Saturday, December 27, 2014

Playing ketchup with an old favorite: the world's largest catsup bottle is up for sale

 The Collinsville, Illinois tower dates back to 1949, and when the Brooks company relocated to Indiana in 1959, the bottle remained.

 In 1993, the bottle's owners wanted to sell the property and the Catsup Bottle Preservation Group was formed to keep it standing.

If you have $500,000 lying around and you're in the market for a 70-foot tall, 100,000-gallon water tower that carries bragging rights as the world's largest catsup bottle, have we got a deal for you. Bethel-Eckert Enterprises, the owners of the bottle, decorated in 1949 to resemble Brooks Old Original Rich and Tangy Catsup which used to be bottled at the plant next door in Collinsville, Illinois, just outside St. Louis, put the bottle and the property on which it sits up for sale last June and so far offers, much like ketchup pouring from a bottle, have been rather slow. It came as a surprise to us, and many other of the bottle's fans, that it was privately owned, as it has been on the National Register of Historic Places for some time and has been the source of a Catsup Bottle Preservation Group and yearly catsup festivals in Collinsville. A Mr. Mike "Big Tomato" Gassman, leader of the Preservation Group, is optimistic a sympathetic buyer will be found soon.

We hope so, too, because if the future of the bottle is in a pickle, we hope a buyer will mustard the strength to overcome doubt and relish it, if you catsup our drift.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Crocodile rock: The granite gator of Boynton Beach, Florida

Among the flora and fauna of the northern Everglades nature preserve known as the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Preserve in western Boynton Beach, Florida sits a decidedly more man-made bit of wildlife. Artist CR Grey of Key West has fashioned an alligator made out of stones and wire that looks quite real at a distance is very amusing up front. He sits sunning himself, as if to say "Welcome to the Everglades, y'all." Good on you, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Preserve for throwing in a bit whimsy with the rock our world and that's no crock!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Eccentrically named florist of the week

Ollie admires Stan's green thumb

We'd like to extend this laurel, and hearty handshake to the florist in our new hometown of Coral Springs, Florida with the delightfully eccentric name of Floral and Hearty. We imagine if Ollie were alive today, he'd say something along the lines of "Well, here's another vine mess you've gotten us into."

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

In a word

There are a lot of times when we're out and about that a single word will catch the eye. Maybe it's funny, maybe it's obvious, maybe it's poignant, mundane or ironic. Here are a few we've seen along the way.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Drive-in me wild: Johnny Rockets wants to bring back the drive-in theater

A rendering of the Johnny Rockets restaurant/drive-in theater concept. Go, Johnny, go!

We've just read a news dispatch that seems just too good to be true for all of us eccentric roadside attraction fans. Johnny Rockets, the restaurant chain with a retro 1950s hamburger joint theme, has partnered with a drive-in theater company (they still have those?) with the intent of building 200 new drive-in theaters (with Johnny Rockets drive-through restaurants attached, of course) by 2018. 200! It seems like a great idea to us... the theater brings in all kinds of folks: young people who have never experienced cinema al fresco before, budget-conscious families (tickets will probably cost around $6) and older folks nostalgic for the good old days. And then Johnny Rockets get to lure everyone to their fine dining establishment for a full night of retro fun and rake in the dough. Whether or not people drive up in droves is anybody's guess (thriving drive in theaters are few and far between) but good for Johnny Rockets for having the vision to look in the rear view mirror while looking ahead.

Here's a gallery of some of the drive-ins we've come across, both thriving and abandoned, on our travels:

 Ruskin, Florida

 San Luis Obispo, California

 Shinnston, West Virginia

 Hyde Park, New York (FDR's hometown)

 Moab, Utah

Lincoln, Rhode Island
 Lincoln, Pennsylvania

 Middleboro, Massachusetts

Ruskin, Florida

Monte Vista, Colorado

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sunday in the Park with Seward: The Grounds for Sculpture of Hamilton Township, New Jersey

 The great Seward Johnson

We've been delighted a few times on our eccentric road travels by the chuckle-inducing sculptures of a Mr. Seward Johnson that seem to pop out of nowhere. His 26-foot tall treatment of "Unconditional Surrender," the famous sailor-kissing-a-nurse photo, and a several-stories-tall version of Grant Wood's "American Gothic" made us stop in our tracks in Sarasota, Florida and Chicago, Illinois, respectively. Seward, who inherited a portion of the Johnson and Johnson pharmaceutical fortune (oh, that Johnson), has been a prolific sculptor for decades and back in 1992 he used his impressive wealth and talent to purchase the New Jersey State Fairgrounds in Hamilton Township near Trenton and turned it into a beautiful, 42-acre sculpture park and museum. You'll see lots of his whimsical works, both on a huge scale and more real-life proportioned, some of every day people and others famous 2-D art masterpieces come to 3-D sculptural life. The park isn't just a vanity piece, though, as other talented sculptors' works are also exhibited among the lushly landscaped grounds. It's a real hoot to sit on a shady bench and watch real people mixing with the art...sometimes it's hard to figure out who is more life-like. And all this beauty and pleasantry is just outside Trenton, which, while very nice, is not exactly a place known for either its beauty or pleasantry. Art establishment snobs pooh-pooh Johnson for being kitschy and copyright-holders may sue him for infringement, but we're not here to judge. Maybe we don't know art, but we know what we like and we love Seward Johnson and his Grounds for Sculpture. He's got whimsical-art-in-a-lovely-location-for-the-masses-to-see down to a, well, fine art.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween

There's no place better than Salem, Massachusetts to wish everyone a happy, safe and spooky Halloween, especially since it's the home of the Samantha from "Bewitched" TVLand statue. Read all about it here. Boo!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Moor dead than alive: The Saltair Pavillions of Magna, Utah

 The first Saltair Pavillion, circa 1900...

 ...featuring fun in Salt Lake

 Pavillion II, probably around the 1950s

 Today's Pavillion III, on a lonely stretch of I-80

 There are tons of little black birds who nest in the pavillion and swoop down within an inch of your life.

 The interior. Bob Dylan played here. Is there anywhere he won't play?

 The Great Salt Lake, right nearby. No swimming, though.

 You'd think the owner of this magnificent structure would have a more prestigious parking space.

We love middle-of-nowhere places and there's a real doozy off lonesome Interstate 80 in north-central Utah. Just a mere 16 miles west of Salt Lake City sits an eerie structure with a doomed past called the Saltair. Back in the late 1800s, a giant, Moorish, onion-domed pleasure palace was built on the shores of the Great Salt Lake as a "Coney Island of the West" where the mostly Mormon population could have some good, clean, turn-of the-century fun. It was quite successful until the pavilion and other buildings were destroyed by fire in 1925. The structures were rebuilt but bad luck followed by a more devastating fire in 1931. The lake also receded, making it much more difficult for guests to go swimming, one of the main attractions. They closed during World War II and when they reopened after the war, competition made it difficult to attract customers way out to their remote location, and they finally shut down for good in 1958. Attempts were made to revitalize Saltair over the next decade, but were put to an end by an arson fire that destroyed the place once and for all in 1970. But like the owner of Swamp Castle in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," they weren't ready to give up and a Saltair Pavilion III was constructed out of a decommissioned Air Force hangar dragged near their old location in 1981. Almost immediately bad luck again ensued when the lake flooded the structure, then receded much too far away. The location was eventually used as a concert venue but by the late 1990s had run out of gas. Still Python-esque, it wasn't dead yet, though, because a group of music investors bought the place in 2005 and have been hosting the likes of Bob Dylan, the Dave Matthews Band, Rob Zombie and Keisha since. Their upcoming lineup of shows seems to be a little less stellar, but if you've been hankering to catch Tech N9ne's Band of Psychos tour, you're in luck: they're playing Saltair on November 2.