The Big Mac at 50
After posting a request on Facebook for a photo of the Cottage Diner, my favorite place to eat growing up in the ’70s in Monongahela, Pennsylvania, I was flooded with stories. One person shared a hilarious tale from his early teens when, during a sleepover, he and his friends snuck into the alley behind the diner at 4 a.m. and heisted pies out of the back of the delivery truck.
Many remembered having a sandwich at the diner after a movie at the Star Theater just around the corner. Nearby Frank’s Fruit Market sold beautiful wrapped fruit baskets and Christmas trees in the open plaza. A taxi stand and a Greyhound stop next door meant you could grab a snack at the diner while waiting for the bus. The memories go back to the ’50s, when my mom went there.
During redevelopment in the ’80s, the entire block was wiped out. A shiny McDonald’s now stands in place of the diner. Its owner has become a generous community member. My children and I hit the drive-thru whenever we crave a Big Mac and a sweet thick shake.
But so many images of the old diner stay with me. I share them with my children, but they can’t know the pleasure we took in the not-so-perfect architecture, the not-socomfortable wooden booths, the not-sohealthy fries cooked in pots of well-used grease or the not-so-pleasant whiff of ripe produce through the open diner window on a warm summer day.
go back to the ’50s, when my mom went there.