulfill RR's vision pretty well. Judy's, behind the firehouse, remains a gem known mostly to locals, open only for breakfast and lunch. Both diners serve breakfast during all hours of operation. Milkshakes? D+D's still has 'em, Gilligans Island will make one from any of a hundred flavors of home-made ice cream. The place is mobbed with motorcycles on Bike Night, with vintage cars and hot rods displayed in long rows, weekly, on another evening.

Hi Kathy! Yes -- I think it's happened all over that region. Things are better in the towns that have universities or some sort of tourist industry, like Cooperstown, that bring in money from the outside. J. says hi back to you!

Roderick, your comment deserves to be a post of its own! I agree with you about forever breakfast, since that is the meal I like to order no matter what time of day it is. I have no idea what they call that griddle-scraper but it probably does have a name...and I have never failed to eat my slice of pie but usually don't order it. Many New England diners sell Boston cream pie, which is really a yellow cake frosted with chocolate and filled with pastry cream - it's hard to come by elsewhere. And they also have red flannel hash, and real maple syrup if you ask for it. The local diner near us in Vermont was well-known, and frequented by motorcycle gangs, who parked their Harleys in back and ate as a pack, still wearing their leather and chains, and were generally polite as can be.

Mike, I'm glad to know that the diners back home haven't forgotten these essentials! Was the soda fountain still downtown when you were a kid? I remember going to the candy store and the ice cream shop so vividly, and also having my grandfather take me into the back room of the sweet shop at Christmas time to watch Mr. Vanesh (sp?) make peanut brittle and ribbon candy on his huge marble table. There were still a few "relics" of that business in the back and cellar when Dad and Mom bought the building and renovated the space for their office.

I have a vague recollection of "Gebby's", a soda fountain in the neighborhood of Quinn's store. Memories of the fountain that became your parent's real estate office are a little more vivid. We knew it as "Gus's" or "Gus and Angie's", but I think it may have been called "The Sweet Shop". We often went after school, Gus and Angie (Anagnost, I think, was the last name) were very good to us. I favored "vanilla Coke" and "cherry Coke". Long time ago.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.