Waving Hands Make Magic: The Music, Restaurants and Unique Career of Bud Averill

Cardboard America, Close Cover
1931-12-24 -  The San Bernardino County Sun, 24 Dec 1931, Thu, Page 11.jpg

 San Bernadino County Sun – December 24, 1931

Sometimes I come across a piece of ephemera from my collection that sends me down countless wormholes and side stories that I seem to lose all track of time and place. Such is the case with Bud Averill’s Airport.

The restaurant was the second Bud Averill restaurant at the same location. The first establishment, known as “Bud” Averill’s Paradise Cafe. Featuring dining, dancing and in-house entertainment from Averill himself playing a THEREMIN. This is where I lost track of the world.

Cyrus Edward “Bud” Averill, Jr. was born in Elberton, Washington on February 14, 1896. It is said that Averill was the first WWI volunteer from the state of Idaho, but I cannot find any corroborating evidence. After he was discharged from his duties in naval aviation, Averill homesteaded north of Casper, Wyoming, where he joined the Powder River Orchestra.

During the early 1920s, Casper, Wyoming was a booming oil town desperately lacking entertainment. Averill and a group called Arminto’s Jolly 7 were brought to town on a multi-month engagement at Oil Center Hall starting March, 1921. A baritone tenor vocalist by trade, Averill would sing the top hits of the day and became something of a hit in the region.

1921-03-11 -  Casper Star-Tribune, 11 Mar 1921, Fri, Page 3.jpg

Casper Star-Tribune – March 11, 1921

Averill would sing as pre-show entertainment for stage productions such “The Idol of the North” starring Dorothy Dalton as “the beautiful dance hall girl on the frontier of civilization.”

1921-05-11 - Casper Star-Tribune, 11 May 1921, Wed, Page 4

Casper Star-Tribune – March 11, 1921

For the next few years Averill would hone his skills in the Casper area, slowly adding comedy to his performances and eventually become a vaudeville-style performer. Bud Averill, serious vocalist was all but forgotten for a while and Bud Averill “the world’s funniest human” was captivating audiences in Wyoming, Montana and Utah. He and his wife, Virginia Nelson, moved to Salt Lake for a brief period before settling in California.

1927-07-09 - The Anaconda Standard, 09 Jul 1927, Sat, Page 2

Anaconda Standard – July 9, 1927

A brief tour of Los Angeles, as part of a show called “Revue of Revues” opened a new  world of possibilities for Averill. In 1929 alone, he appeared (in chronological order) as a serious vocalist for the KEJK dance orchestra; a lead performer in the show called “Rose Garden Revue” at the Million Dollar Stage in downtown Los Angeles; a vaudeville performer on radio station KPLA; and a cast member in the all-talking melodrama called “The Isle of Lost Ships” at the RKO Theatre (8th & Hill Sts). He was also a coach for the Los Angeles Orpheum ensemble and appears as if he did some uncredited vocal work on multiple motion pictures.

1929-10-31 -  The Los Angeles Times, 31 Oct 1929, Thu, Page 34.jpg

The Los Angeles Times – October 31, 1929

A tour of the United States followed in 1930. Bud Averill and His 18 Sensational Songsters (Some Steins! A Table! Songs Ringing Clear!) joined several other acts as a traveling vaudeville show. There were dates from Montana, Utah, Oklahoma, St. Louis, New York and several others.

Other shows and radio gigs followed in 1931 and 1932. It may be somewhere in this time that Averill discovered the ethereal sounds of the theremin. The theremin is an instrument played without any physical contact, making it extremely difficult to play. The instrument was only a few years old in the 1930s after it had made its way over from the Soviet Union. There were only a few thereminsts in the United States and around 1930 & 1931, it reached oddity status on the stage and radio. There are no known stories of when and how Averill learned to play, but soon he would be showcasing his skills.

By the summer and fall of 1933, Averill’s talents were mostly being showcased on radio station KRKD at 3:15 in the afternoon. He was also doing shows around Los Angeles. After a stint with his orchestra at the Boos Brothers Beer Garden, Averill opened a new restaurant called Bud Averill’s Paradise Gardens in October 1933. The new place located at 674 South Vermont Avenue and featured “legal” beverages and delicious sandwiches.

1933-10-06 -  The Los Angeles Times, 06 Oct 1933, Fri, Main Edition, Page 23.jpg

The Los Angeles Times – October 6, 1933

The music for the new place was provided by, you guessed it, Bud Averill. Originally he and his orchestra were the main focus but plans changed and the focus would be on him and his theremin playing. Now we are back to where we started. A matchcover from the Paradise Cafe (Gardens) features an illustration of Averill playing his magical music machine. One can only guess how diners reacted to the sounds of the theremin as they ate their sandwiches and drank their not-illegal drinks.

The restaurant would stay open for sometime and eventually go through a name and theme switch to become the Bud Averill’s Airport restaurant this piece was supposed to be about. Information is sparse about when the switch occurred and when Bud Averill’s Airport (named for his aviation days) closed. I found evidence that it was named the Airport in 1943 and was open during World War II but I would guess it probably didn’t last much into the 1950s.

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There was another Bud Averill owned and operated restaurant called Carmel Gardens by the Sea at the corner of 2nd & Broadway in Santa Monica, California. Information about this place is even more sparse. Only experts mix their drinks.

The matchcover says they had dining, dancing and entertainment. The time frame for this place looks about the same as the other(s), with a similar design to that of the Airport.

Seeing as there just isn’t much information to be gleaned from the internet about these restaurants, lets get back to what sidetracked this whole piece to begin with – the musical stylings of Bud Averill.

Throughout the remainder of the 1930s, Averill would continue to perform, tour and host a radio show – this time on KMTR at 11:30pm with the cleverly titled “Bud Averill’s Dance Band.” In 1938, Averill moved to KMPC and hosted a “Toast to the States” with songs about every state in the nation (all 48 of them) in alphabetical order. A year later, he was on KFWB with a 10pm show.

In 1941, Averill released a set of three 78RPM records of his theremin recordings of Stephen Foster songs with the following titles: “Beautiful Dreamer”; “Old Folks at Home”, “Massa’s in De Cold, Cold Ground”; “Old Black Joe”; “My Old Kentucky Home”; “Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair”. The songs were recorded in Hollywood and featured Bob Thompson at the organ.

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Courtesy of Discogs

Averill remained active during World War II. Too old to serve, he volunteered his time elsewhere. He teamed with Hayden Simpson to write and record “U.S.S. Los Angeles.” All proceeds from the recording were donated to the athletic and silver service funds. By this point, Bud had been an active Hollywood songwriter composing tunes for movies and radio.

The summer of 1947 saw Averill in the middle of a controversy and lawsuit. The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) banned Averill’s latest jingle “Union Pacific Steamliner,” ruling that the song wasn’t really a song as much as it was an unpaid advertisement for the railroad. Similar songs by other composers entitled “In My Merry Oldsmobile,” “El Rancho Vegas,” “Rum and Coca-Cola,” and “Love in a Greyhound Bus” were accused of doing the exact same thing but were allowed to remain on the air.

1947-06-23 - The Pittsburgh Press, 23 Jun 1947, Mon, Page 10

The Pittsburgh Press – June 23, 1947

Averill thought this unfair and brought forth a lawsuit against NBC.The suit sought a large sum of $1,000,000 in damages. Averill asserted the song was copyrighted April 15 and published in sheet music, so it must be a real song. He alleged that advertisers have called NBC and its affiliates for the song, but the network refused such requests. Reports of the outcome of the lawsuit are nowhere to be found, so I am guessing it ultimately led nowhere.

Off and on tours continued for Averill throughout the remainder of the 1940s and into the early 1950s. He and his theremin would return to his old familiar Salt Lake and Wyoming homes for special appearances.

1950-08-19 - Salt Lake Telegram, 19 Aug 1950, Sat, Page 5

Salt Lake Telegram – August 19, 1950

A foray into the fairly new world of television followed in 1951, with the short-lived “Pardon My French.” He would continue to appear sporadically on local Los Angeles television shows. But Averill’s star faded as the 1950s progressed and he passed away on July 20, 1956 at the age of 60. The cause of death is unknown.

Averill is completely forgotten now, but he was truly a unique entertainer with a set of skills few could ever duplicate.

Idaho Skunks Are Not To Be Sniffed At: The Roadside Signs of Fearless Farris’ Stinker Stations

Cardboard America

“Fearless” Farris Lind had an eye for adventure. Born in 1915 outside of Twin Falls, Idaho, he graduated from Twin Falls High School in 1934. Shortly thereafter he worked as an attendant at a local gas station and then became manage of a small theater. Not too long after, Lind received a “Spanish Prisoner Letter” from a jailed businessman in Mexico. The letter was smuggled from the prison and mailed to Lind – the businessman and Lind had a mutual acquaintance.

The letter asked Lind to come to Mexico. Once there, he was to bribe a guard at the jail with $500, the guard would give him claim checks to the businessman’s trunks which contained $250,000 in a false bottom. The businessman also stated that he would be forever grateful if Lind would escort the businessman’s daughter to the United States.

Lind quit his theater job immediately, borrowed on his insurance and readied himself for a Mexican adventure. When Lind arrived in Mexico City,  a U.S. Consul officer told him that it was an old trick. There was no “businessman.” There were no riches and Lind’s $500 was gone forever. Lind was one of many who had fallen for the ruse.

Despondent, after a month long trip to Mexico, Lind returned to the U.S. dirty, with no money and on a third-class mail coach.

In 1938, Lind headed to Toronto on a six-week visa. There he took a job for an advertising firm. His job, in conjunction with a Richfield Hi-Octane gasoline promotion,was to respond to the the thousands of letters as Jimmie Allen, hero of popular 15-minute radio serial “The Air Adventures of Jimmie Allen.”

The Times, 23 Jan 1938, Sun, Page 36

An advertisement for “The Air Adventures of Jimmie Allen”  from The Times – January 23, 1938

Canadian officials soon learned that the American on a short-term visa had a full-time job and he was quickly deported. Broke yet again, Lind moved to Denver. There he found a job as a road salesman for a refinery. The job was miserable, but his time in Denver wasn’t all bad. He met an art student named Virginia Johns and the two were married on November 5, 1939.

The young couple moved to Butte, Montana where Lind opened a petroleum brokerage firm. It was a flop. Lind was broke yet again. The two headed to back to Lind’s home state of Idaho. In 1941, Idaho governor Chase A. Clark was embroiled in a dispute with oil retailers. Clark insisted the prices being charged were way too high and threatened to open state-owned retailers. Lind, sensing an opportunity, spoke with Clark and told him that if he wanted to keep costs down he should make it easier for independent gas and oil companies to compete with the big boys. Lind insisted that making cheap land available to the small companies on a state lease would solve the problem. The governor agreed.

Lind got a lease on an old truck weigh station near Twin Falls. After borrowing $5 from his sister, Lind was able to haul old storage tanks to the weigh station and began dispensing gas. He called the new station Fearless Farris and he kept prices low.

Then came World War II. Lind served as a Naval flight instructor and tested new planes. After three years, Lind was discharged. He and some former Navy buddies utilized their flying skills and started a spraying service with 12 planes. The company was called Fearless Farris Pest Control Service.

 

The Post-Register, 20 Jun 1948, Sun, Page 13

The Post-Register – June 20, 1948

Business was tough. In the three year the spraying service was operating, seven of the company’s 12 planes crashed and two pilots died. Lind himself suffered two accidents. He sold his shares of the company in 1949 and devoted all of his time to his plucky little service station.

The gas station’s low prices began to take hold and Lind was able to open several new stations in the area. This didn’t come without ruffling a few feathers. Local oil retailers began to despise Lind and called him “The Stinker.” Lind loved it and almost immediately began calling his stations Fearless Farris’ Stinker Stations with a skunk wearing boxing gloves as a mascot. The skunk mascot adorned eye-catching neon signs that demanded motorists’ attention.

The Pittsburgh Press, 20 May 1956, Sun, Page 118

The Pittsburgh Press – May 20, 1956

Dozens of new locations popped up every year in Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Nevada.

The Eugene Guard, 03 Jan 1952, Thu, Page 6

The Eugene Guard – January 3, 1952

Ever the salesmen, Lind offered everything from candy and toys to lure families to trips to Hawaii and diamond rings. He was always looking for a way to draw attention to Stinker. In the late 40s/early 50s Lind would come up with an idea, almost by accident, that would make him and his business known state and nation-wide.

The Salt Lake Tribune, 10 Jun 1959, Wed, Page 26

The Salt-Lake Tribune – June 10, 1959

In 1969, Lind would tell the tell story of his great idea. He bought plywood, the only wood he could afford, to build signs for the first station. He continued,

“The plywood had to be painted on both sides to seal the sign against moisture. As long as the back of the sign was painted, I got the idea of putting humor or curiosity-catching remarks on the back side.”

The signs were a perfect idea. On old Highway 30, the precursor to Interstate 80 (now Interstate 84), there was nothing but desert sagebrush and hills for hundreds upon hundreds of miles. Lind placed roadside signs to spice up the landscape and get the word out about Stinker.

Just as the barren wasteland begins to feel as if it will stretch on into eternity, a simple yellow sign with black letter emerges on the roadside, as if reading the driver’s thoughts. The sign simply says, “Ain’t This Monotonous?”

The Philadelphia Inquirer, 20 May 1956, Sun, Page 202

The Philadelphia Inquirer – May 20, 1956

There is no other message on the sign. The driver begins to wonder what they just saw. A few minutes later another sign emerges. “This is Not Sagebrush, You’re In Idaho Clover.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer - May 20, 1956

The Philadelphia Inquirer – May 20, 1956

Then nothing. No signs again for several miles. The driver doesn’t know what the signs are about. The desert begins to feel endless. Suddenly, a bigger sign emerges: Warning: Idaho is Full of Beautiful Lonely Women.” This is the one that catches everyone’s attention.

Stinker3

There is still no indication about the meaning of the signs, but the driver begins to look for more.  Suddenly, every 15 minutes a new sign emerges, then another and then another. As the driver makes their way to Boise, the message become closer together.  One hundred signs line the drive in to town.

The messages are all different:

“Nudist Area, Keep Your Eyes on the Road – Cowboys Please Remove Spurs”
(with a nude mannequin covered in a leaf and cowboy clothing, boots and a whiskey bottle on an old plank)

Stinker1

“Sheepherders Headed for Town Have Right Of Way”

Stinker2

“Petrified Watermelons – Take One Home to Your Mother-In-Law ”
(complete with heavy, round lava rocks)

Stinker4

“Warning To Tourists –  Do Not Laugh at the Natives”
(Image courtesy of Roadside Nut)

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“Have Tea With Me – Bring Your Own Bag”

The Pittsburgh Press, 20 May 1956, Sun, Page 119

The Pittsburgh Press – May 20, 1956

“Rain Checks Cashed – Suckers Welcome – The Bank of Snake River”

The Pittsburgh Press, 20 May 1956, Sun, Page 119 2

The Pittsburgh Press – May 20, 1956

A few more of the known signs:

“This Road For Men Only – Curves and Soft Shoulders – Women Take the Detour”
“Cattle Country – Watch Out For Bum Steers”
“Idaho Skunks Are Not To Be Sniffed At”
“Fishermen: Do You Have Worms?”
“Lava is Free. Make Your Own Soap”
“Methodists – Watch Out For Mormon Crickets”
“Boise is Full of Taxpayers”
“This Area is For the Birds – It’s Fowl Territory”
“State Highway Obstacle Course”
“Sagebrush is Free, Take Some Home to Your Mother-In-Law”
“Quiet Please, Entering Ghost Town”
“For a Fast Pickup, Pass a State Patrolman”
“Don’t Just Sit There, Nag Your Husband”
“No Trespassing, This Area is For the Birds”
“No Fishing Within 100 Yards of the Road””Don’t Just Sit There, Nag Your Husband”
“If Your Wife Wants to Drive, Don’t Stand In Her Way”
“Hysterical Marker – Chief Saccatabacca Starved to Death Here”
“Do You Have a Reservation or Aren’t You an Indian?”
“If You Lived Here You’d Be Home Now”
“Sitting Bull Stood Up Here”
“Why Be a Wage Slave? Find Your Wife a Job”

“Warning: The Wind Will Blow Up This Road”

The Pittsburgh Press - May 20, 1956

The Pittsburgh Press – May 20, 1956

As the signs increase you begin to see the Stinker skunk on the edge of the sign. Then the messages become a billboard advertising Stinker Cut-Rate Gas Station in Boise. The tourist then feels compelled to come to the station for gasoline or, at the very least, an explanation.

The signs became a sensation. Stinker Stations became the go-to fuel place in Boise. Word about the signs began to spread as tourists brought their stories and pictures back with them. National newspapers (many used here) gave even more attention to the signs. Lind was a hit. He expanded his empire to over 50 stores.  Business was stronger than ever but Fearless Farris was not.

Lind was diagnosed with polio in the 1950s and was bed-ridden most of the remainder of his life. He finally succumbed in 1983. The Lind family sold the business in 2002.

The roadside signs are a different story. While a few remain, many were removed when in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the highway beautification act that banned most commercial signs from rural highways. The signs were quietly removed, but their legacy lives on. Stinker Stations are still a staple of the region and they employ more than 700 people.  The skunk is still part of the advertising, a fitting tribute to the original stinker, Fearless Farris Lind.

Sand Dollar Restaurant – St. Petersburg, Florida

Cardboard America

FL, St. Petersburg - Sand Dollar Restaurant

Located at 2401 34th St., South in St. Petersburg, Florida, the Sand Dollar Restaurant featured dining, dancing, a rotating Merry-Go-Round lounge and a dining room in a garden setting called The Garden Room that seated 250 people.

The Sand Dollar opened on April 2, 1962. Restaurateur John Dahlberg envisioned a  restaurant that would emphasize moderately-priced family dinner in a modern setting.

Tampa Bay Times, 04 Apr 1962, Wed, Main Edition, Page 48

Tampa Bay Times – April 4, 1962

The round building, meant to resemble a sand dollar, featured numerous big windows that brought a natural light to the restaurant. Wood paneling, then a very a modern addition, lined the walls.

Tampa Bay Times, 24 Jun 1962, Sun, Main Edition, Page 51

Tampa Bay Times – June 24, 1962

A mural depicting an Asian scene by artist Joseph Lefer adorned the round-wall revolving cocktail bar. Piano music from local musician Wanda Poteat filled the restaurant nightly (except on Sundays).

FL, St. Petersburg - Sand Dollar Restaurant 5

The restaurant was a big success. There were three different menus for patrons to enjoy. The luncheon menu was served from 11:30am-3:00pm; dinner menu from 3:00-9:30pm; the night owl menu from 9:30am-2:00pm. On Mondays a 20% discount was offered on drinks in the lounge.

Tampa Bay Times, 20 May 1964, Wed, Main Edition, Page 49

Tampa Bay Times – May 20, 1964

The Sand Dollar was voted the 1962 Restaurant of the Year for St. Petersburg and also received the Coffee Brewing Institute’s “Golden Cup” award. The restaurant hosted hundreds of groups and civic events. In 1964, a 220-pound cake in the shape of the building was made for the two-year anniversary of the opening of the restaurant.

FL, St. Petersburg - Sand Dollar Restaurant 3

Business boomed throughout the 1960s.  The Garden Room was expanded to seat 300. A nautically-inspired dining room called The Galleon Room was added and served an expanded seafood menu.

Tampa Bay Times, 17 Dec 1967, Sun, Main Edition, Page 157

Tampa Bay Times = December 17, 1967

Upholstered dark green banquettes (booths) were added in 1967 for group seating in a more intimate atmosphere.

Tampa Bay Times, 01 Apr 1972, Sat, Main Edition, Page 9

Tampa Bay Times – April 1, 1972

In April 1972, the restaurant celebrated their 10th anniversary the very same way they celebrated their second, with a gigantic birthday cake in the shape of the building. John Dahlberg was ecstatic with the restaurant’s success, but plans would soon be in the works to expand his empire.

Tampa Bay Times, 02 Jul 1973, Mon, Main Edition, Page 34

Tampa Bay Times – July 2, 1973

A second Sand Dollar location was announced in July 1973. This location would be in Jupiter, Florida and would employ more than 100 people in a 14,000 square foot, 400-seat building. The East Coast Sand Dollar opened in January of 1974 on U.S. #1 and Indiantown Road. A $30,000 expansion was announced for the St. Petersburg location. A dance floor, larger bandstands and expanded seating in the Merry-Go-Round Lounge were added. Construction was completed in December, 1975. The addition, of course, was in the shape of a circle. Everything was looking up. Then tragedy struck.

Tampa Bay Times, 19 Jun 1977, Sun, Main Edition, Page 41

Tampa Bay Times – June 19, 1977

On June 18, 1977, 48-year-old John V. Dahlberg, Jr., founder and creator of The Sand Dollar restaurants died after battling an undisclosed illness. Shortly thereafter, Affiliated Property Management Inc. of Tampa took over operations of both restaurants without missing much of a beat. Throughout the remainder of the 1970s and in to the early 1980s, both locations survived an economic downtown and changing tastes with moderately-priced food and dazzling entertainment. But Affiliated Property management was looking to get out. The majority stake in the restaurants were sold in 1982 to Tim Christopolous, a local businessman.

Christopolous was in over his head from the beginning. The Jupiter located was closed almost immediately and was replaced by a restaurant called Cahoots. The St. Petersburg location became a major problem. In May 1985, the IRS placed a $90,143 tax lien on Christopolous for failure to pay taxes from 1982-1984. The restaurant was closed immediately. Florida state senator Mary Grizzle, who had owned a least of part of the restaurant since it originally opened, ended up with control of the building. She could not find a buyer in the now not-as-pleasant part of town and the restaurant and the building sat empty for years. However, she did not pay property taxes on the abandoned building and, in 1992, it was determined she owed $11,724 in past taxes. Grizzle disputed the debts and had the building re-appraised. It appears that she did not settle things entirely.

Tampa Bay Times, 28 Apr 1995, Fri, Other Editions, Page 49

Tampa Bay Times – April 28, 1995

A lien was placed on the property for failure to pay taxes and the City of St. Petersburg took over the rapidly deteriorating building on May 8, 1995. The city didn’t own it for long.

Tampa Bay Times, 27 Dec 1995, Wed, Main Edition, Page 61

Tampa Bay Times – December 27, 1995

The day after Christmas, 1995 an early morning fire completely destroyed the building. The flames were so intense that it took 13 vehicles from five different fire station to control the blaze. The fire was believed to have been started by an arsonist as there was no electricity in the abandoned structure. No one was ever charged with starting the fire.The now burned building sat idle for more than a year until it was raised on March 23, 1997 to make room for a senior-living facility.However, that project fell though after the church that planned on building the care center did not met construction deadlines after the city provided a $300,000 loan to the church. The whole thing was a mess. Nothing ever got built on the property and an empty lot is all that remains. It’s an ignominious end to a once thriving staple of St. Petersburg social and night life.

Tampa Bay Times, 25 Nov 1963, Mon, Main Edition, Page 46

The advertisement that ran in the Tampa Bay Times on November 25, 1963, the day of John F. Kennedy’s funeral

Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg, Webster, Massachusetts

Cardboard America

Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg (aka Lake Chaubunagungamaug) is a lake near Webster, Massachusetts.

The meaning of Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg is attributed to the Nipmuc tribe. “Fishing Place at the Boundaries—Neutral Meeting Grounds” is the most common translation However local legend had it a different way:

According to this article in a 2014 New York Times article:

There is more consensus on the meaning of Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg, but it turns out the consensus is wrong. In the 1920’s, a reporter for The Webster Times, Lawrence J. Daly, wrote that it was a Nipmuck Indian word meaning “You fish on your side, I fish on my side and nobody fishes in the middle.” That stuck even though Mr. Daly confessed repeatedly that he had made the whole thing up.

The lake consists of three smaller ponds: North Pond, Middle Pond and Small Pond.

These three postcards, from the 50s and 60s show the lake and the  ridiculousness of putting a name like Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg on a sign.

Sign, Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagunga maugg, Webster, Mass.MA, Webster 2MA, Webster

Dear Little Florence

Cardboard America, Cardboard Greetings

holiday-a-happy-new-year-1

Mailed from Columbus, Nebraska to Calmar, Iowa on December 31, 1907:

Dear Little Florence,
I wish you a very Happy New Year. I like Columbus real well. I have two rack chickens. I hope to have more some day. Santa Claus was very good to Paul and me. We have no snow and the dust is terrible, I am in the 4th grade I like my teacher her name is Mrs. Watts – from Paul & Lester

holiday-a-happy-new-year-2

I Am Not Eating Onions

Cardboard America, Cardboard Greetings

holiday-i-wish-you-a-year-filled-with-gladness

Mailed from Spring Green, Wisconsin to Mrs. Christ Hutter of Plain, Wisconsin on December 29, 1910:

I wish you a Happy New Year got your card but I am not eating onions. I am working at Otto Franks for all winter and I think I will help you clean house in the Spring. From Margareth
Spring Green

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Moock’s Tavern – St. Petersburg, Florida

Cardboard America

Moock’s Tavern, opened in 1946 by Erven and Gertrude Moock, was once THE place for locals and major league baseball players in town for Spring Training, to eat and be seen.

Located at 709 16th St. N in St. Petersburg, Florida, Moock’s offered cocktails, seafood and chicken platters and Swift’s Tender Age steaks cut to order.

Tampa Bay Times, 25 Nov 1956, Sun, Main Edition, Page 58

Tampa Bay Times – November 25, 1956

The tavern started as a small restaurant serving about 75 people at a time, but eventually grew to have four dining rooms and a capacity of 235. The larger capacity allowed Moock’s to become a very popular place to hold wedding receptions, civic meetings and club outings.

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Postcard from the Cardboard America Collection

The Moock’s would operate the business with their son and daughter managing and eventually taking over the business. But, as 1970 dawned, Erven and Gertrude wanted to retire. In April 1970 they sold the restaurant and land they owned around the restaurant to Merlin Downs and his 31 year-old Joseph Alban. Even after the sale Erven Moock, Jr. would stay on and manage the restaurant. The sale would become official in June.

Tampa Bay Times, 30 Jun 1970, Tue, Main Edition, Page 27

Tampa Bay Times – June 30, 1970

Things were still looking good for Moock’s for a little while but the end was on the horizon. A fire broke out in September of 1973, causing some serious damage. The fire, caused by an electrical short, destroyed two of the four dining rooms and the first floor suffered water and smoke damage.

Tampa Bay Times,  15 Sep 1973, Sat,  Main Edition,  Page 15.jpg

Tampa Bay Times – September 15, 1973

In 1975 Moock’s suffered another fire, this time in the kitchen injuring two and causing more damage. The loss of revenue, personal problems and the $52,000 cost of the rebuild would ultimately cripple ownership. In September 1977 Moock’s Tavern was seized and closed permanently by the IRS. Merlin Downs and Joe Alban had failed to pay $24,462.89 in back taxes.

Tampa Bay Times,  15 Sep 1977, Thu,  Other Editions,  Page 5.jpg

Tampa Bay Times – September 15, 1977

The property was put up for auction. Only one person bid on the venerable old restaurant. Louis P. Druehl of purchased the property for $33,000. Druehl would re-open the restaurant as a high-end restaurant called the Executive Club. The restaurant would not last very long and the property sat idle for many years. New owners told local newspapers in 1988 that that had a plan to restore Moock’s to its former glory but nothing ever came to fruition.

In 1990, St. Petersburg City Council ordered the empty building demolished, but the owners at the time convinced the council that they had plans and the building was spared. Those pans never materialized and the building was razed in 2003 to make way for a medical facility.

Motel Samantha – Oxford, Alabama

Cardboard America, Cardboard Motels

You’ll enjoy your visit to the new Motel Samantha!

Motel Samantha

Opened by Elbert Holmes on the newly opened (as of 1950) Highway 78 By-Pass,  the 30-unit motel boasted air-conditioning, central heat, colored tile baths and plenty of parking.

1954-11-04 - The Anniston Star, 04 Nov 1954, Thu, Page 23

The Anniston Star – November 4, 1954

An open house on December 9-11, 1954 welcomed the community to the new, modern motel

1954-12-08 - The Anniston Star, 08 Dec 1954, Wed, Page 12

The Anniston Star – December 8, 1954

The Motel Samantha was one of two properties owned by Elbert Holmes. The Blue Top Motor Court in Marietta, Georgia had opened in the late 1940s and was a successful motel.

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Holmes relocated to Alabama and chose Highway 78 in Oxford as a prime location for his new motel. The highway was a fairly sleepy country road until General Electric Opened a plant in 1952 and the opening of the Motel Samantha signaled a commercial movement to the once sleepy area. A Howard Johnson’s restaurant opened just down the road a short time after the motel. Bucks Coffee Shop on the west end of 78. became a local hangout. A truck stop known as Rainbow Inn, was a popular restaurant. However, it was the beautiful neon sign featuring a light-up American Indian in a headdress that become the most recognizable business on the Highway.

1955-04-13 - The Anniston Star, 13 Apr 1955, Wed, Page 20

The Anniston Star – April 13, 1955

Popular with local visitors, the motel become the go-to spot throughout the 1950s. In the early 1960s, Interstate 20 was built nearly parallel to the highway and, a short time after that a brand new Holiday Inn opened at the intersection of 78 and 21. Oxford had officially arrived.

Holiday Inn

The Holiday Inn signaled a new era for the town, but hurt the Motel Samantha. Elbert Holmes died in 1964, and his son took over the property.  After Elbert’s death, it was decided that The Blue Top Motor Court became too much of a burden and the property was put up for auction.

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The Anniston Star – November 15, 1964

Information about the motel becomes difficult to find after 1965. I can find local ads for the motel until 1973. I am not totally sure where the motel was exactly located, as it appears the property was torn down.

 

 

 

 

Storybook Land – Lake Delton, Wisconsin

Cardboard America

Not every fairy tale has a happy ending. In 2011, after more than five decades of seasonal operation, Storybook Land in the Wisconsin Dells closed its doors for good.

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The ten acre park was located between Dells Army Ducks and the legendary water park known as Noah’s Ark near Lake Delton. The grounds were filled with concrete statues and colorful sights filled with classic stories ranging from The Three Little Bears to Cinderella to Jack-Be-Nimble and nearly two dozen more fairy tales. During its busiest  period there were costumed characters wandering the well-manicured, floral-laden grounds. Four ponds were located in the park, each named after one of FLath’s daughters. The whole park served as a peaceful escape from the thrill-a-minute, tourist crazy environment.

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Storybook Gardens was first conceived in 1956 by Dells Duck operator Melvin Flath as a roadside attraction for kids and the whole family. Flath was considered slightly crazy by locals because Storybook Gardens was away from downtown and the other Dells attractions like the Tommy Bartlett Show and Wisconsin Deer Park. However, Flath’s location was perfect. Away from the other sights, the Gardens stood alone and captured travelers either as they entered or exited the Dells.

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Thousands upon thousands of families visited the park over the years. For a few years in the late 1950s/early 1960s it was the main attraction in the area. However,  the park never really made much money. Flath would only operate the park for a few years before turning it over to another group which included Tom Egan who ran the park for over 30 years until selling it in 1989.

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By the 1990s the park was seen as a relic of a different. Lost in the sea of flashier theme parks and more modern attractions, the park struggled to remain open. Ownership would change hands several more times with each owner selling for a lesser price. In 2010 the park closed for the season and never re-opened for the 2011. The decision to close was based on dwindling attendance and the fact that the land proved more valuable than the attraction.

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The statuary was sold off one-by-one and the welcome center, in the shape of a boat, was sold to be used as a firefighter training facility.

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