Juvenile Delinquents Don't Hang Out in Diners, They Restore Them

restoring hickeys diner photo

We love restoration and preservation; we also love a good diner. There is nothing like a classic American diner, except nobody goes to them anymore, McDonalds is so much more convenient. "These were places where Americans dawdled, debated and dated, kibitzing over sliders (sausage patties), sinkers (donuts), and Adam and Eve on a raft (poached eggs on toast)."

But at the Rhode Island Training School, four classic diners are being rebuilt from the ground up by teen offenders. Pam Belluck writes in the New York Times: "The whole poetry behind it is that these are kids who have been pretty much cast away emotionally and criminally, getting a chance to restore beloved eateries that have been cast off from society, too," said Daniel Zilka, the acting director of the American Diner Museum, who rescues decrepit diners and helps run the project.

hickeys before photo

"We're actually preparing them for all kinds of skills: there's ceramic tile in these diners, sheet metal work, plumbing, electrical. You always meet people who want these kids to be locked away, and I respect their ill-informed opinion. But I look at the training school as kind of like Home Depot of the correctional system. We give them the tools, and when they're ready to use it, they'll use it."

Other offenders are learning to cook, and will have jobs in the diner when it re-opens; just be sure to leave a good tip. ::IHT see also the New Hope Diner Project website.
A Diner Update:
Section 8 - A Bar in a Shipping Container