THE DINER ART of MICHAEL G. STEWART

Although it seems that I am primarily a photographer, back in the day I was first and foremost an artist. My hands were permanently stained with India ink, and my second finger had a divot that took two years to regain its normal shape. While searching through some old files, I came across these examples of my old craft, and now, with renewed vigor, I hope to once again create images in pencil and pen. Enjoy! photo afbIMG_1743.jpg
The Short Stop Diner, in Wheaton, MD. Long gone, the building awaits yet another owner photo afbDSCF1704.jpg
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The Silver Spring Tastee Diner, 1985 photo afbIMG_1739.jpg
Christmas Card with The Summit Diner, Somerset, PA.

THE HIGHTSTOWN DINER EXPERIENCE

On our way to cover the NEA JazzMasters in NYC every year, the intrepid Miss Julie and I always make a point to stop along the way, take a break from the New Jersey Turnpike, and have an invigorating breakfast at the Hightstown Diner. It may not be the original, classic structure, pictured on so many vintage postcards, but it is friendly, charmingly local, the coffee is good, and the experience is what we all go to diners for! Just off exit 8, the sad and long abandoned Mom’s sits in the shadow of the new exit overpass, the reminder of tasty pancakes from my youthful trips to Maine, but an extra 5 minutes into town still yields the goods of small town eats in a wasteland of fast food franchises. Check it out, it’s a great treat! photo ablogdiner2.jpg
Long closed, Mom’s! the name said it all! photo adinerblogIMG_7005.jpg photo ablogdiner3.jpg
You gotta love the art at Mom’s photo ablogdiner8.jpg
Even though the new “Enviornmental” style facade can’t really compete with the original, it still has certain charms photo ablogdiner5.jpg
A great breakfast and never-ending coffee,with plenty of bacon  photo ablogdiner6.jpg
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We only stop here once a year, and run into this fun & friendly father and son every time! What are the chances? Dad, checking out the chicken sandwich on a diner’s plate- “Somethings wrong with that chicken!” Son “What?” Dad- “It’s DEAD!” Same joke every year, too funny.

THE COLO MOTEL

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Out along the Lincoln Highway, about a half an hour’s drive from Ames, is the little crossroads community of Colo, Iowa. On our recent cross country odyssey, in route to Bozeman, Montana, we had the good fortune to stop in at the Colo Motel and Niland’s Cafe. A lovingly restored gas station, bus stop, motor court and Cafe, this oasis stands as a beacon among the corn fields and silos, within earshot of the cross country freights that sing their lonesome songs late into the night. The owners and workers here are friendly, outgoing and treat you with all the care and love that is normally reserved for long lost family. If you’re ever driving across Iowa, pull in, have a milkshake and give yourself a rest before hitting the highway again. You’ll be glad you did!
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HOSPITALITY – SAN FRANCISCO STYLE

This beautiful city has long been known for its fine dining and proximity to some of the finest vineyards in the world. The gorgeous hotels, bed & breakfasts and luxury accommodations make any Michelin reviewer sit up and take notice. On my recent visit, I set out every morning to walk this fair city, and discover for myself, from street level, the many joys that the City by the Bay had to offer in the way of potent comestibles and comfortable lodging. ….and away we go! From the Castro to the Haight, North Beach to the Tenderloin, a gentle walk on the wild side of SF.
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MIX & MATCH

Back on the road, this time to beautiful San Francisco! Thousands of images to sort through, but while we wait, let’s match the Bay area greasy spoon to the breakfast standard of bacon & eggs, with a hot cup of Joe!
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The Java House, The Pinecrest Restaurant and It’s Tops! All Tops in my book!

ON THE ROAD WITH BARRY LOUIS POLISAR

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Underwear is Everywhere! My Brother Threw Up on My Stuffed Toy Bunny! Diaper Rash! …… and who can forget that immortal anthem- Don’t Put Your Finger Up Your Nose! Yes friends, these and many more delightful ditties celebrating the joys of childhood, warped or otherwise, sprang from the creative mind of children’s singer/songwriter and author Barry Louis Polisar. Barry and I have been friends and collaborators for over 35 years ( I’ve illustrated 3 books with Barry & several albums and CDs) so when he called and suggested I accompany him on a short roadtrip to Mifflinburg, PA. I of course jumped at the chance! We of course, swapped stories and compared notes over breakfast at the West Shore Diner in Lamoyne before arriving in Mifflinburg, where a charming street festival was in full swing, with wine tastings, traditional German cuisine, and buggy rides and demonstrations of the fine lost arts of the wheelwright, blacksmith, and buggy maker, recognizing the town’s long heritage as an American mecca for the production of fine buggies. Barry helped kick off one of the inaugural performances in the town’s new cultural arts center, located in a lovely old former church, situated in sight of three, count ‘em three cemeteries. The audience was excited and appreciative, and of course, who can’t relate when Barry says” I’ve Got A Teacher, She’s So Mean!” ….. and did I mention, Barry wrote the opening theme song to the movie “Juno“?
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Every musician needs a good cup of Joe to start the day
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a bit of tasty festival food in Pennsylvania
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If I had a hammer, I guess I’d be a smithy
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Mifflinburg is historically a center of the buggy makers art
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The many faces of Barry Louis Polisar
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….and of course the happy faces in the audience! Hey, wait a sec, isn’t that guy with the spiked hair in the heavy metal band, Ministry? Guess Barry has a wide fan base!
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….and so ends another happy day on the road!

SHOEFEST

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The day dawned overcast and cloudy as we left our quiet suburban Maryland town and hit the road for a return trip to the Amish country of nearby Pennsylvania, but as we neared our first destination, the Prospect Diner in Columbia, the sun broke through and cast its warm rays over the meeting place of another of Mod Betty’s Retro Roadmap get togethers. Betty & her amiable spouse, Retro Roadhusband once again played host to a meeting of the local lovers of the great, but vanishing American roadside, graciously coordinating a day of fun and exploration a stone’s throw from York, PA. Diner aficionados from as far away as upstate NY made the journey, and there was a feeling of goodwill and camaraderie shared among the participants celebrating the spirit and vision of the small town American entrepreneur. After a breakfast meal that couldn’t be beat, and enough coffee to sustain an army, we set out to explore, and unearth the treasures in the local antique stores. Bargains and treats galore awaited the patient and practiced eyes of our intrepid shoppers, and afterword we retreated to lunch at the classic American lunchcounter at Hinkle’s Pharmacy , celebrating 120 years of service to the local community, and was this place hopping on a Sunday afternoon! After fortifying our crew, we set off again for our special tour at the Haines’s Shoe House in nearby Hallam. The brainstorm of local shoe salesman Mahlon Haines, this charming bit of wacky architecture was built in 1948, and , though never actually inhabited by an Old Woman with so many children, is surprisingly cozy and quite comfortable inside. A satisfying find for any commercial archaeologist! We took the boot, bid a sad farewell to our roadside friends and returned to our antiquing, while many of the adventurers had a last bite to eat at the yummy Maple Donuts before setting sail for home. Our thanks go out once again to the ever vivacious Mod Betty for putting it all together. So, till next time, put on your traveling shoes and be on the lookout for that wonderful bit of America while it still exists!
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Breakfast at the Prospect Diner
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A braintrust of the great American road experience
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The Retro Roadmasters outside the Prospect Diner
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Scouting for treasures
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Strange things from another time uncovered by our intrepid archaeologists
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A full house for lunch at Hinkle’s Pharmacy
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The Shoe House

NEW JERSEY-THE GARDEN STATE

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It was a gray and dreary day as The Diner Hunter and I set out for an impromptu road trip to the Garden State. Although many folks associate New Jersey with refineries, turnpikes and the likes of someone named Snooki, we chose to view a different version of the Jersey shore, although our journey did ultimately lead us to Seaside Heights, to see the roller coaster and surrounding damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy. Once off the highway, New Jersey is home to a huge diversity of small towns, scrub pine forests and cranberry bogs. Along the way we saw our usual roadside collection of abandoned buildings, darkened neon and diners. Jersey is the repository of hundreds of diners of every shape and style and we barely made a dent in the list.
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After breakfast, Wildwood was one of our first stops. A piece of beachfront history suspended in time, every manner of so called “DooWop” motel and retro signage exists here, and their amusement park’s roller coaster rose out of the morning mist like a vision from a bygone era, a hole in the old space/time continuum.
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If you love vintage style neon, this is THE place to be-
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More retro neon in Wildwood – I need a shower, now!
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The Caribbean ( design art from the Library of Congress)
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This part of New Jersey is also home to re-purposed Muffler Men & all manner of strange creatures from the Land of the Giants- must be all those chemical mutations
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The most beloved giant of all is Lucy, The Elephant who has made her home in Margate, New Jersey since 1881.
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American Roadside architecture at its zaniest- Even the municipal offices are cool

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Pennsylvania seems to be the state that my wanderlust feels compelled to visit, so for the second time in a week, I’ve laced up my traveling shoes, cranked up the old jalopy, and headed west to the Keystone State and a new adventure out along America’s highways and byways. This was a leisurely journey, with no real destination or objective in mind, so my beautiful traveling companion and I settled for the scenic area around Lancaster county, home to a substantial community of Amish and Mennonite families, as well as Jennie’s Diner, in Ronk’s PA.
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Jennie’s is THE place to go if you have a hearty appetite and appreciate friendly service and delicious food.
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Although only a minute from strip malls and an amusement park & putt-putt golf, you’ll see the old ways practiced directly across the street from this busy diner.
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Another few minutes down the road and you’ll run into the Strasburg Railroad, and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, always fun for young and old alike!
And darn, wouldn’t you know it ( because, after all, this is a blog about neon & diners & roadside stuff) we luckily happened upon some great old neon and motel signage along Rt. 30, The Lincoln Highway
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This is Amish country, and, as anywhere around the world, kids will always be, well, you know…..kids! The Amish are private people, and generally avoid photographs, so this was taken from a discreet and respectful distance.
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On a sunny spring day like this, all the other cultural rituals play out as well, and this wedding party in downtown Lancaster seems to be having a great time clowning around prior to the big event.Beauties every one!
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The many styles of architecture in Lancaster County
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Of course, no roadtrip would be complete without ending the day as it started…..at a great diner.

THE RETURN OF SMILING JOHN

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Since he was a young lad, my son Spencer has always delighted in his trips to the barber shop, not a stylist, not a designer salon, not the Hair Cuttery, but a real and true barber shop! Living in the Nation’s Capitol as we do, such a relic of bygone times has become harder and harder to find, especially if the head in question demands a haircut in a style of a decidedly bygone era. A few years ago, at a event known as Sledfest, we discovered the amazing husband/wife duo of Devon “Di-Di” Shilling, and her husband, Smiling John! They run a friendly, affordable and always welcoming shop in York, Pennsylvania. Although it is a bit of a haul from stuffy old D.C., it is always worth the roadtrip through the back roads of the Keystone State. Spencer gets a great haircut, we have a good time on the road, we get to share tales of razors, hot rods & Rockabilly, and of course, there always seems to be a diner of lunch counter somewhere along the way. It is, after all, the land of Texas Hot Weiners. In PA. Go figure!
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The man, the legend, an artist with a straight razor- Smiling John Shilling
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Nothing better than a hot towel & lots of lather
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Always under the watchful eyes of THE KING
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Going to DiDi & John’s is like a trip to the local art gallery- Body art, that is
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Would YOU trust this man with a straight razor? You bet!
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You can always count on a stylish look in York!