As promised, the thrilling conclusion to the “driving to a different Mall and wondering what I was missing” story. I had forgotten about the postcard show.
You know, the postcard show! The source of so much of the Bleat’s updates. I hate to do that “you have no idea how much stuff I have to show you” routine, but you really don’t. Or do you? I’ve mentioned that the 2019 Motel and Restaurant postcard sites are all done, but you may say “fine, I expected no less - where are you on the 2020 updates, old chap? How’s that shaping up?”
Horribly! I budget 90 cards for Motels, and had only 25 in reserve, so the Postcard Show would be the biannual stock-up session. I take $160 and I spend $160. If a vendor charges $3 for a basic chrome motel postcard, I move on; if they price them all at a dollar a throw - more if they have a gas station in the picture, I get that - I hoover up the lot.
There were so many motels.
Good thing it’s a two day show. I drove to the Armory in Bloomington at 10 AM, and settled in for some sifting and sorting. Modesty prevents me from noting that I am greeted as a Local Celeb Who Sanctifies Our Niche Pursuit, but of course I love it, or so I’d say if I wasn’t prevented from noting it. Out of Modesty. I found a dealer who sold the portfolios for two bucks a toss, and I love these. They’re the mongrel dogs of the postcard collecting trade - the pictures are always low-res, but the covers are fantastic. For example:
All the typography is hand-drawn, invented by the artist. When I looked through my purchases later I was stunned to find something tucked inside a San Francisco portfolio: a batch of 1934 World’s Fair postcards . . .
A ticket to the 1940 World’s Fair.
Someday someone else will own this; it’ll all slip from my fingers. But you get to see it now. That’s why I go.
Picked up enough motel and restaurant cards for the 2020 updates. SO WE’RE GOOD. As I was finishing up I found a table that dealt only ephemera, and Lord help me, hold me back, if it can’t fit on the scanner bed I’m not buying it . . . Oh my.
Late 1970s car brochures. Early 80s car brochures. As it happens, I have a place for both; the 70s section is rather robust, if idiosyncratic, and the 80s site - due next year - is shaping up to be something quite unique in the 20th Century Project, inasmuch as it’s the only decade I experienced with eyes wide open. It’s both impossibly distant and startlingly immediate. It was yesterday. So of course I had to have this brochure that showed the dashboard of a 1983 Ford Escort.
Sitting on the edge of a table was a postcard that called out my name. It’s like it had been placed there for me.
Dinkytown, my Dinkytown.
When I got home I scanned everything. It took about two hours. Everything was put into folders and queued for carving: four cards per scan, then the back of the cards. File name Motel 2020 1a for the front, Motel 2020 1b for the back. Next January and February I will carve them up, and rename the cards 1.jpg, 2.jpg, etc, with the back of the cards saved as 1inf.jpg, 2inf.jpg, etc. “Inf” means “information,” the name and location. In March and April I will lay them out and write all the copy, and if you’re asking. . . .
Good question. Well, I am committed to hosting the best online museum of motel postcards, restaurants, matchbooks, and so on. Between the hours of 8 AM and 9 AM I assemble the pages (which explains the typos) and when I’m done, in May, and know I have the next year’s updates all ready, I’m happy.
When I started the motel site about 19 years ago it was just a little thing, a nod to roadside swank. Now it seems tremendously important to remember this era. It’s depressing to see how many of these places have fallen. It’s not the whole story - better motels have risen in to replace them. Better in every way.
But the signs. The individual neon. The buzzing signs by the two-lane road. The radio that quit at sundown. The Palmolive soap, the ghosts on the B&W TV. The happy kids running to the pool. The perfume of chlorine, the aroma of French fries in the hallway of the big motel by the coffee shop.
I had a happy childhood. So sue me.
And now, for our Thursday Miscellany, a feature from a Dairy Industry magazine from the 1920s. I know, I know, hasn't everyone been doing that lately? Sorry, just wanted to chime in on the trend!
There is no trend.
Meet Mr. Sidebottom.
He has a catchphrase!
His bulk is played up as a distinguishing attribute, and testament to his product.
Industry lingo makes for jokes the rest of us don't get 90 years later.
It's usually WUXTRY. I think that's what it evolved to.
Odd how the ad calls him the Treasurer; he was obviously the president. Also president of the local ice cream board. The paper had news of a libel suit filed against him when he was on the City Council. (Dismissed.) In 1910 he made the social column. He was a member of the Magnolia Commandery No. 11 of the United Order of the Golden Cross.
He died in 1936.
Thirty-six thousand souls. Claim to fame:
"Richmond is sometimes called the "cradle of recorded jazz" because the earliest jazz recordings, and records were made at the studio of Gennett Records, a division of the Starr Piano Company. Gennett Records holds the esteem of being the first to ever record artists such as Louis Armstrong, Lawrence Welk, Gene Autry, Bix Beiderbecke. Jelly Roll Morton, & Hoagy Carmichael to name a few."
Not the first thing that comes to mind when people say "Indiana."
This is heartening - well preserved, no bricked up windows or garish paint.
It’s two buildings, not one. If it had been one, I think there would have been a ground-floor street access door to the upper floors.
Can’t date the inlay as well as I’d like, but the exterior material suggests 30s. Except . . .
. . . the awning does not suggest an era of taste and style, and probably hails from the 80s. Speaking of which, one good storm with small-sized hail and that things’s stippled for life.
I mean, it’s sad, what with the old department store gone, and the storefront given over to a charity place, but the fact that the old piece of history is visible, that’s nice.
The rest of the building. It is not nice.
This was one of the biggest names in town. Below, two scraps from the paper: on the left, his 1881 ad, which indicated that one need say no more. On the right, his obit in 1918. Front page news.
The paper's helpful for showing what the block used to look like:
Say, let's go back to that first building:
So now we can piece it together:
That explains this:
I love this style of building; it had a brief vogue. Late 30s, perhaps, but more likely the 40s, especially given the color. It replaced the main store.
Fire? Demolition? I can't find anything.
Knollenberg's closed in the mid 90s, and information seems scant.
That ought not to be the case. C'mon, Richmond. This is your history.
Moving right along.
“Ah, c’mon, if I take out the glass display cases, people’ll just want to park their scooters there.”
I’m getting the sense that trees and landscaped sidewalks may not have revived downtown to the extent that they hoped.
Sixties swoopy shingled awnings:
No doubt a fine clothing store once.
Beached by a street redesign:
Plenty of history.
It was originally used as a vaudeville house and featured the Marx Brothers in 1916. It closed in 1930 due to the depression but reopened a year later as the Indiana Theater, a movie house. In 1952 the building is leased by the Richmond Civic Theater and their programs begin showing productions at the "Indiana Theatre". It was eventually purchased by the Richmond Civic Theatre in 1966 for $42,000 and the venue was renamed the Norbert Silbiger Theater, after a founding member and driving force of the company. It was renamed again, back to the Murray Theatre, in 1984 in order to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Marx Brothers, eh? I’ll bet I can find that review. Searching . . . ah.
It’s time for the boards to come down from the windows, the bricks to be knocked out. There’s a lot downtown, and you can’t help wonder - what happened?
We've just scratched the surface. More next week.
That'll do; the weekly ration of motels awaits.