Front View of Thomas House

Ward-Thomas Museum

Ohio Association of Historical Societies and Museums

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Dining Car Restaurant

Ward — Thomas Museum
Home of the Niles Historical Society
503 Brown Street Niles, Ohio 44446

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Construction of the Niles Trust Co.began in November 1929. The Lor-a-Lee Dining Car was located behind this bank.

Construction of the Niles Trust Co.began in November 1929. The Lor-a-Lee Dining Car was located behind this bank.
PO1.23

Progress ends nostalgic era of “The Dining Car”
Dave Addis Niles Daily Times, December 7, 1973
One of the intangible costs city residents will be paying for the Urban Renewal program is a town landmark of sorts, Rudy’s Restaurant on Main Street.
Rudy’s, or “The Diner” as it is more commonly known, will be closing its doors for good on Friday, ending more than 46 years of service for the dining car. The diner is somewhat of an anachronism. It is a place where bank presidents and mechanics sat shoulder to shoulder, reading the ever-present morning paper and talking over the happenings of the city.

The main attraction of the popular eating place has always been its pleasant help and reputation for good food-not the fancy cuisine offered at restaurants on the Strip, but a good home-cooked meal at a fair price.

The original dining car was opened in 1927 by Howard and Laura Lee Davis and Jack Sandman, all deceased. The restaurant was located in the area now occupied by the drive-in window of the Niles Bank. The owners purchased a larger car, which was moved to its present Main Street location in 1935. The car was towed around the block, and according to the present owner ‘Rudy’ Roodhouse, the original steel wheels are still attached to the frame.

“They had quite a time towing that thing over here.” laughs Katherine Ramser, who started with the business at the age of 18 in 1927. “When they got it here they knocked the porch off the house, which had been purchased from the Frech family, and just joined the two together.” Rooms from the house on Main Street still serve as a dining area for the restaurant.“They only kept that first car for about a year and a half, recalls Miss Ramser, and the thing had a sliding door that I’ll never forget. People were forever forgetting how to open it and would try to push it in instead.”


Lor-A-Lee dining car after it was moved to North Main Street from behind the Niles Bank Building in 1935. PO1.1147

L to R: Mrs. Emma Sandman, Howard and Laura Lee Davis, Georgia Horn, Mary Mangino, Emma Featsent, unknown, Katherine Ramser.

The history of the diner also entwines the life history of the three women from the city who, between them, have nearly 120 combined years of service since the original diner opened in 1927. Katherine Ramser, who is still hard at work behind the counter, Mary Mangino, also still at work started in 1935, and the recently retired Georgia Horn put in 35 years behind the counter until failing health forced her to quit.

Katherine and Mary recall the lean days of the Depression, but said business remained good throughout and even offered the opinion that the profit margin on food was much higher than it is now.

The amount of progress they saw through the dining car windows could fill a book. They recalled construction of the Niles Bank Building, the railroad overpass on South Main Street, and the post office building on Park Avenue- all before the diner was moved in 1935.


Workers at the counter of the Lor-a-Lee Dining Car.

Clockwise; Hal Rader, Mary Mangino, Edna Henderson, Katherine Ramser, Rudy Roodhouse(owner), Lela Holt, Clara Wilson. Niles Daily Times photo.

They remember the war rations and the Black Market that kept everything a little more plentiful than it was supposed to be, also when Niles had three movie houses. Roodhouse speaks fondly of his loyal staff, revealing that Katherine Ramser has not missed a day in the 14 years he has owned the business, and that Mary has missed only a few days, mostly to attend funerals.

Other employees who gathered Wednesday to talk over the past included such ‘newcomers’ as Lela Holt, with 14 years at the diner, Edna Henderson with a total of seven years and Clara Wilson, who has been employed there for the past two years.


Photo taken of Rudy's Restaurant located at 21 North Main Street (east side) in downtown Niles before urban renewal. Dated June 27, 1972.

Photo taken of Rudy's Restaurant located at 21 North Main Street (east side) in downtown Niles before urban renewal. Dated June 27, 1972. PO1.1162

Rudy, who with his wife Edith operates another restaurant in McKinley Heights, says the demolition crews will be in for more than they bargained for when they try to tear down the structure. “This thing says on it that it’s ‘good for life’, and I believe it. The dining car would stand for another 100 years, if nobody moved it. These things were really built to last,” he said.
The ladies of the diner said they have met a lot of wonderful people in their years on the job, but there still is one customer who comes in practically every day, and has frequented the restaurant since its opening in 1927.

H.R.‘Hal’ Rader, who admits to being 95 years and eight months old, is one of the regulars at the counter, and was seated at his favorite stool Wednesday afternoon.

And, along with Hal Rader, a lot of people who work in the downtown will feel somewhat at a loss when the noon hour rolls around on Monday.



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