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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Vintage on the Road Dining

The diner is an icon of American culture found in many U.S. cities and towns. It's a place where people from all walks of life stop and eat. It's a long-standing cultural icon in popular films. Who can forget the When Harry Met Sally? diner scene? (Check out the film if you haven't seen it.) 

Our recent weekend road trip to Wolfeboro, NH, took us past a diner we had bypassed earlier when there wasn't time to stop. This time we made it the destination and stopped for breakfast on our way back to Nashua, NH.

The 104 Diner is in New Hampton, NH, and actually located on Route 104. It's vintage looking with silver chrome, Coke signs and large working clock.

The 104 diner car dates to 1957 as WLC#850 and was the last one built by the Worcester Lunch Car Company. The company was started in 1906 by Thomas Buckley in Worcester, MA. Buckley found that designing and manufacturing lunch cars was more profitable than running one. 

When completed, WLC #850 was delivered to Lloyd Hopkins on Hartford Ave in Johnston, RI, and operated it as Lloyd's Diner for 31 years. Like many diners, it was family-owned during that time. Lloyd and Lorraine Hopkins operated it until 1980, then their daughter, Jean Arcand, took over and ran it until its closing in 1988.

After it closed, the diner was moved to South Weymouth, MA, and in 1989 became part of Sh-Boom Dance Club. Its time there was short-lived when Sh-Booms closed and in 1990 the diner again was moved to a storage yard in Natick. MA where it awaited a possible sale to the Fat Boy's diner chain in England. 

When that deal fell through, the diner was sold to Alexis Stewart (Martha's daughter) who had the diner transported to Bridgehampton, NY on Long Island. She planned to set it up as the Delish Diner. The town fathers hemmed and hawed and dragged their feet before finally nixing the project. 

Once again, the diner sat unused, this time in a field for 2 years. In 1994, Robert and Gloria Merrill purchased it from Ms. Stewart and relocated it to its present site in New Hampton, NH. The new owners were not diner "newbies" and had operated Glory Jean’s Diner in Rumney, NH, later selling it to operate another business. The doors to Bobby's Girl Diner opened in 1994. In 2003, the Merrills sold the diner to Ron and Mary Elliard. 

After 7 years in business, the Elliards cited zoning changes as the reason they could no longer afford to operate the business and Bobby's Girl Diner was put up for auction. The 3,100 square-foot restaurant and 12-acre property sold for $310,000 and were purchased by Alex Ray and a partner who opened it as the 104 Diner in 2009. It's now part of The Common Man family of restaurants based entirely in NH.

We're glad we (finally) stopped at the 104 Diner and plan to return again when in the area. Our home state of NJ is known as the diner capital of the world and was once home to the biggest diner manufacturer in the world. The Jerry O'Mahony Diner Company of Elizabeth, NJ, was estimated to have produced 2,000 diners from 1917 to 1941.

23 comments:

laurie said...

It’s wonderful! We still have a couple of diners here with the nostalgia of yesterday, what a fun spot to see! I love the colours and all that chrome!

Rain said...

How interesting! It's amazing what that diner went through, I never think of stuff like that for actual restaurants or buildings. We LOVE diners. Alex and I typically will only go to a diner if we go out to eat! I try to recreate diner food at home too! Lovely photos, it looks like such a fun place to stop by and have a bite!

robin andrea said...

Wow! That is quite a history. It's been a long time since I've been to a diner, but now I want to go!

Sandra said...

I would eat there even if the food were unedible, just to spend time in it and sit and enjoy being back in 1957... I love it inside and out. what a crazy history it has. glad it is still open to the public and looking fantastic

Annsterw said...

That is sooo cool! Thanks for sharing! Annster's Domain

Emma Springfield said...

Diners were where we all hung out as teenagers. I was wondering if you were going to mention the jukeboxes at the tables when lo and behold there in the last set of pictures I spied one.

Christina said...

Such an interesting story, thank you for sharing it. There are no diners like that in my part of the world, it is a shame!

bill burke said...

What a wonderful story of the diners. We had one in the town I grew up in and I believe it is still in operation.
Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful week.

Nil @ The Little House by the Lake said...

What an interesting story ! When I see old buildings, historical places, and even trees I wonder what they would say if they could speak.

I don’t think I’ve even been to a diner like that. I’m going to google if there are any nearby. 😊

Anvilcloud said...

What is the actual difference between a restaurant and.a diner? Is a diner a restaurant but a restaurant not necessarily a diner?

William Kendall said...

These are quite retro!

Red said...

Diners had their very own atmosphere.

My name is Erika. said...

I was just there a few weeks back. It's a fun place, isn't it? Have you been to the Tilton Diner in Tilton or the Airport Diner in Manchester? They are owned by the same folks who own the 104. The Airport Diner is close to you so if you want to visit again you won't need such a long drive. Hugs-Erika

NCmountainwoman said...

I love diners. There is one we pass in a nearby town called "Dixie Diner." The parking lot is always filled and we are determined to go there for breakfast sometime.

diane b said...

That was a great read about the history of the diner.

Valerie said...

UK had something similar to your diners but I can't remember what they were called. Not even sure they're still around.

DeniseinVA said...

Great place to visit! We love going to diners when we travel.

Jon said...

Wow - I haven't seen any good diners since I was a kid, and YES! Mew Jersey had the very best ones. Your photos bring back a lot of memories. The 104 Diner is beautifully restored.

Jon said...

Of course, I meant to say NEW Jersey - not MEW Jersey. Sorry for the typo!

Linda G. said...

There is a diner in Wellsboro PA that we eat at from time to time, when Visiting Wellsboroo,

baili said...

wow what a long journey of restaurant dear Dorothy :)

told by you so nicely and i enjoyed it so much
how amazing that business was run by one family for long ,i always find such places so fascinating ,thing in one hand for long show difference and peculiarity

i am glad you made you way to it finally :)
blessings!

L. D. said...

That looks like the top of the top of burger joints. It is beautifully designed.

Connie said...

I love diners like this. They usually serve wonderful comfort food.

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