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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.
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.
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.
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
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. PO1.1162
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,”
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
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.