Day 4: Western Mass Wrap-Up

We’re back home safe and back to the regular routine already.  The temps got into the 90s yesterday so I got to test the A/C.  Seems to be working fine now.  Lots of pristine rivers for the dogs.   I covered a lot of ground on this Massachusetts Marathon.   I owed the state some overdue attention.  Many of the places I hadn’t been to for ten years and the sad, dull photos on my website right now reflect it.  Soon to be fixed with new ones.  But when, I’m not sure.  Only six weeks before the summer trip and lots of non-website projects to do.  Plus work.  I’ve only just begun adding the OK/TX photos so I think everything will just have to gather dust until the winter.  Which kills me.  But I wanted to get this trip in while the weather was most likely going to be nice.  And nice it was — four solid days of sun!

Let’s start in little old Athol.  Plotkin Furniture has been in this building since 1958.  This sign must have come from their previous location.  The style of the sign is very 1920s.  The company was founded in 1919.  The opal glass is still lit at night when the store is open.  The missing letter replacements are supposedly translucent.   The top of the sign originally read “Glendale Ranges”.  There were curlicue details at the top and in the little corners which have been painted over.  But the really impressive thing is that this place is still open!  Most businesses with these opal glass signs (and there are very few of them) are long-gone, replaced with thrift stores and such, or are just plain vacant.

Another survivor in Athol:


A surviving supermarket in Northfield.  This porcelain enamel sign was mass-produced but they are very rare now.  I only know of a couple other IGA signs like this one and neither of them are at still-operating stores.

A couple from Turners Falls.  The candy store is gone but sign still hanging:

A door or two down, the remaining tile at the entrance of an A&P supermarket:

At the Mohawk Trading Post gift shop – still in business – in Shelburne:

In North Adams:

Another bowling sign — from Great Barrington:

Still selling booze by the package (and other grocery / deli stuff) in Great Barrington.  The neon glowing even in the middle of the day.  For a view of the storefront, here’s a link to someone else’s photo:


Stanley Cleaners in Westfield — still open:

OK, little story with this one.  I had heard awhile back that the old Galley Restaurant “Good Home Cooking” sign had been saved and was at Red’s Towing.  So, I went to check it out.  Rather than subject you to my crappy photo, I refer you to this blog which has some photos of the sign in place and some interesting info about its clone(s):

So, sure enough, the sign IS still at Red’s.  I posted a few photos of Red’s, a former Esso station, over at Flickr tonight.  The sign is way in the back of the garage, installed on a pallet, up high where it won’t get bumped.  Flash was needed!

There’s still a lot of mystery to the sign’s history.  Here’s the info that I got from the folks at Red’s.  The restaurant itself was next door to Red’s and owned by the same family.   Before it was the Galley, there was a Friendly’s restaurant there.  Then, after a fire around the 1970s, there was a rebuild and the Galley opened.  The sign is believed to have come from somewhere else and was most likely reworked before installing at the Galley.   Makes sense since the letters are oddly slanted and there is so much dead space to the sign.  (Note how the replica sign at the blog link above went to the trouble to center the letters under each other better.)  So, maybe even the coffee cup was added when the sign was reworked.  The general shape is typical of signs from the 1950s or earlier.

From Granby, a nice old New Englandy drug store:

This “DRUGS”  sign had a few tell-tale rusty bits and dings on the sides that had been painted over — so I’m going with this one being nicely refurbished rather than a replication or imitation:

Ran out of decent shooting light in Ware so we’ll close out this batch & trip there.  This is the entrance to the Roll-A-Way Bowling Lanes:

Unlike the bigger roadtrips, I didn’t keep track of the mileage or the cost of gas on this one.   Gas prices have definitely gone up lately.  I paid more than $4 per gallon at many stops.  No tickets but I did get one written warning.  Speeding, of course, for doing 50 in a 35.  I swore to the officer that I didn’t think I was going that fast.  I really meant it and I think he bought it.  And being a middle-aged woman with grey hair probably helps.  If I was 20 years old, I’m sure I’d get a lot more real tickets.  No other stats for you.  The dogs got out to swim and run 646 times, or about that.  And the chocolates didn’t all make it home.

So, meet you back here at the end of July for more adventures and photos.  I’ve got the towering stack of maps & lists all ready for MI, WI & MN.   If you missed the purty pictures from this trip over at Flickr, you might want to check them out:


Day 3: Northeast MA & a smattering of NH

The summer sun continued — though not hot enough to run the A/C.  Three perfect weather days in a row.  If it rains tomorrow, I’ll head for home and not complain one bit.  However, I do still have a lot of Western MA stuff on my list yet.  But I’ve made a commitment to myself to not shoot in the rain or grey anymore when I’m close to home.  Just not worth the time or gas money when I just have to return for do-overs.

Getting a late start here — so let’s dive in.   A nice candlepin bowling sign (yes, in Wakefield, MA):

Saugus still has loads of great roadside stuff… the Hilltop Steakhouse sign, the fake ship restaurant, the leaning tower of Pizza sign, the Route 1 Mini Golf…. but there have been some losses of late.  The massive Weylu’s restaurant has been closed since 2009:

Fern’s Motel replaced this neon sign [my photo ca. 2001]…

with this one in 2003 [photo today]:

And I’d heard that Karl’s was replacing their sign.  I even begged them on the phone not to.  Here’s how it looked in 2007:

And the new one (from today):

All in all, not bad I suppose.  They really did try to preserve the vintage look & shapes.  And luckily, they have not messed with the building (my pal, the sun, in the background, sorry for the sucky lighting):

Much as we all feared, the Bel Aire Diner in Peabody did not find a buyer.  It has now been relegated to a corner at the back of the lot while new construction goes on.  Like an animal in a cage.  A cage too small to be humane.  It does not bode well.   Too many times, when diners are moved back on blocks like this, they just start to disintegrate.  Pray for a miracle here.

A neat sign & building in Salem:

In Beverly — ChrisPy’s Liquors:

Nichols Candies in Gloucester.  Since 1932.   Had to stop.  Out of sandwiches and snacks as of today.   But also — the dogs had only been swimming two or three times yet today.  Yes, that’s Sparkle on the right —

— enjoying the view:

Tough to decide what to get.  And I always feel cheap to buy like five pieces of candy.  When I really want to help support places like this.  So I usually just splurge on an assortment.  This was $19.99.  And I’m sure it’ll be worth it.  I’m trying to keep my fingers out of the box til I get home.

And like every other roadtrip, it’s all about Nik.  Or at least he thinks so.  And I do spend a good part of my life trying to figure out how to take the edge off this guy.  At least seven years old now and it’s not getting any easier.  15 pounds of muscle and more energy than a nuclear power plant.  Or something like that.

And off the six foot bank he goes.  Someday, I’ll take a course and learn how to take action shots with this high tech camera.  I know, I said that last year.

The other bane and joy of my existence:  Grem.  Cute as a button and more trouble than any dog I’ve ever had.   I must keep her busy with food and retrieving for food or she’s gone like the wind — to Mexico or Canada by dark.

My easy keepers — the seniors — Grip & Fix.  Happy to just sniff & scavenge.  Grip looks like hell right now because she’s finally shedding her winter coat.  The van is a mess of black dog hair right now.  Luckily, the other three dogs are smooth coats.

Fix & Grem looking for treats that I’ve tossed in the water.  I bought a bag of Chex mix thinking it would be healthier than the Cheddar Cheez-Its I usually have for swim-inducement.  They were really unimpressed with the Chex though.  They’d tell you kibble is actually better than that crap.

The dogs had a blast romping in the marshy grass.  Even Fixie, who’s pretty sedentary and no-nonsense was into it:

It never stops.  I have to laugh when I’m around people who don’t know this guy.  The first time he barks, they jump back about three feet.  He LOVES for other people to throw his ball and it makes for lots of terrified people at our park at home.  They don’t even notice the ball at their feet.

Fixie is so over it:

A boy and his ball.


OK — so where were we?  Signs, buildings, statues — right.  Here’s another candlepin sign.  This one on the roof at Leda Lanes in Nashua, NH:

A cute little hot dog stand in Fitchburg, MA.  No, didn’t eat here.  Closed for the day & I’m a veggie.  Extra credit for their Polar Beverages sign which makes the building look even smaller.  This is just a walk-up — no stools inside:

And lastly.   Can’t leave northeastern Mass without some ice cream now could I?   It comes with a little story.  So, “Mike Z” has this photo in his Flickr stream of a giant ice cream cone in Sterling and I was on a mission to find it:

It’s one of those classic what-I-call New York cones (since I’ve mostly seen them in NY).  Some at this page:
But most are here:

But Mike wasn’t sure where it was.  I drove the two suggested roads (and more so) and didn’t see it.  Always one to plan ahead, when I’m not sure where something is, I have on hand a printed photo.  Makes it easier to find stuff when I have to ask the locals.  So I decided to head to Rota Spring Farm in Sterling & ask the folks that work there if they’d seen it.  Nope.  BUT someone in line knew it.  It was on 110 and when it was open about 35 years ago it was an ice cream place called Mazzarelli’s (sp?).  The cone is now gone.  Bummer.

But my sundae helped ease the pain.  I went with today’s special:  the strawberry rhubarb crisp.  They have three sizes of sundaes and I’d planned on getting the “kiddie” portion.  But can’t do that for the specials.  Uh, ok.  So the thing was huge and I probably won’t be hungry til lunchtime tomorrow.  You can’t really see here — but I chose coffee ice cream as my “base”.  The fruit & crisp (pie crusty) is at the very bottom.

They say it shouldn’t start raining til tomorrow evening.  So hopefully I’ll get one more day of shooting in.  As is my tradition, you won’t get the final post til I get settled at home, sort things out, and, oh yeah, squeeze in work.  So maybe Wednesday or more likely Thursday.   After 1am here — so nighty-night.

Day 2: Sun & Sand — the Cape & Boston

Another glorious day of sun and mild temps.  Found lots of spots for the dogs to run & swim.  My only gripe was the traffic.  Not even beach or interstate traffic.  Just massive amounts of street fairs, construction, etc. that must’ve eaten up a couple of hours today.  I did test the A/C for about 20 minutes today and it worked nicely.  Crossing fingers for this summer.

They’re everywhere on this trip:  giant rhododendron bushes.  Purple ones, red ones, and white ones.  But mostly purple.  Here’s one almost as big as a house:  (note to newbies to my blog, all the photos are “clickable” to a larger size)

Nothing says summer more the mini golf and ice cream.   Joe’s Driving Range in Falmouth offers them both.   That closed sign is only because it was 8am.

REAL mini golf — not that pirate & waterfall stuff:

Who wants pancakes?

OK — how about we go off on a tangent for the rest of this post?  I finally got to the Museum of Bad Art in Dedham today which has been on my list for years and years.  The museum is actually just about a dozen pieces or so in the town’s movie theatre basement.   But there are hundreds of pieces in the collection so you never know what you’ll find on display.  Here’s their site:

I’ll get off easy tonight since I can let the museum captions do the talking.  I’ll share about six of the pieces — but really, they’re all just mind-bogglingly great.  I took more than a lot of Art History courses in college so I know fine “ott” when I see it.

Hope you enjoyed that.  Good news for me is that I get to bed early!  More crusty & pretty signs, silly statues, concrete & fancy buildings tomorrow.  Oh yeah — must shoot dogs & food — working on it.   Lights out!

P.S.  If you’re feeling roadside-deprived, don’t forget, there’s also the Flickr postings every night as well with different, “serious” subjects:

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Day 1: Quickie Massachusetts Trip

Time for a little break in the routine.  I’ve been working way too many hours.  I also wanted to give the newly-repaired A/C a test before the big summer trip.  That was the plan.  It was in the 90s last week but it looks like this weekend will only be in the 70s.  So, not much of a test.   Don’t know if this will be a two, three or four day trip — all depends on if the weather holds.

I’m working on only a couple hours sleep so let’s get right to the show.  A few from Meriden, CT.  A retired traffic control tower:

Also in Meriden — at the Record-Journal newspaper building — a paper delivery boy.  These murals remind me of those paint-by-numbers kits with rocks instead of paints.  Do you remember those?

For scale & other midcentury details — printing press & globe:

Also in Meriden — an opal glass (aka milk glass) sign in perfect condition.  I don’t know if these translucent letters are still lit from the bulbs inside the sign.

More Meriden.  A biggie — meant to be seen from the nearby interstate.  The gas station on the lot has been recently demolished.  Another Gulf is across the street now.  I’m hoping this sign will stay.  I like the matching orange dozer.  More of a shoveler than a dozer I guess.  Not my area of expertise.

Saint Francis Care in Hartford, CT.  Very nice concrete relief:

The artist’s signature (I can’t make it out, not familiar with him/here):

Another concrete relief at the Hartford Jewish Community Center (now Mandell Jewish Community Center):

There’s work going on but it seems to be keeping the old, incorporating some new:

Fun dragon (?) sculpture in East Granby, CT:

A sun-challenged shot of the baby on the dragon’s shoulder:

Vintage diner or fake?  Looks awfully spiffy to be old.  But maybe gutted & resurrected?    A soon-to-be ice cream place in the Big Bunny Market parking lot in Southbridge, MA:

In Oxford, MA — an integrated barrel-roofed diner?   Has to be, right?

Big piggy near Oxford:

Let’s wrap up with a couple more signs.  This one at the Worcester City Motel in Shrewsbury, MA.  The “265” refers to its address at 265 Boston Turnpike.  The sun behind it forced me to shoot at this angle:

From Worcester:

Off to the lower Cape for a bit tomorrow.  I WILL find beachies somewhere for the dogs.  They did get some sneaky park runs & pond swims today — but nothing beats a sandy beach.   Then it’ll be the Boston area for the rest of the day.   Still working on sandwiches & snacks from home.  But surely there will be an ice cream shot or two in the near future.