Book Review: Addicted to Americana

When people ask me “Who inspires you?” they are usually wanting to know who my style icons are. While style icons are great and all, there are some people who really, truly inspire me on a much deeper level than just clothing, and those are the people who are dedicated to historic preservation. Perhaps one of the persons who inspires me the most is Charles Phoenix, the Ambassador of Americana, especially with his books, and he just published a new one, Addicted to Americana.

Charles Phoenix has perhaps one of the biggest personalities I have ever come across, along with being incredibly passionate about history, specifically mid-century America, and that is what makes him so incredibly fun and amazing. While Phoenix is a man of many hats, he is first and foremost a historian, but does it in the most creative of ways, with slide shows. Yes, you read right, slide shows. In his slide shows he shares various images from his vast collection of vintage Kodachrome slides, and if something from one of those slides still exists he tracks it down and goes there. He then shares pictures from these experiences in his slide shows, talking about what it was like to find the location or item, and the people he met along the way. Addicted to Americana follows this same format, making it like a published version of one of his slideshows.

Phoenix’s first book was called God Bless Americana and was inspired by his “Retro Vacation Tour Across the US” slide show, and was filled with images from his vintage Kodachrome collection. With the exception of one book, Americana the Beautiful (another published collection of Kodachrome slides), his next six books were location based, including Las Vegas, Southern California, and Hawaii, which included a combination of vintage images and ephemera. Addicted to Americana is a little different.

Addicted to Americana is a little more personal than Phoenix’s previous books. Phoenix starts out the book with a little background on himself, including his childhood spent at his dad’s used car lot and how he got started collecting vintage slides. The pages that follow are a kaleidoscope of both vintage images of locations from coast to coast, including theme parks, hotels, tourist traps, bowling alleys, World’s Fairs, restaurants, and the wild, futuristic modes of transportation that were dreamed up in the 50s and 60s, while also including contemporary photos of the places and things he has discovered in his slides. Many of these contemporary photos include Phoenix, basking in the mid-century glory he has just found. Phoenix has a masterful way of seeing a vintage image of something and then “playing detective” and tracking it down. His enthusiasm, even in text form, for these places, signs, and cars is contagious, and it instantly makes you want to hop in your car and go to every one of the still standing locations mentioned in the book. Additionally, there are hilarious little anecdotes that showcase Phoenix’s delightful personality, and his unique flair for preservation (my favorite is perhaps his saving of a vintage Sears sign.) These tales make the book all the more personal and enjoyable.

Not only is the book an excellent read, it is a very quick read. I read it cover to cover in one sitting, and the large pictures, and text of varying sizes make for a fun read.

If you love Americana, and are perhaps planning a road trip in the near future, I can’t recommend Addicted to Americana enough. I also highly recommend attending one of Charles Phoenix’s slideshows and buying his other books. You will not be let down in the slightest! You can learn about his upcoming events and buy Addicted to Americana, as well as his previous books, on his website.

Disclaimer: I was not approached by the author or publishers to do a review Addicted to Americana. I wrote this review of my own accord.

Palm Parlor

Over the weekend the ever lovely Cailey, aka Dole Whip Dame on Instagram, put together a little Disneybound event, where she encouraged her friends to be inspired by the Main Street shops and windows. I chose Fargo’s Palm Parlor, a window that honors Roland (aka Rolly) Fargo Crump, a Disney animator and Imagineer. Rolly Crump worked on such classic films as Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, and Sleeping Beauty, then went on to wok on attractions such as the Haunted Mansion, the Enchanted Tiki Room, and it’s a small world, specially, the Tower of the Four Winds, all attractions are depicted on his window designed as tarot cards, take a peek at the window here.

I love these sort of Disneybound ideas, because they really require you to think outside the box. Normally Disneybounding is character based, and involves color-blocking based on the character’s outfit, so it’s can be easy to come up with an ensemble. A building, window, or attraction allows for more freedom of interpretation. For this, I opted for a vintage Gunne Sax that was a pale shade of blue with white trim, like the building itself. I also loved the lace-up detail on the front, especially for this bound, as the location of the Palm Parlor was originally Hollywood Maxwell’s Corset Shop. You can see a picture of it here. I then added a purple scarf to tie in the purple details of the sign and window. Then I chose the bracelet-ring combo to reflect the hand, as well as the shawl, which featured both the color of the hand, and flowers. I was also thrilled that this event gave me an excuse to wear a Gunne Sax dress. These 70s and early 80s gems have been haunting me like mad lately. I simply adore them but I sometimes have a hard time choosing occasions to wear them! I really want to make a point of wearing them this year. Ha! I guess I just came up with a New Year’s resolution, even though I don’t do them!

Outfit
Shawl & Gunne Sax Dress: Found by my dad
Scarf: ???
Choker: Nordstorm Rack
Ring-Bracelet: Elsewhere Vintage, Orange, California
Boots: Marshall’s…like over ten years ago!

Old Trapper’s Lodge

Off the 101 lies Pierce College in Woodland Hills, and on its campus is a unique and downright bizarre sight, a collection of concrete sculptures depicting old west figures, along with a faux cemetery featuring rather colorful epitaphs. What is this exactly? Well, it’s the remains of Old Trapper’s Lodge.

Built in 1941 by a real life former trapper, John Ehn, Old Trapper’s Lodge was a motel with an old west theme. At some point in time he commissioned someone (legend has it Claude Bell of Knott’s Berry Farm and Cabazon Dinosaur fame) to build a statue of a trapper to catch the eye of motorists passing by. After watching the artist work he decided it didn’t look that hard, and began to create his very own statues. Ehn did this from 1951 until his death in 1981. Four years later in 1985, Ehn’s statues, a prime example of larger than life folk art, became a California Historical Landmark, however the motel itself was in the way of the Burbank airport, and while the motel was bulldozed, the statues were rescued and relocated to Pierce College. And over the weekend Patrick and I visited this crazy destination.

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Independence Day

Without getting too political, the last couple days have been rough, culminating in yesterday, with Independence Day. I’ve been getting back in touch with my love of the American Revolution, and recently took a quick visit to the replica of Independence Hall at Knott’s Berry Farm. Some of you may recall my visit last July, well, I had so much fun with that, I decided I wanted to have a tradition of doing 70s (because the fashion that emerged during the Bicentennial was amazing) inspired patriotic outfits and shooting them there around this time every year.

To learn more about Knott’s replica of Independence Hall, please check out my first post on it here. If you are in the Southern California area, I highly recommend visiting this unique attraction. It’s free to visit, and is open every day (except Christmas Day), from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

I hope all of my American readers had a wonderful and safe Independence Day!

Outfit
Dress: Red Light, Portland, Oregon
Shoes: Buffalo Exchange
Necklace: Junk 4 Joy, Burbank, California
Bracelet: Flea market

Knott’s Preserved

By now it’s no secret I have fallen head over cowboy boots in love with Knott’s Berry Farm. The literal farm turned theme park has one of the most unique, interesting, and classic American dream stories that there is. The book that helps tell that story best is Knott’s Preserved: From Boysenberry to Theme Park, the History of Knott’s Berry Farm.

With extensive research, interviews, and massive collection of vintage photographs and ephemera, co-authors Christopher Merritt and J. Eric Lynxwiler, weave a tapestry of berries, chicken, and a sudden theme park that sprung up as a result.

Walter Knott, along with his wife Cordelia, began their small berry farm in Buena Park in the 1920s, and eventually Knott cultivated an unnamed berry he acquired from Rudolph Boysen, who had long given up on the hybrid of blackberry, red raspberry, and loganberry. Walter took the plant and nurtured it, and soon it was producing large berries that were rich in flavor. Knott chose to name the berry the boysenberry, after Rudolph Boysen. Walter sold berries and other fruit from a small roadside stand, and a tea room was added where Cordelia sold sandwiches, rolls, jam, and fresh berry pie. It was really a family operation, as the Knott children helped in making the pies. When the Great Depression arrived, the Knott family looked for a way to raise their income, and one night in June of 1934 Cordelia did something that would change their lives and the southern California landscape forever, she made fried chicken.

Word spread that this was the best fried chicken, and very soon Cordelia’s Tea Room had regular customers, and long lines. Soon one of the Knott daughters, Virginia, began selling small gifts from a card table in the lobby to aid both income and in entertaining people awaiting tables, and in 1938, just four years after serving the first dinner, the restaurant saw its first expansion, and Virginia got her very own gift shop, which still bears her name to this day.

But guests were having to wait a rather long time to be seated. And Walter wanted to entertain them. With volcanic rock he ordered from Death Valley, Walter built a waterfall for guests to enjoy while waiting. He quickly followed up that project with another, a millstone vignette, where guests waiting were encouraged to sing “Down by the Old Mill Stream”. Then inspired by a trip to Mount Vernon, Walter recreated George Washington’s fireplace. These were the first “attractions” Walter built to entertain customers waiting to be seated, and guess what, these three attractions are still at Knott’s Berry Farm, and free to the public. They are also something I have wanted to share for awhile, and this book offers a nice way to introduce them.

Today, tucked behind the Berry Market (which is part of the larger Marketplace shopping center just outside the main gates of Knott’s Berry Farm) you can still find these three original attractions. So if you stop in for a bite at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant, be sure visit these hidden treasures.

But these small things couldn’t entertain the thousands that were flocking for a taste of Cordelia’s chicken, sometimes waiting over three hours, and soon Walter got the idea to pay homage to his grandmother, who came to California in a covered wagon. In 1940, construction began on what would become the Gold Trails Hotel, and would house a unique diorama depicting a wagon heading west. From this, Walter thought he needed more western buildings to give frame and context to the Gold Trails Hotel, and soon a real life Ghost Town sprung up! Here, guests could spent time as they waited for their tables at the Chicken Dinner Restaurant.

Soon Walter’s Ghost Town grew to have a life of its own, and buildings continued to be added, some of which were real buildings that he relocated to the property, others were built. Some of these buildings were called “peek-ins” as guests could literally peek in through the window and see a scene, like a barber giving a shave or card game being played at the sheriff’s office. These peek-ins were followed by panning for gold, a real antique train guests could ride, and before Walter Knott knew it, he had a full fledge them park. What is so wonderful is that Knott’s Preserved offers a perfect commentary on how each attraction was developed and added, and how the Farm had to change with the times, including stories I had never heard before. It also discusses the many hard working people who joined the Knott family with their project, including the self-taught wood-carver Andy Anderson who bought so many of the original peek-in characters to life, and artist Paul Von Klieben who designed buildings, painted gorgeous images for various locations, including the awe inspiring Transfiguration, which you can see and read about in my post about the Knott’s Berry Farm auction.

People came from all over southern California to visit. Patrick’s grandmother originally hailed from Nebraska before moving to California, and after marrying an Italian immigrant, she stuck to cooking Italian food for her family, but every once in awhile the family traveled to Buena Park from Burbank just for fried chicken and so she wouldn’t have to cook. My dad recalls visiting often (although from the much closer town of Downey), and I am lucky enough to have a handful of photographs from his visits (which I’m planning to share in a vintage Knott’s Berry Farm photograph post).  And stories like these aren’t at all uncommon as Knott’s Preserved shares.

Knott’s Preserved beautifully describes the path of Knott’s Berry Farm from its first steps as a simple farm, through the development of Ghost Town, and the later themed “land” and ride additions were made, not all of which were successful. I learned so much about the Knott family, long forgotten attractions, unrealized attractions, and how the Farm grew into what it is today, including the origins of Knott’s Scary Farm in 1973, and the unique addition of the Peanuts Gang in 1982.

For some, Knott’s Preserved will be a walk down memory lane, for others, like myself, it offers a wonderful glimpse into what Knott’s Berry Farm was once like. It is something any person interested in Knott’s Berry Farm should read.

Knott’s Preserved is available for purchase at Knott’s Berry Farm, both at stores inside the park, as well as Virginia’s in the Marketplace. It is also available for purchase through the the publisher’s website.

Disclaimer: I was not approached by the authors, publishers, or any employee of Knott’s Berry Farm to do a review Knott’s Preserved. I wrote this review of my own accord.

Vintage Reno Signs

I literally took thousands of photos on our road trip, 3322 to be exact. Most were of abandoned buildings and killer vintage signs, which are my two favorite things to photograph, and our road trip was full of them! So much so my photos are coming to you in three, yes, three, separate posts! First up I’m sharing the sights of Reno! Now, if you follow me on Instagram and checked out any of my stories while we were on the road, you may have seen me fawning all over some of these signs, and I am so happy to finally share them with you in all of their glory in this post!

Most of the signs you’ll see are from motels, and I’ve even included some images of the actual buildings if the building was cool too!

If you liked this, there will be another signage post in the near future! So stay tuned!

Diamonds are Forever Filming Locations

When Patrick and I decided to stop in Vegas on our way to Idaho, I suggested we stay at Circus Circus, as I am a fan of the James Bond film Diamonds are Forever, as the hotel is featured somewhat prominently in the film. Also we were able to visit two more filming locations that I thought would be fun to share as well!

I think it’s fair to note that when discussing filming locations, there will be some spoilers involved! So you have been warned!

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