Beautiful day. Perfect in all respects, from the warm breeze coinciding with the blossoming trees. A twilight dogwalk through the neighborhood, past the cafe with its twinkling lights - well, no, they were steady-burning, but that gave you a better image than "the cafe with its small, constantly-lit bulbs." Picked up daughter from a marathon study session at the cafe; two friends came over, and the house was full of laughter and delight.

One odd moment: got in my car to go home afterwork, and a car came and blocked me in. One guy gets out. Stands in front of his car. This is a Troubled Persons shelter - helps the needy and the challenged - so there's often cars picking people up, people hanging around the front. But I couldn't get out unless the car moved. I gestured to myself and then pointed at the street. The guy pointed back at me. Huh. Rolled down the window.

"You got a light?" he said.

"If I can get out."

So I got out and walked around the car and snapped open my Zippo so it sang a single metal note. (I always carry a Zippo and a knife.) Lit the smoke and clanked it shut.

"Whoa," he said. "Been a long time since I've seen one of those. Nice."

"Never leave home without one."

He signaled the driver to back up. I'd still be there if I hadn't had a Zippo.

Here's something to take the place of many words today, since I'm working on a column. Or thinking of working on a column. This is a still from M (1951), a movie I'll be doing in B&W World in a while.

Name the product being sold.

Really? You can't? You could if the picture was in color, perhaps, and you were familiar with the company's long-standing tagline. Now I'm going to pull back, and give it away completely. Long gap below so you don't look ahead to cheat.

Got it? Good. You know your classic ads, and that is a classic. But the product is still obscured, so I'm going to pull back again and give you one last shot.


Now it's obvious. One of my favorite old Coke ads, by the master, Haddon Sundblom.


There was another, and it's more difficult. I say that because I didn't get it, so it must be hard.


Because the Internet is wonderful, you can google the slogan, and up it pops.



The picture from which it comes:


And a closer look. An ordinary day in Los Angeles. Everything's different now. At least on the surface. And probably a few centimeters deeper as well.


There's a Chandler story in that picture. You just know it.




This week we look at four people paid to say they like Camels - a round-up of 30s personalities the world has, of course, forgotten. There's just too much to remember, and someone dropped a new album last week that destroyed the internet or something.

It's a rare smoke that ads gusto to pemmican:



Here's the most American-Century thing ever: "Now financed by William Randolph Hearst, Wilkins continued his polar explorations, flying over Antarctica in the San Francisco. He named the island of Hearst Land after his sponsor, and Hearst thanked Wilkins by giving him and his bride a flight aboard Graf Zeppelin."


In the 30s he took a submarine, the Nautilus, under the polar ice caps. (It didn't go well, and he was convinced he had a sabateur on board.) Wikipedia also notes this:

Wilkins became a student of The Urantia Book and supporter of the Urantia movement after joining the secretive Forum group in Chicago in 1942. After the book's publication in 1955, he 'carried the massive work on his long travels, even to the Antarctic' and told associates that it was his religion.

Its wikipedia page quotes someone's description of the book: equal parts Tolkein and St. Paul.

Then there's this: "On 16 March 1958, Wilkins appeared as a guest on the TV panel show 'What's My Line?'" Wonder if he chatted about the ad with Dorothy.






Population: almost 27,000 souls. Named after the governor of New York for some reason. Its original name was New York, for some reason. Among its famous residents: "Steven Kagemann, Worst person of all time." So says Wikipedia. It appears to be a self-conferred honor.

Anyway: as modern as tomorrow! If tomorrow was 1955. That's why I love it. Even the streetlights are old.


Empty as yesterday, though.

Go on, Google it.


I'll help.

Russell William Volckmann (September 23, 1911 – June 30, 1982) was a West Point graduate, a U.S. Army infantry officer and a leader of the Philippine Commonwealth military and guerrilla resistance to the Japanese conquest of the Philippines during World War II. After the war, he remained in the U.S. Army and helped create the U.S. Army Special Forces. In addition to his other services to his country, Russell Volckmann, at that time a colonel, is considered a co-founder of the U.S. Army Special Forces (the "Green Berets"), together with Colonels Aaron Bank and Wendell Fertig. He eventually retired as a brigadier general.

You're thinking - his brother?



No, not his brother.

After retiring from the U.S. Army, Volckmann was president of Volckmann Furniture Manufacturing Company in Morrison, Illinois. He was also president of Zeffyr Industries and president of Volckmann Division of Ethan Allen Inc., from 1970 until his retirement in 1977.

Hope they never change the facade. If someone tried, someone would remind them why they oughtn't.

Another remarkably . . . big modern facade. The building next door suggests what it covered up. While I don't like losing the old facades, there's something about these that give a downtown merit as well; it's a reminder of a time and a style.



I suspect the chain was founded by a fellow name Brown, who probably brushed aside concerns that he would alienate the people who wanted a black pair.

Oh, the money in this one: All that terracotta.



The label-scar at the bottom tells the tale of downtown. It's the Wilson Building:

The Clinton architectural firm of John Morrell & Son designed the building in the Chicago School style. Daniel Haring was the contractor who built it from 1912 to 1914. Three other phases expanded the building's size over the years. At one time the building housed a J. C. Penney store and a Walgreens. They both pulled out of the building and downtown Clinton in the late 1990s.

As is the case - if a town's lucky - it's being redeveloped as apartments now.


Er - okay. Old rich man with a punk girlfriend in 1977.-



It seems as if they're trying quite hard to make the streets attractive. But you can't do anything about some of the buildings.

BTW, here's the tourist-info site on the bank: "In 1932 a bank robbery there shook the town of Clinton when it occurred in their community. The case was quickly solved and the robbers sent to prison. This building is the crown jewel in a wonderful and successful downtown."


As I often say: I love these structures. Modernism on the cheap, but they often brough a broad swath of color to moribund places.



You suspect it was something other than a pawnshop. Insurance, perhaps. I'd bet it was insurance. It was always insurance.

Armstrong and his sons. All of them?



Was there ever a son who left down and had no time for the old man and his kin, only to come back to town a decade later, stare up at what they'd built, see "SONS" on the cornice and ball his fists in fury because he knew he wasn't included?

Clinton tourism website:

C.E. Armstrong and Company, established in 1878, and wholesalers of hardware, plumbing heating and mill supplies, had occupied the building since 1932. It has been preserved and now houses the Chamber of Commerce offices on the first floor and apartment on the upper floors.

Only one?

I love it, but it doesn't work.



The horizontal lines are perfectly proportioned. The ornamentation is brillant. But together? Hmm.

They're still lucky to have it.


Now, the surprise:

The Van Allen Building is the jewel of Clinton’s architecture and was built in 1913-15 by the world famous architect Louis Sullivan, the mentor of America’s most famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Enough about Wright, for heaven's sake. Sullivan deserves to be mentioned without that yoked around his neck. Anyway, it was a department store, and unlike Wright's work, it got built and it didn't leak. Wikipedia:

Rather unusually, Van Allen and Sullivan planned the building around intended use of the interior space. The men carefully laid out floor plans and designed displays, showcases, and aisles before creating plans for the building itself. The main floor of the new store was for general dry goods and men's furnishings. The second floor was women's costumes, and the third floor household fabrics, bedding and rugs. The top floor was not planned for immediate use and intended as an area for future growth.


After that, what can compare? An old classic sign:


With a metal facade and 50s brick AND the lighted sign underneath the overhang.

The downtown middle-aged people remember dimly from trips downtown for church shows when they were five.


You might have a suspicion about this one's original purpose:



It was the Royal, then the Strand. Cinema Treasures comment:

The July 6, 1912, issue of The Moving Picture World had this item about the house that became the Royal Theatre:

“DR. LANGAN, a local capitalist, is erecting an up-to-date office building at the corner of Second Street and Fourth Avenue. The lower floor will be used for a moving picture theater. The lessee has not announced himself to date.”

Local capitalist!

Finally, a ghost.



Any guesses? That's what the comments are for.

Look what's back! The 2016 batch begins. A mild start, but they get better. Saturday I'll be going to the postcard show, to get more . . . for the 2018 collection. Already have next year's batch laid aside.


blog comments powered by Disqus