Case in point: the 60-year-old Trolley Inn (11400 East Truman Road) in Independence, which started life as a Kansas City streetcar way back in the years before World War I. After a long tenure in the mass-transportation industry, this sturdy trolley was retired and refitted as a 10-stool diner in 1946, back when Truman Road was still known as Van Horn Road.
Like other family-owned diners that opened along busy traffic arteries in and out of Kansas City, Charles Bonjour's Trolley Inn served inexpensive hot coffee, cold malts and simple breakfasts and lunches to patrons who could pull in right off the street, grab a quick bite to eat and get back to work. Long before McDonald's turned this kind of casual cuisine into a slickly efficient corporate concept, these mom-and-pop operations and there were dozens of them throughout the city fed the masses.
In 1989, Bonjour's daughter Linda Paden took over as conductor of the Trolley's narrow kitchenette, with its tiny grill, coffee machine and refrigerated pie case. She ran it until last August, when she sold the business to Jason and Frances Tonahill. For the first time in half a century, the Trolley Inn was closed, briefly, to bring the kitchen up to code and install central air conditioning and an ice machine.
But the Trolley Inn still looks just like it did in the 1950s and still serves a comparable menu from the Eisenhower years: eggs and bacon, big juicy cheeseburgers, and hot plate specials such as last Tuesday's fried pork tenderloin served with lumpy mashed potatoes blanketed with peppery cream gravy and sided with cottage cheese and Texas toast for $6. The hours of operation are 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
Another holdover from the 1950s: Most of the clientele still smokes cigarettes. A more modern footnote is the TV set mounted above the counter, which was tuned to those "reality" courtroom shows on the day that I ate that tenderloin special. The best was Judge Mathis, whose title jurist patiently heard the case of a sneaky heterosexual who pretended to be gay so he could be roommates with a blond bimbo who got suspicious when she found the stash of straight porn in his room.
Wasn't that the plot of Three's Company?