Remembering Dee’s Diner

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We all know the 1910s Richfield gas station on Foothill Boulevard west of Archibald Avenue, which may be resurrected as a museum. You’d have to have lived here a long time to remember the old railroad car that rested in the lot next door.

In later years it was camouflaged as a pseudo-respectable structure, as the photos below show, but as the photo at bottom makes clear, there was a railroad car underneath.

It was operated as Dee’s Diner from 1959 to 1974, according to research by the diligent Kelly Zackmann of the Ontario library’s Model Colony History Room, and stood at 9656 Foothill. The dining car may have a longer history; the same address had the Milmar Drive-in in 1948 and Mil Mar Diner in 1951.

Lore has it that Dee’s can be seen in the 1974 B-movie “Big Bad Mama” with Angie Dickinson and William Shatner, or possibly the 1987 sequel. Both are available in full on YouTube (the links are embedded in the previous sentence) but I don’t have the patience to watch them. If you spot Dee’s, let us know where.

After the original version of this post went up, John Hauge sent me the wonderful photo above after finding this blog post. He writes:

“My uncle Peter Ferrero and his wife Delia Ferrero owned Dee’s Diner. They retired in 1974. Both were long time Cucamonga and Guasti residents. Previous to owning the diner they owned Nellie & Dee’s on the northeast corner of Benson and Holt. They sold it in the late ’50s and it became Antonio’s. Previous to that they owned another Italian restaurant of the same name, Nellie & Dee’s, for many years in Cucamonga on the northwest corner of Archibald and Foothill.”

Hauge’s photo (click on the image for a larger view) shows the restaurant name, the outdoor entrance for the women’s room (men’s was around the corner), signs reading “Breakfast” and “Lunch,” and another one for Shady Grove ice cream.

The other photos, from top to bottom below, came from Ed Dietl’s “Images of Rancho Cucamonga” book, Jane Vath O’Connell and the Ontario library’s Kelly Zackmann. Note the distinctive gas station’s garage in the background. None of the photos are dated, but now that we have the Dee’s Diner photo above, I’m guessing the ones without the name were from the second owner, in the 1970s.

Hauge says the restaurant was sold in 1974 to a couple without restaurant experience and folded not long afterward. He said the structure sat vacant for some years before being razed. I’d been told by the architect for the gas station’s restoration, Joe Ramos, that the car exists somewhere but that the owner, a friend of his, prefers anonymity.

The lot next to the gas station is still vacant, but a commercial development is expected. I suspect it won’t include a restaurant in a beat-up railroad car.

If you remember anything about the diner, leave a comment, please!

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  • Derek

    I recall stopping by Dee’s (I.I.R.C. in 1987) with a co-worker after a round of golf at Ontario National. We both lived in RC, so it was on the way home.

    Derek Christensen

    • davidallen909

      Thanks, Derek. I had the idea it was around a lot later than 1974. Maybe the name changed or it no longer had a phone.

  • John Michael Berge

    Thanks for sharing this David. Growing up in Cucamonga and living in the once infamous “Turner Park”, west of the Virginia Dare Winery-some pals and I would go to Dee’s on occasion, around 1962 and eat their food. Going inside, there was definitely the flavor of a traditional diner, although the facade would belie what was inside. Thanks for cranking up the memory. And that gas station, seemed like I had flat tires daily from the “sticker bushes” and the old guy that worked the station, I called him “Pops”, would fix my flats with a smile for free. Of course, those were the days. And thanks Jane, my dear ALTACUCAWANDA friend…

  • Dennis

    Hi David. I recall having read in the paper when the diner was torn down in the late 80′s, I believe it was, that they found the substructure to be that of an old bus, not a railroad car. The large, patched-in semi-circle at the lower left could have been the cut-out for the wheel well for the bus tire and the narrower window/door opening to the right of that could have been the rear door or if it was a school bus, an emergency exit. Dennis

    • davidallen909

      Y’know, it could be a bus rather than a railroad car, which is what my sources had said.

  • John Hocking

    I’ve lived around here since 1963 but don’t recall Dee’s Diner. However, my wife and I used to love Dolly’s Diner, which was located in the same place. I was under the impression that it was a converted RR car, but whatever it was, it was run by a gregarious blonde who served good food.

    • davidallen909

      I’ve heard it called Dolly’s Diner, but it was in the phone book as Dee’s. This may be one of those historical conundrums.

  • David B. Dunlap

    I seemed to remember seeing pictures of it but could not find any info on it. So glad to see this piece about the diner that used to sit there. I am on the board of directors for the Route 66 IECA organization that is working to restore the Richfield station next door and turn it into a Route 66 museum. I would love to talk to the developer about building a diner with car hop service instead of more retail space. We have empty retail space all over the city as it is, we really don’t need more. But a diner with car hops next to the station would be a great draw for car clubs and anyone just wanting to reminisce about the good old days of Route 66.

    • davidallen909

      That’s a neat idea, David. Good luck.

  • John Hauge

    My uncle Peter Ferrero and his wife Delia Ferrero owned Dee’s Diner. They retired in 1974. Both were long time Cucamonga and Guasti residents. Previous to owning the diner they owned Nellie & Dee’s on the northeast corner of Benson and Holt. They sold it in the late 50′s and it became Antonio’s. Previous to that they owned another Italian restaurant of the same name, Nellie & Dee’s, for many years in Cucamonga on the northwest corner of Archibald and Foothill.

    • davidallen909

      John, thanks for the info and family history! Do you know what happened to Dee’s after your uncle and aunt retired in 1974 — did it change names, or just sit there vacant?

      • John Hauge

        David, no one left in the family can remember if the diner changed names when the other folks bought the place. The people who bought it had never run a restaurant before, so my aunt and uncle worked with them for a few weeks after they sold it to them. Though in the end the couple couldn’t make it work. After they went out of business it remained vacant until it was razed. I have a picture of Dee’s from back in the day. Give me an email and I’ll forward it to you. Sorry this took so long to respond.