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Taking a Stand for Small Diners

Kenneth, born and raised in the South, resides in Hamilton, Alabama. He enjoys sharing his unique perspectives on life through his writing.

This is a Long View of the City of Hodges, Ala., where (a) city diner once stood. The Hodges City Diner, may she always be remembered.

This is a Long View of the City of Hodges, Ala., where (a) city diner once stood. The Hodges City Diner, may she always be remembered.

In the beginning of the 1950s, when less was much, and Communism a filthy word, America’s number one import was not wheat, corn, or beef, but the Small Diner. No other business sounded, looked, or smelled like the Small Diner. If you are rolling your eyes in disbelief, I don't really care. But your grandparents met in one, ate in one every Friday night and even fell hopelessly in love in a Small Diner. There was one on every corner in every small town in America.

Every Small Diner was different. From the retired hardware store owner sitting with his wife, "Marge," in "their" booth while he winked at her and smoked his Tampa Nugget.--while the cocky Greaser smoked his Winston standing by the cashier posing a Brando pose and eyeing the pretty waitress, "Donna." No Small Diner was complete without these incomparable cast of characters.

The food was fast and so was "Dimples," a 30ish woman who loved to dance in those out-of-town dance halls with "Harry," a man she's dated way past her walk down the aisle – but she doesn't care. She is fueled by hope and nibbles on faith each morning when she puts on her face. And while she is getting ready to go to "Bobby's Place," the only diner in her town, she occasionally smokes a Winston, but not on the job--so her church following will not scold her for acting the whore.

The Small Diner boomed! Money was taken in as fast as these eateries were fading into history. People in these Days of Prosperity were blind and loving it. If you lived in a small town and did not have a Small Diner, you were of men, most miserable. Life wasn't challenging or a haven for the lonely unless a town had a Small Diner. Songs and sonnets were written about Small Diners. And for good reason. They meant more than their building and equipment was worth. The Small Diner was alone on the front lines to feed the starving and supply the blackest of strong coffee for those "nights before."

Fights and spats sprang up at Prom Time as well as the break-ups and burned-out's who had rode the striped line way too long and just "bought the farm" in an obscure motel room with "A Man With a Broke Heart Was Here" scribbled on a dusty wall. The three-story hotel with cheap rooms, by the week or by the day, were cousins with the Small Diners. They, without any creator, went hand-in-hand. When everyone and every thing failed, you could always count on the Small Diner and the Cheap Motel. They were priceless even while they made their day in daily life. And yet, no one was able to see their demise.

I recall a time not so far back when I was on a "Selling Tour" for a radio station where I worked, and when my empty stomach told me to drive over and eat--I hit the first Small Diner that was on my road route. You may not believe this, but the very moment that I entered the small eating establishment, there was a group greeting, hey, shug! Make yourself at home--one of us will be with ya' soon. I felt welcomed and embraced by the unpretentious atmosphere of the diner. The place, I have to say, was packed. No seats. No booths. "Sissy," not a joke, took my order while I stood and studied the jukebox sitting in the back and you might be thinking now that I was in a Ripley's Believe it or Not, but on this jukebox were the Hit Music Years represented by: Jim Reeves, Country Music, "He'll Have to Go; Elvis, Early Rock, "Love Me Tender," and Steppenwolf, 60s Rock, "Born to Be Wild," all at one time. I knew then that I would never see this happen again. Not too many years from that time, I was right.

I recall a time in a nearby city north of my hometown, Hamilton, Ala., in a city northwest of me, Hodges, Ala., the smallest of small town Americana still stands. The population today is no more than 288 people. No joke. And no joke--Hodges makes "Mayberry, N.C." home of "Andy" and "Barney" look posh. Hodges is an old heart-throb of mine when I was 17. But my heart did not throb for girls with names like: "Dixie Mae," or "Sally Jean," (oh, how I loved them), but the Small Diner named: The Hodges City Diner. I mean every word.

I hate to sound selfish, but when I reached for the door handle of the Hodges City Diner, I thought that maybe this one time, "this" diner will be different. How could I have been so ignorant? The moment I stepped inside, a waitress snapping her Wrigley's said, "Hey, hun, be with ya' in a moment. Just sit anywhere, and I did. I would have loved "Barb,"even with her snapping Wrigley's. The food and coffee were fantastic--and my huge cheeseburger, fries, and coffee came to $3.55 tax included. "Ginny," the cashier smiled a genuine, and I waved back as I left. This honest-to-God great atmosphere, food, and true friendliness had to come from God. I could not think of Bill Gates, who just "thinks" his philanthropy makes points in Heaven--but even Gates, if he were forced to visit one of the Small Diner(s) that I've been talking about--were forced to step inside one of the Pure Classic Small Diner(s) because the GPS on his Rolls stalled and he needed directions, he would, I hope, be treated with the same non-discriminatory attitude that I had received. Then buy one for melting his eccentric heart.

Bravo, Small Diners! Do ya' hear me? Bravo!

This was NOT any of the waitresses that "I" met or knew in any of the small diners that I was blessed to visit. This girl, no doubt, was a waitress, but not one in Hodges.

This was NOT any of the waitresses that "I" met or knew in any of the small diners that I was blessed to visit. This girl, no doubt, was a waitress, but not one in Hodges.

© 2018 Kenneth Avery


Ken Avery on December 19, 2018:

MH -- simply amazing. Your comments would easily be fodder for a book, and I mean that.

The small diner of which I have been in a few times, sadly is fading from American's beautiful landscape. Sad. That it is in a nutshell.

Write me soon.

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on December 14, 2018:

"In the beginning of the 1950s, when less was much, and Communism a filthy word" - "Communism" still is a filthy word for many. Of course, these "many" never took the time to read Karl Marx. They were never born and never grew-up in a pretend "communist" dictatorship as I was. Yet, they know so much about "communism", they can rant for days. Sigh ...

"But your grandparents met in one" - Ya, they didn't. As I said above, I was born in a dictatorship. My grandma was a teacher in her twenties during WWII. My grandfather was a Lieutenant-colonel, in the Axis army. They did not meet in a small diner but this is why I love reading your writing. I get to learn about the "others". It's pretty awesome!

"while the cocky Greaser smoked his Winston" - I bought one pack of Winstons once and that was enough. Those things ... how do people smoke those things? Haha!!

"The three-story hotel with cheap rooms, by the week or by the day" - There are some motel rooms relatively close to where I am, that You can get by the hour. Think on that lol ; )

"I knew then that I would never see this happen again." - You should've left with that juke box. That's a piece of history.

"This honest-to-God great atmosphere, food, and true friendliness had to come from God." - Considering I do not believe in a Devil, everything comes from God. How many more thousands of years You reckon we will still need to understand this?

Ya, that was great! Thanks for this piece of writing. I get to teleport to a time and place I have never been to. It's priceless - cheers!

John Ward on February 27, 2018:

Sounds good Kenneth. If I ever have loads of money I will reciprocate. But given that I have taken a vow of Poverty It could be just a little tricky. Have a blessed and wonderful time with Family and take good wife for a Candle Lit dinner complete with some romantic Music and Roses. Best of wishes and my prayers. John

Kenneth Avery (author) from Hamilton, Alabama on February 25, 2018:

Hi, John -- thank you for your kind words that I will always remember for you saying them to me. I mean it. You are a True Friend and a person whom I'd love to take out for breakfast consisting of sugar-cured ham, homemade sausage, cathead biscuits and red-eye gravy and black coffee.

I mean it.

I pray that when I am blessed with truckloads of cash, I will pay my tribute to the Powers-That-be, God, and more to people who need a blessing and take some of the money to give to YOU for your fiddle making and let my wife and I spend the weekend.

How about that?

Kenneth Avery (author) from Hamilton, Alabama on February 24, 2018:

Threekeys -- "thank you kindly for leaving me such sweet words. Now about her and my granddaughter, look at my profile photo and that little face under my chin, that is Alexis, the oldest of our three grandkids and thanks for the nice remarks about Angie's human touch. She was a people person and I just have to brag on her. In addition to her knowing her clientele, she knew how to listen. And that's half the conversation, I was told years ago.

I will never forget you (and John Ward) whom I thank too, for being so nice. I mean that. Thanks threekeys and John Ward.

John Ward on February 22, 2018:

My sympathy and condolences for Loss of your daughter. My Prayers are with her and with you and wife and Family. God Bless all of you. John W

threekeys on February 20, 2018:

So, sorry Kenneth for the loss of your daughter. I cant imagine your loss and your wife's loss. Your granddaughter sounds like she has the golden touch with people, just like your daughter had.

Kenneth Avery (author) from Hamilton, Alabama on February 20, 2018:

Hi, John -- thank you (and all) for the comments. I am not boasting, but my only daughter went to Heaven last February and I will always miss her. She was just 39. Passed away due to complications in some bacteria in her lungs.

But she had the personality that was her vocation when she got out of school. She was the best hostess I have ever been. Her clientele loved her--especially the doctors and lawyers at the diner where she worked.

Now, her older daughter, 17, is a junior in high school and working at a local eatery to help her college fund, but I have always judged both their groups of customers and if they could not like their waitresses, they just left.

Quite the reverse. My granddaughter's crowd only continues to grow. I know that her mom, and my only daughter is looking down on her from Heaven smiling at her.

Write me anytime.

John Ward on February 20, 2018:

I believe, that a small diner set in to-day's world, would be very successful. I have just found one, reminiscent of old, here in "Newtownards, Northern Ireland". It has all the ingredients and with the same friendly and being at home feeling. We have paid a few visits and as before are now greeted by name, made to feel welcome. The Food simple and well cooked. The atmosphere alone makes this small diner worth visiting. More of these would very definitely be an improvement in to-days me first Society.

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on February 18, 2018:

Yes, the diner share something that is lacking with fast food. I do believe though that McDonalds evoved from the diners. There is a nostalgic attempt to recreate the diner atmosphere. We are products of our times and the times for the diner I fear are slipping away.

Kenneth Avery (author) from Hamilton, Alabama on January 24, 2018:

William -- that is great. I will search Facebook and see it there. I love small diners; general stores; and I guess at my age, 64, I am old too, but not too small. LOL.

Thanks, William.

William F Torpey from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on January 15, 2018:

I don't have a selfie, Ken, but I just put a photo that I took of my favorite diner in Brunswick, Maine, on my Facebook page (They don't allow URLs on these comments.)

Kenneth Avery (author) from Hamilton, Alabama on January 15, 2018:

John -- there is one that is near my home and I think now that we are all talking about small diners, I think I will get my wife and ask a buddy of mine who lives and works near (the) diner and have a lunch.

I need to thank YOU and ME for these comments and I made MYSELF hungry.

Kenneth Avery (author) from Hamilton, Alabama on January 15, 2018:

Hi, William -- you, my Friend, are very blessed. Please keep me posted on Your small diners--and if you like, send me a Selfiie of one of your diners and I will publish another hub to praise the small diner, owners, etc., where you live.

Do we have a deal?

Kenneth Avery (author) from Hamilton, Alabama on January 15, 2018:

Hi, Carol -- thank you for your honest comments. My advice to you is: keep trying. You can still find a small diner and when you do, please think of THIS hub.

Please keep in touch.

Carol Morris on January 15, 2018:

During my last visit to the States I went in search of just the Diner that you have described here. Alas, I did not find one.

William F Torpey from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on January 13, 2018:

There are still a few around (thank goodness.) My favorites are in Brunswick, Maine, Portland, Maine and Tim's Shipwreck Diner in Northport, L.I., N.Y. https://cdn.newsday.com/polopoly_fs/1.9097088.1408...

John Ward from Richmond, British Columbia, Canada. on January 12, 2018:

I have been in the equivalent in a variety of small towns around the world. All, almost completely, gone the way of the Dodo. There were a few tables but the food and the feeling of home were always present. I can relate with to what you have written with some no small amount of Nostalgia.

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