BOYERTOWN PA – Expect the coffee to be hot inside the historic Fegley’s Reading Diner, and the popularity of its homemade fastnacht doughnuts, even hotter.
The restored ‘monarch style’ diner (at top) was manufactured in 1938 by the Jerry O’Mahony Diner Company of Elizabeth NJ, and formerly located on U.S. Route 422 in nearby Exeter PA. It’s now on permanent display at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles, 85 S. Walnut St., and will again serve Feb. 13 (2024; Tuesday) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. as the setting for the museum’s annual Fastnacht Day observance.
For the price of admission and just a little pocket change, visitors can deliciously mark the before-Ash-Wednesday start of the Christian Lenten season. Museum representatives say they expect a crowd for what it calls “one of (its) most-loved events.” Enjoy the coffee for the retro price of just 5 cents, and 25 cents for a fastnacht.
Fastnachts (translated as the “night before the fast”) are traditionally made in kitchens across southeastern Pennsylvania before the arrival of Lent, the museum explains. The custom began in the 17th and 18th centuries, as German immigrants settled in the region and brought with them the practice of abstaining from eating sugary and fatty foods over a span of 40 days before Easter Sunday.
Foods like lard, butter, and sugar were at risk of spoiling during that period, so efforts were made to use up those ingredients before the fast began. Fastnachts are usually made with potato flour, sugar, eggs, and butter or lard. Then they are fried, resulting in a crispy exterior and a tender, doughy center.
Although Fastnacht Day is popular locally, it is known elsewhere as Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, and Mardi Gras. Although the specifics may differ – in some portions of the nation, pancakes and other sweets are substituted for fastnachts – the tradition of celebration before fasting remains.
In addition to the diner treats, visitors will have full access to the museum’s collection of dozens of rare and historic vehicles. Docents will be on hand to answer questions, and guests also can watch live blacksmithing and machine shop demonstrations in the original Jeremiah Swinehart Carriage Factory. It, too, is part of the museum galleries open daily to the public.
Admission costs $10 for adults, $9 for seniors age 60 and older or AAA members, and entrance is free to those age 15 or younger.
Photos provided to Travels With The Post by the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles
- Feb. 13 Tuesday, Fastnacht Day, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., ticketed, annual celebration of making and eating Pennsylvania German “fastnacht” doughnuts on the day before Ash Wednesday and the Christian season of repentance known as Lent; at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles, 85 S. Walnut St., Boyertown PA