Saturday, December 31, 2011

The envelope, please: The Concrete Potato Awards for 2011

As 2011 comes to a close, it's time for our annual Concrete Potato Awards, given for excellence in eccentric roadside attractions we've been to in the last year. Named after the Idaho Potato Expo, seen in the masthead of this blog, it been a tradition here at Eccentric Roadside for over a 33rd of a century. It was tough to whittle the nominees down to 10, but whittle we did and now, without further ado and in no particular order we present this year's Concreteys (and remember, it's an honor just to be nominated...)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I'll take that as a condiment: The World's Largest Catsup Bottle of Collinsville, Illinois

Collinsville is a cute little town...

...and they've got another nice, albeit more traditional, water tower.

They know how to put on a nice sunset, too.

We're big fans of water towers here at Eccentric Roadside and there's a Grade A Fancy one in the pleasant St. Louis suburb of Collinsville, Illinois. In 1949, the bottlers of Brooks Old Original Rich and Tangy Catsup commissioned the W.E. Caldwell Company to build a 100,000-gallon water tower next to their Collinsville plant. Not ones to miss a marketing opportunity, they designed their tower to closely resemble their slender, tapered catsup bottle, making it a giant condiment in the sky. The Brooks brand had great success and in 1959 the company merged with another. Bottling operations were moved to Indiana but the bottle tower remained in Collinsville. By 1993, the current owners wanted to sell the property and the bottle's future looked doomed. This is when a group of Collinsville's bottle-lovers formed the Catsup Bottle Preservation Group. The catsup company agreed to deed the tower to the town of Collinsville, but the town balked at the cost of painting and maintaining the tower, so the preservation group began a two-year fund raising drive (complete with a visit by the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile) that resulted in the eventual designation of the tower on the National Register of Historic Places. They've had a yearly catsup festival for the last 13 years, complete with a hot dog eating contest, musical chairs, a please pass the catsup tournament, and the crowning of Little Princess Tomato and Little Sir Catsup. Next year's event is scheduled for July 8, so mark your calendars.

You mayo may not realize it but it's great to see how, when in a pickle, a local group can mustard the strength to overcome adversity and relish their victory, if you catsup my drift.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

...and an Eccentric New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Xmas Marx the spot: The Marx Toy Museum of Moundsville, West Virginia

Christmas is just around the corner and that means toys. Our golden era for toys was the 1960s, so when we had the chance to visit the Marx Toy Museum in Moundsville, West Virginia, we felt like the kids in "A Christmas Story" looking in the window of Higbee's department store. Here's a rerun of a post we did about it back in 2009:

If you grew up in the fifties and sixties, you probably played with or watched TV commercials advertising Marx toys. They specialized in plastic figures, including Johnny West and a cadre of Wild West action characters, Big Loo, a space age robot, and the Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots ("hey... you knocked my block off!"). The little northern West Virginia panhandle town of Moundsville (there really is a mound there) is the home of the Marx Toy Museum. In it you will find toys and artifacts from the 1920-70s. It's all the collection of one man and his son, Francis and Jason Turner. None of the toys have been restored; rather, they all look like they've been stashed in an attic or basement for the last half-century, waiting to be put on display in their slightly worn condition. It makes sense to have the museum here, as the nearby town of Glen Dale once hosted Marx's biggest factory. By the 1950s, Louis Marx was the world's most productive toy maker and he even made the cover of Time magazine in 1955. Unfortunately for the local people, he sold the company in 1972 and by 1980 it went out of business. I think my favorite relic on display was the "Ben Hur" action set. Any objet d'Charlton Heston is tops in my book. In fact we give high Marx (p.u., that pun is awful) to the whole place.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I can't believe it's not Buddha: Scenes from San Francisco's Chinatown

Mao you're talking!

The Chinese section of San Francisco, California is the largest Chinatown outside of Asia and the oldest Chinatown in North America. It's also a cacophony of visual over-stimulation where every nook and cranny is filled with something exotic, crazy or unusual. An eccentric roadside attraction fan could spend weeks gawking and photographing all it has to offer. Our time was limited when we visited last spring so, alas, we skipped the fine eateries, but we did have a hoot browsing through the wacky and wonderful gift shops and taking in the colorful facades and street decorations.

And now, with apologies to Confucius, the obligatory Chinese proverbs, each with a roadside bent:
Man who run in front of car get tired and man who run in back of car get exhausted.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Today's post is brought to you by the letter P

Or thanks to Potts' Radiator for the whimsy and keeping it classy in Colorado Springs.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Christmas Rhode trip: Rhode Island ornaments from

The Big Blue Bug, outside Providence on I-95, mascot of New England Pest Control

Haven Bros. Diner car, in downtown Providence

A Del's Lemonade truck, and my shot of one rotting away in North Kingstown

The magnificent Rustic Drive-In theater of Lincoln

The U.S. Navy Seabees statue in North Kingstown

There's a company in Rhode Island,, that has turned some of the Ocean State's most beloved and quirky roadside attractions into delightful Christmas ornaments. Some of these sights have been chronicled by us at Eccentric Roadside and we thought we'd show you how well the ornaments replicate the real things. Local entrepreneurs Duke Marcoccio and his daughter Lauren run the business, and, as if that weren't impressive enough, they were also contestants on the CBS TV show "The Amazing Race" back in 2006. It's not too late to order these fine items for your or your loved-ones' trees. Nothing says Merry Christmas to kids from one to 92 like a pest control company's blue termite or an angry Navy bee with a machine gun. Now, everybody, sing with me: "Jingle Del's, Jingle Del's, Jingle all the way..."