Holland Tunnel Opening, 1927

Vintage Photo Wednesday, Vol. 24: Holland Tunnel Opening, 1927

Here’s another tunnel-related vintage photo for you. Although the source (New York Public Library Digital Gallery) doesn’t note the year, I’m going with 1927. Take a look and you’ll see why. (Click for a larger version.)

Holland Tunnel Opening, 1927

The reason I’m going with 1927 is because the Holland Tunnel, which connects Manhattan with Jersey City, opened in November 1927. I don’t imagine that these unnamed officials, decked out in their late ’20s finery, would be taking pictures and shaking hands across the border in the middle of construction. Or maybe they did, who knows.

Update: An astute reader identifies the two men shaking hands as New York and New Jersey governors Al Smith and A. Harry Moore, respectively. Thanks!

Christmas, Michigan

Ho Ho Ho! A Gallery of Vintage Santa & Christmas Postcards

For this batch of vintage postcards, I wanted to go for some mid-century Christmas kitsch rather than the really old stuff. Because that’s how I roll, as loyal readers must know by now.

Santa's Village (Sky Forest, CA, 1950)

Santa’s Village (Skyforest, CA, 1950)

(via Flickr user califboy101)

Santa's Village (Skyforest, CA, 1950)

Santa’s Village (Skyforest, CA, 1950)

Santa and His Reindeer - North Pole, New York

Santa and His Reindeer (North Pole, New York)

(via The Pie Shops)

Santaland (North Pole, Colorado, 1966)

Santaland (North Pole, Colorado, 1966)

(via Calsidyrose)

Christmas, Michigan

Christmas, Michigan

(via Neato Coolville)

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Puck Magazine Thanksgiving

Time Capsule: Puck Magazine Thanksgiving Political Covers, 1894-1913

Puck Magazine Thanksgiving

Published from 1871 until 1918, Puck magazine was America’s first successful humor magazine featuring cartoons and political satire. Their Thanksgiving covers, while not always political, usually were and are still fun to look at today even if the relevance has been lost to time. Their choice of makes sense when you know that they were based out of New York City. Tammany Hall, which we all heard about in history class but have since forgotten, figures prominently.

Here’s a selection of Puck‘s Thanksgiving covers from around the turn of the 20th century, courtesy the Library of Congress.

Puck magazine Thanksgiving cover - 1894


That’s prominent New York politician David B. Hall, who we’ll see again in 1902. He lost the NY gubernatorial race in 1894 to Levi P. Morton.

Puck magazine Thanksgiving cover - 1895


Tammany Hall was a frequent target for Puck‘s cartoons.

Puck magazine Thanksgiving cover - 1896


That’s newly elected President William McKinley, getting ready to enjoy a turkey carved by Mark Hanna, Republican Senator from Ohio and McKinley’s campaign manager in 1896 and 1900. The “Sound Money” reference had to do with a fierce debate at the time regarding what would back U.S. currency. Proponents of “sound money” wanted currency to be backed by gold, as opposed to backing by either silver or silver and gold.

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Greenbank Consolidated School, 1921

Vintage Photo Wednesday: Back to Old School

Greenbank Consolidated School, 1921

Greenbank Consolidated School. Loading up the buses for a six-mile haul. (Pocahontas County, West Virginia – October 7, 1921)

Pleasant Green School, 1921

Pleasant Green School–one-room colored school near Marlinton, W. Va.–Pocahontas Co. It is one of the best colored schools in the County, with a capable principal holding a first-grade certificate. All the children are Agricultural Club workers. (October 6, 1921)

Albemarle Road Elementary School, Charlotte, North Carolina (1973)

First grade class of African American and white school children seated on the floor, Albemarle Road Elementary School, Charlotte, North Carolina (1973)

Group of school children in front of statue of George Washington, Washington, D.C.

Group of school children in front of statue of George Washington, Washington, D.C. (circa 1899)

School children singing, Pie Town, New Mexico

School children singing, Pie Town, New Mexico. (October 1940)

VIEW OF SCHOOLROOM - Cobblestone Schoolhouse, Ridge Road (U.S. Route 104), Childs, Orleans County, NY

VIEW OF SCHOOLROOM – Cobblestone Schoolhouse, Ridge Road (U.S. Route 104), Childs, Orleans County, NY (date unknown)

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Bonnie Babe Lettuce crate art

Vintage Fruit Crate Label Art

Bonnie Babe Lettuce crate art

Yup, just like the title says, this is a gallery of vintage fruit crate labels. You can find these little art masterpieces in most antique/junk shops.

Miss Soft Ball, 1940s

Miss Soft Ball – Phoenix, AZ

Bonnie Babe lettuce crate label

Bonnie Babe lettuce – Salinas, CA

That Lucky Old Sun

El Sol – Fresno, CA

Race Track Tokay Grapes Crate Label

Race Track – Lodi, CA

Brownies Orange Crate Label

Brownies – Tulare County, CA

Rainbow's End

Rainbow’s End – Exeter, CA

Happy Bee

Happy Bee – Newburgh, NY

Blue-Jack fruitc crate label art

Blue Jack – Brawley, CA

Monashee Apple Crate Label

Monashee – Kelowna, BC, Canada

Gold Coast Orange Crate Label

Gold Coast – Fullerton, CA

Plen Tee Good

Plen Tee Color – Wapato, WA

Streamlined Delivery

Air-Flow – Winter Garden, FL

Nubile Field Hands Required: Apply Within

Buxom Melons – Yuma, AZ & Firebaugh, CA

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The Rolling Stones - "Mother's Little Helper" single

Listening Booth — The Rolling Stones, “Mother’s Little Helper”

The Rolling Stones - "Mother's Little Helper" singleLast night’s excellent Mad Men episode (“Tea Leaves”) featured Don Draper and Harry Crane’s funny attempt to snag the Rolling Stones for a Heinz commercial. Based on the dialogue in the show, the concert seems to be from July 2, 1966. The Stones played that night at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in Queens, New York. Their latest single from the Aftermath album — “Mother’s Little Helper” — had just come out that day in America, although it doesn’t appear to have made the band’s setlist.

So here it is, Mad Men and Rolling Stones fans — “Mother’s Little Helper,” featuring Brian Jones playing that distinctive guitar part on his Vox 12-string Mando-Guitar.

29 Palms

Road Trip! — Ten Songs Inspired by Real Places

29 Palms

Many people are inspired by their favorite songs about places to visit the locations that inspired them. But don’t bother looking for 22 Acacia Avenue or Xanadu on Google Maps — they don’t exist anywhere but in their songwriters’ minds. Elsewhere, however, there are plenty of songs that were inspired by real places. Here are ten of them, should you feel the urge to make a pilgrimage.

(You can also check out this list on my Spotify playlist.)

#1. “Lakeside Park” — Rush

Port Dalhousie lighthouseRush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart grew up in Port Dalhousie, Ontario and spent many youthful summers on the village’s most popular beach — Lakeside Park. Peart paid tribute in an atypically nostalgic song on Rush’s third album, 1975’s Caress of Steel.

Peart later reminisced about his Lakeside Park experiences in an interview for Traveling Music: “Another important setting in my childhood and early teens was Lakeside Park, in Port Dalhousie. When I was 14 and 15, I worked summers at Lakeside Park as a barker (‘Catch a bubble, prize every time,’ all day and night), and there was music: some of the kids brought transistor radios to work, and the music of that summer of 1966 played up and down the midway. At night, when the midway closed, we gathered around a fire on the beach, singing. Lakeside Park resonated in my life in so many deep ways, especially those fundamental exposures to music that would be forever important. It’s all gone now. All that’s left, apart from memories, is the old merry-go-round.”

#2. “Barrytown” — Steely Dan

Barrytown is a hamlet within the town of Red Hook, in southeast New York state. Steely Dan co-founders Donald Fagen and Walter Becker attended college at Bard College in nearby Annandale-on-Hudson. While there it seems they took note of town’s inhabitants, namely the members of Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church (“Moonies”), which opened a seminary there in the ’70s (“I can see by what you carry/that you come from Barrytown”). “Barrytown” appeared on Steely Dan’s 1974 LP Pretzel Logic.

#3. “29 Palms” — Robert Plant

The town of Twentynine Palms sits in the desert southeast of California and is home to both Joshua Tree National Park and the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center. It’s also the setting for a song from Robert Plant’s 1993 solo LP Fate of Nations. Plant has confirmed that he was inspired to write “29 Palms” while on tour with Canadian singer Alannah Myles in California in 1990, but has stopped short of confirming rumors that the two were a romantic item.

#4. “Elvira” — The Oak Ridge Boys

There are two important things to know about “Elvira.” The first is that although the Oak Ridge Boys had a hit with the song in 1981 (#1 U.S. Hot Country, #5 U.S. Hot 100), it was actually a cover of a song written by Dallas Frazier fifteen years earlier. The second is that Elvira refers not to a woman but to a street in East Nashville. The story goes that Frazier was the passenger in car driven by publisher Ray Baker, and he found inspiration when he saw the street sign for Elvira Ave. (off of US 31E, aka Gallatin Road or Gallatin Pike). However, there are no contemporary accounts of the road being “on fira” that day.

#5. “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville” — R.E.M.

Mike Mills, R.E.M. bassist and co-founder, wrote this as a literal plea to his one-time girlfriend, Ingrid Schorr, to not return to her parents’ home in Rockville, Maryland. Schorr’s recounting of the song’s inspiration goes like this — “In the spring of 1980 I was at college in Athens, Georgia. My once-good grades had given way to behavior that my parents were starting to get wind of, and they instructed me to come back home to Maryland for the summer. I didn’t want to go. Everything in Athens was so… fresh and exciting. I had just started taking part in the innocent decadence that would sustain the scene for the next several years. And I was just beginning a romance with Mike Mills, the bass player in the weeks-old R.E.M. A few weeks before the end of spring quarter he said to me—we were at Tyrone’s, the local rock club, standing between the Rolling Stones pinball machine and the Space Invaders game, playing neither—’I finally meet a girl I like and she’s got to go back to Rockville.'”

#6. “Devil’s Island” — Megadeth

It would be easy to assume that “Devil’s Island,” from Megadeth’s 1986 album Peace Sells… but Who’s Buying?, is some sort of Satanic Club Med. It was in fact the site of an infamous French penal (and former leper) colony that operated from 1852 until 1952. The island lies roughly six nautical miles off the coast of French Guiana in South America, and housed thieves, murderers, and political prisoners for a century. More than 80,000 prisoners were sent to the island, many of whom were never heard from again. The island’s most famous resident was Alfred Dreyfus, who was convicted of treason and shipped there in 1895. Dreyfus was pardoned and released in 1899, and through him the French public learned of the horrors of Devil’s Island.

#7. “Penny Lane” — The Beatles

Penny LaneThe lyrics to “Penny Lane,” whimsical and nostalgic as they are, sure seem the stuff of fantasy. In fact there is a real Penny Lane in Liverpool, where the Fab Four were born. Paul McCartney (who wrote the song) and John Lennon often met at Penny Lane junction in the Mossley Hill area to catch a bus into the center of Liverpool.

In the ’50s and ’60s this was a significant bus terminus for several routes, and buses with “Penny Lane” displayed were common throughout Liverpool. The street itself is named after James Penny, an 18th century slave trader, and is an important landmark for Beatles fans — some of whom made an unfortunate habit of stealing signs bearing the road’s name.

#8. “Dead Man’s Curve” — Jan and Dean

While the term “dead man’s curve” has been applied to any number of dangerous turns, Jan & Dean’s Top 10 hit from 1964 refers to a drag race held on one in particular. The race (between a Corvette Sting Ray and a Jaguar XKE) starts at Sunset and Vine and heads west along West Sunset Blvd. for about seven miles, passing North La Brea Ave., North Crescent Heights Blvd., and North Doheny Dr. along the way. The North Whittier Drive curve, an almost ninety-degree right turn traveling west on Sunset Boulevard just past North Whittier Drive, is the dead man’s curve that results in the fiery crash heard in the song.

#9. “Soul Kitchen” — The Doors

As recounted by Doors drummer John Densmore in his book Riders on the Storm, the “Soul Kitchen” was a small soul food restaurant called Olivia’s. It was located at 2615 Main Street, at the intersection of Ocean Park Blvd. and Main in Santa Monica, and it was run by — you guessed it — Olivia, who cared not for late-dining patrons. Jim Morrison, who wrote the lyrics to the song, ate there often and had to be shooed out at closing time, inspiring him to write lines like “Well the clock says it’s time to close now/I know I have to go now/I’d really like to stay here all night… Let me sleep all night in your soul kitchen/warm my mind near your gentle stove/turn me out and I’ll wander, baby/stumbling in the neon grove.”

#10. “Relaxin’ at Camarillo” — Charlie Parker

Camarillo State Mental HospitalThis is one of Bird’s greatest compositions, and certainly one of my favorites, but has a rather sad background. Parker, whose drug habit started when he was a teenager, dogged him throughout his all-too-brief life. Heroin was Parker’s drug of choice, but booze would do as well.

In 1946 an inebriated Parker set fire to the mattress in his California hotel room and ran into the lobby wearing nothing but his socks. He was arrested and sentenced to stay in Camarillo State Mental Hospital. When he emerged from the institution after six months he was (briefly) clean and wrote the song that bears the hospital’s name.

Camarillo State Hospital closed in 1997 and the buildings are now part of California State University, Channel Islands.

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Chubby Checker - For Twisters Only (1962) album cover

Album Cover of the Week: For Twisters Only

If there has ever been artists to get a ton of mileage out of one song, it’s Chubby Checker and “The Twist.” Yeah I know he had other hits in the ’60s, but Checker hasn’t been able to milk “Pony Time” for everything from song sequels to ads for Oreo cookies and the Social Security Administration.

Today’s featured album cover comes from Checker’s commercial prime. It’s a 1961 covers album entitled For Twisters Only, and it was clearly meant to capitalize on his biggest song, which had hit #1 in 1960.

Chubby Checker - For Twisters Only (1962) album cover

Surprisingly this LP (Parkway Records, P 7002) did not contain “The Twist” at all, but rather a host of hits from the ’50s such as “Hound Dog,” “Rock Around the Clock,” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”

Graphically this is primitive but appealing. There’s the obvious choice of a checker board pattern for the background, but I dig the tornado/twister motif. I’m sure fans in the Midwest loved it too.

The one thing I can’t figure out is why the artist for this appears to have drawn the map of the United States this way. Apparently Alabama and Florida — as well as Ohio and Kentucky — combined to form one state in the late ’50/early ’60s and I wasn’t aware of it. Likewise Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Connecticut have became a giant super-state and bludgeoned New Jersey into a shapeless blob. Such was the power of Chubby Checker’s unstoppable dance phenomenon in the ’60s I suppose.

Gray Flannel Fotos: The Ten Commandments in Lake George

Here’s a classic from the archives that I just got around to processing. It was taken in the Valley View Chapel, located on Route 9N in Ticonderoga, New York. I and Mrs. Suit happened upon this while driving around on vacation in Lake George several years ago, on a crisp autumn afternoon. The chapel, which was founded in 1901, sits adjacent to a cemetery.

Valley View Chapel - 10 Commandments

It’s not evident from this photograph, but the chapel appears to be little more than a tourist attraction at this point. The doors were all left wide open (this was October, mind you) and dead leaves fluttered all around the small chapel. Still, most of the structure and furniture appear to be in decent shape.

I shot this because I always love the look of stained glass in churches, and the design on this one is simple yet striking. The angel holding the Ten Commandments is obviously the focal point, but my eye keeps drifting to the dark diamond border.