Restored Fegely's Diner rekindles old memories

News photo by Harrison Long A picture of the volunteers working at the museum and those who helped to restore the Sunoco gas station behind them. The ribbon cutting ceremony was held to honor those who worked on the 1921 station.
News photo by Harrison Long A row of Duryea model cars on display at the museum. Charles Duryea, a manufacturer of automobiles in the early 20th century, operated his company out of Reading, Pa. While his cars enjoyed some popularity at the time, Duryea couldn’t maintain his company due to poor business decisions.

The Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles opened its Fegely’s Diner exhibit for pie and coffee Nov. 2. The prices of each item were as they would have been in the 1940s; 50 cents for pie and five cents for coffee.

This event was held in correspondence with a new exhibit which was recently added to the museum, a 1921 Sunoco gas pump. A ribbon cutting ceremony took place to honor all the volunteers who worked hard to restore the station to its former glory.

In the late 1930s, a man named Howard Fegely owned the Reading Diner which was located in Exeter.

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The diner was moved across route 422 and expanded in 1950 and renamed Fegely’s Family Restaurant. The restaurant was closed down in 2003, and shortly after it was named a historical land mark. By 2009 the “monarch model” diner was moved to the Boyertown museum where it currently resides. Fortunately, this style of restaurant was designed to be moved easily due to its size and shape.

A customers and patron of the original restaurant, Roger Schaeffer, attended the event. Roger used to come to Fegely’s during the 1950s around 5 a.m. for breakfast because it was close to the plant he used to work. When he would arrive every morning, not only was he greeted by name, but the waitresses knew exactly what he wanted to order.

He said the environment was family friendly, and it was often very crowded for lunch and especially crowded for dinner. Roger also remarked that the diner looked almost exactly like it did when he would come in for breakfast -- the renovators had done an excellent job with the work.

Although Fegely’s Diner was one of the high points of the day, the museum is full of a wide range of local history. Many of the classic cars housed in the Boyertown museum were in fact manufactured at the Boyertown Auto Body Works. Production at the auto body works began in the early 1900s; prior to that the company was known as the Boyertown Carriage Works which produced carriages. Once the automobile gained more popularity, the owners quickly decided to switch the product. Several of the carriages once produced by the carriage works are on display at the museum as well.

The Ford Model “T” Touring was one of the first automobiles to be produced in Boyertown. Several variations of this car are on display at the museum, including the roadster and Victoria Coup V8. Ford’s cars were easy to manufacture and quite affordable. It is for this reason that by 1915 two out of every three cars on the road in America were Fords. The model “T” is not, however, the only notable Ford in the museum. Also on display is Ford truck from 1936 which was used in home grocery delivery, particularly with deli items. These trucks were some of the first to offer their customers grocery items straight to their front doors.

Another notable vehicle that resides in the museum is a 1942 International USMC Ambulance. Built by the Boyertown Auto Body Works, this particular ambulance was used by the marines in the Pacific Theatre during World War II and retired after. What makes this truck special is the fact that of the 900 produced for the war effort this is one of two to survive. All the others were either destroyed or left in the Pacific Ocean.

The Boyertown Museum of Historical Vehicles also hosts an exhibit honoring one of the areas more prominent citizens, Charles Duryea. Although his company went bankrupt, there are several restored Duryea model cars on display which were manufactured during the early 1900s. Duryea’s manufacturing plant was originally located in Reading, Pa., but was moved to Philadelphia after he suffered some financial setbacks. Interestingly enough, when he operated out of Reading, he made sure all the cars he manufactured were test driven before they could go to the showroom. Duryea Drive, in Reading, was the road he used to test his automobiles. At this time, test driving every car that came off the line was almost unheard of, but Duryea wanted to certify that his cars would work. Interestingly enough he had his daughter, Rhea, test drive the cars for him. Rhea learned to drive at 15 and was one of the youngest women to learn how to drive at the time.

While the two events happening at Fegely’s and the Sunoco station were the main attractions of the day, there is much more to see in the museum. It holds dozens of antique vehicles worth viewing, no matter what age you are. If you are a car enthusiast, history buff, or a fan of Fegley’s, The Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles is the place for you.