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Valley’s Diners Feel Like Home

  • Former Windsor Diner owner Fred Borcuk waits for his food at the diner in Windsor, Vt., on May 2, 2018. Borcuk bought the diner with the intentions of selling it to his daughter, Theresa Taylor, when she was ready. He owned the diner for seven years before selling it to Taylor, who is the current owner. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Terry Edson, of Fairlee, Vt., left, laughs as Rod Taylor, of Orford, N.H., surprises Katrina Wallstorm, of Fairlee, while she has breakfast at the Fairlee Diner in Fairlee on May 16, 2018. Edson and Wallstorm visit the diner daily to have breakfast and socialize with two other women who live by themselves. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • The Springfield Royal Diner, an original O'Mahoney vintage diner, in Springfield, Vt., on May 21, 2018. In 2002, the former Royal Diner was brought to Springfield from Kingston, N.Y. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Glenda Shoop, of Lebanon, N.H., sips her coffee before meeting up with a friend at The Lebanon Diner in Lebanon on May 10, 2018. "It is a very nice place to come," Shoop said.(Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Bob Bettis, of Hartford, Vt., left, pretends to grab a dollar bill being cast on a fishing pole by Glenn Crow, of West Lebanon, N.H., not pictured, as Gerry Thibodeau, of Enfield, N.H., laughs at Shyrl's Diner in West Lebanon on May 17, 2018. Crow, who has been coming to the diner daily for the past fourteen years, got the idea for the prank while watching an advertisement on TV. "Bobby is always joking about money," Crow said. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • The Four Aces Diner, an original 1952 Worcester Diner Car 837, in West Lebanon, N.H., on May 17, 2018. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • From left, Linda and Jim Errickson, both of Brooksville, Fla., talk over lunch while another man, who declined to give his name, sips his coffee at P & H Truck Stop in Wells River, Vt., on May 22, 2018. The Erricksons have a summer cabin in Newbury, Vt., and frequently visit the truck stop while they are in Vermont. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • From left, Jon Offensend, of Royalton, Vt., listens to employee Emily Anderson and owner Nicole Bartner talk during a slow afternoon at The Hartland Diner in Hartland, Vt., on May 10, 2018. Loyal customers can get a punch card to get a free meal for every 10 meals bought at the diner. Offensend is on punch card seventy six. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • A replica of Daddypops Tumble Inn Diner on display at the diner in Claremont, N.H., on May 21, 2018. The three-foot long replica was made over 10 years ago by a long-time diner regular. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, June 01, 2018

One of the hallmarks of serving as a Valley News photo intern is the completion of at least one long-term project, a subject a photographer can take the time to examine from many different angles.

For our most recent intern, Carly Geraci, that subject remained elusive. “I was putting a lot of pressure on myself,” she said. She was searching for a subject “that was truly genuine to who I am.”

It wasn’t until she attended an April photojournalism workshop, in Denver, that she discovered what she would focus on. She talked with another photographer about how much she enjoyed diners and had taken comfort in them in the Upper Valley. “She told me, you should go back” to the diners and make a project out of it.

“I grew up in a city where diners are everywhere,” Geraci said of her native Detroit.

But the diners where she gathered with high school friends all had a franchised sameness to them, whereas the Upper Valley’s diners each have personalities of their own. And before coming to work at 24 Interchange Drive, she’d never been in what she called “a true diner,” a classic diner car.

Even with the idiosyncrasies of the local diners, they “felt kind of like home to me when I was in a new place.”

People strike up conversations in diners, even with perfect strangers. One of her first stops was at the Fairlee Diner, where within 15 minutes of her arrival she found herself talking to a regular patron about his life. He told her about his son, about his decade of sobriety and what had gone before.

She went to diners to eat, but that’s not all that a diner is for. Some folks are there when the door opens in the morning, for a coffee out of a familiar cup, poured by a familiar hand. Especially for older patrons, who go to the diner, yes, to eat, but mainly to socialize “that might be the highlight of their day.”

Photographing diners expanded Carly’s understanding of them, which is perhaps the chief lesson of looking at anything closely enough. Scrutiny reveals a subject’s complexities.

“I feel like my pictures are only a small glimpse at the diners,” she said. “I feel like diners are kind of more than what they look like.” Between the staff and the patrons a sense of community develops that’s unique to that counter, those booths.

Diners are largely, if not entirely, an American institution, and now that she’s moved on to another internship, at the Dallas Morning News, the city is new, but the subject remains the same.

“I’ve already started to look at the diners,” she said.

Alex Hanson can be reached at ahanson@vnews.com or 603-727-3207.