September 24, 2016

Road Island Diner: Serving Nostalgia in Oakley, UT

road island diner utah

Petery Cameron, owner of Road Island Diner

Past Jordanelle Reservoir on the way to Kamas is the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it mountain town of Oakley, Utah. The aptly-named Oakley earned its moniker from the thick covering of oaks in the nearby canyon. The town includes older and homey dwellings, and newer, mega-sized homes as well. The town also boasts ample recreational facilities. The Weber River runs through the community, and here the city-dweller’s conception of escape is status quo daily living.

Ron Bowen has lived in Oakley for 40-plus years and is a member of the city council. He acknowledges that there are no real jobs in town, but adds, “Oakley is a perfect place to live. People come here looking for a small town lifestyle and they are willing to commute for work.” And, it is a swell place to raise kids. The town has invested in their youth with a recreation facility, softball, soccer and skateboard parks as well as indoor and outdoor arenas.

Many people venture to Oakley to experience the Road Island Diner which serves up old-time dining and atmosphere. The Road Island is an authentic fabrication of the Jerry O’Mahony Company that made streamlined dining cars between 1932-1941. Displayed at the 1939 New York World’s Fair and then moved to Fall Rivers, Mass., and Middletown, Rhode Island, the diner subsequently found its way to Oakley.

Three years ago, Petey Cameron started working as a Road Island Diner server and is now buying the diner and making some interior updates. He recalls, “I was out driving and saw the place, stopped for a cup of coffee and never left.” His first experience serving in the diner was a crazy July night right before the Oakley Rodeo.

All the servers have diner name tags that are time-period appropriate like Mabel and Flo. When Petey started working there one of the available tags was “Petey.” He snatched it up since it matched his middle name and it has been his ever since. The period names compliment the period decor. Fully restored from old photos, the goal was to return the diner to its original 1939 condition with green Italian marble counter tops and original floor tile. To step inside is also to step back in time.

The Road Island Diner’s menu is delicious and satisfying, serving smoked salmon sandwiches and “award winning” meatloaf. Petey says that people come from all over to sample the entrees and homemade pies.

Another big draw in Oakley is the 4th of July weekend rodeo. Ron Bowen says, “It started over 70 years ago and was real small and local. The rodeo was held in a meadow roped off with a snow fence.” From there it’s grown to a national PRCA rodeo that draws top-name cowboys from all over the country. There is a specially built arena that seats 6,000 people and they generally sell out each night of the four-night event.

Incorporated in 1934 to complete a WPA water project, Oakley has since grown to a population of around 1,500 and lifelong residents have had to cope with the growth which is not always easy to do. Dealing with change requires adjustment and as one longtime resident said, “I’m not sure I like all these movie stars moving in.”