"My Uncle John wanted to start a restaurant, a diner as it happened to be, so they ordered the diner from a company, and it was delivered here. It had sliding doors and marble counter tops. It was a good diner. It sat long ways on Ashland Street, and there was an entrance from … [Read more...]
DINERS, CAFES & SMALL TOWNS - Page 1
I grew up in rural southern Maryland. My grandfather used to take me on wayward drives on Saturdays, and we would check out every road and every little town along the way. We always looked for a small cafe or luncheonette on some quiet Main Street, and we would sample the hamburgers and hot chocolate.
I loved to look at the factories, houses, gas stations and storefronts. I learned to appreciate the simple beauty of the American landscape, especially the faded brick buildings of painter Edward Hopper’s world.
My grandfather passed on when I was 14 years old. Thirty years later, I was Dad, the strange guy who was always driving his kids along the back roads, stopping for hot chocolate in diners, and leading them on a walk down Main Street in each newly discovered town.
Now that the kids are out of the house, my wife and I spend much of our leisure time exploring small towns and eating at the places where the locals hang out. Here are a few discoveries.
Please read the summaries and click on the titles.
There was a light, wet snow falling this evening as I drove up on I-91 from Northampton to participate in Charlie Hunter’s art discussion group at Oona’s, in Bellows Falls, Vermont. Big bully trucks roared by unfazed and sprayed swills of icy, grimy spit on my windshield. I … [Read more...]
Picture this. I am enjoying lunch on a crisp September day in a smartly dressed café near the largest center for contemporary art and performance in the United States. I can see the top of a 75-foot clock tower and the red and yellow foliage on the mountain behind it. At a table … [Read more...]
Every morning, Rene, a hair salon owner from Gill, Massachusetts, walks across the bridge over the Connecticut River to get breakfast at her favorite place in Turners Falls. "I’ve been coming here for 35 years," she told me, shouting over the chatter and clatter. "It was the … [Read more...]
The sign said, ‘Welcome Home,’ as we drove into Cortland, New York, a city of 20,000, just off Interstate 81, about 30 miles south of Syracuse. The sign seemed strangely appropriate. My wife and I spent our first year of marriage in a basement apartment near the State University … [Read more...]
Since the late summer, I have been exploring the towns and small cities in the Connecticut River Valley in southern Vermont and New Hampshire. On a recent November morning in Claremont, New Hampshire, I was walking in a modest neighborhood that is bordered by three large mills, … [Read more...]
"Man in an apron cooking potatoes, strips of bacon on the side/Smiling waitress comes to help me with her tired, lovin’ eyes/Shiny stainless, neon sign, remind of a day gone by/With steaming coffee in a porcelain cup, rice pudding piled high." The words of singer Bill Lauf are … [Read more...]
When Springfield, Vermont native Lena Kazak graduated from high school in 1938, landing a job wasn’t easy. The Great Depression had its hold on this small factory town along the raging Black River, about 35 miles north of Brattleboro. The town’s machine tool industry was … [Read more...]
On a dreadfully cold New England day, I sit at a table that looks out on Main Street, browse the Boston Globe, and scarf down a scrumptious breakfast of French toast and maple syrup. Journalists need a good place to hang out, and the Morning Star Café in downtown Springfield, … [Read more...]
Route 116 between South Deerfield and Ashfield, Massachusetts winds like a babbling brook through 13 miles of rural beauty that is breathtaking without being spectacular. I drove it one recent early morning on the way to North Adams, the sun rising behind me, angling its rays on … [Read more...]
I met my friend Marylou in Claremont, New Hampshire about three years ago. It was my first visit to the city, and I was just walking around and exploring. Marylou was planting tulips in her front yard, and we got into a lovely conversation. You can read about it in my story … [Read more...]
A NOSTALGIC TRIP ON NEW YORK'S ROUTE 20 (2007) My wife, Carole, and I took a short October trip to Oneonta, New York, making the three-hour drive from our home in western Massachusetts. Oneonta was where it all started for us almost 40 years ago. We had a blind date, arranged … [Read more...]
May 28, 2007: I drove into Turners Falls about 8:30 a.m. Some folks were already on Avenue A getting things ready for the Memorial Day parade. There were plenty of cars parked in the Shady Glen lot, and the usual coffee crowd at the lunch counter. They had lots to talk about. … [Read more...]
Every town needs some things to remember, some things to look forward to, and some things that look like success. Our best friends from Connecticut were visiting one day, and my wife and I took them for a drive. We wound up in Turners Falls, Massachusetts, a 25-minute trip … [Read more...]
A narrow, four-story building stands at 26-28 Washington Street, in Keene, New Hampshire. It looks familiar, like thousands of mixed commercial-residential blocks that were built in the late nineteenth century in cities and towns all across the Northeast. But it captured my … [Read more...]
Thirty-five years ago this winter, my wife and I had three meals in a row at the County Girl Diner in Chester, Vermont. We had been living in Connecticut for two years and wanted to see what the Green Mountains looked like, so we took a week off and just drove around. We had no … [Read more...]
The Fellows Gear Shaper Company was formed in Springfield, Vermont, in 1896. Its founder, Edwin R. Fellows, was born in Torrington, Connecticut, in 1865. From 1889 to 1896, he worked for the Jones & Lamson Machine Company in Springfield, helping to design turret machinery. … [Read more...]
I grew up in the tiny southern Maryland village of Solomons, and attended Solomons Elementary School. After college, I moved to New England. Twenty years ago, I returned to my home town for a high school reunion and discovered that my little elementary school had been converted … [Read more...]
June 20, 2008: My family has been taking daytrips to Greene County, New York since the early 1970s. My wife grew up in Long Island. In the 1950s, her family often vacationed at a lakeside camp of cottages in the tiny town of Craryville, just a few miles east of the Taconic … [Read more...]
Nostalgia can take you back, but it can't take you all the way back. Not in Salem, Illinois. They tore down the Starlite Restaurant. It was located in Salem, Illinois. I have never lived anywhere near Illinois, and I dined at the Starlite only twice in my life, but this … [Read more...]