American roadside diners, along with the Statue of Liberty, Route 66 and the Golden Gate Bridge, stand for America of the 50s/60s. Open all day and night they were places where one could anonymously pop in, grab a coffee, a slice of homemade pie to take a break from the tiresome road. They stand for the American post-war middle class family trying to live the American Dream whatever that may have been.
The American diner was for the newly motorized family, the lonesome adventurous traveller, the stressed business man. It was where Kerouac's character Sal Paradise in On the Road grabbed his apple pie and ice cream while he was chasing his hopes and dream from coast to coast.
My friend is writing a script on Malcolm X at the moment which got me to look into him and I found a great quote of his on diners (the person not the restaurant...but nonetheless)
“Sitting at the table doesn't make you a diner, unless you eat some of what's on that plate. Being here in America doesn't make you an American. Being born here in America doesn't make you an American.”
Images are from an exhibition at the Fox Talbot Museum