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.

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