Jump to Navigation

Identifying Valentine Diners

Valentine company logo.There are thousands of diners all over the United States. How can you tell if they were made by Valentine?

There are several distinguishing characteristics of Valentine diners. Here you will find tips to help you identify them, including images from catalogs issued by the company.

Many Different Names

One important thing to remember is that diner owners gave their businesses all sorts of names. You won't see a marquee reading "Valentine Diner" on one of these buildings. The names are as individual as their owners: Flo-Inn, Dyne-Quik, and Brint's are just a few of the businesses that have operated in Valentine-made buildings.

Valentine diners are best described as small boxes. Definitely not fancy and not even particularly attractive, the little square-sided structures were designed to be easily moved on flatbed trucks. Inside, stools were placed around a counter, keeping the customers out of the work area. The early models had no booths, and the size and design of the diner depended on the type of business the owner operated; operators who were willing to provide curb service needed their pick-up window situated away from the cook and/or dishwasher.

Valentine wall safe

What to Look For

There are two distinguishing characteristics to look for on the interior of a diner that can help identify it as a Valentine.

  1. The first is a small wall safe located just inside the door (top right). Operators would put a percentage of each day's profits in the wall safe, and a Valentine representative would make regular rounds, removing the payment from each diner on the route. Wall safes were phased out on new models by around 1960. Many of these safes remain intact inside Valentine diners.
  2. Valentine serial number plate

    The other feature to look for is the serial plate (bottom right). These usually are located above a door, or sometimes on a wall above the cash register or on part of the ceiling directly above the counter. Serial plates were instituted in the late 1950s and can be seen on the later models.

Model Types

It's also possible to recognize a Valentine from the exterior, based on its model type. In its years of operation, Valentine produced not only several models of diners, but also prefabricated steel buildings for other uses, all related to the automobile and highway culture. The models represent attempts by the Valentine companies to adapt and bring in additional business. They are briefly described below.

Aristocrat

Designed in late 1940s by Richard Ten Eyck, a Wichita industrial designer, this 8-stool model is recognizable from the outside by the rounded parapet above the door (flush with the front facade), and buttresses at the corners.

Big Chef

A 1960s brochure shows it with 10 stools and a window for drive-in/carryout service. Large windows run across the front and one side, with quilted stainless steel panels below the windows. The roof slants down toward the back of the building.
View catalog image (cover)
View catalog image (interior images)
View catalog image (special features)
View catalog image (floor plan)

Burger Bar

A late 1940s/early 1950s brochure indicates it was designed only for walk-up and drive-up traffic; there was no seating. Early models show straight walls on all sides, but later the front wall--with the walk-up windows--slants in toward the ground. In the late 1960s it took on an airy look with larger windows and a mansard-style roof.
View catalog image

Double Deluxe / Dyne-Quik

A late 1950s brochure indicates it has 10 stools and seven booths for 36 customers. The appearance of the exterior matches the late 1950s description of the Little Chef, but the building's footprint is twice the size. This model also is referred to as Dyne-Quik in a Dyna-Co. brochure. A late 1960s brochure shows only 8 stools and 6 booths, perhaps offering additional room for the customer. Windows and roofline appear the same as the Roadside model.
View catalog image (late 1950s, exterior)
View catalog image (late 1950s, floor plan)
View catalog image (cover)
View catalog image (interior image)
View catalog image (special features)
View catalog image (back cover)
View catalog image (floor plan)

Drummer Boy

A late 1960s Valentine-Pyramid product, it had booth space for 64 and could be customized in its exterior appearance. Windows were around the building for most of three sides, with a mansard-style roof. The company flier shows that the building could be made to look as if it was of brick construction.
View catalog image (exterior)
View catalog image (interior)

Economy Sandwich Shop

A basic 8-stool building of the late 1940s / early 1950s, with no restroom. On the exterior it differs from the Aristocrat as the pylon cuts across the front roofline, rather than being flush with it.
View catalog image (exterior)
View catalog image (advertisement)

Little Chef

Appears to be the renamed Master model. Late 1950s Little Chefs are much the same as the Master, but on the exterior the parapet slants outward and the corner buttresses are gone.
View catalog image (black & white image)
View catalog image (front cover, early 1950s)
View catalog image (front cover, late 1950s)

Master

The Master appears to have been the first 10-stool Valentine, and eventually becomes the Little Chef. On the exterior the parapet is no longer flush to the roofline, but cuts across it. The buttresses are shorter than on the Aristocrat. Three separate interior floor plans were used.
View catalog image (1951 Wichita city directory)
View catalog image (floor plan, early 1950s)

Nifty-Nine

A nine-stool diner made in the early 1950s, resembling the Master on the exterior, with one less stool, less storage, and no restroom.

Quick Food

Appearing in the late 1960s, the exterior is similar to the Roadside model. Seven booths for seating are in the front of the building, while a kitchen and a walk-up counter are in the back.
View catalog image (floor plan)

Roadside

A late 1960s model with four booths at one end, and the kitchen and a carryout window on the other. Like the 1960s Big Chef, windows curve around the customer seating area, and the roofline reflects a mansard style.
View catalog image (floor plan)

A-frame

A Valentine-Pyramid model, it appears to have been marketed as an alternative look for a drive-in restaurant. The company doesn't seem to have given this model a specific name, so "A-frame" is an arbitrary term.
View catalog image

Other

Valentine also manufactured ice cream stores, liquor stores, service stations, dry cleaning shops, and parking lot buildings. Some of these include:

Derby Service Stations

Originally made in the late 1950s with a projecting, glassed-in bay at the center of the building. Later stations had a rectangular footprint.
View catalog image

Satellite Banking Service Center

Made in the 1960s, with a drive-up window in a 5' x 9' or 5' x 15' building for drive-thru banking.

Tourist Cabins

An idea from the late 1940s for complete tourist courts. Includes prefabricated cabins, either single or double occupancy; an office unit; a diner; and a house that could be used as the owner's residence. There is no indication how many of these, if any, were built.

Liquor Stores

Sold after Kansas repealed Prohibition in 1949, these were essentially diner buildings without the fixtures.

U-Wash-Me

A small metal building outfitted with car washing equipment, with walls and supports for up to six stalls, from the 1960s.
View catalog image (front cover)
View catalog image (special features)
View catalog image (more special features)
View catalog image (back cover)

Explore the Valentine story: