Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Muffler Men restoration updates!

We wanted to give a quick update on the current restorations of our two Muffler Men. Well, actually one Muffler Man and one disembodied head.

First up is Big George. Thanks to the amazing folks at Miles Fiberglass here in Portland, Oregon we're thrilled to announce he is now 100% sound again! He came to us with very severe damage to his torso after taking a fall back in 2010.

One of the numerous large tears in the fiberglass.

The team at Miles repaired him from head to toe and he's now ready to move on to painting. You can see in the photo below the numerous large tears that needed to be repaired both externally and internally. They also reconstructed his waist line so he could be bolted together again.

 Note areas of large repairs.

 We'll post an update as soon as we get him to the paint shop. We're currently in the process of selecting colors.

Roll me over!

Next up is our orphan Muffler Man Bunyan head. We actually picked him up last fall and he's been undergoing a complete restoration the past few months. The story of this one is that an antique dealer bought it from a picker who obtained it several years ago. At the time the picker got him the body still existed but was "too large" to also save. That person was not able to confirm if all these years later the body still existed. We're guessing it sadly ended up being scrapped. We've not been able to locate any photos showing a Bunyan with this paint job. The photos below will give you an idea of what a complete wreck he was when he arrived.

Paul in "as found" condition.

His problems were many, starting with the fact that at some point someone decided it would be awesome to glue gobs of pillow batting to his hair, eyebrows and beard. This created a giant mess that took endless applications of paint stripper and hand sanding. Next up was the paint job that appeared to have been applied by hand. Not with a brush, but an actual bare hand. They had also chosen a lobster red for a skin tone. Perhaps they were going for "First sunny day of the year Paul."

Paint stripper in action.

Once the numerous layers of paint had been removed we could get an idea of the underlying damage. The two areas needing the largest repairs were a large crack running from the front of his cap back into his head and a large tear at the base of his neck. We're guessing that when the head was removed from the body it was done less than carefully.

This large crack had been previously "fixed" by applying duct tape over it.

Like many jobs the preparation has been by far the largest part of getting Paul back to his handsome self. Many hours of stripping, sanding, fiberglass application, more sanding, filling in small imperfections etc. We're currently in the primer stage but hopefully you can see how great he's turning out.

We knew that rugged lumberjack was hiding under there!

He should be all painted up by the end of the weekend and we'll post a few "after" photos so you can see how he turned out!

If you need us we'll be over here sanding away,

Jeff & Kelly

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Tastee Freez Twin - a unique piece of advertising history

It's been an eventful month for our vintage fiberglass mascot collection with the arrival of Big George the Muffler Man and our newest addition Eff.

Eff settles in with some of the A&W Burger Family
What's an Eff you ask?. Eff was actually the male half of the Tastee Freez Twins - mascots used for a time by Tastee Freez. Eff has chocolate hair and waves jauntily with his right arm while his sister Tee has strawberry hair and greets everyone with her left arm.

Tastee Freez featured the twins in a series of comic books as well as other products. The most common items are the salt & pepper shakers which are still somewhat easy to track down.

Here's a lovely set recently offered on Etsy by NewportRoad

As you can see Eff does still bear a resemblance to his 2" salt shaker self, but turning him into a 7.5' statue takes him to an entirely different level. :-)

Surprisingly adding Eff to our collection was a 9-year process. We first became aware of him several years ago when Debra Jane Seltzer posted photos of a collection of fiberglass statues she visited in South Carolina. The statues were located at a business that sold concrete lawn ornaments, and after a bit of digging and were able to find a phone number. Unfortunately for us when we called we were told he wasn't for sale. We were disappointed but could tell the owner truly enjoyed having him.

Photo courtesy of Mark Blackwell

So, we called about once a year just to check in and see if he was possibly available and each year we were told politely he was still there but not for sale. Then in 2013 the phone number we had no longer worked. We thought maybe they had closed up shop and we resigned ourselves to the fact it wasn't meant to be.

Being us (i.e. completely obsessed) we still thought about him and wondered where he ended up. Finally around the end of last year we did another online search and found a different number for the shop. We called and found out that they were indeed looking to wrap up the business and everything was now for sale. The bad news was that Eff had been sold.

In February of this year a friend of ours was visiting family in South Carolina and just happened to be quite close to the shop that once owned Eff. We asked if he'd be willing to swing by and see what was still there. That afternoon he sent us several photos including the one below:

Photo courtesy of Mark Blackwell

It's him! Eff was still there! We immediately wrote Mark and asked him to find out if he was available, and if so to please let them know we'd like him. He was, and Mark was able to facilitate the adoption process for us and we were on our way. 

Obstacle one was that now that Eff was ours we needed to somehow get him from South Carolina to Oregon...quickly. Enter Jacob the Carpetbagger from North Carolina. Jacob was kind enough to drive down and meet Mark to take Eff back to his house while we arranged shipping.

Photo courtesy of Mark Blackwell
Jacob loaded up Eff and took him on a little road trip back to North Carolina (check his his road trip video here) with one particularly fun stop along the way:

Eff says hello to his former employer. (Photo by Jacob Krecj)

Eff stayed with Jacob for a couple weeks while we worked out the best way to get a giant ice cream boy statue shipped across the country. The UPS Store in Asheville, NC ended up being a tremendous help and about a week later we were picking him up here in Portland.

It turns out that Eff is not only unique in the looks department he's also quite unique in the world of advertising statues. At the moment there are three Tastee Freez statues known to still exist - ours, one other Eff and one Tee (sporting a unique set of clothes.) We'd love to find a Tee for Eff but that may be a bit like finding a unicorn. He's next in line for a complete restoration and we can't wait to see him in a new coat of yellow and chocolate brown.

Estelle says goodbye to Eff...

In closing we'd like to once again offer our sincere thanks to Estelle, Mark and Jacob. Without them we'd still be pining away for Eff. Thanks again guys for making "Operation Tastee Freez" a success.

Jeff & Kelly
Vintage Roadside

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Vintage Roadside adds a Muffler Man to the collection!

Big news friends! We're thrilled to announce the Vintage Roadside fiberglass family has grown with the addition of one very large new fella - Big George.

Some of you Muffler Man fans may recognize Big George from the Sterling McCall Classic Car Museum in Round Top, Texas. He was purchased by Mr. McCall in the late 1990s and stood in front of his museum until one unfortunate day in 2010.

According to his former caretaker he received a call one morning letting him know "the Big Guy was down." He had been placed on a raised section of the grounds (image) and sadly became a victim of overnight winds. He fell face-first, in what must have looked like the world's most awkward cliff dive, breaking his fall on the sidewalk below with both his outstretched arms and his forehead.

The results of his tumble are evident in the damage to both armpits, smaller fractures across his chest, tears at his waist and a non-lethal head wound.

Big George was then taken apart at the waist and moved to the Museum's storage warehouse. In the following years the Museum's collections were auctioned off and sadly Mr. McCall passed away in 2013. In the Fall of 2015 a friend let us know that the family was considering finding a new home for Big George. We tried to make contact but weren't able to get in touch with the family. In February we decided to give it one last shot and luckily we reached one of Mr. McCall's daughters. She put us in touch with the caretaker of the collection and he was kind enough to send us a set of detailed photos.

After discussions with the McCall family an agreement was made and we became the proud new parents of Big George.

We do have one bit of caution to other potential Muffler Men owners - be prepared to find your perfect Muffler Man no closer than 8-10 states away from wherever you're located. Before landing Big George we had "almost" landed one in South Carolina, Georgia, Texas (different statue) and California. Being in Oregon we knew immediately the California one wouldn't work out - way too easy! While finally locating one is certainly the largest part of the challenge, shipping a 20' statue home is also a major part of the process. We ended up going the uShip route and in the end he arrived here in Portland.

The two questions we've been asked are: "What's next for him?" and "Where can we see him?"

A complete restoration begins for him next week which will probably take somewhere around 3 months. We have also had several inquiries from local businesses interested in having him on display. Our number one priority is to get him restored and back out in public view. Portland has never been home to an International Fiberglass Muffler Man and we're so excited to bring one to town. As soon as we confirm placement we'll be sure and let you all know. We can't wait to get a photo with him either. :-)

If you're a local Portland business and are interested in having Big George at your location or event please contact us regarding availability here. For over 50 years now these roadside giants have drawn a crowd.

In closing we'd like to once again thank the McCall family for passing him on to us, and to all of you who have been so supportive of Vintage Roadside over the past 10 years.

Jeff & Kelly
Vintage Roadside

P.S. We've also recently added two other pieces to our vintage fiberglass mascot family - a rare Tastee Freez Twin as well as the head of a Bunyan model Muffler Man. We'll post about those two next time out.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Prints now available from the Vintage Roadside Photo Archive!

 Howdy everyone!

We wanted to share some news with you all - we're now offering prints from our archive of over 100,000 original vintage negatives, Kodachrome slides, and darkroom prints.

We've spent many years building the archive, and our most recent addition is a collection of several thousand original negatives shot by a Phoenix, Arizona Chamber of Commerce photographer in the 1950s. It's an amazing time capsule of vintage motels, gas stations, restaurants, dude ranches and more. We've also recently rescued several large batches of Kodachrome slides headed for the dumpster. Saving history any way we can. :-)

To create these prints we use a Howtek drum scanner and scan each negative at 5000 ppi. We're thrilled with the results and hope you'll enjoy seeing these glimpses of the past.

The first image below is a great look at Sheffler's Cafe in Salome, Arizona in the early 1950s. Sheffler's also served as a bus station and once contained a large taxidermy collection. In later years it was known as The Cactus Bar.
 Sheffler's Cafe & Soda Fountain - Salome, Arizona. Destroyed by fire in 2011. Print available here.

One of our favorites is this tourism photo from Arizona showing a model posing in front of a large Route 66 billboard. The billboard lists some of the amazing sights waiting for you as you cross the state.

Vintage Route 66 billboard. Print available here.

This image is somewhat unique in that the Santa Fe Restaurant building is still standing in Wickenburg.

 The Santa Fe Restaurant - Wickenburg, AZ. Now operating as the Gold Nugget Restaurant. Print available here.

Another favorite is this one showing the owners of the El Rancho (Once located on East Van Buren in Phoenix) posing next to their new neon sign. The original negative is a 4x5 b&w, however we've had a colorized version created using colors from an original postcard. This image was recently displayed at the Harley-Davidson Museum as an 8' print. (Also available in b&w.)

 Color version of the new neon sign at the El Rancho Motor Hotel - Phoenix, Arizona. Print available here.

A look inside a classic 1950s roadside cafe complete with counter & stools, comfortable booths, and a Royal Crown Cola menu showing you the day's offerings. There's also a collection of candy bars and cigars behind the cash register.

 Interior of a 1950s roadside cafe. Print available here.

We love old Kodachrome slides for many reasons, one of the biggest is that they were generally shot by tourists. People out there seeing the things we love to see - fellow roadtrippers from another generation!

We're lucky in that the Enchanted Forest is still there in upstate New York, but it's wonderful to see how it looked around the time it opened in 1956.

1950s Kodachrome of the Enchanted Forest of the Adirondacks amusement park in Old Forge, NY. Print available here.

All images are available in a variety of sizes. Images are also available for museum, publication or commercial use. If you'd like to inquire about usage please send us a message through our contact form here.

If you'd like to keep up with the images as we make them available you can follow along at our Facebook photography page here.

Safe travels,

Jeff & Kelly
Vintage Roadside

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

On the Road with Daddy-O Grande of Los Straitjackets

We're pleased to kick off a new series here on the Vintage Roadside blog featuring interesting people and their road trip stories.

You may recognize our first guest, Daddy-O Grande, as one of the masked members of Los Straitjackets. Let's turn up our copy of Jet Set, get comfortable, and enjoy a few of Daddy-O's stories of the road.

Vintage Roadside: What's your earliest road trip memory?

Daddy-O: The first road trip I remember was in 1963 when my family moved from Memphis to Minneapolis. My dad was driving his '62 Ford Galaxie 500. I don't remember the driving part too well, but the colorful motels we stayed at along the way always stuck in my mind. I ended up totally hooked on road travel, unfortunately something my family didn't seem to enjoy doing. Once I became an adult I pretty much never stopped.

Vintage Roadside: Being a full-time musician all these years how many states have you been to so far?

Daddy-O: Every state except Hawaii, that's on my bucket list. I've played gigs in every state except Alaska, Hawaii and Wyoming.

Vintage Roadside: You probably feel the same way us in that it's impossible to pick a "favorite" state to road trip through. But, if someone asks you what state they should plan a road trip to what's the first one that pops into your head?

Daddy-O: I like driving through Wisconsin! Wisconsin has an abundance of giant fiberglass animal statues on the side of the road, not to mention the numerous cheese shops and bizarre tourist attractions. The Wisconsin Dells are a real treat.

Vintage Roadside: You've done a lot of travelling over the years but if you had two weeks, unlimited gas and no schedule where would you head off to?

Daddy-O: I've always dreamed of driving the entire length of the Pan-American highway, from Fairbanks, Alaska to the southern tip of Argentina. Unfortunately there's a gap at the Panama-Colombia border that's impossible to cross. That trip would take more than 2 weeks though.

More practically, sometime soon I'm thinking of taking a trip through Monument Valley and up to Yellowstone, two places I've yet to visit.

Vintage Roadside: One of the joys of a road trip is experiencing mom and pop businesses. From roadside attractions to tiny restaurants in the middle of nowhere it's these places that we always seem to remember years after the trip. Sometimes the ones you really remember though are the odd ones. We've stayed in the Clown Motel, visited a telephone museum, and eaten in places where it's best not to ask when the last time a health inspector stopped by. What are some of the places or things that stand out from your travels?

Daddy-O: There's been more than one barbecue restaurant near the Texas-Arkansas border that reminded me of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, there's no way I could remember names. 

I'll never forget the wonderful "Snowflake Motel" I stayed at with Beat Rodeo outside of Detroit somewhere, a tribute to Frank Lloyd Wright. 

I'll always remember my car breaking down in Pennsylvania and discovering the nearest town was an Amish community called Intercourse.

Intercourse, PA. 1986

Also, I can't drive through northern Wisconsin without having a meal at my favorite Norwegian restaurant, The Norske Nook in Osseo.

Vintage Roadside: Ha! We've eaten at a few places like that too. Are you a fan of roadside attractions?

Daddy-O: Mostly unusual museums.

There was a time in the 80s when it seemed like every city in the south had an Elvis museum, I stopped at many. I saw Elvis' Chest X-Rays at one in Gatlinburg, TN.

Elvis X-Rays on display

When I stopped at the Credit Union Museum in Madison, WI the lady at the front desk was surprised I actually wanted to go inside. They had to actually unlock the doors of the theatre for me so I could watch the multimedia presentation on the history of debt.

The Tupperware Museum in Kissimmee, FL was my favorite though. Featuring the ideal Tupperware kitchen and a cross section of an RV to demonstrate the use of Tupperware while camping, as well as the history of Tupperware parties and food storage through the ages. An attempt to increase attendance by changing the name to The Tupperware Awareness Center failed, and sadly the museum no longer exists.

Vintage Roadside: Are you a souvenir guy? Ever bring home something really unique?

Daddy-O: Mostly from other countries, mostly homemade. I have a Zapatista rebel doll from Chiapas, Mexico.

Daddy-O's Zapatista Rebel doll

Vintage Roadside: Many people out there, including ourselves have clocked miles listening  to Los Straitjackets. We've got to ask - what's next for the band and where will people have a chance to see you and the band again?

Daddy-O: Health issues prevent me from touring full time with the band, and they like to tour more than I'm able, so I do an occasional easy show and let them do all the hard ones. I'll be performing three stadium concerts in Mexico with Los Straitjackets in November 2013. That's all I'm planning on right now. Look for the Halloween themed "Mondo Zombie Boogaloo" that's just been released, and a collaboration with Deke Dickerson to be released next year. Also next year, I plan to release two new solo projects I've recorded in Mexico.

Daddy-O in the studio in Mexico

Vintage Roadside: Before we let you go do you have another memorable story you could share with us?

Daddy-O: In October 1995 Los Straitjackets were touring the gulf coast and we played a show in Pensacola, FL and stayed at a hotel on the beach that night. The next morning a hurricane warning evacuated the town and we searched for and finally found a bar with a TV so we could watch the OJ Simpson verdict. From there we drove to Biloxi, MS to play a big outdoor festival opening for Blood Sweat & Tears. Because of the impending hurricane, BS&T cancelled and few people attended. Instead we played on a huge stage for about 15 people who came to see Blood Sweat & Tears. It was our first year of touring, we were completely unknown, and the audience was very surprised. Later that night, the hotel we'd stayed in at Pensacola Beach was completely destroyed.

Vintage Roadside: Thanks so much for spending some time with us Daddy-O, it was a pleasure to hear a few of your memories and stories from the road! Now, to get into the Halloween spirit we're gonna head over here to pick up the new "Mondo Zombie Boogaloo."

To keep up with Daddy-O please visit his website here. And, for all things Los Straitjackets you'll find the band's website here.

All photos courtesy of Daddy-O Grande and/or Los Straitjackets.

Until next time,

Jeff & Kelly

Friday, May 17, 2013

Vintage Roadside hosts the first-ever Aquarama reunion!

Fifty years ago, construction began on one of the many roadside attractions that once lined the highways of America. However this wasn't another Mystery House, or even a dinosaur park, it was the Aquarama - an underwater mermaid show located in Osage Beach, Missouri. The show opened to the public in May of 1964 and quietly closed in 1973. In the years that followed, the memories of the show slowly faded away from the general public and the former performers tucked away their experiences and moved on with their lives.

Seven years ago, we were at an antique show and ran across a stack of vintage brochures. The one that jumped out at us was a simple black and silver brochure with the word Aquarama on it along with the silhouette of a mermaid. We thought it would be a fun addition to our line of t-shirts so we bought the brochure and started our normal historical research for our website and the history tag that comes with each of our shirts.

Initially, we didn't find much history and thought we might have to be satisfied with the few things we had uncovered. We were disappointed we couldn't find more, but sometimes, without a trip to the local library or historical society of the town the attraction was located in, the trail simply disappears.

About a month after listing the Aquarama shirt on our website we got an order from a customer in Osage Beach, MO. We hoped that they knew of the Aquarama and that the shirt might bring back a few fond memories for them. A week or so later we got an email from the customer, Janie, letting us know how much she liked the shirt, wondering if we'd have any interest in learning a little more about the Aquarama. Needless to say we were like kids on Christmas morning! Thanks to Janie, the door to the Aquarama had just cracked open for us.

This was the first of what would become many discoveries as we worked to gather as much history as we could. Janie helped us identify several of the former performers and was the first Aquamaid we interviewed for our blog. That interview led to a comment from Pam, the granddaughter of the couple that built the Aquarama, letting us know we should get in touch with her uncle Marc as he could tell us just about everything we could ever want to know. Marc proved to not only remember just about every detail from the show, but also still had many of the original costumes, cast photos, and even the narration soundtrack from the show. (We bet that at this point we've spent more than 100 hours on the phone with him asking every question you could ever imagine relating to the creation and execution of his family's underwater show.)

The first task we set for ourselves was to try and learn the names of all the former performers that had worked the show. The next logical step for us was to see how many of them we could locate. This would turn into a seven year quest as we worked our way through every resource available and finally, in April of 2013, we had a great phone conversation with our last-to-be-found Aquamaid. We can vividly recall our first contact with each person - we'll admit it's a lot of fun to call someone out of the blue and say, "Were you by any chance a mermaid at the Aquarama in 1966?" The reactions are something we'll never forget, including those of the people who had no idea what we were talking about.

Those years have given us great memories of phone calls, emails, shared souvenirs, and meeting the original Aqualad, Marc, and the original Aquamaid, Barbara, as they each passed through Portland, Oregon.

Meanwhile, while we were looking for everyone, or mermaid wrangling as we liked to think of it, we thought, "Wouldn't it be great if someday there could be a reunion similar to the one held every few years at Weeki Wachee?" After talking about it for a couple of years we decided the time had come. We knew the location needed to be in Osage Beach and began the process of planning it from here in Oregon. Aquamaid Marlen was an invaluable help as was our friend Todd from over at Neato Coolville.

The plan for the reunion was to get as many people together as we could for a Friday night dinner and an all-day picnic on Saturday. Everything came together smoothly and we counted down the days until the event. We kept an eye on the temperature in Osage Beach and things were rolling along in the 70's and 80's until three days before the picnic when we were faced with the one thing we couldn't control - the weather. The day we were flying out to Missouri was spent lining up an indoor venue for the picnic when thankfully Dean at the Tan-Tar-A Lodge came through with a wonderful gathering place. Friday and Saturday ended up being somewhere around 40 degrees so being outside would have been less than ideal for everyone!

We arrived in Kansas City Thursday morning and headed for the Lake of the Ozarks. The plan was to have dinner with Marc and the original head Aquamaid Barbara that evening to kick off the weekend. While we had been lucky enough to have met both of them previously, Marc and Barbara had not seen each other since the end of the 1964 Aquarama season. It was incredible to see the Matador and the Bull from the 1964 postcard together again after 49 years. Dinner was fantastic, and we have to admit, the margaritas weren't too shabby either.

Friday's dinner was held at the Blue Room inside the City Grill and the time had arrived to finally meet all of the people we had spoken to on the phone and traded emails with over the years. The room was the perfect setting for everyone to catch up with each other and share memories of the show. We spent most of the evening thinking to ourselves how amazing it was to be sitting at dinner with the people we had only known from photos (that were now over four decades old). One of the highlights of the evening was the wonderful memorial display honoring Marc's parents, Wally and Nola, created by Marc's wife, Ann. The years quickly melted away and three hours seemed to pass in a matter of minutes. The evening ended with countless smiles and hugs and plans to see each other again the next day.

Saturday found us at the Tan-Tar-A Lodge, which had become the host to our (thankfully now heated and dry) picnic. We brought a selection of the original costumes, played the slideshow from our Aquarama history presentation, and in the background, the music and narration from the 1965 and 1966 Aquarama shows. We had also brought scrapbooks we created containing original cast photos, newspaper clippings and advertisements from the show which we gave to everyone who came. Much of the day was spent signing each other's books, sharing more stories, and posing for photos. Again the hours seemed to rush by. We ended the day trading more stories (and a great beer) with Aquamaid Judy who had made the trip from Texas to attend the reunion.

Then, in what felt like the blink of an eye, the weekend was over. While we know we'll never have the experience of the 'first-ever" reunion again, we're content in the knowledge that this was just another chapter in the story of the Aquarama...a story, and a group of people, that will always be a part of all of our lives.

This event would not have been possible without the tremendous help of many people. We'd like to thank Marc and Ann for sharing their family's story with us, Janie for finding us and setting this entire experience in motion, Pam for pointing us toward her uncle Marc, Marlen for advice on local gathering spots, Todd for logistical support, Joe and his staff at the City Grill, Dean at the Tan-Tar-A Lodge, Lois at the Scottish Inn, Amy at Subway of Osage Beach, Spree from The Lake Sun News, Barbara from Rural Missouri Magazine and KRCG Channel 13.

In closing, we'd like say thank you to all of the Aquamaids and Aqualads that came to the event and warmly welcomed us to the family: Marc, Barbara, Janie, Quinetta, Judy, Sharon, Art, Daniel, Jim, Liz, Marlen, Marion, Kae, Sandra, Ginger, Wanda and Pam. And to those Aquamaids who couldn't be there - you were all missed tremendously and spoken of fondly.

Jeff & Kelly
Vintage Roadside

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Casper's Alligator & Ostrich Farm

We've had quite a few requests for our sold-out Casper's Alligator Farm t-shirt so we decided to reprint it just in time for the holidays. And, to add a new twist, we've decided to print it up on a one-time only Moss Green shirt. We just picked them up from our screenprinter and they turned out amazing.

You can pick one up for yourself or the roadside attraction lover in your life over on our website here.

Here's to alligators,

Jeff & Kelly