Monday, April 16, 2007

Pal's Diner


The drawing above is of the diner that was once in my home town. It was on the highway next to a truck stop.

Pal’s Diner was a spot for decent road food, and it was manned by manly diner cooks who I imagine were WWII army cooks. They were the kind of guys you could imagine in any post war, blue collar industry. Yes they slung hash, but they did it in a manly way.

I believe it was George Carlin who once talked about the transition of men who were once building things with steel and are now baking chocolate chip cookies for a living. Gentrification was not on the menu at Pal’s.

Open 24 hours a day, I’d find myself there getting a cup of coffee and a corn muffin before school. I’d pop in for a late night lunch when I worked nights. I was a frequent visitor.

This was a well used diner. My favorite illustration of this was the brick steps that lead to the entry. Because the parking lot was on the left side of the diner there was a one inch deep bowl carved into the bricks on the first step where people would step on the step and pivot left to go up the stairs. It was warn away by tens of thousands of shoed feet.

After the 70s the economy had changed. The Greeks were moving in and buying up old diners or building the next generation of diners which were now prefabricated monsters with all the charm of a double wide trailer park.

There were no longer any cooks back in the kitchen of Pal’s. If you wanted a chicken dinner the cook would get stuff from a fridge in the back and throw it all on the flat grill up front where everything was cooked, chicken, potatoes, beans and gravy. He’d plate it when it was warm and there you had it.

The Greeks eventually bought Pal’s, too, but is couldn’t compete with the new mega diners that the other Greeks were building. The diner was eventually sold and moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan. I know of people who have made the pilgrimage to Michigan to reconnect with this touch stone from our past.

This is a photo of Pals in its new location. The interior has been modernized since the seats and counters were well worn before the move. The shell is probably all that is original. I know they didn’t take the warn steps.

I hope that Pal’s in its new location is building memories for teens the way it did for me and all my peers. I’m sure we all realize by now that we will never have our childhoods again nor will we ever have our Pal’s Diner back again.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Auntie said...

Monday sentimentality?

Nothing is ever the same when you revisit, unfortunately.
I am with you, I would just prefer to keep the memory
intact and not disturb that.

5:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It used to be that Astoria was pretty much the same year after year. Oh there'd be another business closed, others withered, another dock fallen in. For the longest time though the Custard King (or as my friend Bob said "the Mustard King") was a perennial bulwark of stability. In the 50's and 60's mom's would treat their legions of tykes after shopping at nearby Public Market with a nickel ice cream cone from a vast array of hand scooped flavors. In the 70's those tykes, now teens congregated nightly in the P. Market parking lot in jacked up 4x4's for a timeless King cheese burger and compare notes on the best spot to go try to almost get stuck in the county. During the 80's counter gals there met and married Coasties in an endless stream. Then sometime about 1990 the place changed hands for the first time since opening in the 50's. An attempt was made to reinvent the wheel. Sold and resold .You can still get a King cheese burger there but the magic is missing. On the bright side, you can still get "award winning sourdough pancakes" with berry syrup at the Pig. Same as ever.

8:16 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Mustard King, pretty funny. We used to call the Stewart Andreson Black Angus franchise, the "Black Anus."

I'll never fully understand what it must have been like to grow up here and live here as an adult, like you, Auntie L, F Lee, CB and TH. I'm glad you folks aren't too resentful about us new-comers. Though I've lived here for 20 years, I still feel like an outsider from time to time, and I try to be respectful of that with the locals.

9:27 AM  

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