Haverhill (speedily pronounced Haver-rill) was always just the signage we passed on the way to the beach. Today, we didn’t want to eat at a greasy spoon near the shore before we headed home. I give my daughter credit for that, she told me to keep going. Both she and her sister always let me know when my dietary choices are not healthy. We don’t eat fast food and we try to avoid other chains that sell frozen riblets and fried appetizers.
She saw the A-1 Diner on the highway sign and asked me to follow it. It brought us down 110 and into an older downtown area. It even had several antique shops and a Salvation Army. I could’ve spent all day on this one street. I cannot say day AND night because there were also a couple of strip bars along the way. Regardless, we went under the railroad and found A-1 easily enough. We quickly learned that it was a diner that had been operating for over 40 years.
I believed it. I walked into 1971 and my daughter saw a part of my childhood. There was a white board with a markered list of daily specials, four-ounce drinks, desserts in a glass case and plastic trays and real silverware just waiting to be pushed down an aluminum rail as we made our selections.
The cook, Frank, asked, “What’ll ‘ya have?”
It sounded like a Massachusetts accent to me.
“The turkey dinna.”
But he didn’t understand mine. “What?!”
“The hot turkey suppa.”, I pointed to the turkey waiting to be carved.
“Ahhh, you want gravy on it?”
“The more the merria.”
“Huh? oh, you want more than that? Are you Italian?”
“No, sir. Do I pay you too?”, it was 2:30 and only a few people at the booths.
“Slide down and Madge’ll get ya at the end.”
She was as sweet as the pie I wanted to order. I’d decided against it when I saw the individual slices strangled in Saran Wrap.
“Letme getcha some cranberry sauce with that.”
Seeing the counter service too, I asked if the diner was a staple in town.
She didn’t know about that but everyone around had been coming in for over 43 years.
I’d say iconic and bargain that Madge and Harry had been there for most of ’em.
We slid into our booth and didn’t hesitate to dig in. We’d decided to split the one meal and immediately started stacking our bread and butter with fresh turkey, mashed potatoes and the sauce – cranberry and gravy. It all melted in our mouth. It was our kind of triple decka. We were definately the out-of-towners but nobody seemed to mind. They left us alone to do our thing. It was just like our town diner when I was a kid.
The local lore, meeting the characters that made it unique and eating the local grub was special. Experiencing it with my daughter was priceless. Haverhill is now a destination point on my map.