Eric on The Road

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

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Milestone: Gros Bill stands tall at 75 (Montreal Gazette)

Classy former Canadien Beliveau marks milestone birthday with unmatched grace and giving

by RED FISHER, The Montreal Gazette, Published: Thursday, August 31, 2006 -

Where does it start with Jean Beliveau? His grace on and off the ice? His leadership? His dedication to winning? His caring? The aura about him that was unmatched by any of the great stars who played before him - or since? It's still there today - his 75th birthday.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Drive-Ins Make A Comeback (CBS Sunday Morning)

From CBS Sunday Morning:

Sunday, August 27 - Drive-in theaters, those beloved pop culture icons of yesteryear were nearly extinct, but are now making something of a comeback. Bill Geist spends some time in Texas to see the resurgence of the old-fashioned pastime in person.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

130 Years Ago Today (August 26, 1876)

August 26 · In 1876, Charles Hires introduced root beer to the world at the Philadelphia Expo.

Wacky Road Sign Contest (USA Today)

From USA Today:

All signs point to ... huh?
Posted 8/24/2006 By Jayne Clark, USA TODAY
The Burma Shave signs that peppered American highways with homespun wisdom in the first half of the 20th century exited long ago.
But keep your eyes open if you're hitting the road on Labor Day weekend. You're bound to spot plenty of roadside insights — both wise and otherwise.

Witness the submissions to the wacky road signs contest sponsored by Hagerty Collector Network, an insurer of collector vehicles. Among the 300 entries: To Go Left, Make Three Right Turns; Bottomless Pit: 65-Feet Deep; Entrance ONLY: Do Not Enter; and those pictured here. For a complete list:

Saskatoon Celebrates a Centennial

They're celebrating in Saskatoon.

There is a day full of activities at the Centennial Celebrations Weekend Bridge Party on August 26 at the Broadway Bridge. A family-focused program includes musical entertainment, family dance, food booths and vendors, a Bridge Tournament, a special flotilla of lanterns created by children (Lantern Launch) and fireworks at dusk.

The centennial being celebrated is when Saskatoon became a city in 1906.

The first permanent settlement of Saskatoon actually occurred before that in 1883 when Toronto Methodists, wanting to escape the liquor trade in that city, decided to set up a "dry" community in the rapidly-growing Prairie region. Their organization, the Temperance Colonization Society, first examined this area in 1882 and found that it would make an excellent location to found their community based on the ideals of the Temperance League. The settlers, led by John Lake, arrived on the site of what is now Saskatoon by travelling by railway from Ontario to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and then completing the final leg via horse-drawn cart (the railway had yet to be completed to Saskatoon). The plan for the Temperance Colony soon failed as the group was unable to obtain a large block of land within the community. Nonetheless, John Lake is commonly identified as the founder of Saskatoon; a public school, a park and two streets are named after him (Lake Crescent which was developed in the 1960s and Eastlake Avenue, which was originally named Lake Avenue on the first map of Saskatoon in 1883 but later changed for reasons unknown).

In 1885, several houses on 11th Street East were used as military hospitals during the North-West Rebellion. One house, the Marr Residence, is currently a heritage site run by the Meewasin Valley Authority. The first school, Victoria School opened for classes at the corner of 11th Street and Broadway Avenue in 1888. This small school, now called the "Little Stone Schoolhouse", now sits on the campus of the University of Saskatchewan. The Qu'Appelle, Long Lake and Saskatchewan Railway reached Saskatoon in 1890 and crossed the South Saskatchewan River, causing a boom in development on the west side of the river. In 1901, Saskatoon's population hit 113 and the community on the west bank of the river adopted the name "Saskatoon", while residents on the east side of the river adopted the name "Nutana". A third settlement, "Riversdale", also began just southwest of Saskatoon.

A town charter for the west side of the river was obtained in 1903 (Nutana became a village in that year).

Then, in 1906 Saskatoon became a city with a population of 4,500, which included the communities of Saskatoon, Riversdale, and Nutana

It is that event that is being celebrated with the centennial party.

Happy Birthday Saskatoon !

Passing: "Wally the Polka King"

Published: August 24, 2006
CHICAGO, Aug. 23 (AP) — Walter E. Jagiello, who recorded 110 albums as Lil’ Wally the Polka King and who gained fame as the co-writer of the Chicago White Sox fight song, died last Thursday in Miami Beach. He was 76.

Mr. Jagiello was a drummer and singer largely credited with creating the Chicago-style polka, characterized by a slower beat. He was the first musician inducted into the Polka Hall of Fame in Chicago.

As a musician, his sphere centered on a strip of Division Street on the North Side of Chicago, known during the 1940’s and 1950’s as Polish Broadway. At its peak, the North Side neighborhood had 50 polka clubs.

Mr. Jagiello hit Billboard’s charts with “Polish Polka Twist” and “I Wish I Was Single Again.” He sang fluently in both Polish and English and appeared on “The Lawrence Welk Show” several times.

In 1959 he was the co-writer of “Let’s Go, Go-Go White Sox,” the team’s fight song. It was recorded by Captain Stubby and the Buccaneers with the Lil’ Wally Orchestra and came back into use again last year.

He often said the highlight of his career was performing his song “God Bless Our Polish Pope” at the Vatican for Pope John Paul II.

Fried Green Tomatoes: A Taste of Old New Orleans (NPR)

By Gail Naron Chalew, August 23, 2006 - "After returning to New Orleans from nine months of post-Katrina exile in Baltimore, I bit into some fried green tomatoes, and life in this post-apocalyptic city seemed a bit sweeter, a bit less topsy-turvy, and a bit more carefree".

"Proust sure had it right: Tasting a familiar food can trigger instant memories of simpler, happier times...."

For more on green tomatoes (recipes too), go to:

Saturday, August 19, 2006

A Festival of Songs (and Culture) of the Sea with a French Flavor

During the course of the summer there are many festivals of the sea. Many feature old-time vessels, seafood, chowder, nautical artifacts and music of the sea (shanty music).

One this weekend (August 18-20) has those features, but also a little more. This one is called "La fête des chants de marins Français" and it takes place in the Chaudière-Appalaches region of Quebec.

Born of the oral tradition, sea chanteys were work songs sung on old-time sailing vessels. An event that's unique to North America (although similar festivals are common in Europe), La Fête des Chants de Marins (sea chantey festival) is part of the history of the Côte-du-Sud region, birthplace of several generations of sailors. Storytellers, singers, craftsmen, sailors, boating enthusiasts and ocean lovers gather to celebrate the many faces of maritime culture.

For information:
E-mail :
Telephone : 418-598-9993
Web site :

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Alberta Highlights Canada's Cowboy Culture

To some the idea of cowboy poets and cowboy artistry is relatively new and surprising. Let's add something else to the learning curve now: How about Canadian cowboys ?

Contrary to popular belief, cowboy culture is not purely an American phenomena. There is a heritage of cowboy and ranch culture north of the border that stretches centuries. A westward push, the role of the rails and not-always positive interactions with pre-existing inhabitants are part of the Canadian narrative too.

This weekend (August 18-20) the focus is on cowboy culture and artistry in Stony Point, Alberta at the 12th annual Cowboy Poetry, Music and Arts Gathering. The festival is dedicated to the preservation and presentation of traditional and contemporary Cowboy poetry, music and art. This year is the gathering with artists coming from all over North America.

There's a chuckwagon dinner/BBQ, bonfire sing-along. The Bud McKague Memorial Tall Tale Spinnin'' Reel will feature storytellers and "bold faced liars". There will be Grande Revue and a Sunday Morning Cowboy Church,and, of course, cowboy poets, pickers and singers on Saturday and Sunday.

You'll likely leave entertained, and with new insight into an important component of Canada's diverse cultural make-up.

Contact information:;
RR 1, Site 13, Box 13
Stony Plain, Alberta,
Canada, T7Z 1X8
Phone: 780-963-5998;

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

With Higher Costs & Lower Popularity, State Fairs Reaching a Crossroads (NYT)

From the New York Times:

State Fairs, Sagging, Arrive at County Crossroads
Published: August 16, 2006

Attendance has been dropping sharply in recent years at state fairs in the nation’s midsection, reports the New York Tiems in a front page article.

An auditor general’s report found that the Illinois fair spent millions of dollars more than it brought in last year, as it had in years past.

Elsewhere, the problems have grown severe enough to lead political leaders to question the spending of tax dollars to keep the fairs afloat.

“Nothing is forever,” said William M. Napoli, a state senator in South Dakota, where a legislative committee concluded this year that the state fair’s fate appeared bleak and where some lawmakers want it abolished.

“We’re trying to keep a dinosaur alive that’s probably outlived its purpose,” Mr. Napoli, of Rapid City, said.

For more see:

Passing: Esther Snyder, Founder of In-N-Out-Burger

From Associated Press:

IRVINE, Calif., Aug. 6 — Esther L. Snyder, who with her husband founded the popular West Coast restaurant chain In-N-Out Burger, died on Aug. 4. She was 86.

Esther and Harry Snyder opened the first In-N-Out drive-through stand in Baldwin Park, Calif., in 1948. In-N-Out now has 202 restaurants in Arizona, California and Nevada.

The Snyders’ business plan was simple: Serve fresh burgers in a drive-through restaurant using two-way speakers. While her husband ran the day-to-day operations, Mrs. Snyder was in charge of the books and occasionally helped in the kitchen by molding meat patties by hand and slicing tomatoes and onions.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Back to School in the 19th Century at Smithsonian (NPR)

An exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum looks at life around the schoolhouse in the 19th century. Susan Stamberg reports on NPR's Morning Edition. Her report can be found at

Friday, August 11, 2006

Ottawa's Lumiere Festival

The 3rd Annual Ottawa Lumière Festival is a chance to celebrate the magic and beauty of light. The Festival is a free evening of dazzling performers, magical lanterns, costumes and music.

It is being held Saturday, August 12 th, 2006 - 6:00 PM to 11:00 PM at Stanley/New Edinburgh Park (Off Stanley Avenue in New Edinburgh) in Canada's national capital. Everyone is welcome - Attendance is by donation.

At Lumière friends and neighbours carry glowing paper lanterns. Adults and children dress in costumes: dragons, wizards and fairies are everywhere. Live performers, including Shakespearean actors, professional fire spinners, dancers and acrobats, perform throughout the Park. There are "magical fairy dances", and a live butterfly release. One can attend a magical Lumière Ball, dancing in a magical lantern lit ballroom to music from a live big band.

Throughout August, the Lumière studio where you can come and attend a lantern making workshop. At workshops one has the choice of building and decorating one's own lantern (choose from a variety of lantern types) or working on some of the community lanterns that will be featured at the festival. There are also Lumière lantern workshops or lantern supplies for organizations. Additionally, lantern making parties are available. Info: (613)745-2742 or

Passing: TV Personality Mike Douglas Dies at 81

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Mike Douglas, whose affable personality and singing talent earned him 21 years as a television talk show host, died Friday on his 81st birthday.

"Mike Douglas was an old-fashioned traditionalist, holding down the fort while the culture was changing," said Robert Thompson, a professor and director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. "He was always the very friendly talk show host, nice to everybody. He would lean toward his guest as if he really cared. He owned that territory."

Tim Brooks, television historian and executive vice president of research for Lifetime Television Network, said Douglas was "an outgrowth on the 1950s mentality of politeness."

"Even when America was getting kind of angry in the 1960s and 1970s, his show was sort of an oasis of politeness," Brooks said. "It got you away from some of the turmoil in life."

Out of the Park: Corn Dogs and Cracker Jack (NPR)


In the '06 season alone, baseball fans at major league parks will eat enough hot dogs to stretch coast to coast, or 2,800 miles of wieners, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. And that's not taking into account the sausages, caramel popcorn and other treats going down the collective American gullet.

On opening day at Fenway Park in Boston, 5,000 bags of peanuts, 5,000 Italian sausages with peppers and onions, 1,700 gallons of soda, 1,300 bags of popcorn and 500 bags of cotton candy were sold. A baseball game and thousands of pounds of junk food; talk about a win-win.

Unfortunately, America's pastime has become associated with scandal and greed. Plus, the food has gotten fancy: Chinese chicken salad at Fenway, Caesar salad at Angel Stadium, and panini at RFK.

Freelance writer Betsy Block, a contributor to NPR, took matters into her own hands. So she invited a young baseball friend (10 years 0ld) over for a game and served the kids corn dogs and caramel popcorn in their seats -- the ones on our tacky but comfortable couch at home, that is. She writes:

"We could yell at the TV, jump up and down, shake our fists and generally act as if we were actually in the stands, while saving hundreds of dollars. Because like the fans wisely clustered around the sausage carts outside the park while the game rages within, we know that baseball may be good, but baseball eats are great".

Her recipes for "Summer Shack Corn Dogs" and "Homemade Cracker Jack-Style Caramel Popcorn with Peanuts" can be found at:

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

N.J. promotes unlikely eco-tourism site: Rehabiltated Meadowlands showcase nature (AP)

From Associated Press, as seen in USA Today:

By Janet Frankston, Associated Press Writer

NEWARK, N.J. — New Jersey's Meadowlands conjures images of swamps, burning landfills, industrial wasteland and, perhaps, the final resting place of Jimmy Hoffa.
Not to be deterred, the state is trying to make the area less than five miles west of Manhattan into a destination for tree-hugging tourists.

The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission plans Tuesday to release a 72-page color guide to bird watching and fishing in the Meadowlands and wildlife trails in the Hackensack River Watershed.

"The Meadowlands area is a hidden gem," Susan Bass Levin, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. "People don't think of it as a place for wildlife and birding, but it is."

State officials are trying to promote "eco-tourism" — conservation-minded outdoor travel — and generally identified more with lush, faraway destinations such as Costa Rica or the Galapagos Islands.

Pickin' The Crooked Road (USA Today)

From USA Today, Inside Travel, August 8, 2006:

Stretching across Virginia, the heritage music trail preserves old-time American music.

Virginia's Crooked Road is a 253-mile route that weaves through lush hemlock and hardwood forests, stitching together dozens of small-town venues in the region where old-time American music first took root.

It's one of a growing number of so-called U.S. heritage routes that play to travelers' desires to find authenticity and meaning in their meanderings.

"There is renewed interest in going beyond buildings and battlefield sites," says Alisa Bailey, head of the Virginia Tourism Corp. "The Crooked Road is more about where you can go and live the history — not just see the history."

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Perspective on Contemporary Acadian Music in New Brunswick

"A world deprived of music, culture, dance, literature, and paintings would be awful, abominable, and dreadful," says Danny Boudreau, an Acadian singer. "There exists no means of communication more effective than culture to promote a people."

This is even truer for the Acadian community of New Brunswick which now consists of 250,000 people at most. "I am convinced that one in two Acadians sings or earns a livelihood through music. Culture is very deeply rooted in Acadia. One in three homes includes a piano. Partying, singing, and making music come naturally and are passed on from generation to generation."

Danny Boudreau wishes for an image of Acadia that is less folk-oriented and more contemporary. "The two comments I hear most often are: 'Your music is not Acadian' and 'You don't have the Acadian accent!' What I am trying to share through my music is the air we breathe in Acadia. I don't have a fiddle, mine is not a folk-music approach, but I insist that my music is truly Acadian because I breathe the ocean air as do my songs."

Winnipeg's Folklorama: World's Largest Multi-cultural Event

From August 6 to 19, Winnipeg hosts the world's largest and longest running multicultural event.

From traditional home-cooked meals to electrifying nightly performances by local, national and international entertainers, Folklorama will create a feast for the senses as you experience 40-plus cultural pavilions. The event allows guests to sample exquisite cuisine and celebrate the culture and ethnic heritage of people from more than 60 countries (ranging from Africa to Metis to Cuba to the Ukraine) who have made Winnipeg their home. Each country has a certain location called a pavilion

There is no central site for the festival. Folklorama venues are spread throughout the entire city of Winnipeg in school auditoriums, arenas, curling rinks and cultural centres.

According to festival organizers,"There is something for everyone at Folklorama! With free admission for children 12 and under, it is a popular event for families with young children. But, we also offer sizzling entertainment and wide asortment of international food and beverages to delight visitors of any age".

For more, go to and click on the link "Folklorama Guide" on the left menu or on 'myfolklorama' for an interactive planner to create a customized itinerary.
The guide includes a brief description of each pavilion, hours of operation, showtimes and much more.

Every pavilion has a 35-45 minute show at the standard times of 6:45, 8:15 and 9:45pm

For more:

Last Rock rolls away from plant in Latrobe - Moving on to Newark

First heard on NPR (Scott Simon on Weekend Edition)- From Associated Press/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

'Rolling Rock is all I've known all my life'
Saturday, July 29, 2006

By Michael Cowden, The Associated Press

LATROBE -- A line of trucks idled outside the loading docks at Latrobe Brewing Co. yesterday morning. In a few hours, they would haul away some of the last cases of Rolling Rock beer brewed in Latrobe.

"It's over. It's done," said Larry Ewantis, who ran the receiving department for ingredients. "Now they're just cleaning up."

Known for its distinctive green bottle and quality pledge with a mysterious "33" at the end, Rolling Rock has been brewed here since 1939. But Belgium-based InBev SA, which owned Rolling Rock and Latrobe Brewing, sold the Rolling Rock brand to Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. for $82 million in May.

Anheuser-Busch plans to brew the beer in New Jersey beginning in August. The brewery in Latrobe was not included in the deal, and is expected to close Monday.

La Crosse, Wis.-based City Brewing Co. is negotiating to buy the brewery and produce other brands of beer here. Union workers at the brewery have voted to accept a contract with City Brewing.

Mr. Ewantis, 56, who has worked at Latrobe Brewing for almost 30 years, fears the brewery will be dismantled and sold for scrap if no deal is signed.

And if the brewery closes for good, the Latrobe native will lose a job and a family tradition. His late father, George, worked at Latrobe Brewing, and his brother Mike, 62, has worked there for 42 years.

"I went from a baby bottle to a beer bottle," said Mr. Ewantis, who could see the brewery from his bedroom window as a child. "Rolling Rock is all I've known all my life."

Friday, August 04, 2006

Cowboys and Realtors (Smithsonian Magazine)

"Even though wealthy newcomers are transforming Montana, residents still buy into a mythical idea of Big Sky Country— with unfortunate consequences..."

An essay in this month's Smithsonian Magazine, by Blaine Harden, a Seattle-based reporter for the Washington Post, wrote A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia.

On the Hobo Convention (Iowa) & Hoboes

Taking place the second weekend in August is The National Hobo Convention is a convention hosted in the town of Britt, Iowa (organized by the local chamber of commerce).

The event is highlighted by a parade, described as "Some in rags, some in tags, some in velvet gowns".

The Hobo Museum is open to the public, and the Hobo Jungle, where hoboes sleep, is open to the public.

This year's convention is August 10-12.

For more on the Hobo Convention, go to:


Origins of "Hobo" - Various Versions:

1. "Ho, beau" - Hello, good looking boy
2. "Houston & Bowery" - Manhattan Street Corner in what was once a down & out part of town
3. "Hoboken, New Jersey" - Origin and destination of many trains
4. "Homeward Bound" - Origins in soldiers returning after end of Civil War
5. "Hoe Boys" - Name given to migratory agricultural workers of the 18th century
6. "Hopping Boxcars"

Said to have first started after the Civil War, gained more prominence in the age of the railroad, height was during the Great Depression.

What's the Difference Between A Hobo, a Tramp and a Bum ?

Hobo: A migratory worker, some with a special skill or trade, others ready to work at a task, but always willing to work to make his way.
Tramp: A traveling non-worker, moving from town to town, but never willing to work for the handouts that he begs for.
Bum: The lowest class, one who is too lazy to roam around and never works.

Britt's Mulligan Stew

Twenty stew pots are used. They hold a total of:

450 lbs. beef
900 lbs. potatoes
250 lbs. carrots
35 lbs. green-red peppers
300 lbs. cabbage
100 lbs. turnips
10 lbs. parsnips
150 lbs. tomatoes
20 lbs. chili pepper
25 lbs. rice
60 lbs. celery
1 lb. bay leaves
24 gal. mixed vegetables
10 lb. kitchen bouquet flavoring
About 400 loaves of bread are served. The finished stew fills about 5,000 8-oz cups.

Mulligan of Happiness
Take a large bowl, fill it with sunshine. Add a bit of patience, faith and kindness. Sift a cup of romance with a teaspoon of sympathy, a teaspoon of forgiveness, moisten with a teardrop, adding tolerance, friendship along with ambition. Mix well with stardust, fold in imagination, place in a heavenly blue pan, bake well with the light of God's candle. Serve every day and it will bring you a mulligan of Happiness.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

New Battle at Gettysburg - Small Budget Has Left History Deteriorating (USA Today)


The battle at Gettysburg, 143 years later
Updated 8/2/2006 10:22 AM ET

By Kate McGinty, USA TODAY
GETTYSBURG, Pa. — Time and a tight budget are taking a toll on historic buildings and artillery pieces at one of the nation's bloodiest battlefields.

"You start to look around, and there's work everywhere that needs to be done. We just don't have the money or people to do those things," says Marc Pratt, acting chief of maintenance at Gettysburg National Military Park. "It's a red flag that we're getting behind, and it appears to be getting worse."

Nearly $50 million is needed to restore the park, the site of a fierce three-day battle in 1863, to its ideal condition, says Katie Lawhon, public affairs specialist at Gettysburg. That's about 37% above a 2001 estimate because the work is accumulating, she says.

For more, go to:

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Cracks May Force replacement of Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

From Associated Press:

Cracks on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are getting bigger. Though the Tomb is not in danger of crumbling the Arilngton National Cemetery is determine whether now is the time to patch the fissures or replace the marble altogether.

Cracks were first noticed in the 1940's but are said to have probably been there when the tomb first opened in 1932. By the late 1980's a steady had been done and it had been determined that the largest crack extended 28 feet.

The tomb has been patched, most recently in 1989, but a 1990 report concluded that the fissures would only get worse.

For a picture of the Tomb on more on this topic, see The New York Times, Wednesday, August 2, 2006, A-17.