Chester Chatter: A short-order cook stands tall

By Ruthie Douglas
©2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

In the late 1950s, my husband Don bought a pair of Morgan draft pulling horses. The matched pair were strictly for showing.

On the country fair circuit, they won many awards and appeared on television at the Eastern States Fair — the Big E — in Massachusetts. We were so proud of the horses, whose names were Tink and Toby. Don wanted some harnesses with brass plates with their names engraved on them.

To raise money for those nameplates, Luella Putnam, who owned Putnam’s Diner where Chester’s only skyscraper now stands, said she would teach me to be a short-order cook. As the world’s shortest short-order cook, I had to stand on a block of wood to reach all parts of the grill.

Soon I was ready to go solo.  Luella and her husband Reuben lived next door and I could get help if I needed it.

I loved getting to know the customers, who were mostly local folks. We knew most everyone who came through the door and Luella made the diner a fun place to catch up on the news. The State Troopers made a point of stopping by the diner just to see her. And many truck drivers who had a daily route from Burlington to Boston would stop by for a bite and a chat. We also had many French-Canadian drivers who brought down hay and logs. They would always have me fry a tomato with their meal.

Luella was a professional wrestler. Posters of her were hung all around the diner. Luella hired me to be her driver to take her to those wrestling matches throughout the state. My first trip for her was to Brattleboro, where Luella won the match. I could hardly believe the power of those women wrestlers.

It took me quite a while to earn those brass nameplates for Tink and Toby. But I didn’t mind. Putnam’s Diner was a fun place to work.

Scene and heard

March is Women’s History Month and began in 1979. Think of who are those special women in your life?

The Chester American Legion‘s corned beef and cabbage dinner was well received despite the restrictions.

Now that spring is here, I am looking for the first robin to appear.

Chester Helping Hands continues to serve and deliver food on Wednesdays. Area restaurants are making that food for your nourishment and pleasure.

Do you remember when most cars had hood ornaments?



Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Filed Under: Chester ChatterCommunity and Arts Life

About the Author: Ruthie Douglas is originally from Springfield but has called Chester her home for 58 years, and has been writing the Chester Chatter column for more than 40 of those years. Ruthie is also a longtime volunteer throughout the community.

RSSComments (3)

Leave a Reply | Trackback URL

  1. Terry Rand says:

    Ruthie you are the heart of this town and you bring it to life with every article you write. You are a treasure chest of memories!

  2. Lynda says:

    Thank you so much for all you did over the years, and for this column! I’ve enjoyed your childhood memories in Springfield which often sounded like my own. I’ve been enjoying the Wednesday dinners courtesy of Tina Vittum who delivers to my door. It’s a great change from my boring “ cooking for one” meals. There’s so much to be thankful for, and this column is one of them!

  3. Larry Semones says:

    Ruthie, thanks for the memories and local history. Saw my first robin yesterday.