One Day Before Its "Open 24 Hours" Sign Goes Dark, Metro Postcards (From Gaston Avenue)
James Adams, in front of the iconic Gaston Avenue diner he opened more than four decades ago
Photos by Dylan Hollingsworth
Tomorrow at 2 p.m., Wayne Adams will do something he hasn't done since The Great Remodel of '97: He will lock the front door to the Metro Diner on Gaston Avenue. Which is why he had to see a man about a lock earlier this week. Wayne couldn't find the key. Hadn't needed it in years, never thought he'd need it again. The sign, after all, says "Open 24 Hours." But time, finally, is running out.
Wayne sold the Metro to Baylor Hospital, which has long eyed the property as part of its expansion plans. He rejected its advances for years, but could stiff-arm the hospital no longer: Says Wayne, the city was demanding upgrades -- new grease traps and a bigger and better parking lot, amongst other things -- he couldn't afford. "If we did an expansion or remodel," he said one morning last week over a cup of coffee, "it was going to be difficult."
Sharing the booth with Wayne are his parents, mother Virgie and father James, who quit his job working for the Toddle House chain in the early 1960s and converted a Toddle House in Preston Center and a Dobbs House on Gaston into Metros. There's also the location on Davis Street in Oak Cliff, and all would become, over time, neon-lit, bacon-scented, deep-fried, bottomless-cup landmarks.
But Preston Center closed in the summer of '08; the location was razed to make way for a bank, what else. And tomorrow, Gaston goes. Says Virgie, she understands why Wayne sold to Baylor, "but it'll be hard to see it go." James, at 90, still eats breakfast here three, four times a week. He still might: "I'll probably build a little tent out there and fry me some eggs," he says, grinning wistfully.
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"We were successful," he says. "My son has done a excellent job carrying on the operation. But the economy is what it is, and time calls for change. We had a good deal here. I'm sure we'll enjoy the future somewhere else."
Over the course of the Metro's final week, the great Dylan Hollingsworth spent some of almost every day and every late night at the diner. It became his mission to document its final days, to memorialize the icon before its demise. He took hundreds of photos. You'll find 53 of them here. On the other side, Dylan offers some thoughts about what he saw during his stay. He'll be there tomorrow too; so will I. I've already made reservations: I begged Wayne to let me have the last plate of sunny-side-up eggs, bacon and biscuits ever served at the Metro. Fingers crossed.
"This one to me is the toughest, tougher than Preston Center," Wayne says. "When I was growing up, we used to office next door -- our office used to be between us and where the flower shop is -- and my first year in college, my dad said, 'If you want a real education, work two nights a week at Gaston.' And this was in the '70s, back before the Baylor patrol. It was dicey. Preston Center was their first spot. But this one's always been the anchor. Closing week was cool. We had a blast: The music was going, everyone was having a good time, and doggone it, I'm having some regret. I was telling my mom: I know it's the right move, but it's tough."
Dylan writes of his week at the Metro:
My favorite experiences from the last week were as follows...
The woman who came in wearing a bathrobe and slippers to bum a cigarette at 2 a.m.. She was scheduled to have labor induced an hour later ...
The guy who wrecked into one of the waitresses' cars and drove off, only to have a sheriff who was eating at the counter chase him down and hold him accountable ...
The girl in the Slayer shirt feeding the tatooed guy in an Indian headdress pancakes and acting like kids in love, Bessie and Leon ...
The couple who has been married since they were 15 and have worked at the Metro for 10-plus years who everyone affectionately refers to as Mama and Daddy ...
James Adams, who came in every day and handed out American flags and golden angel pendants to everyone he stopped to talk with ...
The regular who answered the phone to take to-go orders when the staff was busy ...
The older gentleman who said good-bye to a waitress who he claimed saved his marriage (he gave no further details but seemed sincere) ...
The kids from Plano who had skipped school and were hacky-sacking and smoking cigarettes outside ...
The waitress who makes a bee-line for the jukebox to play Fleetwood Mac every time i walk in ...
The list could go on forever. For me, that was the appeal of the place -- that you could have such a diverse group of people in one place at one time existing on common ground and rarely batting an eye at each other. It was just expected that you could run into anyone. I don't know too many other places in Dallas where you'd find two clowns in full attire, a cowboy reading the paper, a medical student studying to the strains of an iPod, a gangster trying to take the waitress home, lovers on a rendezvous speaking in hushed tomes, a cop drinking coffee and telling stories about his beat to the cooks and anyone who would listen, a stripper with smeared mascara (who angrily refused my request for a photograph) and a dog-tired construction worker under one roof.
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