BUTLER, Pa. — The bumper stickers once proclaimed that "Nothing could be finer than to eat at Digger's Diner." Now, it's a diner to go.
Anyone willing to flip flapjacks and burgers--and pay the cost of moving--can have the 1940s-vintage restaurant free of charge, William (Digger) Young says.
He grew tired of the chores while also working as a mortician and county coroner and entertaining as a roller-skating clown at children's hospitals and nursing homes.
"It's just that I wore too many hats. I'd . . . put an apron on over my suit and pour coffee. You didn't catch me cooking, but I'd be running the cash register. I liked to be where the money was," he said.
Young, 55, gets his nickname from the fact that his family has been in the mortuary business since 1896.
His funeral home is next to the diner but the location is coincidental. The diner, unlike the funeral business, brought customers back before Young closed it a few years ago.
"We had great food. Some of my customers were seven days a week. Some would have breakfast and their evening meals there too," he said.
Young, who wants to use the site to expand the funeral home, tried to sell the dining-car-style restaurant for two years. Finally, he decided to give it away and placed newspaper ads offering the building "free for the moving."
So far, no one has been willing to pay the several thousand dollars it will cost to have the diner dismantled and moved, Young said.
"When they find out what it will cost to move it they don't seem to want to go any further," he said.
The diner is of the all-American variety, a Jerry O'Mahoney Inc. special from Elizabeth, N. J., with curvaceous lines, stainless-steel trim, vinyl-covered stools and Formica countertops. It arrived in Butler on two flatbed trucks and had several other owners before Young bought it seven years ago.
The pie was homemade. The burgers were thick and the cereal came in little boxes.
Now all that is left is the building. Young sold the refrigerators and countertops to a pizza parlor in Illinois. The pizza oven went to a Pennsylvania campground and the stoves, grill and cash register are in a Youngstown, Ohio, restaurant.
"Nobody would come in and take the whole place," he said. "Then it got to be that I just started stripping things apart."
Stale doughnuts, paper doilies and a baby's yellow rattle now litter the dirty floor and the kitchen walls are coated with decades of grease, but Young says there is plenty of life in the old diner. Indeed, it appears to have been built to last.
"There's stainless inside, good stainless," he said, picking through the rubble to find an old menu. "Paint that steel and polish the stainless, and you have a pretty good-looking building."
More than anything, the diner was an institution of this bustling western Pennsylvania town of 17,000 people. Young remembers well the lines that formed outside when he was a teen-ager.
"People waited to get in. It was a very busy diner," he said.
When Young ran the diner it served creations such as his favorite, the "Digger Special," a hamburger topped with a fried egg and sauteed mushrooms.