Group Aims to Restore 1940’s Era Depot Diner

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Group Aims to Restore 1940’s Era Depot Diner
Posted by Victrola1 on Tuesday, April 26, 2016 2:39 PM

A group of Burlington (IA) residents is hoping to renovate and restore the old Grier’s restaurant location at the Burlington depot into a unique diner.

Matt Murray showed off his proposal in front of the Burlington City Council on Monday. Murray is one of three investors that hope to restore the diner to it’s original World War II era glory.......

http://www.kbur.com/2016/04/26/group-aims-to-restore-1940s-era-depot-diner/

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Posted by BtrainBob on Tuesday, April 26, 2016 3:33 PM

Nice that another WWII depot will be restored and saved.  Because of a wrong turn we stumbled upon the Kelso, Ca UP depot which has been restored - including its diner - and is being used by the National Park Service.  Exterior and Interior are both magnificent.   Pictures at: https://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/kelso-depot-kelso and at https://www.nps.gov/moja/planyourvisit/visitorcenters.htm Made our detour quite worthwhile.

Great that you're preserving history from this time period!

Are there other 1940's/WWII depots preserved?  Fred Harvey restaurants?  Too many of the remnants of WWII in the US have disappeared.  History is important!

Bob

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Posted by 54light15 on Tuesday, April 26, 2016 6:02 PM

Be nice if they charged 1940s prices. How much was a burger back then? A dime?

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Posted by Firelock76 on Tuesday, April 26, 2016 6:14 PM

54light15

Be nice if they charged 1940s prices. How much was a burger back then? A dime?

 

Not sure, but back in the 40's a Coke was a nickle, a candy bar was a nickle, a pack of Camels or Luckies was a nickle...

You get the picture.  If I can find a 40's menu in one of my diner books I'll get back to all as what a burger went for.

OK, update time...

From the menu of "The Flying Yankee" diner in Lynn, Massachusetts, circa 1940:

Grilled or broiled "Fancy Sirloin Steak", with choice of veggies, 60 cents.

Gridiron Scotch Ham, with veggies, 40 cents.

"The Eternal Twins- Ham and Eggs" with french fried potatos and toast, 45 cents.

"Aristocratic Hamburger Steak" (I don't think this is an on-the-bun variety), with tomatoes and french fried potatoes, 45 cents.

Broiled Arlington Frankforts, with chow-chow and french fries, 35 cents.

Wow.

Just saw a 1940's diner menu on Pinterest, a hamburger was 25 cents, a cheeseburger was 35 cents.

 

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Posted by Paul Milenkovic on Thursday, April 28, 2016 7:33 PM

And your wages were 90 cents/hour . . .

If GM "killed the electric car", what am I doing standing next to an EV-1, a half a block from the WSOR tracks?
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Posted by Firelock76 on Thursday, April 28, 2016 7:36 PM

Paul Milenkovic

And your wages were 90 cents/hour . . .

 

No doubt, it's all relative of course.  And prior to World War Two if you making $35 a week you were doing all right.

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Posted by 54light15 on Friday, April 29, 2016 9:43 AM

So I guess the 20 bucks a month was pretty good pay for Privates Prewitt and Maggio.

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Posted by Firelock76 on Friday, April 29, 2016 6:28 PM

54light15

So I guess the 20 bucks a month was pretty good pay for Privates Prewitt and Maggio.

 

Actually it was lousy, which is why FDR got it bumped up to $50 a month right after the war began.

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Posted by 54light15 on Saturday, April 30, 2016 9:29 AM

Firelock, I checked out what you said in the best way I could. In my book of Milton Caniff's "Male Call" comic strip, there in a strip from June 27th, 1943, a guy in a zoot suit says to two soldiers, "Lookit the 50 bucks a month so'jers!" I stand corrected!

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Posted by Firelock76 on Saturday, April 30, 2016 9:48 AM

And 54light, I believe if you went "airborne" and joined the paratroopers you got an additional $10 a month hazardous duty pay. 

Hey, they had to give them SOMETHING for jumping out of a perfectly good airplane!

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Posted by 54light15 on Saturday, April 30, 2016 9:18 PM

You do recall the Bill Mauldin cartoon of two officers wearing some fine footwear walking by a G.I. who obviously has a "bad attitude" and one says to the other, "It's best not to speak to paratroopers about saluting, they always ask where you got your jump boots."

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Posted by Firelock76 on Sunday, May 01, 2016 7:35 AM

Absolutely, I remember that Maudin cartoon!

I also remember another one he did. Willie and Joe were walking past two scruffy looking GI's and Willie says "They calls 'em 'garritroopers.'  They're too far back to get shot at, and too far forward to wear ties!"

Ol' Bill had a bit of explaining to do to some outraged paratroopers, they thought he was taking a shot at THEM! 

Quite a guy, Bill Mauldin.  I read his book "Up Front" in high school and enjoyed it, but REALLY didn't understand it until I put on a uniform myself.

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Posted by 54light15 on Sunday, May 01, 2016 10:19 AM

I have a hardback copy of Bill Mauldin's Army that I bought at an estate auction. When I got home, I found that Bill autographed it in 1951 and dedicated it to the guy whose estate it was. There is also a new collection of his cartoons with a forward by the late Andy Rooney.

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Posted by Firelock76 on Sunday, May 01, 2016 10:47 AM

Lucky guy!

Somehow I doubt Bill Mauldin's sly insolance and slightly insubordinate style would be tolerated nowadays, which is a bit of a shame.  It damn near wasn't tolerated during WW2, but luckily Bill had some heavy-hitters in his corner like Generals Eisenhower and Bradley who realized the average GI wasn't a professional soldier, didn't want to be where he was, and needed a "safety valve" for his frustrations.  Wise men.

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Posted by 54light15 on Sunday, May 01, 2016 12:28 PM

I've heard that a lot of officers likes Bill's stuff because it had a bite to it. General Patton hated his cartoons and called Bill on the carpet. He later said that "Mauldin was the Bruce Bairnsfather of this war" as an aside he said that he didn't like Bairnsfather either. Look up BB if you haven't already. " If you know of a better 'ole, go to it!"

 

But back to wages and costs, any idea what a soldier was paid in the first go-round? What was the price of a burger and a beer?

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Posted by Firelock76 on Sunday, May 01, 2016 12:52 PM

I know exactly who Bruce Bairnsfather was, as a matter of fact here in the Fortress Firelock archives I've got a copy of his book "A Better 'Ole."  It's a real classic of World War One.

A classic Bairnsfather cartoon involves a sentry in the night...

"HALT!  Who comes here?"

"Why you ***-**-*-***** who d'you think comes here?"

"Pass, friend!"

For a while World War One was a hobby of mine, and one of the things I collected were books published at the time or immediately afterward.  Quite a bit of gold in those books, and living in Northern New Jersey at the time put me in the perfect place to find them, and in good condition as well.  The climate up there is pretty kind to books.  I don't have too much luck here in Virginia now with oldies, the winters aren't too bad but the summers are brutal!  Old books and hot houses or attics, not a good combination.

As to what the pay was for a private during WW1 I'm not sure, it'll take some digging to find out.  During the Civil War a US Army private was paid $13 a month, rising to $16 by the end of the war, and then back to $13 afterward and through most of the end of the 19th Century.

As to what a burger and a beer went for, there weren't any diners as we know them around the turn of the 20th Century, there were lunch wagons which were the precursor of same.  They didn't sell liquor but the average price of a sandwich was around ten cents.  Most bars sold a beer for a nickle a glass.

And oh yeah, Patton HATED Bill Mauldin's stuff!  Patton believed that wearing your country's uniform and bearing arms for the same was the highest priveledge of citizenship, but of course the average GI didn't see it that way.

Patton's a hero of mine, so's Bill Mauldin.  Sad when great historic figures can't see eye to eye.

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Posted by 54light15 on Sunday, May 01, 2016 2:30 PM

Thanks for that. Last September I was at the classic car "autojumble" (as the Brits call a flea market) at Beaulieu on the late Lord Montagu's estate and I could have bought an "Old Bill" radiator mascot for only 800 pounds.

And, speaking of lunch wagons, go to Worcester, Massachusetts as there are some old ones there in perfect shape and looking like old streetcars which I think is how they started. Diner history and culture are similar in a way to trains, cars, boats and aircraft amongst others. A whole field of interest. Apparentley, Worcester is where the first ones were built. In Red Hook, New York is a 1927 Kuhlman diner, still serving up the burgers 89 years later. Excellent home fries as I recall, it's been over 20 years since I was there.

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Posted by Firelock76 on Monday, May 02, 2016 6:29 PM

Correction time.

I went into the archives looking for the Bruce Bairnsfather book and lo and behold, I've got two of them.  I was wrong on "The Better 'Ole" title.  One book is "Bullets and Billets," CAPTAIN Bruce Bainsfather's story of his service at the front, with photographs and some cartoons.  The other is "Fragments From France," an anthology of the cartoons themselves.

Both are the American editions published by G.Putnam in 1917.  1917!  Holy smoke, those books are almost 100 years old!  Where'd the time go?  They weren't nearly 100 years old when I bought 'em back in the 80's!

And diners?  Worchester Mass. and Providence RI kind of duke it out over who's the birthplace of the diner.  There's even some disagreement among diner afficionados as to what constitutes a diner.  Lady Firestorm and I being diner purists consider the true diner to be of the "dining car" mode, either stainless steel on the outside or porcelain finished for the real pre-WW2 ones.  The subject diner that started this thread strikes us more as a lunch counter/ lunchonette.

No matter, bringing it back to life is certainly a worth cause.

For a great diner history try and find a copy of Richard Gutmann's "American Diner Then And Now," a superb little history of diners and diner culture.

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Posted by 54light15 on Tuesday, May 03, 2016 9:06 AM

You're the lucky one with those 2 Bairnsfather books, all I have are reprints, including one called " In Search of The Better 'Ole," which is a biography of Captain Bairnsfather. Fascinating reading! He held the A.E.F. in very high esteem.

I've always understood that a proper diner must be built in a factory and trucked to it's location where it is set up. There's some great ones along the Taconic Parkway in New York like the one at Hillsdale on route 23. In fine original shape, just like a classic railroad car. Stainless, nickel, formica. 

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Posted by Victrola1 on Tuesday, May 03, 2016 1:29 PM

As I recall, Greir's was a chain of restaurants. Greir's was often associated with railroad station diners. 

Does anybody know how many railroad station diners Geir's operated at their peak? Did Geir's run diners not associated with a railroad station? 

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Posted by Firelock76 on Saturday, May 07, 2016 5:16 PM

54Light, this one's for you:

www.roadsidefans.com/features/taconic-parkway-ny

And just for fun:

www.njdiners.com

I'll tell you, for sheer fun Lady Firestorm and I would rather go to a good diner than the finest cordon bleu restaurant around.

 

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Posted by 54light15 on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 8:55 AM

Firelock, thanks so much! I've eaten in the Martindale and Taghkanic many's the time. The Brighton diner on Main street in Poughkeepsie had a menu five pages long and you could get a coffee and a piece of pie or you could get a whole lobster. Amazing!

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Posted by Firelock76 on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 11:30 AM

You're welcome!  I was sure you'd enjoy that trip down memory lane and was hoping you'd come back to this thread to find it.

Too bad the actual "Roadside" magazine's not around anymore, it was a lot of fun.

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Posted by 54light15 on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 6:42 PM

I was away for a while. I recall the reading the Roadside paper in the Red Hook diner. It was a small newspaper at the time. There's only one old style diner that I know of in Canada and it's in Montreal but was originally from New Jersey I recall. Here we have burger and souvlaki joints in storefronts along the streets. Don't ever make your order by saying you want a cheeseburger with onions and lettuce or whatever. The counter guys will always interrupt you with, "Chizbooger!" Then, when it's almost ready they say, "What you like?" Then you tell them. 

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Posted by Firelock76 on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 8:45 PM

As an old Jersey guy I'm tempted to sat "What do Canadians know about making burgers anyway?"  But I have to say some of the best burgers I've ever had were in the restaurant of the Harold Hotel in Placentia Newfoundland, of all places.

So I'd better keep my mouth shut!

Oh, and the seafood wasn't to be beat either! 

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Posted by 54light15 on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 8:53 AM

Yeah I hear the fish sticks ain't bad on the Rock. Hamburgers, you say? There used to be a place here that had burgers with avocado, pineapple, 3 kinds of bacon, various cheeses, onions, lettuce, 4 kinds of pickles, and I don't know what else. It was only $100.00. Ridiculous stunt food like the weird stuff you see at a county fair.

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Posted by Firelock76 on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 3:01 PM

Fish sticks?  Perish the thought sir, I'm talking about cod and lobster fresh out of the water, and cod tongues with scruncheons (yummy!), I'll pass on the seal flipper pie.  I love seals and don't want any of them dead to grace a dinner plate. 

Besides, the polar explorer Matthew Henson once said at a National Geographic dinner "I'll have a steak!  Seal meat's OK if you don't have anything else!"

And once they start piling Bugs Bunny food on it it ain't a burger anymore!  As the old lady said "Where's the beef?!"

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Posted by 54light15 on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 3:57 PM

Never heard of a burger with carrots. "Eennhh, what's up, Doc?"  Now to really get off the subject, know what I read not long ago? Bugs's character was based on...wait for it... Clark Gable! Clark's easy nonchalance in " It Happened One Night" was the model for Bugs. Even if it ain't true, it ought to be!

But, back to diners, I could go for a burger and home fries at the Taghkanic right about now with a cool one to wash it down and that's a fact!

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Posted by Firelock76 on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 4:25 PM

I know what you mean brother, I could do with a visit to Hiram's Roadstand in Fort Lee NJ for a couple of burgers, fries, and a beer, but they're 350 miles away!

I'll just have to be patient.

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Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, May 29, 2016 11:09 AM

Hey Firelock, it is not so much the heat itself that wrecks old books but the dryness.  Try keeping a pan of water in the room or closet with your old books, and refill it as it evaporates.   It might help.

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