By JENNIFER HILL
By JENNIFER HILL
ONEONTA – Sheena Thorsland has fond memories of Nick’s Diner.
“You’d drink, you’d get hungry, and go to Nick’s,” she said. “We’d eat fries with gravy a lot, so we kept that on the menu.”
Sheena re-opened the Oneonta eatery with her husband, Rodney, last weekend, and all the old stories came out as diners returned to the scene.
“They claimed they never emptied out the chili pot,” Bruce Hinkley, who is in his mid-60s and frequented Nick’s in the 1960s, said, as he ate at the Nick’s counter Monday night. “If you had the chili, you had outrageous dreams afterward, I think because it fermented.”
Hinkley said he would go to Nick’s after drinking in the bars, which closed at 1 or 2 a.m.
“It was the only place opened 24 hours. The bartenders would come down, too,” he remembered. “We’d eat the chili to get the dreams. You could take a trip and never leave the farm.”
Former Common Council Member Madolyn Palmer, who was having dinner with her friends, Charlotte Georgia and Barbara Blanchard, had memories of going to Nick’s Diner in her youth that were less lurid. “It wasn’t as sparkly then,” she said. “But it was fun. We’d come here late, after midnight. It was a place for friends to gather. People went out a lot more then.”
Another past-and-present customer, Dawn Kilts, recounted sneaking out of her house at 3 or 4 a.m. when she was a teenager and getting a late-night snack at Nick’s. “I lived up the hill. I would come down and get toast and eggs,” she said. “I don’t think my mother ever knew I snuck out.”
“The whole place was filled with smoke. Everyone smoked back then, but I was a smoker, so it was all right,” she added.
Kilts’ friend, Rafael Sason said he didn’t go to Nick’s Diner in the past that often because of all the smoke.
“I quit smoking in my early 20s and didn’t want to be around it,” he said.
But Sason, who was used to going out to dinner after 10 p.m. in New York City before moving to Oneonta in 1986, said he was relieved Nick’s was open late at night. He welcomed Nick’s re-opening and looked forward to it becoming a 24-hour restaurant again in the future.
“Having a place available late at night is huge,” he said.
And Nick’s seemed a perfect place for Sason, Kilts and their friend Janet Sutta to go to Monday night after attending a class on politics and film they are auditing at SUNY.
However, the Thorslands have not yet specified when the diner would go to 24 hours.
All the customers there Monday night said the food was very good. Hinkley recommended the homemade pies.
All the customers who knew Nick’s 30 to 60 years ago noted the contrast between the polished, gleaming wooden floors and clean interior of today’s Nick’s, and the aging interior and not-so-clean floors and walls.
“It was just a different time,” Kilts said.
But if the past four days at Nick’s are any indication, it looks as if the restaurant will once again be a place for people to gather.
Nick’s Diner’s is open 6 a.m-10 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at 220 Chestnut St.