Thursday, September 18, 2014

Jay's Motel and Magic Wand


Here's a 1960's chrome card of Jay's Motel and Benny's Coffee Shop, in Elko, Nevada.  I especially like the Googie architecture sign out front, with the ovals framing the names of the establishments and the big "magic wand" with the starburst at the end.

Elko is called the "Heart of Northeastern Nevada," basically because there is nothing else there for miles around.  It's on the highway, though, so there were a number of motels like this one for the folks traveling between Salt Lake City and Reno.

Jay's is now a Budget Inn, and they went and lopped off the top of the top of the sign, halfway up.  Here's the proof:


I kind of like the older version better!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Here's the Church, Here's The Steeple

Some postcards have great messages on them, and the messages contain great mysteries.  The subject of this mystery is this card of Lewiston, Maine.  It's postmarked 1909, and it's mailed to Miss Helen Libby of Biddeford.  The message on the front is written by a man who worked on the steeple of the church in the picture.  The text reads: "I help build this steeple over last fall, way to the top of it.  Where the x is is the shop where I work."   You can see an "x" on a low brick building a few streets behind the church.   Additionally, the church steeple is marked with an "x" and labelled "180 ft." 

The mystery?  What church is this, is it still there, and does it have an interesting history?  That's what I set out to discover.


The first order of business is to locate the church.  There's no church that looks exactly like it using Google Earth, so maybe it no longer exists?  A clue to its location is the light colored building in the foreground.  I have other postcards of Lewiston, so I took a look and found several of a building with suspiciously similar porticos, and the same number of windows per floor between the cards.  This is the newest one, postmarked in 1960:


Although the chimneys seem to be gone, and there's a new cornice, these cards are of the same building.  And the building according to these cards is the DeWitt Hotel.  The chrome version above gives the address as 40 Pine Street.  Great, now all I have to do is go back to Google Earth and take a look at that address today.  And the answer is:  no DeWitt Hotel building and no Church on Pine Street:


There's a flat-roofed office building where the DeWitt was, and there's a parking lot and a nondescript building where the church was.  

So, what church was it, and what happened to it?  More internet research turned up interesting additional clues, and now that I had the street, I quickly discovered that it was the Pine St. Congregational Church.  It was built in 1866.  I also found this photograph below, which was captioned  "Maintenance on the Pine St Church Steeple," but I think this is earlier than 1909, because the building closer to us in this photograph looks older than the one with the mansard roof in the postcard above.  Another mystery for another day (or else I'll never complete this post)!



OK, when did the Pine St. Congregational Church disappear, and why?  After a lot more searching, I found the following one sentence in the "City Locals" section of the Lewiston Evening Journal, July 11, 1940.  Between an item about a city clerk testifying in a court case and an item about Mrs. Gauvin recuperating from an illness and now "out of danger," is our clue: "The Hub Wrecking Co. of Boston began yesterday the razing of the 75 year old Pine Street Congregational Church.  A First National Stores super market will be erected on the site."


The following day, the newspaper had this picture, but no other explanation.  The workmen were demolishing the very structure that our postcard sender helped to maintain over 30 years earlier.


In the Fall of 1940, the other shoe dropped with a full page ad in the newspaper announcing the opening of the new store:


More research uncovered several other facts about this address and the demise of the church.  A good source for church history, believe it or not, is information about the organs in churches, many of which are documented in several databases.  I learned the reason for the abandonment of the Pine St. Church building from one such database, here: http://www.quimbypipeorgans.com/completed/rebuilt/st-john-s-episcopal-church-2006.  It turns out that the reason for the demolition of the church was due to the merger of the church with the Universalist Church in town, becoming the Federated Church of Lewiston in a different location.

As for the organ, it was an E. & G. G. Hook, model Opus 326, installed in the church in 1866 and then electrified in 1923.  The website database.organsociety.org notes that the organ was saved and sold for $850 to a church in Biddeford, ME.  Now, it's in Quincy, Illinois. There will be a quiz.


 The story of this location does not end with the First National Super Market.  In 1958, they built a new one a half mile away, knocking down additional buildings to have parking for 200 cars.  And the old location?  Now, it's a very banal brick building, used by a youth social services agency, but with a "for lease" sign in the window.

Progress?  You be the judge!  Here's my attempt, through the magic of photoshop, to re-insert the old church over the current landscape, with the steeple proudly worked on by an anonymous postcard sender of 1909:



Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ancient Equipment


Let's look in on the Statistical Department at the National Grange Mutual Liability and Fire Insurance Company.  Their office was in Keene, New Hampshire, and this card is from the 1930's or 40's.  These ladies are doing a fine job of data processing, with the assistance of a state of the art card sorting machine, which is probably an IBM Type 80 card sorter.  The purpose of this machine was to take a stack of what were once called "Hollerith cards," then called "IBM cards," and now called "antique bookmarks" and sort them into alphabetical or numerical order based on the holes punched in them.  The photograph above  is from the actual operator's manual from IBM.

In retrospect, the amazing thing about this machine is that it was entirely mechanical, but still could run through 450 cards per minute.  There were no transistors, no tubes, no circuit boards, no silicon -- just good old wheels, gears, brushes, levers, and a big 'ol motor that is visible on the bottom left side of the machine.  If you wanted to sort a stack of cards into order, and they had, let's say, a 5 digit number punched on them, you had to run the whole thing through the machine 5 times, once for each digit.  If you dropped some cards or messed up half way through, you had to start all over again.  That's all the machine did. It didn't punch the holes in the cards, it didn't add them up k-- it just sorted them.

Well into the 1980's stand alone card sorters (later models, of course) were still in use in computer centers everywhere, sorting checks, cards, deposit slips and more.  I got to run one while working in a computer center during the summer of 1979.  It was noisy, generated lots of dust, and every once in a while it sprayed the cards all over the place.  Old school computing at its best!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Mystery Hill, Irish Hills, MI


So, I'm supposed to have a post related to "Ireland, Irish, Wearin O' the Green, etc" because it's St. Patrick's Day this weekend.  But I don't have any St. Patrick's Day cards, so I'm reduced to posting this card for the Mystery Hill roadside attraction in IRISH HILLS, Michigan.  

Close enough.

At Mystery Hill, according to their website, "See many astonishing things that seem to defy the laws of nature. Here the law of gravity seems to have gone berserk and your sense of balance is entirely upset. Many theories have been offered such as earthquakes, magnetized mineral deposits, fallen meteorites, deflections of gravitational force and many others."  Of course, the actual theory is that the site is an optical illusion, but suspend your disbelief and enjoy!  And while you're there, visit the gift shop, where "unique rocks can be purchased by the bag."

For 12 minutes that you'll never get back, see this video tour of the place, half in English and half in Hindi, by a big fan.  It's worth viewing for the astounding enthusiasm of the tour guide alone.



Friday, February 7, 2014


Where you stayin' in Sochi?  I couldn't get over there, so I'm stayin' at the Olympic Motel in Eureka, California.  According to the back of this fine chrome card: "One of the Northwest California's newest and finest.  Free radio and TV in rooms.  Thermostatic controlled heat.  Carpets Wall to Wall. All tiled baths.  "Always a Rainbow of Color."  Mr. and Mrs. Fred Fredrickson, Managing Owners."

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Streamline Time


It's been awhile since I posted a card featuring streamline architecture...so here you go.  The Beachcomber in Clearwater Beach, Florida is the place, and the menu is famous for the "Back-to-the-Farm Fried Chicken Dinner."  I wonder if that's a precursor to "farm-to-table" restaurants of today!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Hangover Cure


Have a rough New Year's Eve?  The Bird-in-Hand Restaurant features a "Hangover Breakfast" for only 50 cents.  It consists of Tomato Juice, Two Raw Eggs, Dry Toast, Black Coffee, Aspirin, and "Our Sympathy." Billed as being "For the Morning After the Night Before," I'm sure this menu item caught the attention of many a NYC partier back in the day.

The Bird-in-Hand Restaurant was located at 1659 Broadway, between 51st & 52 Streets.  It would have been fun to stop there after spending New Year's Eve in Times' Square for a late night breakfast!

Happy New Year to my regular readers and newcomers!