Isabel Pollard Oleson, left, and her husband, Bill Oleson, enjoyed breakfast at the Palace Diner in Biddeford on Wednesday morning. Isabel’s father, Arthur Pollard, built the Palace Diner in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1927. ED PIERCE/Journal Tribune

BIDDEFORD — Isabel Pollard Oleson knows a thing or two about eating at the Palace Diner in Biddeford.  She enjoyed her first meal there decades ago and the building itself brings back a flood of great memories for her about her father.

Arthur Pollard was Isabel’s dad and he and his workers at the Pollard Company in Lowell, Massachusetts, built the Palace Diner way back in 1927.  It is just one of two remaining Pollard Company diners still in operation in America with the other one being in Bristol, New Hampshire.

Pollard’s life revolved around restaurants and he owned diners in Massachusetts, and Vermont, before coming up with the idea to create one for Biddeford. The barrel-roofed Palace Diner has now been a fixture on Franklin Street in the city for 91 years.

“I was just 2 when my father built this diner,” said Isabel, 93, who visited the diner Wednesday morning with her husband, Bill Oleson, and their longtime Biddeford Pool neighbors and friends, Beth Baskin and Ada Goff. “He sold it to his brother-in-law, Louis LaChance, and I used to come here during the summers before I got married to eat and they didn’t charge me anything. I first came up here from Massachusetts because I had an aunt and uncle that lived on Roberts Road.”

Next April will mark the 70th anniversary of Bill and Isabel’s courtship, which eventually led to their marriage in 1949 and raising a family that grew to include three sons.

The couple originally met on a blind date.

“Bill is from Framingham, Massachusetts, and I lived in Newton, Massachusetts,” Isabel said. “We went to the movies for our first date, but I can’t remember what picture we saw. I just knew I liked him a lot and look what it’s led to.”

Bill sold industrial park materials for a living and dabbled a bit in politics in Framingham, serving as a selectman for that city. Isabel worked for a medical company and then for the Cushing VA Hospital before she gave up her job when their children started coming along.

In 1945, Arthur Pollard purchased a turn-of-the-century home on Ocean Avenue in Biddeford Pool and that’s where his Isabel and Bill spent a lot of time getting to know each other before their marriage.

Pollard died at the age of 66 and ownership of the Ocean Avenue home passed to Bill and Isabel. As they got older. they would split time between Biddeford Pool, Framingham and a home in Florida.

But last year they decided to make Biddeford Pool their year-round residence. It meant that Isabel was closer to the Palace Diner, which is now owned by Greg Mitchell and Chad Conley, the sixth proprietors in the diner’s long history.

According to Isabel, the first time she visited the Palace Diner it was turned differently than the way it is now situated facing west on Franklin Street.

“It wasn’t facing this way, it was actually over there, she said while pointing to another direction. “Over the years, I guess that it’s faced a number of different ways.”

She’s grateful for the opportunity to live so close to a restaurant that connects her to memories of her late father.

“I haven’t been here for over a year, but I always enjoy coming here when I do,” Isabel said. “I don’t remember the diner being built because I was a small child at the time and it was constructed in an old mill building in Lowell. It’s really going to be a treat today because to tell you the truth, in all my years, I’ve never eaten breakfast here, but today I’ll be able to do that.”

She said she believes the formula to sustaining a long marriage is actually quite simple.

“You have to laugh a lot and have a good sense of humor,” Isabel said. “And of course, you have to marry a nice man.”

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be reached at 282-1535 or by email at [email protected] 

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