Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Roadside Attraction Preservation

Way back in September 2007, I decided to make a trip into the suburbs of Chicago to see for myself a piece of pop culture wackiness, because there were reports that it was going to be taken down and replaced by a Walgreens of all things. The Spindle, created in 1989, and featured in the film Wayne's World, and found on the cover of a book, on postcards, state tourist brochures, and maps, is just one of those weird things you never saw every day, well, unless you lived in Berwyn, Illinois.

I knew my window of opportunity to see the car art was beginning to be very small after I had read online that during the summer, members of Chicago Critical Mass had rode their bikes to the Spindle to raise awareness of the sculpture and hopefully get people to try and keep it up. There were 2,000 cyclists who took part in the nearly 15 mile ride from Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago to support the artwork.

I spent part of the time mostly in nearby Oak Park, exploring the neighborhood around Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous house and just to see what I could find to add to my collection of pictures. I finally had enough and hitched a ride on a city bus to get me to the shopping center were the Spindle was. It was a bit strange to walk towards the sculpture in a vast parking lot. But, I found it deeply fascinating to look at, and took several pictures to show that it was here. 

Sadly, the cars were taken away and the spindle removed on May 2, 2008 – never to be seen again.
I know that the sculpture wasn’t exactly historic in nature or deeply important for the preservation of the past, but it slowly propelled me to look into becoming a historic preservationist. It’s for the simple fact that I have a desire to not only protect historical sites throughout this country, but also to try and protect the roadside attractions that are left out there as well. 

We live in a country filled with big box stores and fast food chains that look entirely the same any where you go, making the landscape very bland, so that people can feel “safe” while someplace else. Weird, silly, and interesting places are slowly dying away - as I recently witnessed when I tried to find the tall Abe Lincoln statue and discovered it behind a lot of fences and “No Trespassing” signs. I’m very glad that there are people out there already dedicated to doing what they can to protect these roadside attractions – either through posting pictures and stories of these places, or actually trying to physically protect them.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to come across more fascinating places before they disappear from memory, because such places make life all the more interesting. I think it's why I'm working on becoming a journalist and a historian - tools that'll help me in preserving history, no matter how small that history is.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

History Just Around the Corner - A few random thoughts

When going on a road trip, there's always the possibility of running into something you didn't think about before your travels. Also, as I mentioned in a previous post, history tends to be just around the corner. I only say this fact, due to the reason that while me and my wife were heading for Nashville, Tennessee, a road sigh declared that Andrew Jackson's home, The Hermitage, could be found just off the next exit.... ironically enough, along Old Hickory Boulevard - Old Hickory being Jackson's nickname, due to his toughness and aggressive personality that produced a bunch of duels.

I look forward to visiting The Hermitage the next time I get the chance to, since Andrew Jackson is one of those historical figures that tends to really stand out, especially as a president. A few months ago, I became deeply interested in the Jacksonian Era - most especially the events surrounding the War of 1812. I've only had the chance to visit Abraham Lincoln's home in Springfield, Illinois, so I think it would be pretty interesting to visit another president's home.

Jackson on his horse outside the Tennessee State Capitol Building

One of my many goals in life that I've had since I was a scrawny little kid, has been to visit all the state capitals and see the state capitol buildings (the inside of them anyways to be more specific). So far, I've only had the chance of being in a very small handful of them and at each place, it's been a very fun and fascinating experience. I think the most interesting building that I've been to and thoroughly enjoyed walking around, has been to the Hawaii State Capitol Building - where the traditional rotunda found anywhere else, is fully open to the elements. Here are a few more facts about the capitol building, found via the World Wide Web:
  • The building is surrounded by a reflecting pool, symbolizing the Pacific Ocean.
  • The two legislative chambers are cone-shaped, symbolizing volcanoes that formed the Hawaiian Islands.
  • The columns around the perimeter of the building have shapes resembling coconut trees. There are eight in either side of the building, representing the eight main islands of Hawaii
The only downside to my trip to the Hawaii state capitol building was that there were no tours being offered the day I went. I could have went back another day, but it was the final full day that I would be on Oahu.

I'm hoping for my next state capitol building tour to be Wisconsin's. Surprisingly, I've lived only a hundred miles or so away from Madison all of my life and I have yet to step inside the place. I'm hoping to change that in the next couple of months or so - especially to see any signs of protesters that are still hanging out around the building, just to see what the fuss is all about. I'm sure it won't be like it was a few months ago when thousands jammed the hallways and rotunda and capitol grounds to protest the Governor and the state legislature.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Downtown Nashville

St Mary's Chapal

Andrew Jackson statue

Andrew Jackson

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Ever since I visited the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum a few years ago, and the Harley-Davidson Museum just a few weeks ago, I've been wanting to check out a state of the art museum. So, when me and my wife made plans to visit the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, I was deeply excited to check it out.

I'm no country music lover, but to see the history of a music art/culture is truly worth the experience.

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum's new digs has been around for a few years now, and has major plans for an expansion in the future. I'm looking forward to heading back once they do expand, because the archives/library takes up a lot of room and so there are two small floors to look at all the memorabilia and listen/watch a bunch of videos and music through the ages.

Here's some pictures I took while going through the museum.......

Minnie Pearl's outfit - with the price tag on her hat still!
Roy Rogers display case

Elvis Presley's 1960 "Solid Gold Cadillac"

Hank Williams, Jr's "Monday Night Football" outfit

Hank Williams Jr

Part of the Williams Family Collection Exhibit - including the bear!

This is as close as I'm ever gonna get to a Grammy Award (The Judd's to be exact)

Dwight Yoakum outfit - a co-worker has rambled off his name a few times, so I took this

Taylor Swift guitar and dress

Johnny Cash's straight black guitar from the early 2000s

Country Music Hall of Fame Atrium

Painting that was the centerpiece of the Hall of Fame atrium

Chasing Lincoln's Ghost - An Elusive Adventure

Poor ol' Lincoln - behind a cage and guarded by two dogs hungry for someone's.... balls?

Ever since going to a Journalism Conference in Charleston, Illinois and discovering that there was a massive 72 foot tall Abraham Lincoln statue on the outskirts of town, I've been curious to see this "World's Ugliest Lincoln Statue." My very first attempt at trying to find the thing, gave me the nickname of "The Navigator" by a fellow journalism classmate. A bit ironic, due to the fact that I failed to find it with my crew of fellow travelers.

But, on my way back from a visit to Evansville, Indiana, I found myself driving through Charleston and I passively mentioned the statue and since we had plenty of time on our hands, we decided to find the statue.

After a couple of wrong turns here and there, we finally found the place. But, due to the state-of-the-art Lincoln Springs Hotel shut down and tall fences around the entire thing, there was no way of gaining access to the statue - at least, not a close up view. I had to take this picture, from the comfort of passenger seat of the car, due to the fact that two dogs were chasing our car the entire time. The scene reminded us of the movie, Stand By Me, where Chopper was at the ready to "sic balls" when called upon by his owner. We definitely didn't want to risk a pit bull biting at our ass.

Hopefully Lincoln Springs Hotel will open up again, because from the look of things, it was a very nice complex, looking brand new.

Here's a better view of the Lincoln statue from Silly America