Eric on The Road

Journeys into the offbeat, off the beaten path, overlooked and forgotten - by Eric Model

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Concern for Signs from the Past in Seattle & NYC

Came across an article raising concern for the future of a number of old neon signs in Seattle, such as the old Wonder Bread sign in the Central area which sits atop a bakery scheduled for demolition. Although an offer has been made to save the sign, there is a concern that it may be sold off piecemeal - especially the WB. Other classic signs in Seattle include the Post-Intelligencer newspaper "P-I" and the Elephant Super Car Wash. It is believed that Seattle preserved their neon inspired by the famous sign at the Pike Place Market which dates back to 1907.

In the same newspaper, one can read about an original terra-cotta model T-Ford medallion, circa 1922, at the Tunnel Garage in Manhattan that was uncovered in preparation of the garage 's demolition to make way for an eight-story apartment building. There is a movement afoot in the neighborhood near the Holland Tunnel to save the medallion, even if the building itself cannot be saved.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Passing of the Last Original of Preservation Hall

Wanted to share with you the news we saw the other day of the death of the last founding member of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Narvin Kimball, known for his vocal styling and banjo playing, died on March 17 at his daughters' home in Charleston, SC. He was age 97.

His death was confirmed by the publicist of the band, a New Orleans institution, and the local coroner. He and his wife, Lillian, had been staying with their daughters since shortly after Hurricane Katrina.

Mr. Kimball's vocal renditions of "Georgia on My Mind" always brought standing ovations, said Preservation Hall's director, Ben Jaffe, whose parents opened the hall in 1961. "He was really our last connection to a bygone time in the history of New Orleans," Mr. Jaffe said by telephone from New Orleans.

Mr. Kimball was the son of the bassist Henry Kimball, and he made his first banjo with a cigar box, stick and string. He began playing professionally in the 1920's on Mississippi riverboats with the Fate Marable Band. He made his first Columbia Records recording in 1928.

Mr. Kimball formed his own band, the Gentlemen of Jazz, and played around New Orleans for 40 years. He also worked for 37 years for the United States Postal Service.

He last played with the band in 1999 in a PBS performance. Not long afterward, Mr. Jaffe said, Mr. Kimball suffered a series of strokes that ended his banjo playing.

Mr. Kimball is survived by his wife, two daughters, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. (Source: Associated Press)

Heard on the Radio: The Fans They Left Behind

(More on a topic discussed on the radio)

Spring has come. The buds are about to burst. Birds migrate north. A new baseball season starts.

Nature does not change (OK, there is global warming). But "time-enduring" baseball today is quite different than baseball as I knew it growing up. Millionaire ball-players, billionaire owners, luxury boxes, steroids and more make you want to go back to what is simplistically and euphamistically described as "a more innocent time".

But come to think of it, in our new great global village of interactivity you can go back.

These days get my fix of baseball purity by starting at websites on about clubs that exist no more.

Recently The New York Times did a fine piece about the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society. More can be found at the April edition of The Letter From The Road newsletter at our website or at

Some other interseting resources for teams, once important, now departed include:

Botson Braves:

Milwaukee Braves:

Brooklyn Dodgers:

St. Louis Browns:

New York Giants:

Washington Senators:

Seattle Pilots:

Kansas City Athletics:

Montreal Expos : "Baseball Comes to Canada" - CBC Website

Also for the Expos and baseball in Montreal -

We hope to do more on this topic in the future. In the meantime, if you have anything you'd like to share with us on the topic, please do so. we'd love to hear more.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

"Take My 100th Birthday - Please"

Missed in all the headlines this weekend about NCAA basketball and the 3rd anniversary of the War in Iraq was a milestone birthday. We take time to note that Henny Youngman was born on March 16, 1906.

Born to Russian-Jewish parents who had immigrated to the United States but were living in England at the time, Youngman was known as the "King of the One Liners". His signature line, "Take My wife - please" was a laugh-getter for decades. Youngman started his career as a violin player in vaudeville. An impressed club owner hired him as a comedian. His career was launched by appearances on the Kate Smith radio program. Later, he gained new fame as a frequent guest on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. He died February 24, 1998 in New York.

Rites of Spring

Here is the information about some of the events mentioned on the radio this morning:

Buzzard Sunday, Hinckley, OH:

Snowman Burning, Lake Superior State University, Sault Ste. Marie, MI -

Nenana Ice Classic (Predicting when winter's ice will break up), Nenana, AK -

For more on some of these events and others you can go to our website at:

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Old Fashioned Building Billboard in the Lowcountry

Check out a great article in the Wed, March 15 "Dining Out" Section of the New York Times, F1, entitled " A Southern Star Rises in the Lowcountry - Charleston is proving itself as a new capital of regional cuisine", by R.W. Apple, Jr. The article by one of America's leading journalists (who has also written extensively on the topic of regional food around America) is entertaining. But this reason I call it to yopu attention is the great picture of an old-fashioned-style building billboard at the Hominy Grill in Charleston. There is a great picture of a classic mid-20th century waitress holding a tray with grits. Also on the billboards read the words "HOMINY GRILL...Grits are Good for you....Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner". It's worth a look.

By the way, we do not want to regional or provincial. It is the New York Times that is delivered to our front door, and NPR to our ear for news before we look elsewhere on the net. If you have sources and particular stories that you belief deserve attention (and keep us from the dreaded northeast bias), please let us know. We want to stay on the straight and narrow NATIONAL road (Canada too).

Monday, March 13, 2006

Heard on the Radio: The Long & Short of Small & Short St Patrick's Day Parades

While preparing a radio feature about St. Patrick's Day, I did a Google search last week seeking info about the "Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade". I had recalled hearing about a town in Missouri claiming the distinction, and wanted to contrast that shortest parade to their more conventional counterparts in places such as New York.

Interestingly, my Google revealed that these days a number of communities claim to be host to the "Smallest St. Patrick's Day Parade". I wanted to get to the bottom of this confusing and potentially explosive issue.

One of the locations was in Ireland, and we leave that to a separate discussion (mainly because I was not about to start making phone calls to Ireland to find out how along a parade was).

Here's what our domestic investigation found:

* Boulder, CO - What is touted as "The World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade" is one block long. Event organizers, Conor O'Neill's, said they did not know how long it was - they repeated that it was a block long. "No one has ever asked before - besides we're very busy right now with lunch", deflected an event spokesperson. The Boulder event took place before St. Patrick's Day, Sunday March 12 and turned into a street festival after the parade including childrens' games, Irish pipe bands and dancers. There was also a bake off using "Irish" spirits promoted by the restaurant.

* Hot Springs, AR - "The First Ever Third Annual World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day" takes place on St. Patrick's Day. It features unique floats and entries such as the world's largest leprechan, Irish Belly Dancers and the Irish Order of Elvi (Elvis Presley look-alikes). The parade takes place on Bridge Street in downtown Hot Springs. There are green fireworks, and an event spokesperson says that over 8,000 turn out. By the way, that event spokesperson also said that the length of the parade is one block, measuring out 98 feet.

* Enterprise, AL - "The Smallest St. Patrick's Day Parade" - 1,000 feet long - too long in length but it is indeed the smallest - just one pereon. That one person is the Grand Marshal. Others are invited to pay a nominal fee to be "honorary grand marshals". Many do so. In the age of the internet, requests come from all over.

* Blue Springs, MO - "The Shortest and Smallest" is in fact the longest running (29 years) and aparrently the acutual shortest (66 feet). Don't know about the smallest - from here it looks like Alabama has it. The parade in Blue Springs begins at Lillian's Floral Design/Soda Jo's in the old Lowe's Drugstore at 112 West Main. The parade, on St. Patrick's Day, ends directly across the street at the Gridiron Lounge, 1123 W. Main. Ther are coffee and donuts before, and a celebration following.

The winners:
Shortest: Blue Spring, MO
Smallest: Enterprise, AL
Fun: All.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The cathedral of hockey - Remembering the Montreal Forum and a fallen hero

I love my wife. I love my family. I love the Montreal Canadiens - at least what the Canadiens represented before the era of big business, millionaire players, billionaire corporate owners and teams in Florida, Anaheim and Tennessee.

Tonight, March 11, the Canadiens retired the number of Bernard (Boom Boom) Geoffrion. The event was scheduled last year as part of the ramp up to the Canadiens 100th anniversary celebration in 2009.

The event was a long time in coming. Geoffrion retired as a player 1968 and was admitted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972. Unfortunately, the overdue honor came a little late. Geoffrion died this morning at age 75 of stomach cancer in a hospital in Atlanta.

The news of Geoffrion's cancer was disclosed early this week. Through the week, one kept hearing of Geoffrin making every effort to make it to Montreal to see his number hoisted to the top of the Bell Centre. His family was going to be flown into Montreal as well. He didn't make it.

When the news hit on mid-day Saturday, the Canadiens announced that they would go ahead with plans to retire Geoffrion's No. 5 before their game with the New York Rangers at the Bell Centre. Geoffrion's wife Marlene, children Linda, Robert and Danny and his grandchildren all made the trip to Canada for the ceremony. Emotions ran high in a stirring ceremony.

In addition, by chance, tonight also marked a number of momentous anniversaries in Montreal.

It was on this date, March 11 in 1937 that Geoffrion's father-in-law, the great Howie Morenz (whose retired number 7 also hangs from the rafters of teh Bell Centre) died.

Today also marked the tenth anniversary of the last game in the Montreal Forum, March 11, 1996. It was a night the torch was literally passed from captain to captain in an equally stirring closing ceremony. The highlight was a moving moment of reconciliation and honor as fans showered Maurice "The Rocket" Richard with their love and admiration with a 10 minute plus ovation.

To those who know or care nothing about hockey or popular culture in Canada this might not mean much. But to those who understand, you'll know what I mean when I say that the Forum was much more than a building with a hockey rink.

The venerable columnist Red Fisher captured it best. Fisher first started covering the Canadiens in 1955 for the old Montreal Star and over the many years has become a living institution. He continues to write today for the Montreal Gazette, all be it on a more limited basis.

What he wrote of was about more than hockey. Here is some what is found in that column:

"....The Forum was so much more than a building. It was warm. It was caring. It had character, far more than the elephant-sized cold lump of concrete and glass that is the Bell Centre, where loudis good and outrageous ear-shattering music is better - all in the guise of marketing.
The reality is that nothing can replace the Forum, because it was much more than a building for so many of us. It was a second home to the people who worked there, to the well-dressed men bobbing up and down under their fedoras and to the women wearing their Sunday best on so many Saturday nights. And like the second home it was, the Forum reached out to people. It welcomed them. It embraced them. It was open to them. They were made to feel at home in their second home."

"For Montrealers, hockey always has been more than just a game. It is our hopes, our dreams, our culture, our national identity. And nowhere was it played with more success and more passion than at the Forum...."
You can find the full article in today's Montreal Gazette Sports Section. Thanks Red for remembering and for putting into words what was and remains so important a part of my conciousness, though the Forum as we once knew it is long gone.
For at least for a while today the era of the old Forum, Bernie Geoffrion and his teammates, and life as it once was felt very real. We honor them all.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Vermont Town Meeting Day

As happens every first Tuesday in March, across Vermont folks assembled last week and engaged in that most democratic exercise - town meeting day.

Most features, mine included, tend to speak about Town Meeting Day in the most general of terms, and probably in too romantically a way - making it look like a moving Norman Rockwell painting. But these images are quite powerful indeed, so there's the tendency to want to go no further than the town hall buildings, the pretty towns, the pot luck lunches, and the town regulars who make Town Meeting Day so important.

But there is more.

A good place to get a real feel for the tradition of the Vermont Town Meeting, and where it stands today is by going to Vermont Public Radio's website: There you can find a network made documentary produced by Steve Delaney, formerly from "Monitor Radio", the old Public Radio program from the Christian Science Monitor. The program is called "First Tuesday in March". I would welcome your thoughts about the program, just where Town Meeting Day stands in Vermont, and should what they do in Vermont even matter to the rest of us ?

The cite for the site:

Why this blog

For years I have been writing and speaking about things of the beaten path. For the most part these efforts have consisted of reports about festivals and events around the United States and Canada.

This blog adds a new more personal dimension.

It is a place to comment about the events or news that I write and speak about. It can be more free flowing. It is as much about prompting thought and dialogue as it is about information and entertainment. We do not here attempt to capture the essence of what is "On The Road", but rather what is on our mind about what is "On The Road".

As in our prior efforts, "The Road" of which we speak is as much a perception as it is a reality. I tend to be an armchair traveler as much as a physical traveler. Moreover, these journeys area apt to be in places and times in the past, and to some places I have never been to. Others may be to places as physically elusive as one of my favorite spots: Lake Wobegan.

So, we hope you fasten your seat beat and join us on these occasional journeys. What I also hope to enjoy about this blog is that there are no regular editions - there need not be a no posting every week or every month. However, given all the thoughts kicking aroubd the recesses of this mind, I am likely going to want to visit often. But this is probably as close as I am ever going to feel to be retired - you know the person who can get up whenever they want, go where ever they want, and do whatever they want to do. Here I am free to post when I wish and go where I please - that is until one of the kids calls me to take me away from the keyboard - and I am brought back to the reality of everyday life in New Jersey.

But in the meantime, "Happy Motoring !".