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!