Random Roadside – “Virtual “Finds

I was all set to do a little San Francisco & Bay Area trip for this four-day Thanksgiving weekend.  But then I checked the weather forecast — not good.  Rain and clouds seemed pretty definite.  So, rather than wasting time and money sitting around being miserable instead of shooting, I’m staying home instead.  And I’ll keep on keeping on with the ridiculously humongous website task that I’ve been working on.

I’ve started adding Google Street View map links to the descriptions for each “thing” at my 2400+ pages.  It might take a few years, seriously.  But once this mega project is done, you and I will be able to instantly check to see if something’s been remodeled, repainted, or removed.  It’ll also be handy for you to find out where things are located.  I’ve only gone through a few small sections so far but it’s been gratifying to find out what’s still there — and exciting/depressing to find out changes that have taken place.  Here are some examples of these discoveries.


The Bondurant’s Pharmacy building in Lexington, KY was constructed in 1975 .  It’s one of those rare mimetic buildings — built in the shape of a mortar & pestle.  The store closed in 2011 and roadside folks like us worried about what would happen.  Then, in 2012, Imperial Liquor moved in.  It’s a wonder that the building survived (maybe it’s landmarked in some way?) but I gotta say the new paint job is kinda shocking.  Here’s a photo I took in 2001:


And what it looks like now — photo courtesy of JLK productions:



This 20 foot tall milk bottle was installed on the roof of the Reed Bros. Dairy building in Memphis in the 1940s.  After years and year of neglect, and the impending 2012 demolition of the building, it seemed this wonderful thing would be a goner.  Here’s my photo from 2007:


But miracles do happen.  Instead of being scrapped, it was donated to the Children’s Museum of Memphis.  It was restored and has been installed there.  I can’t find any photos of it in its new home — but here’s the refurbished bottle ready for the install.  Photo courtesy of the Commercial Appeal.



I have three bits of news concerning Frostop Root Beer stands.  Around 2011, the stand in Greenville, MS relocated.  I tracked down the new address and not seeing the giant mug pole sign at Google, I feared the worst (that it was at a landfill someplace).  Here’s my photo from 2007:


But then I came across this photo from tinkerbrad.  What a relief!  It’s been installed in the parking lot at the new location:



A bit of bad Frostop news.  The stand in the Algiers neighborhood in New Orleans, which had been boarded up for many years, was demolished in 2013.  A big empty lot there now at Google Street View.  Here’s my photo from 2010:



The Frostop mug in Valparaiso, IN was a local icon.  After the stand closed, a bank was built on the site in 2005.  Instead of trashing the sign, the bank refurbished it, neon and all, and kept the mug spinning.  They even named the location the “Frostop branch.”   Here’s my photo from 2006:


Well, I don’t know what happened, and I guess the city had no say or interest in it since I can’t find any news articles about the sign.  No “about to be relocated” or “where did it go” stories.  But after a quick call to the bank, I tracked down the sign’s new whereabouts.   Last year, it was sold to the Westpoint Lounge in Westville, IN where its been repainted to resembled a mug of beer.  Such a shame.  Photo from Google Street View:



One more Frostop mug story — this one from Tucson, AZ.  This mug is much smaller than the others described above but the building that’s next to it is clearly the unique Frostop design.  I’m guessing this mug was a replacement.  In any case, when I first saw the mug in 2008, it was dressed up appropriately for the Mexican restaurant that it accompanied:


Then, by my 2012 visit, it had been repainted for Three and a Half Brothers:


By the following year, here it is back as a beer mug — courtesy Google Street View:




The Greyhound station in Tuscaloosa, AL has been on my to-shoot list for many years.   Now, it’s too late.  Here’s a photo from 2007 by M.M.:


And from Google — here’s what the 2013 remodel looks like.  Granted, they did keep the building’s shape and repurposed the sign:



While we’re talking bus stations, the Ann Arbor, MI Greyhound station is undergoing some big changes.  There are lots of on-line articles about it.  But the short story is, they’re demolishing the building but keeping the 1940 facade and sign.  Here are my photos from 2011:



And here’s what was left this summer (don’t worry, the sign’s in storage) — photo courtesy of Ross:


And here’s what the six-story hotel behind it will look like.  Sigh.  OK, yes, at least the facade was saved even if it’s dwarfed and out of place now.  It makes me worry that, if this became a trend, more financially-non-viable small buildings might be “saved” and/or replaced with Disney-fied, false fronts under the guise of being “historically sensitive.”  Anyhow — I’ll spare you a long digression.  Illustration courtesy of MLive:



I was very sad to find out that Cherokee Music in Cumming, GA closed in 2011.  The store had a wonderful collection of giant fiberglass statues.  I don’t know where they went but at least a couple of the Pink Panther statues found a good home at Flack’s Flooring in town.  There were three other baby Pink Panthers, too — whereabouts unknown.   Here are the two big ones at their new home, photo courtesy Marie, Let’s Eat!:



The giant peanut in Pearsall, TX was looking pretty shabby when I last saw it in 2008:


I figured it would just disappear one day.  The giant goober was built in 1973 and I imagined that the locals would be happy to see the eyesore removed.   But, incredibly, thanks to the Texas Peanut Producers Board and the H.E.B. supermarket chain had the thing restored in 2011.  My goodness, they’re even lighting it at night!  Photo courtesy of SMF:



Here’s a wonderful newbie fiberglass sculpture in Mackinaw City, MI.  This place, Wienerlicious, just opened this year.  The hot dog is 60 feet long and is installed on top of a former gas station.  A friend of mine, Mark Comstock, sent me this photo:



This blog post has rambled on uncontrollably — better stop now.  Can you tell that I’m excited to be updating descriptions and making these discoveries?  Adding these maps is not as much fun as a mega-roadtrip, but I’m enjoying it as tedious as it is.

Some other quick stuff.  

For those of you that are really into details, I’ve created a sitemap for my website which is supposed to make the search engines happy (improves rankings and makes things come up higher in the results when you do Google searches).  It was not fun to make and it’s scary and ugly as hell, but some of you might like it as a navigation tool, etc.

Some of you may already know that I write the articles about signs for the SCA (Society for Commercial Archeology) Journals and newsletters (“Road Notes”).  I just turned in an article about mechanical signs (signs with moving parts).  I really only write about signs (for the articles and my website) that still exist rather than signs that are gone.  But in poking around for historic examples, I came across this wondrous sign that was installed in the 1950s in Times Square.  Not a damn thing has been written about it.  Even Tod at the American Sign Museum knows anything about it and couldn’t pull anything from his archives.  Not even my bud Thomas E. Rinaldi, author of New York Neon, has any info.

Nevertheless, I present to you:  the Johnnie Walker sign.  Perhaps the most mesmerizing mechanical sign ever built.  Okay, maybe a tie with Vegas Vic and his two clones. All I know is the “Striding Man” apparently had two iterations:  huge and huger.  The huger was by my estimate about 50 feet tall.  And his gigantic legs and arm moved.   The sign was moved a couple blocks at some point.  And according to one report, there was a similar sign in the 1950s in Miami.  If anyone knows anything else, please contact me.  I’m currently in love with this sign.  Big time.

Check out Johnnie walking in this video at the 6:24 (six minute, twenty four second) mark.  [you can use the scrollbar at the bottom of the video window to get to that point — or you can just sit back & enjoy the whole video]

Here’s Johnnie on the left (click on any photos at my blog for larger versions):



And here’s a still from the video:




I’m hoping there will be better weather at Xmas (my b’day) so I can get up to the Bay Area for some shooting.

Until then — happy holidays!

dj & the roadtrip-ready dogs

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