March 18, 2012

A hunger for diners from my childhood

People who know me are aware that I didn't get this opulent corpus by allowing my fork to sit idly by the plate. Like Pavlov's famous dog, I salivate when the subject turns to food.

Case in point: a letter from my friend Richard Daly. He sent a photo of a roadside diner from the 1950s that he said was located "less than two hours north of Manhattan, off the Taconic Parkway, on Route 82 in Ancram, N.Y." Richard wrote, "It used to be a favorite of mine … got sick there two years ago. I know it was the pie."

The picture, taken during its heyday, started my mental and digestive juices flowing freely as I recalled all the diners I have known and loved. Perhaps you can come up with a few of your own. How many can you name?

When I was growing up, my dad was a poor preacher so we had little or no spendable income. During WWII, my father was a professional blood donor. He would get paid by the Grasslands Hospital for a pint of his "universal type O negative." He was a big, strong guy and offered blood far more often than was healthy; but, hey, it was a welcome supplement to his meager church salary.

Each time he came home with his "blood money," we would be able to afford meat on our table or a visit to a nearby diner. It was nirvana for me, and I would always order my favorite dish — a western egg sandwich. I have fond memories of all the diners in Westchester County, Carthage, Massena and Malone as the Little family moved until I left for college in the mid-1950s.

And, after that, I always managed to find a so-called "greasy spoon" wherever I visited or lived. It's still true today, although most of the diners I visit now would take umbrage at that designation.

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