Posts tagged #Miss Florence Diner


When it comes to comfort, the relief of settling into a well-worn cushioned booth at the local diner and being served by a seasoned waitress who can tell you a thing or two about life is hard to beat.

Lifers become a part of the diner. Just like the soft, comfortable, vinyl stools that line the counter, they have aced the test of time. But after seeing them day after day, we start to take them for granted. Georgina from Gold ‘n Silver in Reno, NV says, “People think we’re a dime a dozen and that anyone can do this job, but it’s not true.” Georgina’s right. Most servers aren’t cut out for the job. It is estimated that although one in five people have waited tables only one in 100 is really able to do the job well. Not only does waitressing require years of experience, the good ones have to be extremely organized, with a strong work ethic and a memory that rarely fails them. Jean Joseph from San Francisco has been waitressing since 1947, she says, “Seventy percent of the servers out there should not be waiting tables.”

Jean Joseph - Al's Good Food.  San Francisco, CA

Jean Joseph - Al's Good Food.  San Francisco, CA

Over ninety percent of the waitresses I interviewed for my book, Counter Culture said they “loved” the job and if given the opportunity, wouldn’t do anything else. As Linda Exeler of the Colonial Cottage in Kentucky says, “Waitressing is my life. It’s my calling. This is what I was born to do.” And Sharon Bruno from Betsy’s Pancake House in New Orleans quips, “It’s in your blood.”

Ina Kapitan - Miss Florence Diner.  Florence, MA

Ina Kapitan - Miss Florence Diner.  Florence, MA

Over the decades career waitresses grow roots, build friendships with the staff and the customers, and many choose to work past retirement age. Some have tried to retire but went back to work because they missed it so much. The social, physical and mental work actually keeps them healthy and they are models of healthy aging. Ina Kapitan who waitressed at the Miss Florence Diner in Massachusetts until she was 85 says, “I just keep moving. I see people come in here and they’re only in their 50s and they are more decrepit than I am. It’s because they’re sitting around...the doctors say, ‘I don’t know what you’re doing but keep doing it.’”

Miss Florence Diner.  Florence, MA

Miss Florence Diner.  Florence, MA

We assume that seasoned waitresses will always be there to dish out blue-plate specials. But with managers hiring younger help every day, we shouldn’t take these women and the diners they work for, for granted. The best way to keep these restaurants open is to become a regular. Go to your favorite diner, grab a stool and become a part of the counter culture.

Pat & Cowboy. Sip 'N Bite - Baltimore, MD

Pat & Cowboy. Sip 'N Bite - Baltimore, MD

Candacy A. Taylor is an award-winning photographer and writer in Los Angeles, and the author of Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress.

8 Interesting Facts About Diner Waitresses



1. Women didn’t patronize or even work in diners until after the 1920s. Diners were parked across from factories and filled with laborers. They had a saloon-type atmosphere and women generally didn't feel comfortable in them. It wasn’t until WWII that women were encouraged to work and eat in diners.

2. In 1941 in The Diner magazine, writer Sam Yellin listed the reasons why women should work in diners, he said:

      A. Women will work for less pay

      B. Women will work harder than men

      C. Women are always happy

      D. Women can talk and work at the same time

      E. Women are cleaner and more efficient than men

      F. Women are more honest than men

      G. Women don’t steal

      H. Women won’t stay out late drinking and call in sick the next day

Buttercream diner waitresses (est. 1950s). Napa, CA

Buttercream diner waitresses (est. 1950s). Napa, CA

3. The stigma that diner waitresses have loose morals may have come from the 1920s when prostitutes lied and told police that they were waitresses (to explain the cash they were holding). 

4. The average career waitress makes $20 to $30 an hour with tips.  

5. Regular customers are their lifeline. Some regulars come in three times a day. Many career waitresses in Counter Culture have waited on four generations of the same family and if a waitress quits and moves to another restaurant, her regular customers will follow her throughout her entire career. 

6. Seniority pays off. Despite the common assumption that waitressing offers no benefits, some diners offer their longstanding waitresses a higher hourly wage, health insurance, retirement benefits, Christmas bonuses and paid vacations. 

7. Waitressing is easier for lifers. Being experienced and having regular customers cuts their serving time and labor in half.

8. The physical nature of the work actually helps older waitresses age better. Ina Kapitan, age 83 says, “Waitressing helps my arthritis. If I stayed home and did nothing I would be crippled. My doctor says whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.” 

For more about diner waitresses see Counter Culture


Ina Kapitan. Miss Florence Diner. Florence, MA

Ina Kapitan. Miss Florence Diner. Florence, MA


For the Love of Diners


Peggy Sue’s 50’s Diner in the desert town of Yermo, California has a sign above the door that reads: “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone — Regardless of who you are, who you think you are, who your daddy is, or how much money you make.” This is why I love diners. In a society where money and class takes center stage, in diners, fur coats hang next to cowboy hats and Jaguars and junkers sit side-by-side in the parking lot. 

In neighborhood institutions the counter is a makeshift community where 'everybody knows your name.’ It’s like Cheers without the liquor. Customers bring warmth, character and vitality and become extended family members to each other and to the restaurant staff. One regular at Betsy’s Pancake House in New Orleans says, “It’s like sitting on your front porch with your neighbors.”

I love to stay connected to the places I documented for Counter Culture. Has anyone visited any of these diners?  Does anyone have stories to share about these places? If not, tell me about your favorite restaurants and the people who work there. Let's make this a forum to celebrate them! 

Gold 'N Silver Restaurant.  Reno, Nevada

Gold 'N Silver Restaurant.  Reno, Nevada

Florida Avenue Grill. Washington DC

Florida Avenue Grill. Washington DC

Pie 'N Burger. Pasadena, California.

Pie 'N Burger. Pasadena, California.

Butter Cream Bakery & Diner.  Napa, California.

Butter Cream Bakery & Diner.  Napa, California.

The Venus Diner. Gibsonia, Pennsylvania

The Venus Diner. Gibsonia, Pennsylvania


Al’s Good Food - San Francisco, CA

Betsy’s Pancake House-  New Orleans, LA

The Boulevard Diner - Worcester, MA 

The Busy Bee - Atlanta, GA

The Butter Cream - Napa, CA

The Colonial Cottage, Erlanger, KY

The Copper Cart - Seligman, AZ 

The Crystal Diner - Lawrenceville, NJ

The Crystal Grill - Greenwood, MS

Edith’s Cafe - Central City, KY

Florida Avenue Grill - Washington, DC

George J’s - Glasgow, KY

Gold N’ Silver - Reno, NV

Harry’s Plaza Cafe - Santa Barbara, CA

Louis’ Restaurant - San Francisco, CA

Mastoris Diner - Bordentown, NJ

The Meadowthorpe Cafe - Lexington, KY

The Melrose Diner - Philadelphia, PA

Miss Florence Diner - Florence, MA

Mojo’s Bowling Alley - Sun City, AZ

Mt. Vernon - Somerville, MA 

Ole’s Waffle Shop - Alameda, CA

Pie ‘N Burger - Pasadena, CA

The Rainbow Casino Coffee Shop- Henderson, NV 

Ryan’s - Florence, AL

Sears Fine Foods - San Francisco, CA

The Seven Seas - Sausalito, CA

The Seville Diner - East Brunswick, NJ

Sharkey’s- Gardnerville, NV

The Sip ‘n Bite - Baltimore, MD

Sittons Diner - North Hollywood, CA

Trio Restaurant - Washington, D.C.

The USA Country Diner - Windsor, NJ

The Venus Diner - Gibsonia, PA [Closed]