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First Roadside Day on historic Route 20

Buzzings from BeeLines

June 21, 2011
By Marybelle Beigh, Current Westfield Historian
The past few weeks have been a flurry of activity assisting diner historian and author of “Diners of New York”, Mike Engle, to set up for another special event – a Roadside Day along Route 20 in conjunction with the Chautauqua County Bicentennial celebrations throughout 2011.

Of course, amongst the planning and executing of all the arrangements for the roadside day, your Westfield Historian has been busy researching for BeeLines articles, assisting readers and historian clients to locate requested information and even making a last-minute guest appearance on Reed Powers’ Senior Reports show on Public Access Channel 5. The latter activity has brought a lot more questions as well as several historic items for research, filing and archiving. My appreciation is extended with many thanks to all readers and viewers who continue to provide me with more fun and research and fascinating discussions.

Before I share some of the recent items of interest, your attention is directed to the press release from Engle, elsewhere in the newspaper, regarding the details of Roadside Day, June 18.

As plans for the Roadside Day developed, Mike Engle received a note from Chautauqua County Historian Michelle Henry suggesting a video and recently published book about “20 West” by Mac Nelson, a SUNY Fredonia professor. A venue was sought for the showing of this video, as well as another video about historic Route 20, and a poetry reading by Sara Ries from her recently published book of poetry about diners.

Since the diner tour of historic diners in Silver Creek, Brocton, Mayville, and Westfield would end at Westfield’s Main Diner with a book signing of Mike Engle’s “Diners of New York”, it seemed most reasonable to use Eason Hall for the showing of the videos, the poetry reading and a short PowerPoint recap of the research and old photos about the historic diners of Westfield which were shared between Engle and myself for a recent series of BeeLines articles about Westfield’s diners. After the event at Eason Hall, interested persons are invited to the historian office and local history book store at Parkview Ice Cream Parlor Cafe for further discussion. Signed copies of Nelson’s “20 West” (SUNY Press) will be available for purchase at Parkview, in addition to Engle’s “Diners of New York” (Stackpole Books), Michael J Till’s “Along New York’s Route 20 – Postcard History Series” (Arcadia Publishing) and other local history books. And yes, ice cream treats may be purchased at that time, too.

On to another tidbit of local historic diner interest. In the midst of the many emails from Engle about Roadside Day was one with a subject line, “Clark Guest.” Do you remember in the Westfield diner history series one that was quite a mystery called the “Merry Guest Diner?” In The Westfield Republican issues of February through April, 1926, were several notices about Bruce Merry and Clark Guest dissolving their partnership of Merry-Guest Diner, and Murray subsequently selling the diner to Wallace Stafford, who continued the diner as Westfield Diner or Stafford’s Diner through at least 1931, based on located ads for the diner.

Engle writes, in the “Clark Guest” email of June 1, 2011, “pure luck!!! – Perry Herald. 1/4/1951 – Perry Diner Sold To… Mr. and Mrs. Clark Guest…The new owners have had some experience in restaurant operation. Mr. Guest opened the first diner to be built in Westfield, N.Y. and operated it…”

Well, it may be debated as to whether this was the first diner to be built in Westfield because the Closson Lunch Wagon factory built early diners called “lunch wagons” in Westfield from 1912 through 1916. Also Bancroft Lunch Car is advertised in the 1916 Westfield High School class book. But, if one assumes that “diner” and “lunch wagon” or “lunch car” are not synonymous, then perhaps the Merry Guest Diner might have been the first diner built in Westfield. It is still a mystery as to what company or person actually built or manufactured the Merry Guest Diner. Perhaps it was built by Earl Richardson. And perhaps it was the diner, the interior of which was pictured in two old post cards, believed to have been in Westfield, and identified by Engle as most probably a Richardson-built diner.

Article Photos

Submitted photo
This is a scan of a postcard of the interior of a mystery diner that may relate to the Merry-Guest diner.



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