59 Years of Elbows



I had breakfast at the Blue Benn Diner in Bennington this morning. The Blue Benn is a real one. That is, it�s a Silk City Diner built in 1945 and moved to Bennington in 1948. You walk in the door and there are maybe 6 booths and a long counter that is punctuated by the opening through which the staff bustles while serving the food. Folks used to suburban monstrosities that are all chrome and glass and the size of a roller-rink, with menus that read like War and Peace might be put off. It fit me like an old sweater.

As usual, it was filled with local regulars. The buzz of �Heya Joe, how�s the ice fishing going?� and �I�m late for work but I need another cup of coffee.� swirled around the room. Every conceivable space behind the counter was filled with plastic pockets holding signs for specials - �Gingerbread & Whipped Cream�, �Hungry Man Breakfast� and �Fresh Pies�. Being maybe 30 feet long and 12 feet wide, the intimacy envelopes you very quickly.

I swung my leg over a stool, sat down, and picked up a menu. As I looked down to pick my meal, I was immediately struck by the countertop. Now this top may or may not be the original but it sure looked it. It was covered in stainless steel and then a top layer of formica-type laminate. Over the years, thousands of folks like me have swung their legs over a stool for a meal. The evidence is there. In front of each and every stool there are two worn patches of laminate, right where your elbows land. Not just worn out, but completely worn away to five or six inches from the edge; smooth, contour map transitions from white to brown to shiny steel. They invite your elbows to settle in and get comfortable. They make you feel like you belong. They place you in 2004 and 1963 and 1948 all at the same time.

I was finishing up my bacon and eggs when the waitress dropped off the check. I mopped up the last of the yolks with my wheat toast and started to lean back to get up and pay the bill, but the counter called me back - to share one more cup of coffee with those 59 years of elbows.


There was a diner in Scranton that I loved named Chick's (est. years and years ago) where you got the same time-travel feeling. Several of the workers were as weathered as the long bar, including Flo, a mummified looking waitress with a beehive hairdo. It was a favorite of truckers, local businessmen and, yes, my elbows.
No matter how greasy, all the eats were comforting.

Do you remember the original Silver Moon Diner on Union Turnpike? It wasn't much bigger than a large retro toaster. The term "greasy spoon" was an every day occurance. The big plus was it's 24/7 operation. I don't know when it actually came into existance, but it seemed to morph overnight--there it was. Many a night in 1960 to 1963 I would meet a friend in need there or rendezvous with a forbidden boyfriend. It was at the portal to the exotic, the beginning/end of the City line. The place where you can still straddle the above mentioned line and "be in two places at one time." Before going home from a date we would usually make one more stop at the Silver Moon, which now had morphed into a still larger toaster. Just a little more time before saying good-night, lingering over a cup of coffee.
I'm sure the Blue Benn has stories to tell.
I know the Silver Moon has some great ones.


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This page contains a single entry by published on January 30, 2004 3:09 PM.

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