Pioneer Dairy Lunch, Los Angeles 1935
Pioneer Dairy Lunch, Los Angeles 1935

Nothing Over 5cts, Pioneer Dairy Lunch, Los Angeles 1935

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LA Times January 9 1961. Matt Weinstock: "The protective sidewalk scaffolding is up and work-men are in the preliminary phase of dismantling the old building housing the Pioneer Dairy Lunch, 332 S Spring St.
On an undesignated day this week the Pioneer, haven of discarded humanity - pensioners, transients, men down on their luck, men on small salaries - will close after 47 years.
The Pioneer operated for the last 12 years by Mike Sentipol, caters to those - mostly single men - who must budget, not their dollars but their pennies in order to eat.
It is old and battered inside but it is friendly. Coffee with cream and sugar, which the counterman puts in, is a nickel and a man can sit in one of the one-armed tray-type chairs for hours, even fall asleep, and no one will bother him. Not long ago a man died in his chair and no one knew he was dead for a long time.
Homeless men get their mail there and the regulars come to chat and plan their survival. When I stopped in, a tanned, healthy-looking oldster was making a deal for his battered suitcase. As he accepted $1 for it he remarked cheerfully, "I don't need it any more - I already sold all my clothes."
THE BIG ATTRACTION, of course is the menu price list. Most expensive item is frankfurters and beans 30 cents. Beef stew is 15 cents, beef hash 15 and 25, soup is 10, spaghetti red 14, macaroni and cheese 14, chili beans 25, rice chili 25, rice with brown gravy 15, bread pudding 12, hot rice 12, extra sugar 1 cent.
A faded sign announced proudly that the Pioneer has done its own baking for the last 30 years. I had apple pie and coffee, 16 cents. I've had better and I've had worse but not for that price, at least for a long time.
I asked Mike Sentipol how he did it. He said it was a struggle, all right, to serve satisfying food at those prices but it could be done by keeping the margin of profit down.
What's going to happen when the Pioneer and the adjoining shops and stores are torn down? He didn't know but he'd heard it was going to be a parking lot.
What about the hungry men who can afford no more than his 30-cent meals? Where will they go? He didn't know. Best guess is that they will move off spring street. and take their trade to E. 5th St., where there a number - a dwindling number - of similar low-priced restaurants.
But not with the sitting and staring priviliges they enjoy at the Pioneer."

Courtesy Private Collection.

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