Monday, April 22, 2013


I suppose I could start this out with some noble sounding statement such as "From the dawn of civilization. When man first invented the wheel..." but that borders on pretentious. I'm actually not convinced man invented the wheel. I'm thinking he improved it by watching a round rock roll down a hill before it whacked him in the head. The rest, as the cliche goes, is history.

We could not survive without wheels. They take us places, they move machinery, they make dragging around your vacuum cleaner easier. Life itself would suffer without wheels. And the best part? Well to me anyway they make for great pictures. 

This old bulldozer has long since plowed it's last road. Nothing more than a steel monument to progress from a bygone era. From the looks of it and its many missing parts I'm thinking they just drove it here and left it.
This is a Massey-Ferguson 35. Best I can figure is it most looks like one I found from 1963. Tractors don't go through styling updates like cars do so I will assume early 1960's. I just liked the pot-metal logo on the front. Not often you see a two-name company where the second name is the one they refer to.
I found this firetruck next to the old Packard Clipper  down around Gadsden. This guy had a couple hundred old cars and trucks. It was one of those photography goldmines. The only problem was he didn't particularly care for me shooting pictures of them. I suppose I could have argued that I was on a public right-of-way and all but you just get a feel for those who are not inclined to listen. I will say he was nice when he pretty much told me to get lost.
This is an Allis-Chalmers Gleaner I found in a barn in Chilton County. It's missing its cab and other miscellaneous parts. Gleaning, as I understand it, is cleaning up leftover crops after the rest have been been commercially harvested. It's real technical stuff and I will leave that to the experts on this...yeah...that's what I'll do. We'll just say it does farm type stuff.
I showed the back of this bus in my last blog. I just think it's cool sitting here in a vacant lot. It's easy to see if you're coming into Sylacauga from Childersburg. There's a house to the left and I wasn't sure if anybody lived there. The for sale sign made me take a gamble and it paid off.

This thing I saw on a remote road in Shelby County near Montevallo. I have no clue what it is. It looks homemade and I suspect it was used to carry logs out of the woods for processing. I'm thinking the huge roll-cage on the front meant it was either unstable or watch out for falling trees. Logging is dangerous work. I can't imagine how bad it was back when this was a working piece of machinery.

This is a mail car from the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. I found it in Andalusia along with the Plymouth switcher. The REA Express was started as a Govt owned monopoly to ensure safe and timely delivery of parcels over the railroad system. All the railroads were part of this except two. Southern and the Mobile and Ohio, both of which made their way through Alabama, had their own service. REA eventually got put out of business by UPS who, along with the Interstate system, could deliver packages much cheaper.                                                                                                                                                          

An old industrial switcher made by Plymouth. No, not That Plymouth. This was made by Plymouth Locomotive Works in Plymouth, Ohio. 1960's at least. These were used to move railroad cars around industrial facilities such as steel mills and grain elevators. 

Ya know...I didn't mean this to be a history lesson. But in the same light I can't just say "Oooo...check out this picture of a car!" I'm hoping you appreciate a little background on these.

How many times have you seen an old Nash Metropolitan? Probably more times than you've seen two at the same time. I remember these well. Kind of a geek car driven by guys who wanted something different. The one on the left is a 1958 model and was most noted for having no trunk lid. You had to fold down the back seat if you wanted to store anything. The one on the right (1959) introduced a trunk that opened from the outside!
And finally an old travel trailer. No idea who made it. So you know somebody had painted it bright red. Trust me when I say changing it to grayscale made it worth a look. I found this in a backyard (I haven't been shot yet and I consider that a plus) near the cotton gin I mentioned in an earlier post in Vincent, Alabama.

And speaking of Vincent, can you find a more fitting way to end this chapter than to show you a map (legal CYA-Courtesy Google Maps) of the actual city limits of Vincent? 

Yep...looks like a wheel. Well....with a flat spot but close enough. So you know I didn't know this initially. I was just verifying what county Vincent is in and saw this. One of those way cool moments. If you were curious...probably not but if you were it's in Shelby...and St. Clair...AND Talladega county. 

One last thing. I want to thank Beverly Crider and her Facebook site Strange Alabama. She graciously linked my last blog and it exploded with hits. I cannot thank her enough. Check out her page (Strange Alabama) on Facebook as it has tons (well not literally) of pictures from across my beloved Alabama. I have met the nicest people since I started this and she is definitely one of the best.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

This Might Be A Good Sign

Delicious & Refreshing! Relieves Fatigue! Now showing. Live here. Eat here...or in the case of Superman Peanut Butter "Its strength is in its great taste" I suppose it had a strong peanutty taste. Not all slogans are great examples of marketing genius.

Advertising. You can't escape it. Everywhere you turn there's some product or service trying to lure you in. I'm betting you're even reading this because someone, who shall remain...well no, not anonymous because you know who he is, made a shameless plea on Facebook to get you here so you could read this and of course shower him with endless accolades for his artistic style and rather clever prose.

Of course it could also be you felt sympathy for me. I'm not afraid to play the guilt card. Alright, I'm being facetious. My point is that we all advertise in some form or fashion if we have something we want to sell. Be it a product or idea. A service, hobby...whatever. In my particular case, finding any old advertising is pure gold. Obviously I prefer it intact but you take what you can get.

Demopolis, Alabama (from Greek- City of the People) sits at the intersection of the Tombigbee and Black Warrior rivers in southwest Alabama. It was once a thriving center of commerce with a railroad hub and those two rivers converging here. There are still many older structures such as warehouses and industries still standing. And there's an added bonus. Large buildings have large exposed walls which make for an excellent canvas for advertising. I was surprised how many buildings here still have large advertisements preserved on the sides of those buildings. If you're ever in Demopolis drive around downtown. There's a lot of wall art to see.

Found this old Greyhound bus in Talladega County. I know almost nothing about buses but I do know old when I see it. Now as to how long its been sitting here who knows. The Tennessee tag on the back is from 1956 so it and I share that in common. Just as a side note but back years ago Tennessee used to make their tags in the shape of the state which made it very distinctive.

It didn't hurt that Tennessee is more or less rectangular shaped.
The Rexall drug store in Ragland is still there. In fact there are still items on the shelves. I remember this day for two reasons. It was cold and I lost a lens cap here.
The Carry Out sign hangs from the awning of a restaurant along Hwy 11 west of Gadsden. It didn't start its life as a place to eat. In fact it's a bit remote for a business of this nature. Which, I suppose, explains why it isn't in business anymore. No, this place started it's life as Eva's Truck Stop many years ago before Interstate 59 existed. Here's what it looked like back in the day.

It was actually a pretty cool looking art-deco building which seems oddly out of place for rural Alabama. Now it, like much of what I shoot, is relegated to obscurity.

The Dari-Delite still exists in Clanton. The new place is just down the road south of the old place. But the new place doesn't have this cool old sign. I'm betting this thing looked great in its day all lit up and flashing. Things like this are worth saving and I hope they do.

Just north of Clanton is the old drive-in. No I have no clue what it was named. Fortunately the screen and frame of the sign still exist. It spent its last days selling mobile homes. I suppose that makes sense since drive-ins offer a lot of space to park. All I know is it's one of those cool old places that still stands. An eyesore to some but a cool part of Alabama's past to me.
I chose to show this picture in color. I think the reason should be obvious. For those of you who are old enough I'm sure you remember seeing many a roadside motel that advertised two critical features. One was air-conditioning and the other was "COLOR TV"! And sometimes they would have more than 3 channels!

Funny but I miss those days. Yes it was hot in the backseat and yeah every trip seemed like we were going to the Moon because it would never end. But it was fun being a kid when I was growing up.

I'm really not trying to relive my childhood. That would require a spyder bike and a dollar so I could get a chili dog and a Tahitian Treat at the U-Totem in my old neighborhood. I would heat it up in one of those new-fangled microwave machines that had a warning label if you wore a pacemaker.

I wish I had a picture of that U-Totem sign now but it's long gone...

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

500 Miles

You're probably wondering what cryptic meaning the title has. As it turns out it would best be described as a lack of imagination. This just happened to be the longest day I have had since I started my journey. Well longest in miles anyway. 500 miles round trip this day. But you see...I was on a quest. I had been researching where I might find things that fit my genre' and Andalusia was a long ride from central Alabama. Might as well take a very meandering way there. It was a gorgeous, bright sunny day with temps in the 50's. I started off heading to Prattville because I was looking for something. Well duh. I'm always looking for something. Turns out what I was seeking wasn't readily available and I had a long ways to go. I took a wrong turn and found this house. Mostly intact and obviously uninhabited for years. I left Cato in the truck because we were right beside the road and well, being a cat, curiosity tends to be his guide.

I always get this odd feeling going into older abandoned houses. It's an eclectic mixture of curiosity about who these people were and what life was like here. The reminders left behind. The little odds and ends that make up our lives.

The things we value at some point in life and later have no use for. I was struck by the homemade tie rack at right. Here it remains who knows how many years later. And the tie is exactly where it was left. From the looks of the place this tie could have been hanging here for 30 years or more. I saw nothing inside that would lead me to believe this house had an occupant in a long time. So much so that some bird decided this was a most excellent place to build a nest. It's dry if nothing else. 

But back to my observation about these older houses. My second point is that it's sometimes a little creepy too. Not Texas Chainsaw Massacre creepy mind you. But still I always make sure the way I came in is a good way to get out. You never know what you will find...

I found this truck in Midway, Alabama. Midway between what and what I will leave to conjecture. So you know I did look at it on a map. Best I can figure it's an outpost on US 82 midway between Union Springs and a lotta trees. It seemed to have started life delivering furniture but on this day its load was old garden hose. Sad to see it will live out its days as a backdrop to vegetation.

The old railroad bridge. Found it by accident. Not that I could have avoided seeing it anyway. I was always intrigued by all things railroad so I notice things regular folks might not see. As I was plodding along US 82 I started to see a definite clearing that ran parallel to the highway. Mile after mile. I knew that it was an old railroad bed so when I found this trestle it was one of those really cool things that you didn't expect. I even walked out on it. And yeah, you have to choose your steps carefully or you'll go swimming...with a broken leg

By now I was heading southwest. Those lonely boring roads in the Wiregrass area of L.A. that are endless miles of gently rolling hills and farmland. I saw a few things possibly worthy of a picture but by now the day is slipping away. So I passed up a few things that I could live without. Then I saw the Texaco sign. Dang. Haven't seen one of these in years. Too good to pass up.

Oh btw....L.A. means Lower Alabama. Can't always assume folks know things like this.

By now I had maybe an hour....maybe...when I rolled into Andalusia. Off and on rain wasn't helping either. And to make matters worse I had NO clue where I was going. All I knew was there were some old railroad cars somewhere in Andalusia. I tried putting "Main" Street in the Garmin but Andalusia has no Main St. Next guess was Railroad St (Both are common names and good ways to get in the middle of a city if you needed something to plug into the GPS). Turns out there is a Railroad St. Also turns out it isn't anywhere near the center of town. By now the sun is turning a reddish orange and I'm starting to panic. Not like heart attack panic but dang...I've driven a long way to get here and I am not going home empty handed. I head back into town. What I am guessing is the center of town. I cross railroad tracks. Good sign! I follow them as best as I could and then there it was. My Holy Grail.

I managed to find lots of cool things here. I gingerly climbed over the collapsing fence. My pulse was racing. I started popping off shots left and right. Never can tell when a hungry dog or an irate security guard will try and convince me anywhere but here is a better choice. As I plodded through my task I began to relax. Take my time and get some pretty pictures. The old steam locomotive at right is a 1913 Baldwin also know as an 0-4-0T. T meant tanker but it was removed and I had no idea where it lives now. You'll notice the sun and how low it was in the sky. Needless to say and in spite of hundreds of miles to get here it was well worth the effort. Rarely do you get to find things like this.

As I was wrapping up I walked around the old depot to get some last pictures. Turns out there isn't a fence on the other side. Could have just walked right in. Glad I didn't get impaled on that fence...

I called this picture "The End".

Get it?

Oh stop rolling your eyes...