Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Through the Viewfinder Tuesday!

Master Mix Feeds, originally uploaded by William 74.
We return to Arlington for this week's return of Through the Viewfinder Tuesday. I can't say a whole lot more about this building, or the town of Arlington, that I didn't say here last week. So I'll just let this shot of the Master Mix sign speak for itself.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Parkston Co-Op

Door, originally uploaded by William 74.

One of the maxims I live by is "It's always worth it to ask". Such is the case here. This well-seasoned sign is on the door of a sixties Ford pickup truck. Actually, it's just the cab of the truck-no chassis, no engine, no glass, no fenders, no box, no nothin'. I found it in the back of a repair shop in rural Illinois, and the only reason I saw it was because they had a nice old Chevy parked at the side, and I asked if I could shoot it. The guy said told me to go ahead and look around, and walked back into his shop.

I loved this door the second I saw it. I love the fact that the signwriting was never painted over-this truck clearly led a long life with the Parkston Co-Op Association. It's also a long way from home-as best as I can tell, this is Parkston, South Dakota. This fact makes me even happier that I stumbled across it.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Neon Friday!

Gish Jeweler-Mendota, IL, originally uploaded by William 74.

It's the end of the week, and you all know what that means-it's Neon Friday!

This week we're in the railroad town of Mendota, Illinois, looking at long-time merchant Gish Jewelers. Mendota lies along BNSF's mainline (the former Burlington Route line west), and still sees Amtrak passenger service at it's historic station. It's a pretty sizable town, with a couple of museums (including one at the depot), a few shops, and some restaurants. But at heart it remains a small rural town, a slice of Americana out on the prairie.

I like this sign a lot-it's a nice vintage item. I don't know if it works or if they light it up at night-I'd love to see it working.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lincoln Highway

Lincoln Highway Marker, originally uploaded by William 74.

Revisiting the town of Franklin Grove, along the Lincoln Highway in Illinois. Frequently, back in the day, municipalities would paint the distinctive LH logo onto telephone poles through their towns, and back out into the countryside.

Today, many towns along the route hang banners from light poles to mark the historic road, but here in Franklin Grove, they still paint the logos right on the poles. There are several of them through town. This one's by a local elementary school.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Arlington Grain Co., originally uploaded by William 74.

Arlington is a very small, somewhat remote town in rural Illinois. With a population of something less than 200, it is typical of the many tiny, almost gone towns that dot the American Midwest.

It wasn't always like this. Originally called Lost Grove, Arlington grew rapidly in the early twentieth century, with plenty of new residents who worked the coal mines of this part of Illinois. Several businesses set up shop as well, including a brewery and several restaurants. However, the Cherry Mine Disaster of 1909, which killed over 200 miners, put a damper on the mining business, and on Arlington's growth as well.

Arlington Grain Co.

Arlington held it's own until after World War Two, when a tornado in 1950 destroyed most of the town. Many residents moved away at this time, the businesses shut down, and slowly the town started to shrink. Most of the homes have been given over to fields again (you can still find foundations out in them), and the downtown has a few buildings and a restaurant.

A block away, by the Burlington tracks, is the former Arlington Grain Company elevator. It's abandoned now, and slowly shedding it's steel siding, and an interior floor has collapsed into the basement. But still it stands, the tallest building on the landscape, the skyscraper of the prairie.

Master Mix Feeds

Monday, May 23, 2011


Shoebox, originally uploaded by William 74.
As with many manufacturers, Ford's postwar products were essentially their last prewar cars, freshened up a bit and put back into production. It wasn't until 1949 that FoMoCo was able to release an all-new design, the now legendary "Shoebox" Fords.

The new cars featured clean, modern styling, new suspension, and better appointed interiors compared to the old designs. They proved to be popular, being priced competitively compared to Chevrolet's Bel Air and Dodge's Coronet. Plus, the ford offered something the other two did not-the option of a V-8 engine, the legendary flathead.

The shoebox ford quickly gained popularity as the basis for a custom car as well. The first examples started showing up by the time this '53 was built, and some of the most famous custom cars of the fifties and early sixties were based on them. Good looking as the standard car is, it almost begs to be chopped, the headlights frenched in, and a set of sombrero hubcaps fitted.

Proving that the shoebox could be just about anything to anyone, this '53 Customline is a nice, mild custom, with no serious body modifications, but an excellent paint job and a gorgeous tuck and roll interior.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

Lothson's Karry Out-DeKalb, IL, originally uploaded by William 74.

It's the end of the week, and that means another Neon Friday, folks! This week we're in DeKalb, Illinois. Best known as the home of Northern Illinois University, DeKalb was also a fairly major stop along the Illinois stretch of the Lincoln Highway, and still features a few old businesses along the main drag.

One of them is Lothson's Karry Out, which specializes in fried chicken. They've been in business since 1949, and are rightfully called a Lincoln Highway classic. They also feature this cool vintage sign over the door. Chaser bulbs aside, it even works (although I still haven't managed to get a decent photograph of it at night. Must work on that).

The food's pretty good, too!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Red Crown

Red Crown, originally uploaded by William 74.

Another day, another old gas station. This is the beautifully restored Standard station in Rochelle, IL. A Lincoln Highway landmark.

Monday, May 16, 2011


DeSoto, originally uploaded by William 74.

Quite possibly best known these days for being Howard Cunningham's favorite marque, DeSoto was formed to provide Chrysler with a mid-level brand to fight Studebaker, Willys, and General Motors. This plan was changed after the company took over Dodge Brothers, giving the company two players in this market-in fact, DeSoto was priced a bit less than Dodge. This was reversed in the early thirties, with DeSoto being a bit more expensive and better equipped than Dodge.

Postwar, DeSoto returned with clean, if somewhat dowdy, styling, and got some real performance in 1952 with the addition of the first of Chrysler's legendary Hemi engines. By the mid fifties the company featured Virgil Exener's "forward look" styling, which truly brought the Jet Age to automobiledom, with soaring tailfins and forward leaning grilles. The cars continued to sell well until late in the decade, when the recession of '58 hit mid priced cars particularly hard. The sales slide continued into 1959, and the next year Chrysler announced the end of DeSoto production. Production lingered on into 1961, mainly to use up the stockpile of DeSoto parts in corporate warehouses.

This particular car is a '59 Firedome Sportsman coupe. It's probably my favorite of all the late fifties Mopar "forward look" cars.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Neon Friday!

Bear Neon, originally uploaded by William 74.

Something slightly different for this week's Neon Friday. I took this at a classic car auction, which had a nice selection of automobilia going at the same time. This included quite a few excellent, restored signs, all working perfectly.

This one's for Bear Wheel Alignment, which was (and is) a major company specializing in wheel alignment equipment. A sign such as this would have been at a service station that used Bear equipment. I've seen quite a few metal and plastic Bear signs, but this is the only neon one I've seen.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

TtV Tuesday!

Kaiser Manhattan, originally uploaded by William 74.

A rusty old Kaiser Manhattan we've seen once before. I think the "found in a shoebox in the closet" look is appropriate here.

It also occurs to me that I've been showing off photos of old cars with my TtV rig, which means I need to get out with it again.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Formed in 1915 by Henry Leland (one of the founders of Cadillac), Lincoln was purchased by Ford in 1922 to give it something to fight Cadillac.

The Continental was introduced in 1939 as Lincoln's top-line model. Initially developed as Edsel Ford's personal vehicle, the car proved so popular with his friends that it was decided to put the car into production. These first 1940 Contis were essentially hand built cars, with the body panels all hand-formed, as the dies for producing sheet metal forms hadn't been delivered. The attack on Pearl Harbor put a halt to production, which was picked up again postwar and lasted until 1948. Besides being exclusive and rare, these were also the last V-12 cars produced in America.

This sad car is, I think, a postwar example (about 400 coupes and convertibles were built in 1939-40). It was in really sad shape-rusty, with bits of trim and interior from newer cars, the wrong hubcaps, and terribly dull chrome. Still, it looked pretty dignified, as it sat in front of a garage somewhere in the northwest suburbs. It disappeared soon after.

Lincoln Continental

Friday, May 6, 2011

Neon Friday!

Metro Bowl-Crystal Lake, Il, originally uploaded by William 74.
Must be Friday! This week we're in Crystal Lake, Illinois, for a fantastic bit of retro neon goodness.

The Metro Bowl's sign is pretty old, and it's been modified too-I bet the part where it says "billiards" said something else when this sign emerged from the Nu-Lite shop in Waukegan.

That's actually a detail I like about this sign-the shop's name neatly lettered on it. Most old neon signs have this detail-it's how you can tell if it's been restored or not. In Chicago, and the surrounding suburbs, they all seem to come from one or two shops in the city. Crystal Lake is quite a ways north and west of the city, though-I wouldn't be surprised if Nu-Lite was the closest shop, in Waukegan, 40 miles north of Chicago along the lake shore. The company's still in business, as well.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Oscar Mayer

Oscar Mayer, originally uploaded by William 74.
While not the most common rail cars (especially now), box cars are probably the most versatile, with the ability to carry just about anything that can be loaded into it. Originally they were hand loaded, but of course forklifts and other devices have sped up the process. However, box cars are still a good deal slower to load and unload than other types of car, which helps to explain the decline in their use since World War II. They've been largely supplanted by intermodal containers, which can be loaded once at the factory and unloaded once at their final destination.

This happens to be an old Oscar Mayer car. That's right, the hot dog and baloney people. A lot of companies had their own fleets of box cars, which sped up the shipping process a bit and also provided a nice rolling billboard.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

New Century Adjustable

Switch, originally uploaded by William 74.

This is a vintage railroad switch mechanism, which I shot at a railway museum not too long ago. A switch, at it's simplest, is just a way to get a train or railcar from one track onto another-lining the points to send it on the main line or onto an adjacent track. Of course, things get more complicated when you have multiple tracks, different directions, and things like storage tracks, sidings, and plenty of other things I can't think of at the moment. Many switches are operated by powered mechanisms, but at one time they were all manually operated by mechanisms similar to this one. Plenty of them are still in use, too.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Luxury in Miniature

Metropolitan, originally uploaded by William 74.
The Nash Metropolitan is a tiny, little two seater coupe or convertible, famed for it's cutesy looks, almost fully enclosed wheels, vivid two toned paint jobs, and it's cartoony proportions.

While most American manufacturers in the fifties were going with a "bigger is better" philosophy, bit player Nash was looking for ways to provide American drivers with more economical transportation. Based on an earlier design study, the Metropolitan was positioned to take advantage of the emerging market for "personal use" cars-second cars for shopping or commuting for shorter distances. Some of the Met's design cues are also directly targeted at another emerging market-of the emerging number of women choosing their own cars. The Nash was the first car marketed directly to women (the Dodge LaFemme came a year or so later)-the first spokesperson for the car was the reigning Miss America, and Nash took out ads in Women's Wear Daily, among other women's magazines.

Built by Austin in England, the little Metropolitan sought to provide a big car feel in a tiny package. To further this, it included such things as leather interiors, standard radio and cigarette lighters, those snazzy two tone paint jobs, whitewall tires, and jaunty little continental spares. It also included this almost comically oversized hood ornament-it almost seems too big for the car!

Finally hitting showrooms in 1954, the Metropolitan received mixed reviews. Testers found the car to be solidly built and nippy around town, but rather slow and noisy at faster speeds. Despite this, the little car sold respectably, garnering about 95,000 sales over a ten year lifespan. The final nail in the Met's coffin was the introduction of cheaper Ramblers within the AMC stable. The Met was always an expensive proposition, what with being built overseas and shipped to the States, and by 1960 you could get a much bigger, more powerful Rambler for only about $200 more.