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Fall River Landmarks: Who Remembers….the Nite Owl?

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Who doesn’t like to wax nostalgic about those landmarks we recall visiting as a child? These places are mnemonic anchors for numerous childhood memories and a simple mention of a place will often bring a flood of memories.

What we hope to do with this series is bring together all of the facts about a particular place, its owners, various images, and any pertinent facts to evoke fond memories. A sort of digital memory stroll.

If you have memories, relevant information, or corrections please comment below or email us at info@fallriverreporter. com. If you have an idea for the next “Fall River Landmarks” please let us know and maybe we’ll feature it in the next installment!

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When various vintage photos of restaurants show up on the Fall River Reporter website and social media accounts, one that is a consummate favorite is that of the “Nite-Owl” on the corner of Pleasant Street and Eastern Avenue – the “top of the Flint.” Scores of comments pop up immediately and people begin sharing their memories of visits and of its iconic owl that sits atop the building.

Custom built in 1956 by DeRaffele Diners of New Rochelle, N.Y., it was originally the tiny “Worcester Lunch Car No. 786” before the stainless-steel and red enamel striped structure was replaced by the one most everyone fondly remembers. In fact, in its first years before being the Nite-Owl, it was nicknamed the “Worcester/DeRaffele diner” and was on a truck bed and both diners were side-by-side.

How and why the “Worcester/DeRaffele diner” vanished leaving behind the “Nite-Owl” diner has been lost to history. But perhaps some of you local-yokels remember and can enlighten us. Regardless, the iconic mascot was taken from the Worcester Diner and placed on top of the relatively newer, aptly named “Nite-Owl” diner.

The small old-fashioned diner “packed them in” and on most mornings that meant a queue forming outside. It also meant finding a parking spot somewhere nearby since the parking lot was too small to meet the demands of locals. Back in the 1950s through the 1980s, people weren’t bothered by finding parking because, well…we walked more back then.

Regardless, anyone who ate there understood the legendary queues. People have no problem waiting in line when the food was not only delicious, but you could take the family there for breakfast or lunch without breaking the bank. Full bellies, smiling faces, affordable prices. Some would call it a “greasy spoon” but greasy spoons are a part of Americana. Sometimes you just want something to stick to your ribs, some comfort food. Pancake mountains, eggs, and bacon, classic cheeseburger, and fries, their famous Coney Island hot dogs, a BLT, a grilled cheese and tomato soup…things that fed the soul, not just the belly.


Photo by Mod Betty.

These sorts of diners are dying out as they try to go head to head with the big-box chains like Denny’s, IHOP, and Perkins. For that matter, the ubiquitousness of Honey Dew, Dunkin’, and Starbucks helped move that death along especially when they began to offer more than coffee, but breakfast and lunch sandwiches.

When the Nite-Owl closed its doors it sat there lifeless and empty for years, and at one time there were even calls for it to be moved to Battleship Cove as a tourist attraction. It’s hard for people to let go of something that played such a powerful role in their lives for decades.


Photo by Kenneth C. Zirkel.
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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Liberty

    November 4, 2020 at 1:10 pm

    Grew up in the neighborhood and ate at the nite owl many times. Had a couple of paper routes as a kid and always had a pocket full of money. These were better times in Fall River. As a kid I knew many of the characters on the streets of the city. Look around today and all I see are strangers who dont give a damn about this city or it’s history. I long for the times that came along with these landmarks, they were easier days to live in. Mark You restaurant, Brodeurs Market on Horton Street, Armands Variety on county street, the old Vallincourts across from the owl, Duffys drug store on pleasant st. where I would buy my Halloween masks and even Texeiras barber shop. I could go on all day! Thanks for the memories Fall River…

  2. Bryan

    November 4, 2020 at 2:20 pm

    Growing up in Fall River in the late 50s as a kid before Dad moved the family down to VA to finish his graduate degree…remember lining up in the morning for a stack and glass of coffee milk. The hot cheese was an occasional treat…definitely comfort food (when the term didn’t send people into a tizzy because it wasn’t ‘healthy eating’) and good portions for not a lot of $$$. Case in point: the resurrection of Almac’s.

    When I moved back to Fall River (really!) after being away since ’61, was glad to see the diner still there, but, sadly deteriorating. Like a lot of the old haunts in the City, time has marched on, but there are still gems (Terminal Bakery for tourtiere, for instance or Nick’s for Coney Islands, or…) if you know where to look.

    It’s easy to wax nostalgic about ‘the good old days’ here in Fall River, but times are what we make of them. The Spindle City has a lot to recommend it…and for the younger generation, today will be the ‘good old days’ when they’ve taken our place.

  3. lucille rissler

    November 4, 2020 at 6:54 pm

    Does anyone know the kind of cheese they used on the hot dogs? It would
    really make someone very, very happy.

    • Jake Perry

      November 5, 2020 at 8:55 am

      I believe it was Limburger.

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