Friday, April 29, 2011

Athenian Candle Co.

It's Friday, kids, and you know what that means! Our weekly celebration of Atomic Number Ten!

This is another classic Chicago neon sign. The Athenian Candle Company is in Greektown, near the UIC campus. I remember walking past this shop many times back when I was a student there (over a decade ago now!). It hadn't changed much when I shot this back in 2009-same religious candles in the window, same old sign on the door, and this beauty on the corner. I don't know if it is lit up anymore-it looks to be in great shape though. I swear I have a shot from way back when of it lit up at night but I can't find it anymore.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Iowa, originally uploaded by William 74.
I've seen a lot of these Iowa water pumps on old farms. I've never seen one that's not really rusty.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Through the Viewfinder Tuesday!

Packard, originally uploaded by William 74.
I love the effect I get shooting through this vintage, late '40s Spartus Full-Vue. The frosted glass viewfinder lends it a lot of grain, and the fact that it's a reflection adds another layer of...I don't know what. Distortion? Distance? It reminds me of old kinescopes of sporting events being watched on a vintage Philco. Very fuzzy and low contrast.

I don't know what event this would be, though. This is an old, rusty, damaged Packard Four Hundred, a '55 I guess.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Make a date...

Oldsmobile Rocket 88 #2, originally uploaded by William 74.
...with a Rocket 88!

Famous from the song, Oldsmobile's "Rocket" 88 was a precursor to the muscle cars of the sixties. Using the lighter body from Oldsmobile's six cylinder 76 model, and the company's new, powerful "Rocket" V-8 engines, the 88 was a fast, comfortable car, and a favorite on the burgeoning stock car racing scene.

That engine was the key to the car's success, and led to my favorite detail of the '53 pictured here. Rocket imagery was already popular in the fifties, and the swept-wing motif was a popular styling cue at General Motors. So it was natural that Oldsmobile would have rocket plane hood ornaments. What kills me are the contrails molded into the hood. You just don't see that anymore!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Another Week...

Park Motel, originally uploaded by William 74.
...another Neon Friday! And, it seems, another vintage motel sign. I seem to see a pattern forming...

Anyway, this one's down in Morris, Illinois. I like the little painted flower trim, and the classic "Color TV by RCA" add on. I've seen a bunch of those, but none that say Zenith, or better yet, Westinghouse or Philco. That'd be awesome.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Barn, originally uploaded by William 74.
This old barn-and I use the term loosely, it's more of a shed than a real, live barn-sits just off the Lincoln Highway, just outside of DeKalb. It's abandoned in the sense that it's kind of decrepit, but still in use in that there's stuff in there, things like rusty bits of machinery and old seed signs. It's in a field, and I like the way the sun sets behind it during the winter months, but I'd never really looked at it till recently. Mainly because it's no longer winter, and the field is now muddy rather than snowy.

I'm glad I did, though. The brackets for the sliding doors have stars on them. I've never seen ones like that-I'm glad I made the effort to get my shoes dirty.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lincoln Highway

Lincoln Highway, originally uploaded by William 74.
We've visited the Lincoln Highway before-in fact we've shown you this exact same road marker-but I think it bears revisiting. The Lincoln was a major east-west route for many years, winding through cities and towns, and spearing through the farmlands of the Midwest. It was important, and should be remembered.

I also just think this is a cool, old timey picture.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Paramount

TtV Tuesday! Here's a shot of Aurora's historic Paramount Theater. I can't tell if the TtV magic makes it look cool and retro or old and shabby. The former, I hope.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pretty In Pink

Dodge La Femme, originally uploaded by William 74.
After several Motorcar Mondays filled with decrepit old wrecks, we've decided to bring you one that's shiny and well kept, and one with an interesting story to boot.

The chromey taillights pictured belong to a Dodge La Femme, an interesting footnote in automotive history. In the early fifties, Chrysler Corporation's marketing department noticed that women were becoming more and more interested in automobiles, and more involved in the car buying process. Seeking to gain a foothold in this burgeoning women's automobile market, ChryCo. developed a pair of show cars for the '54 season. Dubbed "Le Comte" and "Le Comtesse", they were based on Newport hardtops with plastic canopies over the passenger compartment. While the Count was painted in masculine colors, Le Comtesse was light grey and dusty rose, with similarly hued interior. Favorable responses encouraged Chrysler to move forward with a car targeted towards women. The result, bowing for the 1955 season, was the La Femme.

Based on the Lancer coupe, the La Femme was painted in two tone pink and white, got new gold plated badges, and custom interior cloth with a flower pattern and pale pink vinyl trim. Included was a pink calfskin purse, and a storage space in the back held a raincoat, rain bonnet, and umbrella made from vinyl with the same flower pattern as the seats.

The La Femme returned for '56, with new colors ("Misty Orchid" and "Regal Orchid", which were a bit more subtle than the pink and white '55), and new, La Femme-specific interior fabrics in a similarly purple theme and with similar accessories to the earlier car. And that, as they say, was that, the La Femme not returning to the lineup for that halcyon year of 1957.

Since the La Femme was basically an option package on the Lancer, no firm production totals exist, but it's thought that about 2500 were made in both 1955 and '56. About 40 '55s and 20 '56s are known to exist. With it's outward similarity to the Lancer, one wonders how many were repainted and retrimmed to normal production colors.

The pictured car is a verified '55. I shot it a couple of years ago at an auction. It is still the only one I've ever seen.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Electric Heat & Air Conditioning

Shadylawn Motel, originally uploaded by William 74.
Sometimes you find stuff when you're not really looking. Such is the case with the Shadylawn Motel's excellent neon sign. It's along U.S. 30, just outside of bucolic Hinckley, Illinois. U.S. 30 was a main east-west route of the U.S. system of numbered highways, and was commissioned in the late 20's.

The road goes through quite a few large cities, but through a good stretch of Illinois it shoots across the prairie, through Rockwellian towns like Shabbona, Waterman, and Hinckley. It's hardly the sort of place you'd find such a Googie-tastic slice of Atomic Number 10, but there it is. The motel seems to still be in business-I think I should go back out there after dark and see if they still turn this beauty on.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Painted On The Sky

Country Road, originally uploaded by William 74.
Yeah, I went there. But this isn't West Virginia-this particular country road is in Illinois and winds between fields and farms rather than over the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Evanston Express

Evanston Express, originally uploaded by William 74.
A pair of Chicago L trains. The Evanston Express was originally a "shoppers' special", a fast train to the Loop to serve Christmas shoppers from the suburbs. After the war, the Express was reinstated, making limited stops on the Howard line until reaching the Loop. These trains typically ran several times a day, although they lost the "Shoppers' Special" name in the mid fifties.

By the time these 6000-series cars were running the Express, it was running several times a day and was very popular with Evanston residents. The name stayed until 1993, when the various lines were renamed with colors, and the Evanston Express became the Purple Line Express.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ask The Man Who Owns One-Pt. 2

Packard, originally uploaded by William 74.
I've shown you this car before-it's a '55 or '56 Packard 400, sitting in a backyard doing nothing much. I ventured back to it's hiding place, mainly to see more of it since the grass and weeds that grow around it are dead or dormant right now (plus there are fewer bugs!). I was pleased-and saddened-to note that this car is really, really complete. There are a few bits of trim missing, but all the windows are up and sealed, the interior is all there and not chewed up by rodents, and the side I couldn't see over the summer isn't caved in by old accident damage. In short, it looks like the old Packard was just driven-or maybe pushed, maybe the engine is bad- to it's resting spot and parked up.

This saddens me. I like these cars. They look clean and classy, and this one would have been stunning in black and white two tone, with a red interior. And here it sits, going to ground.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Vintage Neon Ford Sign, originally uploaded by William 74.

Neon Friday!

Everyone knows the famous blue oval Ford logo, but for many years the company also used a variation on the Ford family crest on it's products. I know that this particular style of sign was current from 1949 to 1956, but the logo continued in use well into the 70's on some products. Amazingly, this vintage sign is still in use at a Chicago area Ford dealer (that has another excellent old sign I'll be sharing in the future).

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Not In Service

Not In Service, originally uploaded by William 74.

Once a common sight in American cities, the PCC streetcar is a design icon. Originally developed to help electric railways fend off competition from buses, the Presidents' Conference Committee was tasked with developing a new, more efficient streetcar design. This the PCC design did, bringing new levels of refinement to streetcar travel, as well as being far easier and less expensive to run compared to older designs.

The first PCC cars started service in the 1930's, with production continuing until the early 1950's. The design was also exported outside of the United States, with the first European cars appearing in Spain in the late 40's. Refinements of this design operate today in many European cities.

Stateside, PCCs saw use in many major cities, and in some cases they were running well into the 1980's. In recent years, some cities with streetcar systems still in use have begun to restore PCCs for revenue service in historic areas, serving as both a transportation system and a tourist attraction. Notable systems are those in Kenosha and San Francisco.

This particular car is a former San Francisco Municipal System car, and was one of the final batch of cars built by the St. Louis Car Company in 1952.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Fox River

Shore, originally uploaded by William 74.

I don't actually remember taking this photo. It's on an old, disused rail bridge across the Fox River, in Carpentersville, looking towards a factory building on the shore. I was doing some experimental shots of the old bridge structure (not to worry, it's quite solid and used to cross the river), and I apparently took this one of the building across the way.

I don't know why I like it so much-it's got kind of a Box Brownie look about it.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Out Of State Plates

Out Of State Plates, originally uploaded by William 74.
Poking around behind a body shop in rural Illinois, where I stumbled across the bumper and grille from this car, just sitting in the weeds.

It hasn't been used in a while, but it's not too far from home.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Neon Sunset

Sunset Motel-Yorkville, IL, originally uploaded by William 74.
Another week, another Neon Friday!

I seem to have developed a thing for old motel signs-I've got several in my collection of images. This one no longer works-the top part has since fallen over and the whole thing is tipped over, and there's broken glass on the other side. Pity because I'd like to see the neon sunset all lit up.

I can't tell if "Neon Sunset" would be a good name for a band or a short story.