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Interactive map sorts 1935-1945 photos September 9, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in History, Photographs, Railroad.
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Starting in 1935, photographers with the New Deal’s Farm Security Administration began documenting life in the United States during the Great Depression and, later, World War II.

More than 170,000 photos were taken, and a few of them became famous, including Dorothea Lange’s now-iconic image of a migrant mother. Although the vast majority of images were digitized and put online by the Library of Congress, it wasn’t always easy to search for them.

But a team from Yale University created Photogrammar, an interactive map using a 1937 atlas where you can see the photos sorted by county or by photographer. Don’t be surprised if you spend a few hours surfing the images, as I did.

Naturally, I followed Route 66’s path and posted some of the most striking photos here. One could spend days on the Chicago collection, which contains hundreds of images from the city’s black South Side neighborhoods and the railroad yards. Dozens of photos document a black farming family’s life in Creek County, Oklahoma. Another large batch of images show squatters’ camps in Oklahoma City during the Depression. And in Los Angeles, you see Japanese-Americans rounded up (“evacuated” is what they called it then) to be transported to internment camps and workers toiling in warplane factories.

The photographers didn’t get everywhere, and the map contains a flaw for St. Louis County in St. Louis. But odds are you’ll find some fascinating images from the past from your home region.

Seating now in all parts of the house at the Chicago Theatre. Chicago, Illinois. Photo by John Vachon. July 1941.

Sign at Union Station, Chicago. Photo by Jack Delano. January 1943.

Santa Fe R.R. freight train about to leave for the West Coast from Corwith yard, Chicago. Photo by Jack Delano. March 1943.

General view of part of the South Water Street freight depot of the Illinois Central Railroad, Chicago. Photo by Jack Delano. May 1943.

“For the union makes us strong.” UCAPAWA (United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing, and Allied Workers of America) meeting. Photo by Russell Lee. Bristow, Oklahoma. February 1940.

Downtown Tulsa filling station. Photo by John Vachon. October 1942.

Armed guard at the railroad bridge in Tulsa, Oklahoma. That’s the 11th Street Bridge in the background. Photo by John Vachon. October 1942.

Cleaning an engine at the roundhouse at the Frisco railroad in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Photo by John Vachon. October 1942.

Gas station converted into a bar in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Photo by John Vachon. October 1942.

Part of Mays Avenue camp under the bridge. Oklahoma City, Photos by Russell Lee. July 1939. The bridge’s structure is a dead ringer for the Lake Overholser Bridge that carried Route 66.

Roadside stand “The Derrick.” Oklahoma City oil field. Photo by Russell Lee. August 1939.

Negroes waiting for streetcar at terminal in Oklahoma City. Photo by Russell Lee. July 1939.

Negro drinking at “Colored” water cooler in streetcar terminal, Oklahoma City. Photo by Russell Lee. July 1939.

Dust storm in Amarillo, Texas. Note heavy metal signs blown out by wind. Amarillo, Texas. Photo by Arthur Rothstein, April 1936.

Deaf Smith County, Texas. “It is reliably estimated that not less than 40,000 families have moved away from the Great Plains drought area since 1930.” From the report of the Great Plains Committee, 1936. Photo by Dorothea Lange. June 1938.

Downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico. Photo by John Collier. February 1943.

Marker of accident on highway in Bernalillo County, New Mexico. Photo by Russell Lee. July 1940.

Hanging up chili peppers for drying, Isletta (sic), New Mexico. Photo by Russell Lee. September 1940.

The Hotel Franciscan, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Photo by John Collier. February 1943.

Kimo Theatre, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Photo by John Collier. February 1943.

Santa Fe R.R. streamliner, the “Super Chief,” being serviced at the depot in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Servicing these diesel streamliners takes five minutes. Photo by Jack Delano. March 1943.

A street scene in Flagstaff, Arizona, on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad line. Photo by Jack Delano. March 1943.

Railroad men lounging in the lobby of the Harvey House in Seligman, Arizona, near the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad yard. Photo by Jack Delano. March 1943.

A street scene in Kingman, Arizona, along the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. Photo by Jack Delano. March 1943.

A general view showing the Harvey House and depot in the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad yards in Needles, California. Photo by Jack Delano. March 1943.

The evacuation of Japanese-Americans from West Coast areas under U.S. Army war emergency order. Waiting for train in Los Angeles to take them to Owens Valley. Photo by Russell Lee. April 1942.

A neon sign. Hollywood, California. Photo by Russell Lee. April 1942.

(Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan and Gizmodo)

Bob Waldmire art featured at Harley-Davidson Museum exhibit July 10, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Events, Motorcycles, People, Photographs, Vehicles.
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The artwork of Bob Waldmire, the famed and beloved Route 66 artist who died of cancer in 2009, is featured in a current show at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee.

“The American Road,” which began June 14, “takes visitors on a journey highlighting the evolution of the quintessential American road trip from its early beginnings in 1930 to what it has come to represent in pop culture today,” according to a news release. It features photographs, film footage, slide shows and travel memorabilia.

Waldmire’s artwork is prominently featured Gallery 3 of the show, which displays a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu that was custom-painted by him. I’m pretty sure that’s vehicle is owned by Dave Jostes of Rochester, Illinois, who has showed up with the car to several Waldmire-related events.

Waldmire’s spiral notebooks and sketches — including some of the earliest of his career — also will be displayed.

Waldmire’s legendary 1972 Volkswagen minibus still can be seen at the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac, along with a schoolbus he converted into living quarters for a time. And his intricate artwork can be bought here and at souvenir shops on the Mother Road. Waldmire also served as the indirect inspiration to the Fillmore VW minibus character in the Disney-Pixar “Cars” films.

The photography of Jeff Kunkle, co-founder of Vintage Roadside, also is featured in the gallery.

“The American Road” will run at the museum until Sept. 1.

(Images courtesy of Harley-Davidson Museum; hat tip to Ace Jackalope)

Photographer wants to document America’s neon signs June 25, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Photographs, Road trips, Signs.
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San Diego photographer Stefanie Poteet is traveling all over the United States the next four months so she can artistically document vintage neon signs, including on Route 66.

Here’s the video that comes with her Kickstarter fundraiser:

Poteet writes about her quest:

These signs and the places they were built for are an integral part of our history. Mom and pop motels, one of a kind diners and family owned businesses built this nation. They gave us reasons to explore Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, the Tamiami Trail.

These signs are beautiful and unique. They are art and hard work and hours of labor. These signs matter, and they are quickly disappearing from our landscape.

I want to encourage people to see, appreciate and preserve these pieces of Americana. I want to document as many signs as possible before they are lost from our roadsides and our memories. I want to spend 112 days chasing neon so future generations can stand in front of places like the Blue Swallow Motel and stare in awe.

Poteet said she fell in love with neon sign after seeing the Supai Motel sign on Route 66 in Seligman, Arizona.

Poteet hopes to raise $10,000 by July 22 to help cover some of her expenses. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and her blog.

Skateboarding photographer takes a trip on Route 66 June 1, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Photographs, Road trips.
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Matt Alberts, a skateboarder with a 19th-century camera, takes a trip on Route 66 with a few pals and a 1973 Airstream trailer.

They find abandoned swimming pools — including one I recognize as being at Two Guns, Arizona — and drainage ditches to do their work. They also produced this short film (warning: the skateboarders use adult language you might expect from skateboarders):

The Lifers Project Episode #1 | The Route 66 Collection from The Lifers Project on Vimeo.

More about Alberts’ retro photography can be found here.

More about The Lifers Project can be found at its Tumblr page.

The lost photos of Joplin May 25, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Photographs, Towns, Weather.
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May 22 marked the third anniversary of the powerful tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri, and changed that Route 66 city forever.

I recommend you read this story from Al-Jazeera America about the Lost Photos of Joplin project, which collected more than 40,000 photographs scattered by the storm.

There are lithographs of ancestors from the 1800s, black-and-white photos from World War II, family vacation memories, baby photos, school pictures, big-haired prom shots from the 1980s, Polaroids from Christmas morning, developed film from school plays — there are even a few that made some of the women of the church blush, Beeler said with a laugh.

The rest of Joplin’s photos have since been moved from First Baptist in Carthage to the Joplin Museum Complex, where they will be permanently stored. Beeler considers what his group has done a success, even though tens of thousands of photos remain unclaimed. He knows some people may not even be aware of the project, and that it may be too painful for some to come collect photos of their lives from before the tornado.

He knows some of the pictures are of people who died in the storm, and will never be claimed.

Thad Beeler, who organized the photo-collection effort with the church and many other volunteers, hopes their work can also be done in other disaster-stricken towns across the country, including the recently tornado-hit towns of Quapaw, Oklahoma, and Baxter Springs, Kansas.

The tornado’s destruction still beggars belief. With 161 dead, it was the deadliest tornado in the United States in more than 60 years. It injured more than 1,100, destroyed about 2,000 buildings, and caused nearly $3 billion in damage.

The Al-Jazeera report also collected vivid memories of the disaster:

Chattelier recalled feeling the suction of the storm as her husband lay on top of her, holding on to a support beam. When she opened her eyes, her glasses had been torn from her face. The things she had in her pockets were gone, replaced with debris. They found her daughter’s car at the top of a tree blocks away with massive gashes in it. [...]

In the days following the tornado, stories emerged that illustrated how horrifying the power of the storm had been. Hospital patients had been sucked out of their beds and out of the windows. Entire stores disintegrated while people huddled inside. Some victims could never be identified.

I didn’t get to Joplin for days after the tornado, but followed it closely the night it happened through Twitter and the Internet. I knew it was bad because of one thing in particular: An officer on the police radio mentioned taking someone to “the temporary morgue.”

(Image of one of the many thousands of unclaimed photos from the Joplin tornado)

Photographer will open exhibit in Kirkwood gallery March 30, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Art, Events, Photographs.
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Missouri-based photographer Mark Appling Fisher will open his “Route 66 and Beyond” exhibit at the Ober Anderson Gallery in Kirkwood, Mo., on Friday.

According to a news release from the gallery about his photos:

Among them are hand colored, infrared film images of from unusual sites along the old Route 66, including a pink elephant shot with a homemade pinhole camera, images taken by the unpredictable and quirky, plastic holgas and colorful carnival chalk figurines.

Mark Appling Fisher is a professional fine art photographer from the Midwest. Fisher taught for more than forty years as an elementary school music teacher, a video production instructor and instructional media technologist. He now teaches black and white film photography, as well as alternative processes, toy camera, plastic camera, and pinhole photography. He loves all things film, and has found great satisfaction with digital photography, especially for color work.

Appropriately enough, the gallery is at 101 W. Argonne Drive, which is on a corner of an alignment of Route 66 in Kirkwood (map here).

Fisher recently completed a Kickstarter campaign for his “Turn Left at the Blinking Light” project. This video that came with the campaign shows his talents and interests well:

(Mark Appling Fisher image of the Bel-Air Drive-In sign in Mitchell, Ill., via Kickstarter)

Old-time photo studio opens across from Blue Swallow Motel March 21, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Photographs.
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An old-time-style photography studio has opened across the road from the landmark Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, N.M.

The couple that opened those businesses also plan to eventually open a Route 66 wedding chapel in that space.

Here is one of the sets Mother Road Old Time Photos uses:

According to a story in the Tucumcari-based Quay County Sun:

Mother Road Old Time Photos opened its doors on Saturday, offering an opportunity to dress like a 19th Century cowboy or western lady, and pose for an old-time sepia-tone photo, carrying a period weapon of choice in a Wild West setting—the saloon or around the poker table.

The store will also offer holiday merchandise for the Christmas season, according to Rhys Williams, who owns the new shop with his wife Leigh.

Leigh Williams said by email that no firm date has been set for opening the wedding chapel, other than after the photo studio generates enough revenue to help pay for it.

People are welcome to supply their own minister and witnesses and we provide the venue. Once open we will have other add ons available,  such as bouquet,  photographer, motel/dinner packages. [...] The wedding chapel is still in the plan, but not yet ready to open.

Tucumcari would be ideal to set up a wedding chapel for many westbound Route 66 travelers. That’s especially true for same-sex couples from the neighboring states of Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma, where same-sex marriage isn’t yet legal and Tucumcari is the first sizable town in New Mexico along the corridor. New Mexico legalized gay marriage in December.

The point being: Why should Las Vegas have all the fun with elopements?

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