I had the privilege on working on the streetcar when it was in a ‘secret location’ before it was moved into its current location. I will tell you this – it was in rough shape last time I saw it, and it looks like (from the picture at least) they have done quite a bit of work on it. I would have to say this is probably in the ‘Top Ten Oldest Items’ on the route – right next to the jailcell which would also be included in that list! The next time I will be anywhere close to Gardner will be in January – so I will try to stop out and see it in person – hopefully without 14 inches of snow around it!
GARDNER, Ill. — On Nov. 11, 2011, a two-part Veteran’s Day Program will honor veterans and dedicate a historical diner that dates back to the late 1800s.
The program, themed upon the Gettysburg Address, begins at 11 a.m. and includes the Gettysburg Address, given by Don Phillips, as well as remarks from Mayor Tom Wise; a war story read by Linda Tyler; guest speaker Russell Santerelli, who is currently serving in the U.S. Army; a balloon release; and other speeches to recognize the veterans.
The second part of the program will include the re-dedication of The Diner, a restaurant that began as a horse drawn-streetcar operated by the Kankakee Transit System. It first was owned by George Kaldem. His mother and the cook, Minnie Springborn, was praised as the woman whose pies, stew, fried chicken and homemade bread were considered some of the finest that could be found anywhere.
Later, it was moved behind a residence and was used to house workers at the armory during World War II. Then it was moved to the rear of the Riviera Roadhouse, where it was used as a place for family reunion picnics, a house for local fishermen and a storage shed.
The Diner has never had toilet facilities or even running water. Water for cooking and washing equipment was carried in with containers supplied by local residents.
The Route 66 of Illinois Preservation Committee, headed by chairman John Weiss, has restored The Diner with a new cement block foundation, new windows, painting, cleaning, repairs and installation of many donated artifacts of the diner.
“We started the restoration on it, but volunteers and Tom Perkins and his sons worked hard on it,” Weiss said. “The restoration is complete, and I will be speaking at the re-dedication of the diner, talking about the connection between Route 66 and Gardner.”
“We have the streetcar to re-dedicate and, at the same time, it is the 85th birthday of Route 66. I will also mention Rev. Christian Christensen, who is the man that saved the world from nuclear destruction. There is a plaque dedicated to him in the two-cell jail.”
The historic jail, which is located in the same area as the streetcar, is always open. Visitors can press a button, the “message repeater,” and hear about Gardner, which also includes the streetcar information.
“The streetcar is not always open, but you can still go peek in the streetcar and see what travel was like back in those days,” Weiss said. “It’s a great piece of history for a little town like this. Not many people know about it.”
Peggy and Bob Kraft, who owned the diner that had been located at the site of the former Riviera Restaurant before the restaurant burned, donated the diner to the village and are happy that the structure is now being restored. They will be present at the program.
“We refurbished the diner all up and got it all ready,” Mayor Tom Wise said. “It certainly is a good thing. I gave Peggy and Bob the key to the city and we have a memorial plaque for the re-dedication.”
Coffee and donuts will be served at the diner by Auxiliary No. 663 Unit the day of the dedication.
Contributions and donations towards continuing preservation efforts are greatly appreciated.
By Genevieve Toussaint — firstname.lastname@example.org