The Green Lantern closed for business with a busy final day on Saturday. *Photo by Don Burgess
The Green Lantern closed for business with a busy final day on Saturday. *Photo by Don Burgess

SATURDAY, FEB. 4: The faint hum of an ESPN special on English cricket legend Wally Hammond is drowned out by the clatter of dishes, laughter and small talk.

It is last the day of business at the Green Lantern but there are no long faces, no tears — just big smiles and pleasant banter among customers and staff. Just as it has always been.

I was there as the breakfast crowd gave way to lunch and it was very busy. It’s not every day an iconic diner closes its doors after 70 years.

The staff expected it to be lively today, but not this early. They were anticipating a surge of trade nearer to closing time.

People have come to experience the end of an era.

It’s so busy I briefly have to share my table with a young couple whose primary concern is nutrition rather than nostalgia.

They’re taken aback at how full the restaurant is. As Saturday morning regulars, they haven’t seen it packed like this in a long while.

And it’s true. How ironic that on its dying day the diner enjoys the kind of crowd that might have kept it alive, had the numbers consistently been this good.

Glancing around me, I note that it’s a mixture of young, old, black and white patrons here today. A microcosm of Bermuda making a final, respectful salute to a much-loved culinary institution.

An older couple stroll in and head for a middle booth, the gentleman exchanging a fist bump with a younger man at a corner table.

His companion shares a laugh and a brief clasp of hands with a friend, June Famous, at the next booth.

June is sitting with Anite Masters and Helen Mateen and their conversation is punctuated with laughter as they finish their meal. Three dear friends enjoying a bite together at the Lantern — a heart-warming scene that has been played out countless times over the past seven decades. They were their to celebrate Ms Mateen's birthday.

June is clearly a regular, but more than that — a friend to the owners.

To my left are two young women enjoying breakfast and conversation. Behind me and to my right is a gentleman sporting a retro Cleveland Browns Jim Brown jersey, sitting next to his female companion.

Next to them is a dad who has his arm lovingly extended to embrace both of his daughters. Directly behind me I can see another dad, with his young son.

There is a buzz of activity around the counter; as well serving all the seated customers, staff also have keep pace with a steady stream of take out orders.

I order codfish and potatoes; this is a day to respect tradition and no other dish is more quintessentially Bermudian.

Waiting for my meal to arrive, I glance around at the décor and my physical surroundings.

Little has changed since my dad brought me here in February, 1994 for my first meal out since returning to Bermuda from California. This was my first time back to eat at the Green Lantern since his passing in 2010.

Old, framed photos of island scenes hang high on the walls, their subjects peering down like trusted old friends who are soon to go their separate ways.

But there are touches of modernity, too; a flat screen TV and environmentally–friendly CFL bulbs in the retro-style lanterns hanging from the ceiling.

My codfish and potatoes arrive, piping hot. A booth has opened up so I don’t have to share my table with the couple, but I let the waitress know its okay to seat anyone else at my table.

June Famous and her friends get up to leave. It’s not her last meal here — she tells me she will be back for her evening meal, vowing to be the last customer out of the door.

Her son went to school with owner Andre Woods and she feels a special connection and loyalty to the Green Lantern.

Her cheery, affable ways make me think of my own father as she takes her time to exit, pausing graciously to chat with other customers and staff.

I finish my meal — it was delicious – maybe a tad bit too much onion, but the saltiness of the cod and buttery goodness of the potatoes hit the spot — and ask the waitress to snap my photo so I can take away my own little piece of history.

A couple walks in as I prepare to pay my final bill (a very reasonable $11.)

Unlike June, they are clearly new to the Green Lantern; today would be their first and last meals here.

When they turn off the lights for the last time tonight, I’m sure there will be a few tears shed among staff and die-hard regulars as they enjoy their last supper.

But there’s little doubt the Green Lantern will shine on in their memories for many years to come.