National Public Radio

Nationally recognized artist shares talent with Community Ed class

December 23, 2010 // 0 Comments

Berta featured on NPR’s ‘What Do Ya Know’ by BETH ALTENA   Jerry Berta is well known in Rockford for his dining-car fame, having purchased and operated Rosie’s Diner for years. Now in the hands of owners Randy and Jonelle Roest, the diner is still associated with Berta. Less well known is that Berta was once interviewed on National Public Radio’s (NPR’s) show “What Do Ya Know” with Michael Feldman. Berta, along with his wife, has managed the difficult task of earning a living as an artist and works in ceramic and neon. Now “newbies” or old hands at ceramic art can learn from Berta in his new Rockford Community Education (RCE) class, which is held at Rockford High School. Rosie’s Diner, located on M-57 in the CedarRock business district, is nationally known for the Brawny “Quicker Picker Upper” commercials featuring Nancy Walker as Rosie the waitress. Rosie’s Diner wasn’t Berta’s first, however. Berta has been a lifelong fan of dining cars and used to travel to the country’s east coast where the old mobile restaurants were more common. Berta found Michigan’s last remaining diner in Flint in 1987, built by the Jerry O’Mahony Dining Car Company. He purchased it for $2,000 and moved it to a lot on 14 Mile Road in Rockford and used it for his art studio. Despite a neon sign that read “No food, just art,” people still wandered in, hoping to sit down for a meal. Berta was out east, admiring a dining car, when the owner came out to talk to him. He discovered that Berta already owned one diner and asked if he’d like to own two. A minute later, Berta had purchased Rosie’s, which was built by Paramount Dining Car Company in 1946 and was originally called the Silver Dollar Diner. The restaurant was 700 miles from Rockford, however. After four days, 10 flat tires and one fire, the diner was in Rockford where it continues to be a landmark and has served well over a million meals.   Berta’s work as an artist in neon may be related to his dining-car interest, but he is also known for his ceramic work, which is featured in the RCE classes. With both experienced and new artists in […]