Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Double M Diner

A diner is a prefabricated restaurant building characteristic of American life, especially in the Midwest, in New York City, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and in other areas of the Northeastern United States, although examples can be found throughout the United States, Canada and parts of Western Europe. Some people apply the term not only to the prefabricated structures, but also to restaurants that serve cuisine similar to traditional diner cuisine even if they are located in more traditional types of buildings. Diners are characterized by offering a wide range of foods, mostly American, a casual atmosphere, a counter, and late operating hours. "Classic American Diners" are often characterized by an exterior layer of stainless steel—a feature unique to diner architecture.
In case you were wondering.

I like eating at diners, something that many of you are already no doubt aware. I personally have a fairly lax definition of 'diner,' not quite as strict as the Wikipedia entry above. A candidate should have a counter, but I don't require it. It needn't have late hours, either, but having both breakfast and lunch on offer is required.  Extra points are awarded for having a visible kitchen a la the Awful Waffle House diners.

The diners that I seek out are those small little places that only the locals know about and frequent. Not surprisingly, they can be hard to find. They have little (if any) advertising budget, and probably wouldn't be able to support a great deal more customer volume than they have gained simply through word of mouth. There are ways, though, to relatively easily seek out those who seek not to be sought in these modern times. And it was thus that I became aware of the Double M Diner in Greenville, Ohio.

I have frequented Greenville for my entire life. It was the home of my paternal Grands and, of course, the famed CEO of Schmetterling Aviation before his departure to points south upon graduation from high school. Their old house has since been torn down to make room for a parking lot and the majority of the retail outfits have moved out to what pass as 'burbs, but the downtown, unlike many in Ohio, still has something of a retail pulse. The old F. W. Woolworth store has been replaced by The Kitchenaid Experience which is pretty much diametrically opposed to the 'five and dime' low cost strategy of the Woolworth's, but specialty shops are alive and well. And, it would seem, at least one diner.

Armed with nothing but an address, I launched on my way to one of my most common detonations, Darke County Versailles airport. It was a fine day to fly, as can be seen in this over the shoulder glance at my home aerodrome.

Just a couple of miles to the west, I flew over the runway I used to learn how to fly a taildragger, back when I was the new owner of an RV-6.

As an aside, the Co-owner and I would be at that very same airport the next afternoon for an airport picnic. It's a quaint little place with a handful of vintage planes based on it.

Case in point: a 1941 Piper Cub.

Wooden prop, wooden wing spars, and fabric covering: classic!

They even had a band playing, although the must was anything but classical, although some may refer to it as classic.

Getting back to the story, I was met at the plane by the CEO and by the guy that lives on the airport. He always has some kind of interesting project going on (if I'm honest, I have to say that I'm often jealous of his workplace) and this visit was no different: he drove out in his 1974 CitiCar.

Inspired by Club Car's golf cart design and partly in response to the 1970s fuel crisis, a company called Sebring-Vanguard produced its first electric vehicle, the Vanguard Coupe (sometimes referred to as the EV Coupe), in 1974. Company founder and President Robert G. Beaumont, working with designer Jim Muir, came up with the CitiCar after this earlier EV Coupe was not an immediate success. This second attempt was still based on a lot of the Club Car's mechanical features, though. 
Produced in its plant in Sebring, Florida, the CitiCar was a small wedge-shaped electric vehicle. Early versions had no extra features and can be considered an experiment in minimalist automotive design; it was as basic a people mover as could be bought at the time. By 1976, enough CitiCars were produced to promote Sebring-Vanguard to the position of being the U.S. #6 auto manufacturer after GM, Ford, Chrysler, AMC, and Checker Motors Corporation; but ahead of Excalibur and Avanti Motors. Production of the CitiCar continued until 1977 with about 2,300 CitiCars produced.
I pointed out that the problem with the design was that it was four decades ahead of its time. I also pointed out that it was "Green" in more ways than one, but that pithy observation fell flat. I guess he's just not up with current events. Naturally, I was shocked. Fortunately, I have a battery of puns ready to go.

Enough of that. I get a charge out of things like that, but he wasn't showing even a spark of interest.

It was still too early to head to the diner, so we took Faygo for a walk down around the lower fields. It's soybeans this year and just like the rest of the crops enjoying a cool and wet summer, the beans are doing very well. Except, that is, for some that I noticed had had their leaves pretty much eaten away. It didn't take long to find the culprit:

The crick was running pretty shallow.

Faygo knows the way. She ambles along dragging a rope, the purpose of which is not to restrain her should she try to make a break for it, but rather so she can be tracked when she makes one of her periodic detours into the weeds in search of the ground hog she found some number of years ago and has never forgotten.

Caught up in conversation, we failed to notice that she had gone into the woods, and had done so long enough ago that the tracking rope had disappeared along with her. There was nothing for it but to enter the woods ourselves and track her down. I was so busy looking down at the multitude of weeds, anyone of which could have been poison ivy, that I just missed walking into a spider's web.

I am very, VERY happy that I didn't!

When finally reached downtown (after finding the dog, of course), the address that I had memorized (or so I thought) turned out to be for an establishment named The Coffee Pot which, oddly enough, turned out to be a coffee shop. Alas, it appeared that the diner probably should have advertised.

Ah, but a glance through the window showed the elusive diner to be alive and (presumably) well.

For there, at the end of the long hall, was the elusive Double M Diner.

Diner fare, straight up.

As is my wont, I went for the pork tenderloin. Breaded, of course.

While we waited for the food, I looked around at the early 20th century ambiance. In spades, it was, in spades!

And it was a mighty fine sandwich, too!

On the way out, I saw yet another place that I want to try, so stay tuned!

We had come out of the side door. Looking back, we could see the name of the original tenant of the old building: Palace. It was, apparently, a department store. For all I know, it fell victim to the 'five and dime' upstart down the street.

Wiki has no memory of such a place, but Google brought up the Ad Criticisms (written by "the Ad Crank") column in the February 24th, 1912 issue of Dry Goods Reporter:

The finding of this digitized piece of history turned out to be a time sink of the highest order. I could not pull myself away from things like this:

I have to confess that I found it difficult to not spend the rest of the day searching through later issues to find the answer, but there it is. On we go! But if you want to give it a try, I guess this link would be the best place to start.

I very much enjoyed the font selection for the now seemingly rare '1/2' address:

Greenville is the county seat of Darke County and has the stately courthouse to prove it. I used to get farmed out to stay with the Grands for a week each summer when I was a kid, and I distinctly remember being able to watch from my bedroom window as they (the city/county, not the grandparents) rebuilt the bell tower. Their house was right behind the smaller building to the left of the courthouse, and right across the street from the Carnegie library, where I also spent a good deal of time.

As I've started to take an interest in antique stores, we spent a little time in the one right across from the courthouse. They had neither of the things I'm on the lookout for, but it was a nice visit nonetheless.

This caught my eye, not so much because I would be interested in buying it but because I was under the impression that it would be illegal to do so.

As usual, I was only partly right. Well, that's probably a stretch. I seldom even reach that low threshold. In any event, here's the truth of the matter as of Feb 11, 2014:

In what animal conservationists hailed as a “significant milestone” in the global fight against elephant poaching, the Obama administration on Tuesday announced a ban on nearly all ivory sales in the United States. 
Part of the new National Strategy on Wildlife Trafficking , the ban is intended to end a trade that threatens to wipe out the world’s largest land animal. The administration said that for the first time, vendors must prove beyond any doubt that ivory offered for sale complies with the Endangered Species Act. 
Administration officials said authenticity can be established only with a permit — from the U.S. government or a foreign government — showing that the ivory was imported before a ban in 1989. Antique ivory, older than a century, is also exempted, with proof of age. Even with a permit, the sale of ivory will not be allowed across state boundaries, according to an administration official.
On the way back to the car, we stopped to take a closer look at the courthouse. It has been around awhile.

There is a monument to the locals that fought in the Civil War.

I have given up on trying to figure out what the red C.M. indicates.

Google and Wiki have their limits.

1 comment:

Hugo said...

Dave, the only thing that I could find for "CM" was "Common Man". I would suppose that that would mean a straight Enlisted Man, without rank...?

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