Archive

ShareThis Page
First waitress remembers Westmoreland diner’s heyday | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

First waitress remembers Westmoreland diner’s heyday

GTRLigDinerCar3061412
The diner is undergoing restoration in Latrobe before it is moved to a permanent location at the Lincoln Highway Experience Museum in Unity Township. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
GTRLigDinerCar1061412
Jennie (Serro) Baloh, 95, talks about her time waitressing at the former Serro's Diner. The diner is undergoing restoration before it is moved to a permanent location at the Lincoln Highway Experience Museum in Unity Township. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

Jenny Baloh sat at a refurbished booth in the restored 1938 Serro Diner last week, moving her hand gently across the new seat cushion as she recalled her first day of work in the diner nearly 75 years ago.

“I was the first waitress at the diner,” said Baloh, 95. “My brothers (Louis and Joseph) bought the dining car when I was a teenager. I told them I didn’t know a thing about waitressing. They said, ‘You’ll learn.'”

The Herminie woman is the last surviving member of the Serro family of five brothers and five sisters, who, at one time or another, worked at their brothers’ diner on Lincoln Highway in North Huntingdon.

She said her brothers purchased the Jerry O’Mahony dining car and placed it along the highway to take advantage of traffic from the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

“My brother said travelers coming off the turnpike would need a place to eat, so he opened a diner there,” said Baloh.

Baloh’s niece, Shirley Bailley, surprised her aunt last week with a visit to the storage facility where the diner is being restored for the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor. The 20-month project is expected to be completed by July 15. The diner will be showcased in the soon-to-be-constructed addition at the Lincoln Highway Experience Museum, located along Route 30 East, across from the Kingston Bridge.

“It was a pleasure to see the twinkle in Jenny’s eyes when she set foot in Serro’s Diner again,” said Olga Herbert, director of the heritage corridor organization. “She obviously had fond memories of her time working there.”

The women walked behind the counter and down memory lane, describing the bustle when they worked at the diner, Baloh in 1938 and Bailley from 1950-54.

“If you were related to the Serros, then at some time in your life, you worked at the diner,” said Bailley.

Baloh said she worked for her brothers for about one year to help them get the business started. There was always something to do at the diner, she said.

“I used to clean these booths and even washed the windows with my brother when we didn’t have customers,” she said. “They paid me $8 a week. They thought they were paying me a lot because I was their sister.”

She said she would come home with a nickel or a dime tip and thought that was a lot of money.

“It was interesting Jenny had such clear memories about the tips she received 75 years ago,” Herbert said. “A dime tip back then really made an impression on her.”

Baloh remembered the diner’s first customer. It was her future husband, Adolph Baloh.

“He came early that day so he could be the first customer,” she said. “That first dollar he spent hung in here for as long as I can remember.”

The Serro family owned the diner until 1958, when they purchased another building and sold the original diner to John and Lillian Rolka. The Rolkas moved the diner to Route 119 North in Hempfield. They sold it to the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania in 1992, and the diner and its contents were donated to the heritage corridor group in 2003.

When the restoration project is complete, the diner will be moved to its permanent location in Unity, where visitors can order a piece of homemade pie and coffee at the counter or in one of the booths.

Baloh said the diner looks just like it did when she worked there, a tribute to research done for the project. She said she wishes she still had one of the maroon-trimmed aprons she wore.

Baloh said she hopes to visit the diner after it is moved.

“It would be an honor if Jenny could serve the first piece of pie when the restored diner is relocated to our Lincoln Highway Experience site,” Herbert said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.