Category Archive 'Americana'
23 Mar 2019

West Texas Railroads

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Sterry Butcher has a very nice piece in Texas Monthly on the romance of the railroad in West Texas.

It began this summer, when we slept with our windows open. The first time it happened, I awoke in the middle of the night not knowing what I’d heard. It sounded like loony laughter from a dozen different souls, some of them clapping weird noisemakers, before their demented hilarity abruptly ceased. Moonlight streamed into the room. The Catahoula at the foot of the bed listened too, eyes shining and ears pricked. The train’s horn blew from the tracks a mile away, a winsome four-blast call: “I’m here; I’m here; here, I’m here.” Immediately the party erupted again, but now, with my wits about me, I recognized the troublemakers. Coyotes. Coyotes howling and yipping in answer to the train.

Why these coyotes accompany the train’s wail, I do not know, but they’ve continued in the months since, always in the gloaming or cloaked by night, sometimes quite close to the house, which sets the Catahoula to lift a lip and rumble meaningfully. A strange, long string of interspecies communication has thus evolved: the train warning people of its approach, the coyotes calling to the train, the dog cautioning the coyotes that home, this place, is off limits, while I lay a comforting hand on the dog’s paw in the dark.

RTWT

14 Mar 2019

Fair Haven, Vermont Elects Goat for Mayor

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The Burlington Free Press reports:

[O]n Tuesday night, March 12, just before 7 p.m., the small Vermont town officially swore in a goat as mayor.

The vote had been a close one.

Town Manager Joe Gunter came up with the idea as a way to raise money for a school play ground. Kids throughout the town were allowed, for a modest $5 fee, to nominate an animal of their choice for the position of Mayor. All told, more than a dozen made the run for office, even a dog named Stella who liked to suck a baby pacifier.

Some in town are not convinced that voters made the right choice.

“It’s been baaaaad so far,” joked one municipal employee, who refused to be identified for fear of retaliation — of butting heads — with the new administration.

But on Town Meeting Day, Lincoln the goat was the clear winner, beating out the pack (… or herd?) with 13 votes.

And although the swearing in was a success, within minutes of assuming office, the police chief was already dealing with the Mayor’s first mess; he grabbed a broom and dust pan after her Goatness couldn’t wait for a bathroom.

“Note the crap,” joked Mark Gutel, owner of local coffee shop Kinder Way Cafe. “It’s just like any other meeting.”

RTWT

A step up from Bernie Sanders, in my humble opinion.

02 Mar 2019

Best Proposed Caption: “Honey, Can You Stop for Groceries on the Way Home?”

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The motorcycle is a very early Harley-Davidson.

14 Nov 2018

Chico May Be in California, But It Is Still Part of America

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Gerard van der Leun, now a refugee burned out of his home, with the loss of everything, by the fire that swept over Paradise, California, is in Chico and reports that the good people of that town are acting like real Americans.

Near closing time in the men’s Clothing Clearance Corner on the first floor of Penny’s at the Chico Mall, a young girl is replacing the piles of tossed clothing left by the numbed shoppers from Paradise frantic for cheap basic clothing. Some of them are camped in tents somewhere close by the mall; for how long nobody knows. But this young, quietly lovely girl is putting the Clothing Clearance Corner back in apple pie order as the store’s dismal day closes. I take my few finds from the Clothing Clearance Corner and, leaving, say, “That seems like a thankless task.”

“Not at all,” she replies. “Not at all.”

“Really? Why the hell not?”

“Hey, I do this job every day in this store. It’s my assigned task and usually its okay but I only do it for the money because it gets really monotonous, meaningless.”

She’s a student, I perceive.

“But today those people really needed these clothes in this corner because of the price. And tomorrow more people like that will really need them too. And so I want to make this the best I can for them. So I’m going to put it all back on hangers and arrange them by size. It will be right by the morning. You better go. We’re closing. Thank you for coming in.”

Just a young girl working late in the Clothing Clearance Corner. Doing one of those little jobs; one of those jobs that actually make the world turn. She was leaving it all on the field.

At the ends of the neighborhood streets, I see people setting up tables and I see the people of the neighborhoods coming out onto the main streets and putting out whatever they have to give there for the taking if needed. They are literally leaving it all on the field.

At the Elks Lodge after I picked up some bedding and a few new pillows and looked out over acres of goods being laid out for the taking, from flats of pet food to cribs and playpens (someplace safe to rest your baby that is not on your hip). As I was leaving to see the East Avenue Church scene an Elk (My late father was a member of this lodge up until his death in 1972); a brother, I say, of my father waves me over and opens the back seat of my car and puts in two cases of one liter bottles of San Pellegrino . The Elks are leaving it all on the field.

In the 24-Hour Walgreens Pharmacy on East Avenue, the pharmacists have been working overlapping shifts since the fire swept over Paradise last Thursday. These people and their back up staff work seemingly rock solid for hours on end. They fill and file and dispense medications which people from Paradise do not have with them. This is a demanding and thankless and exhausting task. And yet — I am the witness — they have been doing this without letup. Many have come in from surrounding towns, from Redding, to help and to keep the medications needed by a town of 30,000 displaced into a city of 80,000. Yes, the Walgreens pharmacists are leaving it all on the field.

RTWT

13 Nov 2018

It Was Bound to Happen

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I’m wondering if Trump will feel complimented, or if he’ll sue the pants off them for brand infringment.

04 Nov 2018

Arkansas Father’s Wedding Speech

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18 Oct 2018

Sears Used to Sell Schoolhouses

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I knew that Sears a hundred years ago would sell you a kit to build a house, but a schoolhouse? Amazing.

HT: Iowahawk.

15 Oct 2018

Hagerstown, Maryland 1937

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Visit an older America here.

14 Oct 2018

1938: (At or Near) Cumberland, Maryland or Cumberland, Kentucky

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https://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8c02008

A mystery from Shorpy’s.

30 Jul 2018

Eloquent

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07 Jun 2018

The Lost Jargon of the New York Soda Jerk

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Atlas Obscura:

Soda jerks became known across the country for… esoteric slang. They were often virtuosic wordsmiths, with a gift for puns and riffs. And, at a time when the United States was nuts for all things ice-cream, they were at once “consummate showmen, innovators, and freelance linguists of the drugstore stage,” writes Michael Karl Witzel in The American Drive-In. “America’s soda jerk became the pop culture star of the Gilded Age.” …

In 1936, English professor Harold W. Bentley conducted a full-scale investigation into the cabalistic mumbo-jumbo of these young New Yorkers, publishing his findings in the journal American Speech. They were so semantically inventive, he wrote, that they had become a tourist destination in their own right, skillfully “serving colorfully named concoctions [and] providing an attraction much stronger than stone and concrete piled high. To foreigners in search of local American color, the soda fountains are as good as made to order.” (In fact, soda jerks were slinging lingo all over the country—though many of the terms Bentley described are specific to the Big Apple.)

There was a competitive edge to it too, Bentley explained: “The bright boys behind the marble counters have extended themselves to outdo the other fellow with fantastic, grotesque, or witty labels for the food combinations from the kitchen or the refreshments spouting out of those fascinating faucets which decorate the bar.”

An order of a simple float might yield a shout of “Burn it and let it swim!” A more complex chocolate malted milk with chocolate ice cream: “Burn one all the way.” If you nixed the ice cream and added an egg, your server would “twist it, choke it, and make it cackle.” Coca-Cola flavored with cherry might be “Shoot one in the red,” or the steamier “Make it virtue.” Drinks without ice “held the hail.” Big drinks were “stretched”; small ones were “short.”

The term used in one drugstore might not hold in another. In one soda fountain Bentley visited, an order of “Black and white” meant a chocolate soda with vanilla ice cream. But in another, it signified black coffee with cream—and in yet another, a chocolate malted milk. A simple glass of milk might variously be called “cow juice,” “bovine extract,” or “canned cow,” while water went by everything from “aqua pura” to “city cocktail” to the deeply unappetizing “Hudson River ale.”

Many of these terms were used in only one soda fountain—or two at the most, with terms swapped around and mixed up almost as vigorously as the drinks they described. There was a certain amount of pressure to keep them up-to-date: An order of five small scoops of vanilla ice-cream topped with whipped cream, a maraschino cherry, and crushed fruit had the nickname “The Dionne Surprise,” for the famous Canadian quintuplets born in 1934.

Often, the terms were a cocktail of performance and posturing. They were something for tourists to go out of their way for, and a distraction for Times Square showgirls out for a breather between rehearsals, as they sat on high red upholstered stools and nursed dishes of vanilla ice-cream. There was also something compelling about a kind of indecipherable secret language, where guessable terms (a “Traffic Light Sundae” was three scoops of vanilla, with a cherry of red, white, or green on each) mingled with cryptic ones (anyone for a “Brown Derby”?).

On occasion, the code had a simple, practical purpose. That might be in protecting the privacy of the customer: The name of an order spiked with the laxative magnesium citrate would include Mary Garden “because it makes you sing.” If a customer left without paying, whether by accident or otherwise, it was often easier to shout “95!” than to explain what had happened. “99!” denoted the presence of the big boss or an inspector (soda fountains were notoriously unhygienic and tended not to use soap when washing dishes).

But by the mid-1930s, Bentley observed, the hijinks and fast talk of the soda jerk were already on the wane. Whether or not the audience appreciated it, employers seem to have found the volleying calls of “belch water” and “dog and maggot!” hard to stomach. “Indeed,” he wrote, “the practice is frowned down in many fountains, particularly those owned or operated by large chain organizations or by department stores.”

RTWT

23 May 2018

Female Shooters

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Revolvers! They all look like .38s, and I bet these ladies are shooting Colt Police Positives and Official Police Double Actions, with tuned actions, stocks by Roper or Sanderson, and Dean King’s reflector sights.

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