ROXBURY, NJ – It was a quiet Friday night at the Roxbury Diner. There were typical diner sounds – clinking plates and silverware, people talking softly.
But, like the calm before a storm, the peacefulness was soon to be replaced by teenager commotion. That’s because it was a Friday night when the Roxbury High School football team was playing a home game.
The best place to be in Roxbury on a football Friday night is at the high school football field. The second best place is the Roxbury Diner afterward, say many Roxbury students.
Even on nights when the Gaels lose – as they did this Friday - the kids go to the diner. If not to celebrate, then to commiserate or merely to shrug it off. The wave of rowdy, student-section attendees begins to arrive at the Succasunna eatery once half time hits, said waiter J.P. Gannon.
Gannon, a Roxbury High School alumni, has worked at the diner for seven years. The Friday night crowd is nothing new for him. “Normally, around half time a lot of people come in to get away from the big rush that comes in whenever the game ends, usually around 10 o’clock,” he said. “It’s been a tradition for, I must say, 20 years or something like that; A lot longer than I’ve been here.”
The Class of 2013 graduate said he feels like he is back in high school almost everytime. The home-game rush is a tradition that students, cheerleaders and football players all relish.
Filling up on ice cream and French fries is almost a required activity. Whether the team wins or loses, the diner represents a sense of Roxbury community to most who show up. The home game madness is chaotic, but also unifying. Elbow room is hard to find at every booth. Chairs are scattered and displaced due to frantic students catching spots next to their friends. Memories are being made.
“I’ve been here after every home game for the four years of being in high school and it’s always just fun seeing everyone in their outfits after the games and crowding the diner,” said senior and student section participant Jake Rosone. “It’s been the tradition for as long as I can remember. Even my siblings were going here. It’s just something that everyone does.”
Margot Correa, a junior, said the diner is “a place where all the football players, cheerleaders and student section can spend time together and celebrate.”
From the moment half-time begins to about 11 o’clock, the aroma of diner food gets mixed with the energy of school spirit from the football game. This week, a sea of kids dressed in pink rushed in and out for hours. The diner easily hosted 100 of them on the night of the Delbarton game.
Not everybody can fit at once. Some have to wait. But there is plenty to talk about while doing so. From one end of the building to the other the kids chat about the turnout of the game, have fun just spending time with their friends and talk about what they’ll be ordering.
“My favorite part is when everyone gets here and we all clap for the football players because it makes everyone just feel all happy and celebratory,” said junior Anna Cook.
The students said they all end up at the Roxbury Diner for a couple of reasons: It’s not expensive. It’s within walking distance of the school – important to students yet to get their driver’s licenses - and it’s welcoming. “It just feels like home with everyone all together," said junior Hayley Riddle.
Once the rush begins, and straight through until the gradual exit of every cheerleader, student section attendee and football player, the wait staff and employees are in high gear, trying to keep up with the teenagers. The staff is kept on its toes all night, but it’s all about tradition and they seem to handle it well.
“I think going to the diner after the football games caries on the spirit that we have and brings the town together in unity,” said junior Hayley Cook. “It really keeps the town all together as one.”