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The more you know…

Did you know, Providence, RI is the home of the diner? I did. And then I forgot. And then my mother-in-law called up all excited to tell me it, after she heard it on the radio late last night.

It says here, Walter Scott pulled a horse-drawn wagon up in front of the offices of the Providence Journal and sold plain grub to the newspapermen in 1872.

It’s hard to believe that was the first time anyone pulled food by horse and cart to a line of hungry men, but Providence is jealous of the title, so humor them. To this day, there are a bajillion excellent vintage diners in and around Providence. I’m pretty sure I’ve hit every one on this list.

The American Diner Museum isn’t actually a museum yet, but they’re working to restore a couple of old classics. Some neat info there, including a list of diners for sale. I totally think you should buy one.

The diner in the picture is still going strong in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. I used to live in Pawtucket — Land o’ Limericks — and many’s a hearty Saturday breakfast I’ve eaten at the Modern. Mmmm-mmm!

No idea who the old geezer in the picture is. I stole it off somebody’s blog or Flickr stream or something. His name is Bob, apparently.

Everybody, wave to Bob!


Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: March 3, 2011, 1:18 am

Walter Scott invented the diner? Guess poetry didn’t pay as well as he expected. . .


Hi, Bob!

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: March 3, 2011, 1:37 am

Yeah, I was reaching for a Walter Scott joke, but I just couldn’t quite get a grip on one.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: March 3, 2011, 1:41 am

Well, me neither obviously, but that didn’t stop me from giving it a go anyway. If I’d read more Scott I could probably come up with some reference to feasting or a wayside inn or something. . .but there are limits to what I can make myself tolerate.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: March 3, 2011, 1:49 am

I actually read a fair bit of Walter Scott as a lass. Somebody must’ve given me the complete works of or something. Damned if I could remember anything but a shadowy after-image of Ivanhoe.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: March 3, 2011, 2:07 am

My father liked poetry–by which he meant rhythmic rhyming verse–so I can still quote Young Lochinvar by heart. And I did read Ivanhoe. . .but all I actually know of Ivanhoe is from secondary sources, mostly E. Nesbit & Edward Eager.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: March 3, 2011, 2:34 am

Summers on the farm, there was jack shit to do. We couldn’t even get good TV or radio reception out where we were. I was 15. Nightmare.

I walked down more than a few of those “100 must-read books” list. It didn’t exactly instill in me a respect for the classics.

I would gladly beat Hemingway to death with a matador.

Comment from Mark Matis
Time: March 3, 2011, 2:41 am

Methinks a matador would gladly beat Hemingway to death with a matador as well…

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: March 3, 2011, 2:44 am

My freshman year in high school we were given a list of books compiled by asking the high school faculty each to name one book every high school student should read. In retrospect, based on an admittedly imperfect memory, it could best have been described as eclectic–but at the time I took it as gospel (I was a solemn child, easily impressed by apparent authority). I didn’t manage to read every book on the list, but I read a fair percentage, and some of them I might not have attempted otherwise. Over the years, though, that experience (and reading a few classics) has led me to question the very idea of classic fiction. Just because people did something first doesn’t mean they did it best. And in a world in which there are limited numbers of entertainment sources, the available entertainment may be valued more highly than it deserves. . .and take on a whole lot greater weight of significance than it can really support.

Comment from Truman North
Time: March 3, 2011, 3:00 am

I live in Seekonk, MA. Haven Brothers is my favorite. They still run it out of the back of a tractor-trailer down near city hall.

Comment from Deborah
Time: March 3, 2011, 4:11 am

Ivanhoe—I like to re-read it every three or four years, along with all of Jane Austen. I wish someone would make a new film of Ivanhoe, though the BBC mini-series in 1997 was wonderful. Beautiful beautiful Rachael and the terrible Brian de Bois-Guilbert … sigh.

I’d rather own a jazz nightclub, but I could own a Diner. I don’t want to cook, or manage it—just eat there every day, and listen to what people were talking about.

(What I really want to own is a baseball team—a AAA club. I’d eat a hot dog or a walking taco every day, and give away ice cream every time my team knocked a homer. 🙂

Comment from Gromulin
Time: March 3, 2011, 4:48 am

Not to go all personal and OT, but some days just really, really suck. Like on a life’s-course altering scale. This has been one of them, and I really appreciate having a place like this and a simple post like this to distract me from the massively throbbing purple suckitude. Thanks, Stoaty, for all you do.

Comment from David Gillies
Time: March 3, 2011, 7:35 am

Earthquake! Wheeee!

Felt like a 4.5 so no biggie.

Beeb Ivanhoe? Wasn’t that the one with Victoria Smurfit as Rowena? I remember she was so transcendentally beautiful that it would make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.

Comment from Deborah
Time: March 3, 2011, 1:32 pm

@David Gilles—yes, Victoria Smurfit played Rowena. And she was, as you say, transcendentally beautiful. I loved how the women were filmed with lighting low on the side, so that it shined through their eyes in profile. (I’d link to Ivanhoe on the IMDB website, but I don’t know how to do it manually.)

@Gromulin—I hope today is better.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: March 3, 2011, 4:37 pm

Gromulin–sorry to hear that. Hope things turn around quickly!

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: March 3, 2011, 8:35 pm

Seconded, Can’t Hark and Deborah!

Comment from Anonymous
Time: March 3, 2011, 10:17 pm

Dang, y’all weren’t reading Wvells and Vern and Heinlein and Twain and Forrester ? Takes all kinds, I guess.

A brief OT… Every once in a very long while, Iowahawk takes a break from cars and brilliant satire to write an actual serious political piece. So here he is, bitch-slapping Nobel Prize-winning economist (and all-around asshat) Paul Krugman around like a little girl…



Comment from Mitchell
Time: March 3, 2011, 10:36 pm

Oooh a diner! Say, was it right off of ol’ highway 23? With a fellow sitting at his accustomed place at the long, boomerang patterned formica counter?

Comment from Mike C.
Time: March 3, 2011, 10:51 pm

Dang. That “Anonymous” was me. Used to be this stupid computer remembered all the crap. And that should have been “Verne”, as in Jules, not “Vern” as in “Hey, y’all, watch this!” Oh, and “Wells” as in H. G., not whatever the hell it was I mis-typed.

Comment from Mike C.
Time: March 3, 2011, 10:58 pm

Oh, and back on topic, we have a couple of old-time classic dinners in our little town in the lower Shenandoah valley. Never eaten in any of them, though. I wonder how the meatloaf is? Outside of chicken-fried steak country, meatloaf is the signature dish of a dinner or truck stop, the basis of overall judgement. Unfortunately, advancing age and health concerns force me to be more cautious about such fare than in times past. Well, beats taking a dirt nap, at least.

Comment from Nina from GCP
Time: March 4, 2011, 3:58 am

I have a similar impression of many of the classics, but I say you should read ’em anyway, or you miss out on half of the references of Western Civ. When I was in college I took English 1B, an comp/lit course. We had to research an author, I wanted to do Tolkein (I was 18), but the prof wouldn’t let me because she didn’t think LOTR was literature. So, since I knew her fav was Hawthorne, I picked him as second choice. Got an A. Not so dumb.

Gromulin, hang in there…I hope those life changes aren’t too awful. Been there. Don’t have a t-shirt, but lots of scars.


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Time: March 6, 2011, 2:36 am

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Comment from BigBlueBug
Time: March 7, 2011, 9:09 pm

The bounty of the Modern Diner can still be had in Pawtucket.

The best dog meat hamburgers however are still found at the Sea Plane diner on Allens Ave.

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