The Chuck Wagon was in Champaign from 1956 to 1976, when it was sold and moved to Villa Grove. The diner was moved to downtown Urbana in 1983, where it operated as the Elite Diner from 1983 to 2002. The diner then went to Homer and eventually to Michigan.
In 1956 Mountain View Diners of Singac, New Jersey, delivered the new Chuck Wagon to Bob and Nixie Dye in Champaign, Illinois. It was one of the last diners manufactured by Mountain View Diners.
In 1976, the diner and its contents were sold at auction. Then it became the Elite Diner for many years. Eventually, it was moved to Michigan. It was rescued from a lot in Detroit, where it had been sitting idle since 2002. It was in poor condition. The diner arrived in Princeton in December of 2007. An extra dining room, a kitchen, restrooms, and a full basement were added. Then the Ketchums found the original sign and the foyer in Illinois. From Rhode Island came the 1950s pie case and ice cream parlor.
The 1953 Happy Days Jukebox came from Michigan, and the counter mounts for the Jukebox also came from Michigan. The counter mounts for the Juke Box were installed, as well as a heated wheelchair ramp, sidewalk, and steps. After many months of repairing, scrubbing, polishing, and building to restore the vintage 1950s diner to its original condition, the Chuck Wagon Diner opened in April of 2010 on Ketchum's property in Princetown, NY.
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.
"Iconic Chuck Wagon diner relocated, rejuvenated in New York."
The old Chuck Wagon diner in Champaign has found new life in New York.
The diner, which once graced the corner of Neil and Springfield in Champaign and later became home to the Elite Diner in Urbana, had its grand opening this month in Princetown, New York.
The original owner of the stainless steel diner, Bob Dye of Champaign, was on hand for the event.
"It looked just like it came out of the factory when I bought it in 1956," said Dye.
New owners Tom and Sally Ketchum located the old diner in Detroit and arranged to have it hauled to New York. They reunited it with the original Chuck Wagon sign, which had been stored in Chicago for three decades.
Dye traveled to New York for the grand opening and, while there, ate many of his meals at the diner.
"It was a packed house, and people were standing in line all day," he said. His meals included beef and noodles, bacon and eggs, pot roast, cereal, and pancakes.
Sally Ketchum said she and her husband opened the Chuck Wagon in late April but delayed the grand opening until May.
"We had to have Bob Dye up here to cut the ribbon," she said. "Bob's quite a guy."
She said that the restored diner is equipped with a jukebox and counter mounts so diners can select records from their booths. An extra dining room was built, and a heated wheelchair ramp was added.
"It's the first time the foyer, the diner and the sign have been together since 1976 when they auctioned it off," she said.
By Don Dodson.
The News-Gazette, June 25, 2019