Friday, March 2, 2012

Scenes by the road less traveled. Part Three.

Were you to follow the train tracks south from our last location you would reach a larger, still vital community.  It too started as a rail center, and had the same experience of the main highway first passing through town then migrating elsewhere.  Downtown you find this:
Communities that sprang up along rail lines invariably had hotels downtown for the benefit of travelers.  Often, as in this case, the hotel seems quite a bit grander than the town would warrant, but these were days of civic pride and optimism.  Every little burg hoped and expected that they would become the next Chicago.  A couple of interesting features here.  There is a nice tower on the front corner, it probably once had a pointy "witch hat" roof on it.  Note on the back of the building there is an addition with big bay doors and red lettering.  This is actually the fire station now!  It seems to me a creative re-use of a difficult architectural space.  Notice how the parking on street is diagonal?  This is a common feature in towns that were built for the benefit of, and perhaps with the assistance of, the railroads.

Following the former main highway north from town we come across a nice little clutch of history.

A drive in.  It lacks any of the standard livery associated with A&W, Dairy Queen and so forth, so I assume it was a mom and pop operation.  It is so well kept up that I wondered if it was still in seasonal operation.  But it has no signage whatsoever, and on close up view:

When you have gone to the effort to actually scrape the stickers off your windows you seem pretty defunct to me.  

Across the road from the drive in is:
This is a collection of what were called "Tourist Cabins".  Back in the 1930's and 40's neither the cars nor the roads were conducive to high speed travel.  It took you a few days to get places and you needed lodging along the way.  These little units were for rent, kind of like a motel with free standing units.  I recall staying at a place like this back in the 1960's on a family trip to Yellowstone Park.  The pristine, undisturbed snow above makes me think these are not in any current use, but I applaud their owner for keeping them nicely painted.

The outskirts of town were usually the place for family recreation, and quite near the abandoned drive in we find:

This is a wide angle shot showing a "Muffler Man" standing vigil over a Go Kart/Water Slide place that is still in business in the summer months.  What, you may ask, is a "Muffler Man"?  Behold:
Twenty feet of lean, self confident fiberglass, these figures were produced by the thousands as advertising pieces in the late 1960's to early 1970's.  The peculiar and somewhat uncomfortable hand positioning was because the original mold was a Paul Bunyan figure, and he was holding an axe.  Many of these fellas were propped up in front of auto repair businesses and were holding outsized mufflers, hence their unofficial name.

Here is a great site with the full story of the Muffler Man Tribe.  And better still if you back up to the Roadside attractions home page you will find a delightful array of information that will enable you to plan your own journey of discovery.  I hope you find a few new treasures.

No comments: