Wanted: Your Pelican Diner photos!

We’re looking for pictures of the original Pelican Diner or its iconic sign, as well as any personal recollections or trivia you might remember (what colors were on the sign? Was it ever lighted? Did you ever go inside the building?). If you have any pictures of the Pelican in your photo albums or recall anything unique about the diner, please send them to franklintownshiphistory@gmail.com!

What was the Pelican Diner?

vintage photo of the Pelican Diner
Of course they never close — they never opened!

Although the Pelican Diner is a long-running Franklin Township joke, it was indeed a real place. The modular stainless steel diner came to Wanamaker in 1954 and was installed along Southeastern Avenue, on the narrow strip between Wanamaker State Bank (subsequently American Fletcher National Bank, Bank One, and Chase) and the Standard Oil station (now the Wanamaker Auto Service & Detail Shop). A large sign in front of the diner featured an animated neon fish jumping into a pelican’s beak. “We Never Close,” the sign advertised.

The joke, of course, is that the diner couldn’t close because it never opened. Due to a cause variously reported as a regulatory issue or a problem with the sanitation hookup, the diner was unable to open for business. It sat empty until the building was eventually disassembled and moved to a location along East Washington Street. However, the landmark sign stayed for years after the building was gone, becoming the subject of endless jokes.

As a bit of local humor, when a commercial center was established on part of Russell Flagle’s land along Southeastern Avenue, a new Pelican Diner sign was included on one of the unused sign slots. (You can spot it at the entrance to the AutoZone parking lot.) The fictitious restaurant even has its own Facebook page.