Diners Through the Decades: 1930s

In the inter-war period, 1918 to 1941, diners became a staple of American dining. They were larger to accommodate more seating, and began to use less wood. Many retained the same barrel-roof structure as their predecessors. The Great Depression meant people had less money to spend on dining out, so diners became a popular alternative in the pre-fast food era. One Silk City advertisement called it a “Depression-proof business.”

Joseph Fodero, using his experience gained from working with P. J. Tierney Sons and Kullman Industries, opened the Fodero Dining Car Company in 1933, and Les Daniel and Henry Strys, late comers to the diner game, opened Mountain View Diners Company in Singac, New Jersey in 1938.

Photo by Michael Kleen

Tom’s Diner, at 1200 U.S. Route 46 (south of the I-80 interchange) in Ledgewood, New Jersey, is a 1930 Silk City and the second oldest diner in New Jersey. It was used as a location in Cyndi Lauper’s music video for her 1984 hit “Time After Time.” You can see this would have been a beautiful diner when it first opened.

Photo by Michael Kleen

Morey’s Diner, at 119 Phelps Street in Oneida, New York, is a rare 1930 Ward & Dickinson model dining car (#215). It was located on Main Street from 1930 to 1954, when it was owned by Reynold D. Ido and called the Miss Oneida.

Photo by Michael Kleen

Swan Street Diner, at 700 Swan Street in Buffalo, New York, is a 1937 Sterling Company diner car, #397. It was originally located in Newark, New York. The new owners have done an incredible job restoring this historic diner. It sits in Buffalo’s Larkinville neighborhood.

Lloyd’s of Lowville was opened by Lloyd Rasmussen in 1939 at the juncture of Routes 12 and 26 to serve nearby factory workers, and it has been a local favorite ever since. Current owner Blair Sandri bought it in 1985, and it still has its original wood furnishings. I haven’t been able to determine what company manufactured it, but if I had to guess, I’d say Worcester.

Photo by Michael Kleen

Chelsea Royal Diner, at 487 Marlboro Road in West Brattleboro, Vermont, is a 1939 Worcester Diner (#736) moved here from downtown West Brattleboro. The 1958 sign was discovered in a New Hampshire barn and restored in 1999.

JJ’s Miss Syracuse Diner, at 258 E. Water Street in Syracuse, New York, is a remodeled Bixler. It has been a staple of downtown Syracuse for over 80 years but almost burnt down in 2000. The Bixler Manufacturing Company operated between 1931 and 1937, and only a handful of its diners are still in use.

Author: Michael Kleen

Michael Kleen is an author, raconteur, and occasional traveler. He has a M.A. in History and M.S. in Education. He enjoys studying military history, folklore, and philosophy.

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