Prior to August of 1934, when the Modern Club Diner was removed from the corner of Main and Elm Streets, possible sources for original lunch car/diner structure that became the first section of the current Main Diner were researched by Diner Historian Mike Engle and Westfield Historian Marybelle Beigh.
Engle had been puzzled in his attempts to trace the path of this Ward and Dickenson Diner because of news items about two W and D diners that were moved from Erie, Pa., to Westfield, N.Y., about the same time — one called Elk’s Diner and the other called Stead’s Diner. But after examining the few details available for each, Engle is fairly certain that it was Stead’s Diner, Ward and Dickenson Diner number 36, built in late 1925, which was originally shipped to Florida in 1926, then moved to Erie, Pa., where it was owned by John H. Stead, and finally moved to Westfield about October 1934. Engle noted that, since the current Main Diner’s original front section is a 30-foot diner of very simple construction and interior, this leads more toward it being the Stead’s Diner that went from Florida to Erie to Westfield than Elk’s Diner which was much longer, about 40 feet.
According to a Westfield Republican Sept. 26, 1934 news story, Manuel Triantefellow purchased and put at the corner of Main and Elm Street, his lot, a lunch car. “Manuel does not know who will manage it, but he says ‘Watch for the opening.’”
A detailed search of October and November Westfield Republican issues produced the following two advertisements:
• In Oct. 31, 1934, “Wright’s Diner — Corner MAIN and ELM Sts. — Operated and leased by F.J. Wright — 24-HOUR SERVICE” and
• In Nov. 7, 1934, “Wright’s Diner — Main and Elm — Westfield N.Y. — Sunday Special — Roast chicken with biscuits…50c — Roast beef…35c — Roast pork…35c — Home Made Pies, Cakes and Puddings — MEAL TICKETS, $5 FOR $4.35.”
So it looks like Triantefellow, who owned the Elm and Main lot and the lunch car placed there in September, did find a manager for the diner — F.J. Wright. But then, the Pick-Ups column in the March 13, 1935, Westfield Republican, page five, had a bit of information that reads, “The Rose Restaurant has again taken on life and F.J. Wright who has been operating the Main and Elm Street Lunch Car is the new proprietor and will rename the Rose, Wright’s Restaurant.”
About four weeks later, in the April 24, 1935, Republican, page two, there is a large two column wide square ad that reads, “Black and White DINER — Special — NOON DAY LUNCH — 25c — REGULAR DINNERS — 40c — Mrs. Putnam’s Delicious Home Made Pastry.” Then, in the June 12, 1935 issue, on page seven there is a full page of Congratulations WHS Graduates ads from the local businesses, and included is the following ad, “BLACK and WHITE DINER — Corner Main and Elm WESTFIELD — Prop. S.N. Betts — WE APPRECIATE YOUR PATRONAGE.”
When he received this info, Engle quipped, “Can you guess the decor?”
Articles and advertisements for any diner became non-existent in The Westfield Republican from June 1935 until the Feb. 5, 1936 issue in which, on page one, was the headline, “The Black and White changes hands.” This article states that the diner, “is now opened under the new management of Mr. and Mrs. Leon Hanks.” Later in the same paper is the Hanks’ advertisement in a boldly outlined rectangle, which encourages customers to “Try our Dinners and Special Lunches.” Again, in the mid-June newspaper is the regular “Congratulation Graduates” page of ads by local businesses, and the Black and White Diner is one of the advertisers. Leon Hanks’ management of the diner is also short-lived, as the Aug. 19, 1936, Pick-Ups notes that, “Leon Hanks is the new proprietor of Walker Inn at Barcelona.”
While Hanks was manager of the Black and White Diner, Pat Park worked as a night cook for him. Triantefellow, who still owned the diner and the lot at the corner of Elm and Main, recognized in Park the qualities of an excellent diner manager. So from August 1936, Park ran the diner, leasing it from Triantefellow, until he purchased it in 1946.
Next BeeLines story in the Westfield diners update series will continue the history of the Main Diner from when Park became proprietor.
Photos of the two early incarnations of the Main Diner — Wright’s Diner and Black and White Diner — seem to be nearly non-existent. Video tapes of old black and white films made in 1929, 1931 and 1935 were located in the Patterson Library archives, which show brief views of the Modern Club Diner and the Black and White Diner at the corner of Elm and Main. These video tapes have since been transferred to DVD format, from which a few blurred still images have been made.
The Black and White Diner was located on the corner of Main and Elm Streets in Westfield from 1935 to 1936.
Fact BoxMarybelle Beigh is the current Public Historian for the Town and Village of Westfield. Her office is located at 3 East Main Street in Westfield, N.Y, 14787 — inside Parkview Ice Cream Parlor. Her scheduled office hours are Monday through Friday 9 to 11 a.m.; other hours by appointment.
Beigh can be reached at westfieldhistorian@
fairpoint.net or by calling 326-2457 (office), 326-6171 (home) or 397-9254 (cell).