Today, we update you on people and places from the recent past and decades ago. Here, the Chuck Wagon Diner.
A popular restaurant operated by Bob Dye, it that stood on northwest corner of Neil Street and Springfield Avenue in Champaign from 1956 to 1976. Its menu featured Colonel Sanders' Kentucky Fried Chicken. The stainless steel diner was sold in 1976 and moved to Villa Grove, but it found new life as the Elite Diner in Urbana from 1983 to 2002. The diner then went to Homer and eventually to Michigan.
It's once again the Chuck Wagon, but located in Duanesburg, N.Y., just outside Schenectady. Tom and Sally Ketchum, who resurrected it, found the old diner in Detroit, had it hauled to New York and reunited it with the original Chuck Wagon sign, stored in Chicago for three decades. The restaurant opened in its new location in April 2010. Situated on U.S. 20, it's now operated by Frank Haley, who leases the building from the Ketchums.
What they're saying ...
Bob Dye, now 93 and living in Savoy, says: Colonel Harland Sanders "stayed and worked with us about two or three weeks, teaching us how to fry chicken. That was quite a party. He was a jolly guy."
But the Colonel had high standards. "By God, you did it right, or you didn't do it," Dye said, noting that Sanders wore his trademark suit and string tie even when frying chicken.
Sally Ketchum says: "We still own the diner, but we leased it out in the fall of 2012. We didn't expect to run it forever. I didn't find the diner a lot of fun unless we were busy."
Ketchum said the Chuck Wagon continues to be a destination for summer classic-car cruises. She and her husband have their own collection of classic vehicles, including a 1934 Ford pickup, a 1932 Ford Roadster, a 1951 Mercury and a 1972 Ford Bronco.