The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

July 3, 2014

Ex-resident's book recalls life in all-night diner

Gary Wall, formerly of Danville, acquired a lot of skills while working in his father’s restaurant in the late 1950s — especially how to deal with people.

That experience at the Chuckwagon eventually led him to pursue a career in social work, and it also inspired him to put his memories into his first book, “Whattllyahave Hun?”

The slim 68-page paperback has several short stories about what it was like to work at an all-night diner on East Main Street next to the railroad tracks. His father, Fred Wall, owned the diner; his mother, Billie (Jenkins), sometimes worked there.

Running the restaurant was a family business, and the children — Gary and his brother, Tom — often helped out. Gary was about 10 at the time. He also has a younger brother, Jim, and sister, Kathleen.

“It’s a fun book,” Wall said in a telephone interview from his home in New Hampshire. “I’ve got good feedback from people who have read it.”

Peggy Pitchford Nelson of Barrington, agreed, saying, “It was fun to read. If you’re a long-time Danville resident, you’re going to recognize people and the businesses and the places he talks about.”

Nelson’s parents used to own The Pub, so she could identify with some of the stories about the off-beat customers who came through. “It really jogged my memory,” said Nelson, a 1967 graduate of Schlarman High School. “That’s what I enjoyed — I could connect to it.”

Wall originally intended for his book to be for family and friends. He published it through Books-A-Million, using a computer in one of its stores. All he had to do was input the finished text, and the computer also provided the cover and artwork.

“It’s a whole new way of publishing,” he said.

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