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Book Review: Your Sheep are all Counted South of the Border Billboards

South of the Border

Capelotti, P.J. Your Sheep are all Counted: A Roadside Archaeology of South of the Border Billboards. Pelham, AL: Whitman Publishing, LLC, 2022. Foreword by Stephanie Stuckey. 266 pages, 253 pages of text, color photos, index, bibliography, ISBN 9780794849771, $29.95.

The road trip. It’s as American as well, a Stuckey’s pecan log roll. For travelers on US-301, now part of I-95, South of the Border was, and still is, a destination unto itself. Whether you were headed north or south, dozens of billboards bombarded your senses making it difficult to not stop at the Hamer, South Carolina attraction.

 

If the road weary family needed food, drinks (alcoholic or non), a hotel room, a campsite, gas, a place for the kids to run around and get some energy out, or maybe just a good laugh at the crass commercialism of the entire place, South of the Border made for the perfect stopping place.

South of the Border
Welcome to South of the Border

South of the Border was the brainchild of Alan Schafer, an entrepreneur with a mind for marketing that comes along only rarely. Schafer opened South of the Border in 1949 as a small outlet to sell beer in response to a ban on alcohol in Robeson County, North Carolina. Thus, the name “South of the Border.” The border of North and South Carolina.

Over the years the highway system around the business changed and South of the Border grew to fill the needs of travelers. Schafer added hotel rooms and camping sites, restaurants, souvenir shops, playgrounds, and more. Putting the attraction into perspective, Capelotti states, “At more than 1,200 acres, it is more than seven times the size of Walt Disney’s original Disneyland in Anaheim, California—a roadside empire built on a bottle of beer.” (Page 2)

In addition to the roadside attraction came the advertising, the focus of this book. In this excellent book, Capelotti presents the reader with a story of several hundred images of billboards that made South of the Border famous. These images have been captured from South of the Border archives, photos from the John Margolies collection at the Library of Congress, and finally searching for and photographing billboards still in the wild; an ordeal that is not without a bit of danger due to the increases in traffic.

In a forty-year career, John Margolies created what the Library of Congress calls “one of the most comprehensive documentary studies of vernacular commercial structures along main streets, byways, and highways throughout the United States in the twentieth century.” At nearly 12,000 slides, the collection is enormous in its depth and quality. You can read a bit more about the Margolies collection on the LoC blog.

You Never Sausage a Place
You Never Saw Sausage a Place Courtesy Library of Congress

Capelotti puts forth that a reason for the success of South of the Border and for the billboard advertising is that Alan Schafer never allowed the business to be taken too seriously. The author points out that one of Schafer’s billboard trademarks was to make fun of himself, his products, and at times, his customers. An example provided is “He abbreviated South of the Border as S.O.B. and left the passing motorist to attach whatever meaning as might come to mind.” (Page 7)

The author breaks his book into chapters by billboard theme which works very well, allowing the reader to see the evolution of SOTB design. In short, but heavily illustrated chapters, Capelotti allows his reader to explore the evolution, and importance, of the billboard. As we are reminded, advertisers have only a few brief seconds to catch the attention of a driver speeding along the interstate. It is important for them to grab your attention and leave a lasting impression. South of the Border has been an expert at that for seventy years.

The billboards went through various theme changes such as a black background, a yellow background, the use of sombreros and serapes, and changes to the beloved mascot, Pedro, who evolved in appearance throughout the years but continues to make appearances. While there were changes, there has been a consistency as well. The use of bright colors, a familiar and repetitive font style, a heavy reliance on puns (often with double entendre), Pedro, and the famous mileage counter. This mileage counter made sure travelers could not miss the attraction.

Camp Pedro
Camp Pedro Courtesy Library of Congress

Shafer was known for his word play with a great example pitting north versus south. An early example started life as “Southern Cookin’, Yankee Prices” playing on stereotypes of Southern speech and Yankee cheapness. When this slogan finally made it to the public sight it had been toned down a bit to “Southern Cookin’, Yankee Style.” The point was still driven home, and if you didn’t get it, the use of both Union and Confederate flags would reinforce the meaning. In one billboard that was still fighting the Civil War, a clearly nervous Pedro, in full Mexican regalia, stands to the left looking at the flags out of the corner of his eye with a concerned smile. (page 57)

 

 

This is a fun book, but one also with historical importance. The billboard has evolved and is now often the home of competing legal firms (For the People). Electronic billboards make what was never meant to be permanent, even more fleeting. South of the Border has a nostalgic feeling for anybody who travelled south (to an extent north, but mostly south), along the east coast of America. Those road trips to Florida would not have been the same without South of the Border. Both the book and the attraction are recommended!

For those interested in even more history of this cultural icon; the American Road Trip, I recommend the following titles:

Don’t Make Me Pull Over! An Informal History of the Family Road Trip  See my review here.

Ratay offers “an amiable guide…fun and informative” (New York Newsday) that “goes down like a cold lemonade on a hot summer’s day” (The Wall Street Journal). In hundreds of amusing ways, he reminds us of what once made the Great American Family Road Trip so great, including twenty-foot “land yachts,” oasis-like Holiday Inn “Holidomes,” “Smokey”-spotting Fuzzbusters, twenty-eight glorious flavors of Howard Johnson’s ice cream, and the thrill of finding a “good buddy” on the CB radio.

 

 

Stuckey’s

Beginning as a single roadside stand selling pecans in Eastman, Georgia, by the 1950s, the name Stuckey’s was synonymous throughout the South with candy, souvenirs, clean restrooms, and the other necessities of automobile travel. During the 1960s, the Stuckey’s stores moved into the new frontier of the interstate highways, where quite often they sat alone at the exits like oases in the middle of a desert. Their bright aqua-colored rooftops were a welcome beacon for those who had been driving long distances. Travel has changed a lot since then, but Stuckey’s can still be found along the nation’s highways, still providing dozens of types of candy and nuts, plus the same mix of souvenirs, as always. Anyone need a rubber alligator or a pecan log?

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click these links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. This commission does not affect any price that you pay. All views and opinions provided are my own and are never influenced by affiliate programs or sponsors providing products.

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Society of American Travel Writers Monument at the Casements in Ormond Beach, FL

Society of American Travel Writers monument

Society of American Travel Writers Monument

Leroy Collins
Leroy Collins shown in his days as a Senator. Photo courtesy State Archives of Florida

On November 14, 1956, Florida Governor Leroy Collins welcomed the National Association of Travel Organizations at the Ellinor Village Country Club. It was there that morning on which the National Association of Travel Writers was organized. The NATW adopted bylaws, a constitution, and elected officers. Peter Celhers was elected as the first president.

The groups met with sessions such as “A Guided Tour of Florida,” “How to Sell Travel,” and more.

Now known as the Society of American Travel Writers, the national group has over 1,000 total members. SATW members are classified into one of four geographic areas and also assigned one of three councils based upon profession.

SATW operates upon a published set of core values including ethical standards, diversity, respect for individuals, respect for culture, and sustainability.

In June 1999 the Central States chapter of SATW met in Daytona Beach, welcomed by a $55,000 incentive package from the Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. An additional $30,000 worth of promotional goods and services were donated by local businesses.

The DBACVB considered funding the visit of sixty travel writers a wise investment based upon the potential publicity in magazines, newspapers, and books. (Remember, the internet and social media had not blown up in the manner they have today.) Susan McClain, the communications director for the bureau stated, “The main message we’re presenting is that we are rejuvenating Daytona Beach and we want to attract more families.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The visitors were treated to tours of facilities such as Museum of Arts and Sciences, Jackie Robinson Ballpark, Ocean Walk (at the time under construction), LPGA golf courses, and other tourist friendly sites.

One visit of interest was a return to the Ellinor Village site where the organization had been formed forty-three years prior. To commemorate both the formation of the organization and the recent visit, SATW was able to install a small bronze on coquina plaque on the grounds of The Casements in Ormond Beach. The plaque reads

Society of American Travel Writers monument in Ormond Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

Society of American Travel Writers

In 1956, the Society of American Travel               

Writers was formed at Ellinor Village,                                                           

two miles south of the Casements. This oak tree

was planted on June 3, 1999, in conjunction

with the Central States Chapter meeting of

SATW in Daytona Beach to recognize the

founding of North America’s largest

organization of professional travel journalists

 

Want to be a travel writer? Take a look at How to be a Travel Writer by Don George.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click these links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. This commission does not affect any price that you pay. All views and opinions provided are my own and are never influenced by affiliate programs or sponsors providing products.

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Chocolate Museum and Cafe in Orlando Florida

Chocolate Museum and Cafe

Chocolate Museum and Café

11701 International Drive Orlando, FL 32821

Chocolate Museum and Cafe
Chocolate Museum and Cafe–located on International Drive in Orlando, FL

Who doesn’t love good chocolate? I am not talking about the kind you get at the local convenience store but rather hand crafted pieces made from the highest quality beans. OK, I know there are a few of you out there but for the rest of us, the Chocolate Museum and Café can be a heavenly experience. Expensive, but heavenly.

Located in the tourist heavy International Drive area of Orlando, the Museum and Café are just that. A museum and a café. Calling it a museum may be stretch, particularly for those with any kind of museum or history background. More what you have is a collection of items with little explanation or interpretive work. Visitors will mostly rely on their tour guide to provide information on what is displayed. You can visit the two parts of the attraction without the other though the museum tour is really a sales pitch for the café.

When you walk in you are greeted with display cases of beautifully molded chocolates and sweets. If you have not pre-bought your tour ticket, you pay here. The tour is not cheap at $17 for adults. I highly recommend watching Groupon for discounted tickets. That is where we go ours. With that and the sales offers Groupon regularly displays I believe our tickets were below $10 apiece. Much more reasonable and really, much more in line with what I might expect to pay for a tour that lasts around 45 minutes.

Your Tour Guide
Your Tour Guide provides background and introductory information

Your tour begins with a casually dressed guide leading you to a short video presentation then taking you into the “jungles” where you will learn about the cacao plant.

In the next room, you will learn about the history of chocolate and how this delicacy was discovered, so to speak. Chocolate has not always been a favorite taste and you will learn more here as to how it has developed over time.

Chocolate Making Equipment
Some early equipment that was used to make chocolate candies

Have you ever wondered how chocolate candies are made? The next room features displays of machinery used to create some of the most famous candies in the world.

Next, visit the chocolate sculpture room, where you will encounter the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, Easter Island, Taj Mahal, Mount Rushmore, the Great Wall of China, and much more, all carved out of chocolate. It really is amazing what these artisans can create.

A Chocolate Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore recreated in chocolate
Eiffel Tower made of chocolate
The Eiffel Tower made of delicious chocolate
Great Wall of Chine made of chocolate
The Great Wall of China or should it be the Great Wall of Chocolate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, the tasting! Here your guide will prepare each visitor a small sampling of various chocolates where you will learn how different manufacturing techniques lead to differing tastes. SURPRISE! All the samples you just tried are for sale right outside as you step back into the lobby area.

Samples
At the end of your tour, sample some chocolates that are available for purchase
Display Cases loaded with chocolate from around the world
Display cases to tempt visitors with chocolates from around the world

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The café offers a wide variety of chocolates made on site and from artisan chocolate companies. If you are looking for a snickers bar, head on down the road.

The café features a large assortment of coffee drinks, baked goods, pastries, sandwiches and gelatos. I will tell you, the hot chocolate is delicious and the gelatos were amazing. We did not try any of the sandwiches but we did indulge with several pieces of chocolate to go. As would be expected, prices are not cheap and your bill can add up quickly.

We had a good time even though from a “museum” point of view it fell flat. I would not recommend this for families however. It is not a cheap visit and kids probably will not grasp the difference between these chocolates and a Hershey bar. It is good for a couple’s afternoon out or maybe with a few friends.

The museum and café are open noon until 6 p.m. every day. Museum tours begin at 1 p.m. and run every hour with the last tour at 5 p.m.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click these links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. This commission does not affect any price that you pay. All views and opinions provided are my own and are never influenced by affiliate programs or sponsors providing products.

Chocolate for Beginners
Chocolate in Mesoamerica: A Cultural History of Cacao
Great Moments in Chocolate History w/ 20 Classic Recipes
Chocolate Wars


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Bataan-Corregidor World War II Monument in Kissimmee, Florida

The fall of Bataan and Corregidor in the Philippine islands to Japanese forces were arguably the
worst defeats of United States forces during World War II.

General Douglas MacArthur. Photo courtesy Library of Congress

In VERY simplified form, General Douglas MacArthur and his troops in the Philippines were tasked with holding back the advancing Japanese Imperial Army. Their objective was to keep Japan out of the American territory of the Philippine Islands.

General MacArthur consolidated his troops on the Bataan Peninsula where a combined force of American and Filipino troops were able to hold back the onslaught of Japanese troops for three months, a crucial delay to the plans of Japanese leadership.

After escaping Corregidor during the night of March 12, 1942, General MacArthur later uttered his famous “I Shall Return” speech, a promise he made good on in 1944.

On April 9, 1942, Bataan fell. Major General Edward P. King surrendered the allied troops to Major General Kameichiro Nagano, beginning what would become a further nightmare for the already hungry and weary troops. The surrender of Bataan would lead to the surrender of Corregidor less than a month later.

A Map Showing the Route of the Bataan Death March

It was at this point, where Japanese soldiers ordered their prisoners into a series of marches that collectively are known as the Bataan Death March. This march was approximately 65 miles with little to no food and water.

Online sources vary as to the number of prisoners and to the number who perished. A good estimate as to the number of prisoners forced into the march is 75-80,000 combined U.S. and Philippine troops. Death estimates from the forced march and conditions at Camp O’Donnell range to as high as 20,000 soldiers.

The Monument

Fast forward to the 1990s in the city of Kissimmee, FL. In 1991, the city approved the project and dedicated a quarter acre plot at Monument Avenue and Lakeshore Boulevard for the erection of a memorial honoring those who served in the Philippines during World War II. The men who spearheaded the project were former Kissimmee City Commissioner Richard Herring and resident Menandro de Mesa who founded the Bataan-Corregidor Memorial Foundation. The Foundation set a goal of raising the roughly $125,000 needed for the creation and installation of the monument. The Osceola County Tourist Development Council contributed $10,000 toward the goal.

A Tribute to Courage
A Tribute to Courage

Sculptor Sandra Mueller Storm received the commission to create the haunting memorial. Storm is a renowned artist with multiple large commissions to her credit including “The Courage to Challenge” in Vierra, FL, “Called to Serve” in Hillsboro, KS, and “Melody of Arts” in Panama City, FL. Her work is featured in major collections throughout the country. In discussing her work she stated, “I think my major strength as a sculptor is the intensity of my involvement in what I create in bronze and the emotional impact my sculptures have on those who view them. Teaching sculpture for many years has also showed me how art can change lives, especially of children and the elderly.”

General Bruce Holloway who gave one of the speeches at the monument dedication. Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force

On Saturday, May 20, 1995, a day in which Florida spring rains would not hold off, the city unveiled the life sized bronze statue to a crowd of several hundred. The program included a wreath laying, and keynote speeches from Philippine Brigadier General Tagumpay Nanadiego and retired United States General Bruce Holloway.

The statue features three figures huddled together showing the pain and desperation of the march. The scene depicts a Filipina woman offering care and water to two soldiers, one Filipino and the other American.

Dedication Plaque
Dedication Plaque for the Bataan-Corregidor Memorial at Lakefront Park in Kissimmee, FL

 

 

 

 

 

 

The text of the dedication plaque reads:

This monument is dedicated to the Americans and Filipinos who served in defense of democracy in the Philippines during World War II, especially in Bataan and Corregidor and on the infamous death march.

Photos of the monument

A View of the Full Monument
Detail of the Pain Soldiers and Civilians Felt
Anguish on the Face of a Filipina Woman Providing Water to Philippine and U.S. Soldiers
Pained Soldiers Who Were on the Bataan Death March Receiving Water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964

 

 

Resources

For those wanting to learn more about the Philippines in World War II there are many excellent resources to consider. I recommend taking a look at the titles below.

Bataan Death March A Survivors Account
The Bataan Death March: Life and Death in the Philippines During World War II

Triumph in the Philippines


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click these links and make a purchase, I may receive a small
commission. This commission does not affect any price that you pay. All views and opinions provided
are my own and are never influenced by affiliate programs or sponsors providing products.

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The Legend of Spook Hill in Lake Wales, FL

An old black and white image, complete with a mischievously smiling ghost,
announces Spook Hill to drivers with the following improbable legend.

Courtesy Florida Memory

Many years ago an Indian village on Lake Wales was plagued by raids of a huge gator. The chief, a great warrior, killed the gator in a battle that created a small lake. This chief was buried on the north side. Pioneer mail riders first discovered their horses laboring down the hill, thus naming it “Spook Hill.” When the road was paved, cars coasted up hill. Is this the gator seeking revenge, or is the chief still trying to protect his land??? Stop on white line, take your car out of gear, and let it roll back.

 

 

Lake Wales

Located in Lake Wales, Florida, a town of around 17,000 in Polk County, Spook
Hill has been confusing, astounding, and frightening visitors since at least the
1950s.

Lake Wales itself is unique in that it is built upon what is now called the Lake
Wales Ridge. This 150-mile long ridge contains some of the highest geological
spots in Florida. During the period when Florida was submerged underneath the
Atlantic Ocean, this ridge often rose above the waters as a series of islands.

In the early years of settlement, the area remained largely uninhabited. This was
due to the difficulties in reaching the area. The elevation, along with a lack of
roads and railroads, allowed the area to remain immune to the development
occurring along the coastlines. The area was prime for human habitation however.
Wide-open lands were perfect for agriculture and cattle while abundant forests
provided timber and turpentine.

In 1879, a surveyor by the name of Sidney Irving Wailes, named a small lake in
the area Lake Wailes. By 1911, the economic potential of the land was better
understood and the Lake Wales Land Company was founded by a group of four
businessmen.

Changing the name from Wailes to Wales, these men set out to establish a lakeside
community that would develop from exploiting the lands. By 1912, the turpentine
industry was rapidly growing and the developers worked to create infrastructure
around the fledgling operation. A school and the Hotel Wales were soon
constructed helping attract visitors and permanent residents.

In less than a decade, the Lake Wales area was unrecognizable to those who might
have seen the area at the turn of the century. The citrus industry exploded,
providing jobs for many and wealth to a few. Attractions such as Bok Tower
Gardens helped attract tourists.

Bok Tower
Courtesy Florida Memory

Bok Tower Gardens is named for Pulitzer Prize winning author Edward William
Bok. Bok was editor of Ladies Home Journal and was a leader in promoting social
causes while also championing the Arts and Crafts style of architecture. Opened to
much fanfare in 1929 by Calvin Coolidge, Bok Gardens proved popular with the
Tin Can Tourists of the day.

Today, the property located at the highest elevation in Florida, encompasses more
than 130 acres. The primary attractions are the Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.
designed gardens and the singing tower, designed by architect Milton B. Medary.
Admission to the park is less than $20 for those ages 5+. Admission to El Retiro, a
twenty room home, 1930s Mediterranean style mansion that was acquired by the
Bok Tower Foundation in 1970 requires a separate admission fee. The Gardens
were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and El Retiro was
added in 1985.

 

Want to learn more about the beautiful area of Lake Wales? Take a look at this book from the Arcadia Publishing, Images of American series.  

Pirate Legend of Spook Hill

Barney’s Tavern, the creator of a Spook Hill legend. Courtesy Florida Memory

As might be expected, there are numerous legends regarding Spook Hill in addition to the gator fighting Indian chief. Many years ago, the local restaurant Barney’s Tavern published a leaflet claiming to tell the “real” story of Spook Hill. Barney’s claimed that pirate with the clever name of Captain Gimme Sarsparilla retired to Lake Wales. Pirate Teniente Vanilla joined the Captain upon his retirement.

The legend continues that when Vanilla died he was buried at the foot of Spook Hill and Sarsparilla ended up at the bottom of Lake Wales. Centuries later, a man parked his car at the bottom of Spook Hill so that he could go fishing. He just happened to park on the unmarked grave of Vanilla. The eternal slumber of Vanilla now disturbed, he called out to Sarsparillia for help who rose from his underwater grave and pushed the car off Vanilla’s resting spot. If you stop at the bottom of Spook Hill, the same will happen to your car.

The real reason behind Spook Hill

The Legend of Spook Hill
Image courtesy Florida Memory

The true explanation is much less fanciful and quite a bit more boring. According to the National Register of Historic Places application for Spook Hill, this is what is known as a gravity hill optical illusion. Here, the southern end of the site is at the start of a shallow upwards incline along North Wales Drive. The incline becomes steeper moving toward Burns Avenue. The transition point from shallow to steep is marked as the starting point. Here, while facing north on the one-way street, a driver is to put their car into neutral, and slowly roll backwards downhill while they feel as if they are being pulled uphill. The illusion is caused by the geography of the area. The view of the horizon is blocked by the higher hill.

 

 

Is Spook Hill Unique?

Lake Wales is not unique in having a Spook Hill. Other similar locations have been
documented such as Confusion Hill in Pennsylvania; Gravity Hill in Maryland; and
Mystery Spot in Michigan.

If you have ever visited Spook Hill, please leave a comment and let me know what you thought.

Want a Spook Hill postcard of your own? Check out these options on ebay!

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click these links and make a purchase, I may
receive a small commission. This commission does not affect any price that you pay. All views
and opinions provided are my own and are never influenced by affiliate programs or sponsors
providing products.

 

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Young Dancer Sculpture by Enzo Plazzotta in London

One of the joys of London is just walking around with open eyes. There is so much to see. It may be the Blue Plaques on buildings, it may be a small marker on a structure, or maybe you will find a war memorial that most just walk by. Or perhaps like we recently did, you will come across a unique piece of art.

Enzo Plazzotta
Image courtesy Chris Beetle Gallery

We had visited London several years ago and stumbled by Bow Wow London, a unique pet store that allowed us the chance to shop for our dogs. The owners were so nice to us we knew we had to make a return visit on our next trip to the city. After stopping in and purchasing a truly unique collar for our dog, we were walking around in Covent Garden when we crossed paths with an incredible sculpture; Young Dancer, created by the Italian artist Enzo Plazzotto.

Enzo Plazzotto was born in Mestre, Italy on May 29, 1921. Plazzotto studied sculpture

Giacomo Manzu
Image courtesy https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41319874

and architecture at the Accademia di Brera in Milan, under the guidance of Giacomo Manzu.

Unfortunately, World War II interrupted Plazzotto’s studies. During the war, he became a Partisan leader near Lago Maggiore. Once hostilities ended, Enzo returned to school where he was to receive a commission from the Italian Committee of Liberation. After he presented his work to the recipient in London, he took up residence in the city.

While portrait sculpture paid the bills, Plazzotto was more interested in movement; a theme he was able to highlight in subjects such as horses and dancers. The Chris Beetles Gallery describes Plazzotto’s work, “Through his studies and adaptations of mythology and classical Christian themes he was able to convey great power and emotion encompassing the frequent vain striving of mankind.”

Plazzotto was to live only sixty years, passing away on October 12, 1981. Six and a half years after his death, the Westminster City Council and the Plazzotta estate unveiled Young Dancer on May 16, 1988. The beautiful bronze sculpture shows a young, female dancer, seated on a stool. Her right leg bent slightly at the knee, points to the ground with her toe just touching. Her left leg is across the right with her hands resting on it. The dancer has a calm look and appears to be resting. If you, or a member of your family study ballet or other forms of dance, this sculpture will make you smile. 

Young Dancer, a bronze sculpture in Westminster London

Behind the Young Dancer is a row of iconic red telephone booths bringing you back to the reality that you are in a large city.

Young Dancer is located on Broad Street just off of Bow Street, opposite the Royal Opera House in the Covent Garden district.

Young Dancer with Iconic Phone Booths in Background

 

The Estate and Copyright of Enzo Plazzotta is exclusively owned by the Chris Beetles Gallery. For sales and enquires please contact the Gallery.

 

 

If you are in London be sure to keep your eyes open for the many blue plaques that adorn buildings denoting a famous person had something to do with the building. Take a look at my blog post that reviews a book highlighting more than 400 blue plaques.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click these links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. This commission does not affect any price that you pay. All views and opinions provided are my own and are never influenced by affiliate programs or sponsors providing products.

Identifying plaque on Young Dancer sculpture

To learn more about the incredible art of Enzo Plazzotta, I recommend his catalogue raisonne, a work of nearly 200 pages that will make you an expert on the artist.

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Jack Kerouac House in Orlando, Florida

Jack Kerouac House
1418 Clouser Avenue
Orlando, FL 32804

By Kerouac_by_Palumbo.jpg: Tom Palumbo from New York, NY, USA derivative work: Sir
Richardson at en.wikipedia – This file was derived from: Kerouac by Palumbo.jpg:, CC BY-SA
2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=85963062

When most people think of the Beat Generation, certain visuals often come to mind.
Unemployed young adults, sitting around a coffee house in San Francisco, smoking away, rambling on self-importantly about books most of main stream America has never read seems to often fit the description. These descriptors are really about beatniks and not a literary movement. For those a bit more acquainted with the Beat Generation, certain names will come immediately to mind; Kerouac, Burroughs, Kesey, Ginsberg, and maybe even Ferlinghetti. Literature titles such as Howl, Naked Lunch, and On the Road are probably the most famous. Despite the passage of nearly seventy years, these books and others of the movement are still in print and widely read today.

In July of 1957, only months before the groundbreaking On the Road would receive tremendous praise in the New York Times, the then 32-year-old Kerouac rented a small apartment for him and his mother. The home did not have air conditioning and the Florida heat was almost too much for Kerouac, who took to writing at night. Today, visitors to the city of Orlando have the opportunity to see the home where Jack Kerouac and his mother lived during 1957, the year that catapulted him to fame.

The praise was not to be long, nor universal. The beatnik movement seemed to take over. Musician David Amram believes that the beatnik movement was a manufactured one, arguing Beat writers such as Kerouac were not the goateed, beret wearing, pretentious types. Rather, he described themselves as hicks, not wanting to draw attention to themselves. Author Bob Kealing, a noted Kerouac expert, has put forth that Kerouac himself claimed that those of the Beat Generation “were searching for spiritual truth and meaning beyond the confines of post-World War II life.” This search is what confounded and worried critics.

Meanwhile, in his small Orlando apartment, Kerouac continued typing away on his follow-up, to
be titled Dharma Bums. In a rapid fire twelve days of output, Kerouac finished the novel on
December 7, 1957, Pearl Harbor Day. Kealing reminds us that to Kerouac, the term “dharma”
meant truth.

In April 1958, Jack and his mother packed into a station wagon owned by Robert Frank and
made off for Long Island, New York. Dharma Bums was published in October of that year.
Fame was not something Kerouac was ever comfortable with, nor does it seem that he sought it
out. Kerouac was to become too familiar with the bottom of a bottle, and on October 21, 1969, at
age 47, he died a painful death from cirrhosis of the liver. His remains were transported to
Lowell, Massachusetts, where he was buried at Edson Cemetery.

Jack Kerouac House, Orlando, FL

Listed today on the National Register of Historic Places, the future of the Orlando, Florida Kerouac House was not always assured. Once it was determined that this location was the residence of Kerouac during a critical time in the author’s life, efforts began in order to purchase and rehabilitate the house. Led by Kealing, former bookstore owners Marty and Jan Cummins, and others, they founded the not-for-profit Kerouac Project of Orlando. With the generous financial support of Jeffrey Cole and Cole National, they were able to purchase and rehabilitate the house. Today, the Project provides several writer in residence opportunities each year, allowing the visiting author to live and work in the home made famous by Jack Kerouac.

The home is not open to the public. Those wishing to see the house may drive by and briefly stop to take it in. There is not public parking available and this is a residential area so please be mindful of those who live in the area and if you are taking photos be on the watch for traffic. A state of Florida historical marker is on-site. The text reads

State of Florida Historic Marker–Jack Kerouac House Orlando, FL

Writer Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) lived and wrote in this 1920s tin-roofed house between 1957 and 1958. It was here that Kerouac received instant fame for publication of his bestselling book, On the Road, which brought him acclaim and controversy as the voice of The Beat Generation. The Beats followed a philosophy of self-reliance and self-expression. The unedited spontaneity of Kerouac’s prose shocked traditional writers, yet it brought attention to a legion of emerging poets, musicians, and artists who lived outside the conventions of post-World War II America. Photographs show Kerouac in the house’s back bedroom, with piles of pocket notebooks in which he scrawled thoughts and dreams while traveling. In April 1958, following completion of his follow-up novel, The Dharma Bums, and a play, the Beat Generation, Kerouac moved to Northport, New York. He died in 1969 at the age of 47. In 1996, author Bob Kealing discovered the house’s significance while researching an article to mark Kerouac’s 75th birthday. In 1998, The Kerouac Project established a retreat here for aspiring writers in tribute to him. In 2013, the house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

To learn more about Jack Kerouac and his time in Florida, readers should find a copy of Bob Kealing’s excellent book, Kerouac in Florida.

Readers wishing to learn more about the Beat Generation, I recommend Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation, and America, or perhaps Women of the Beat Generation: the Writers, Artists, and Muses at the Heart of a Generation. 

Sources:
Florida Master Site File, OR8407

Kealing, Bob. “The Road to Kerouac: He Came to Orlando in 1957.” Orlando Sentinel. March 9,
1997.

National Park Service. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Jack Kerouac
House. 2013.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click these links and make a purchase, I may
receive a small commission. This commission does not affect any price that you pay. All views and opinions provided are my own and are never influenced by affiliate programs or sponsors providing products.

 

Desolate Angel

Women of the Beat Generation

The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

Allen Ginsberg, Howl
Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs




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Book Review: London’s Blue Plaques 2nd Edition

Spencer, Howard, editor. The English Heritage Guide to London’s Blue Plaques, 2nd edition, revised, and
updated. Tewkesbury: September Publishing, 2019. ISBN 9781912836055, 528 pages, index, photos,
maps. $25.95 or £17.99.

 

Walk around London for even a few minutes and you cannot help but see a blue plaque attached to a building. These plaques are associated with London just as red double-decker buses, black cabs, Big Ben, and the Royal family. So just what are these and why are they there?

These plaques help commemorate not just individuals but the places that are associated with these persons. Curated by English Heritage, this program has been in existence since 1867. English Heritage is now the fourth organization to manage the program, following up on work carried out by the (Royal) Society of the Arts, the London County Council, and the Greater London Council. English Heritage took over management in 1986 and is now responsible for well over 900 plaques.

 

Plaque nominations are provided by the public (the criteria are on the English Heritage website) and go
through a vetting process. Traditionally, the person is the most important part of the selection process.
One of the most important selection criteria is the person must have “made a positive contribution to
human welfare and happiness.” (Page 8) However, some additional guidelines must be followed in order
for a plaque to be awarded.

In order to be recognized, a person must have been dead for twenty years. This allows the selection
committee to judge the impact and enduring legacy of the candidate. A second rule is that the person
may only have one plaque. This rule is more stringently enforced than in the past. Spencer notes that
William Makepeace Thackeray has three blue plaques. A building where a plaque is being proposed may
have no more than two plaques in place. This often rules out buildings such as churches, theatres, and
schools. In fact, there are currently only eighteen structures with more than one plaque.

The London Blue Plaque program helps bring together a person, a place, and a story. As such, you
cannot just nominate a person, there needs to be a structure standing that the commemorated person
would recognize. This means the building must be period appropriate. As Spencer interprets this, “the
thought being that once the original bricks and mortar have gone, so has the meaningful connection
between person and place.” (Page 9) If an imaginary plaque was placed at 1050 Blackstoneberry for Stan
Ridgeway, and the imaginary building was to burn down, a replacement plaque would not be issued to any new
structure built there. The newly constructed building and Ridgeway would have no association.

For the keen observer, you will note that not all plaques are the same. Some are not round and several
are not even blue. The key as to whether a plaque is part of this initiative is to pay attention to the
sponsoring organization. Other plaque sponsoring groups you might see throughout England include the
Westminster City Council Green Plaque, Nubian Jak Community Trust, Ealing Civic Society, and others.

Book editor Howard Spencer is correct to point out the value of this program in addition to name and
place remembrance. This program helps reflect the shifting perceptions of what is historically significant
and what society values and thinks is worthy of memory. History is an evolving field of study and this program is a prime example of this evolution. He points out that currently only fourteen  percent of plaques recognize women and less than five percent honor minorities. While continued efforts are needed on these fronts, Spencer states that these imbalances are being addressed and a wider diversity of people are being publicly commemorated.

Freddie Mercury Blue Plaque located at 22 Gladstone Avenue Feltham, London Burough of Hounslow Photo courtesy English Heritage

A book such as this has value but maybe not so much as a travel or tour guide. For most people, there are more user-friendly ways to learn about these plaques. English Heritage has an excellent search feature on their website allowing you to search by name, keyword, category, or borough. An example; for those interested in rock music, you can find plaques for Freddie Mercury, Jimi Hendrix, and John Lennon; certainly three of the biggest names in the field.

As a travel tool, I would recommend downloading the official app from your preferred app store. The app will allow you to find all plaques that are near you, search all blue plaques, or take guided tours. When I open the app today, there are two tours listed, Literary Kensington and Soho, Creatives, and Visionaries. Both take you to twelve stops and range from 45 minutes to an hour and a half estimated.

 

All those positives of other options aside, I still have a place on my shelves for this book. One being, I don’t live in London and don’t have the ability to regularly visit. This book gives me a “fix” so to speak. The reality is, most of us will know very few of the names on these plaques. The plaques themselves provide very little information, think “George Washington Slept Here.” Spencer provides a bit more background on each individual allowing readers to determine if they wish to learn more. Most receive about half a page of text. Unfortunately, the majority do not have a photo of their plaque included. This is no doubt a cost issue as including 900+ photos would become prohibitively expensive and the book would balloon from an already large 528 pages to nearly double the size.

For casual readers such as myself, the book is divided geographically into 36 chapters. Each chapter
contains a small-undetailed map. Numbers on the map correspond to listings in the chapter helping you
somewhat orient yourself but street names are not included. Tube stops and names are shown.

The book appears to be solidly constructed and the paper is good quality. Should you wish to throw this
in your backpack while walking the city it doesn’t take too much room but it does weigh a couple of
pounds.

At around $20-$25 US, I have no problem recommending this title. It is a great addition to any armchair
traveler’s library.

If you are in the Covent Garden area of London be sure to find the Young Dancer sculpture. Learn about this great piece of public art in my blog post. 

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click these links and make a purchase, I may
receive a small commission. This commission does not affect any price that you pay. All views
and opinions provided are my own and are never influenced by affiliate programs or sponsors
providing products.

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Francis “Mac” McBride Mural in Downtown DeLand

Francis "Mac" McBride
Francis "Mac" McBride
Francis “Mac” McBride mural located on Rich Avenue near Woodland Boulevard

If you are standing at the corner of Woodland Boulevard and Rich Avenue next to Dick & Janes Coffe Shop be sure to take a look on the side of the building. Here, near the creepy looking stairs leading down to an empty basement storefront, you will see a mural in honor of Commander Francis “Mac” McBride.

The then 77-year-old McBride retired in 2020 after 45 years on the police force. During this time he made many friends and won the respect and admiration of downtown business owners for his community policing style. He is often remembered for his “Night Eyes” program. As a part of this program he would leave notes for business owners assuring them he had checked on their business during his shift.

 

McBride was honored during his last shift with a retirement party held at the Sanborn Activity Center. After his retirement the beloved officer moved to Alabama to be closer to family.

You may view a brief video of the mural on my YouTube channel. 

Francis Mac McBride
Detail of Mac McBride mural
Detail of Mac McBride mural
Oath of Honor as seen in the Francis “Mac” McBride mural.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click these links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. This commission does not affect any price that you pay. All views and opinions provided are my own and are never influenced by affiliate programs or sponsors providing products.

 

 

 

 

If you are interested in memorials to law enforcement officers, please take a look at my post about the memorial to officer Elmer Michael of the DeLand police force. This monument is located just a short distance from this mural.