Archive for March, 2008

Will the Crosser Diner ever reopen in Lisbon, OH?

March 11, 2008

A bit of warm weather has me thinking “road trip,” through cold weather admittedly has the same effect. Looking through last summer’s photos, one of the best treats along the Lincoln Highway is traveling eastward across Ohio in the evening and arriving in Lisbon after dark. No matter the hour, the corner entrance of the Steel Trolley Diner beckons with neon, stainless, and a warm glow inside — not to mention pies, home fries, coffee, and milk shakes. But for at least 6 years, the other side of town had brought a frown when I pass the abandoned Crosser Diner. It’s a c. 1944 Sterling diner made by J.B. Judkins of Merrimac, Mass., best known for their streamliner models featuring one or both ends rounded. This is a Dinette model, one of only 4 survivors.

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Above: Waiting for customers, and a buyer, is the rare Crosser Diner in Lisbon, Ohio.

The diner (127 W. Lincoln Way) and adjacent service station were founded by Jimmy Hanna and later run by John Howard “Wimpy” Crosser and his wife Lorena Arter. It changed hands and struggled in recent decades due to its tiny size and having the main storage and kitchen downstairs, but it still featured solid diner fare and classic decor. One site reports a rumor of it moving but I’ve not seen confirmation or an update. It’s a treasure worth saving and reopening, with a cool little neon sign to match. Any diner fans or Ohio LH roadies know its status?

Alice Ramsey book recounts, retraces 1909 trip

March 10, 2008

We’ve mentioned the recreation of Alice Ramsey’s cross country trip set for 2009, but readers can relive the original journey courtesy of author and researcher Gregory Franzwa. Alice recounted her adventures 54 years after her 1909 trip in Veil, Duster, and Tire Iron—problem is, it’s extremely hard to find a copy of that book. Franzwa has not only republished the original text but done us all the favor of unearthing where her travels literally took her, from roads to hotels to restaurants. Much of her route (well, west of Ligonier, Indiana) would become the Lincoln Highway four years later.

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Alice Ramsey’s story was once well-known: on June 9, 1909, she and three female companions set off from NYC in a new, dark green Maxwell DA. She reached the Pacific 59 days later, becoming the first woman to drive coast-to-coast. The text and illustrations from her 1963 book are here along with 108 new endnotes that add lots of info as to the route and stops.

But the endnotes, following each chapter, are just part of the amazing supplemental material that’s been added. Almost half of Franzwa’s book consists of Chasing Alice, a conversational guide retracing the author’s research journeys. Filled with vintage ads, photos, and modern maps and pictures, the reader tags along as Franzwa tries to find remnants of the original trip. Along the way, fellow researchers, librarians, web sites, and friends help out, like Van and Bev Becker, who combed Mechanicsville, Iowa, for clues to Alice’s overnight stop there. Not only did they locate the buildings that housed the hotel, the livery stable, and the restaurant, but they dug up the hotel’s gold-embossed registers listing the four women travelers, their rooms, and even the time of their wake-up call!

The book ends with a preview of the work being done by Richard Anderson to rebuild a 1909 Maxwell DA and recreate the trip on its centennial. All parts of the book will have you yearning for the open road.

Alice’s Drive: Republishing Veil, Duster, and Tire Iron
by Alice Ramsey, Annotation and “Chasing Alice” by Gregory M. Franzwa
Patrice Press, 265 pp, 161 illustrations, 108 notes, index, softcover
ISBN 1-880397-56-0

$19.95 plus $4.95 s/h direct from Franzwa’s Patrice Press or contact Amazon sellers.

Iowa bike ride in July to follow much of LH

March 9, 2008

A yearly week-long bicycle ride through Iowa sponsored by The Des Moines Register will follow much of the Lincoln Highway in 2008. The 36th annual RAGBRAI®, the “Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa,” will take place July 20-26, 2008. It is the longest, largest, and oldest touring bicycle ride in the world.

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RAGBRAI was started in 1973 as a 6-day ride (not a race) across Iowa by two Register columnists; it’s still planned and coordinated by the newspaper and is now hosted by the Register’s front-page cartoonist, Brian Duffy.

RAGBRAI always begins near Iowa’s western border and ends along the eastern border at the Mississippi River. The route changes yearly but total mileage averages 472 miles (it’s 471 this year) while the daily mileage averages 68 miles. It is rarely flat; this year includes 22,500 feet of climb.

This year will launch from Missouri Valley but not pick up the LH till Jefferson, hit it from Ogden through Boone, again some of it in Ames, Nevada, Colo, and State Center, cross it at points in Le Grand and Tama, then pick it up in Chelsea through Belle Plaine, and meet is through Lisbon/Mt. Vernon, and finally cross it at Mechanicsville. The bike route will be nearby or parallel the LH for much of the time, though not always along it. Fora map you can zoom in on, visit Brian Duffy’s blog.

A week-long rider fee is $125, daily wristbands are $25, and include wristbands, route marking signage, baggage transportation, camping accommodations, discounts, sag wagon services, emergency medical services, traffic control, souvenir patch, daily route maps, and entries into drawing for a free bike for riders and other prizes for support vehicle drivers.

Some WY Lincoln Highway sites on 1989 video

March 8, 2008

This clip from July 1989 features a couple (nic & sloy, as nicholsloy studio) visiting three sites in east-central Wyoming: Home Ranch, Dinosaur Graveyard, and Bosler. All are along a stretch bypassed decades ago by I-80, while stole business from them but left a pre-Interstate feel.

Home Ranch, 20 miles west of Medicine Bow, is, as Gregory Franzwa says in his WY LH book, “a ghostly reminder of pre-I-80 days.” The couple captures the long-closed gas station and motel, and a great “No Trespassing” warning. Heading east, they stop at Como Bluff, one of the greatest troves of dino fossils, but they merely read the historic marker. Then comes Bosler, almost completely abandoned then and now. There are great views of a car lot, motel, cafe, and dance hall before they pull over at Doc’s Store.

The clip is part of a larger movie, rock n roll roadtrip, a 7000-mile journey across the US and back.

1915 article leads to LH routing mystery

March 7, 2008

Jim Steeley, of the Westmoreland County Historical Society and a LH researcher, came across a Lincoln Highway item in the September 30, 1915, Greensburg Daily Tribune, about rerouting the LH away from Madison, Pennsylvania. Problem is, the LH never went through Madison!

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The article “Failure To Comply With Request May Lose Lincoln Highway” appeared on the front page of the paper describing Madison Borough’s refusal to improve its streets, therefore endangering the borough “to be side-tracked, and the Lincoln Highway removed from it.” It cited an engineer and a superintendent of county roads who “decided to change the route of the Lincoln Highway from Darragh through Herminie, leaving old Madison Borough to the left of the highway.” It would “not lengthen the road more than a fraction of a mile.”

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But the Lincoln Highway is not known to have gone anywhere near Madison, let alone through it. To follow this route, Jim explains, the Lincoln Highway would have run through Greensburg to West Pittsburgh Street where it intersects with West Newton Street and hence to the West Newton Road (Rt 136) through Darragh, o to Madison (until it was bypassed) and Herminie, then north on Clay Pike through Rillton to Circleville at the top of Jacktown Hill, where it would join present-day US 30 west of Irwin. The map above shows the commonly known LH in red, the implied route in blue, and the topic of the article (routing through Madison) in green.

The first official LH road guide, published spring 1915, lists Greensburg followed (heading west) by Grapeville, Adamsburg, and Irwin—all along the red-marked route, similar to today’s US 30. Why, a half-year after the 1915 guide was published, was it believed that these towns were on the Lincoln Highway?

Small blast hits Times Square recruiting station

March 6, 2008

The New York Times is reporting that an “improvised explosive device” damaged an armed forces recruiting station at 3:43 a.m. in Times Square, the eastern terminus of the Lincoln Highway in New York City. No one was injured in what is being called a small blast. Most of the damage was to the front door and facade of the Armed Forces Career Center on a traffic island bounded by 43rd and 44th Streets, Seventh Avenue, and Broadway. Traffic through Times Square was reopened by 6:45 a.m. For the story with updates and comments, click the screen shot below from The New York Times:

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Stone's in Marshalltown Iowa to be auctioned

March 5, 2008

Stone’s Restaurant, a popular eatery in Marshalltown, Iowa, since 1887, will be auctioned Thursday, March 6 at 10 am on the Marshall County Courthouse front steps. According to an article in The Times-Republican, the forced auction is due to debts of “$70,000 in mortgages and nearly $60,000 in local, state and federal back taxes spanning the past three years, according to an IRS notice of the public auction.”

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Above: Stone’s sign towered above the viaduct. Photo courtesy Charles Biddle.

The restaurant was first closed in August 2006 by 4th generation owners Randy and Judy Stone. Their son Joe and wife Sarah tried reopening it in January 2007 but closed it again. Antiques and memorabilia that lined the walls have been removed. The restaurant is at 507 S 3rd Ave – or more famously, “Under the Viaduct” – that being the Third Avenue viaduct carrying traffic above it and the Union Pacific Railroad yard. It was a popular stop for Lincoln Highway travelers and anyone hungry for their famous lemon chiffon pie.

The Roadfood forum of Jane and Michael Stern has an interesting discussion about the closing. Randy Stone wrote that the decision to close in 2006 was difficult:

We found that, because of other pressing demands, we could not devote the time we needed to keeping the restaurant up to the standards that Grandma Anna would have approved of. Interestingly enough, after we made the decision, we found an old box of letters that included a story from the local paper dated a month before WWII ended in which Anna was quoted as saying she was going to close because, with the war effort, she could not get the quality of food she needed to meet her high standards. Along with this was a letter from Duncan Hines, who was a restaurant guidebook author at the time and a friend of hers, saying how sorry he was to hear she was closing. She reopened after the war ended and ran the restaurant until she died in 1969 and our Uncle Don took over.

Then in 2007, Randy reported the reopening on Valentine’s Day, “with a great response from old and new customers alike” and that they had “reintroduced a couple old variations on the chiffon pies. Strawberry Chiffon and Black Bottom which is chocolate chiffon on the bottom and lemon on top. Both mile-high of course.” But by January 2008, he wrote again to say it was closed and for sale due to a lack of busines: “Even though we benefited tremendously from wonderful reviews by Jane and Michael, national and local news and great word of mouth from folks like you, I think we were thought of as a ‘fancy’ place and lost business because of it. I guess I did not do a good enough job of marketing.”

Stone’s has been for sale through Coldwell Banker for a reasonable-sounding $125,000 probably because the article states that the purchaser “will inherit the property and several debt obligations…. After the auction, they [Stone family] also have 180 days to get it back, for the auction price plus interest.”

UPDATE: Jim Bacino of Coldwell Banker wrote to say, “The sale tomorrow is a federal tax sale and will only result in a lein against the property. Title will not be transferred until a sale is made and all leins cleared. It is on the market for $125,000.00 and is a turn key operation. All equipment is uncluded.” Contact Jim if you or someone you know is interested in rescuing the landmark restaurant.

More details on Nevada IA's Lincoln Highway Days

March 4, 2008

Lincoln Highway Days treasurer Linda Griffith reports that the theme of this year’s celebration in Nevada, Iowa, will be “25 years of Family Fun.” Along with the carnival and rodeo, there will be “Crafts and Arts and Flea Market,” food vendors, dances for teens and adults, Klassy Kruisers antique car club from Ames, and a display of antique tractors. The parade on Saturday will start along Lincolnway at 9:30 a.m. and the all-day big celebration will follow at the Story County 4-H grounds located lst Street and I. Avenue. Below are some images from http://www.lincolnhighwaydays.com from past events.

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Nevada, Iowa announces 2008 Lincoln Hwy Days

March 3, 2008

The interestingly named town of Nevada, Iowa, will celebrate its 25th annual Lincoln Highway Days this August 22, 23, and 24, 2008. Info for the coming year will soon be posted on www.lincolnhighwaydays.com. The event usually includes a carnival, dance, rodeo, and a big parade.

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Nevada is east of Ames and just west of the popular Niland’s Cafe/Colo Motel. The original Lincoln Highway Day in October 1983 was actually called the Old 30 celebration to coincide with the completion of a railroad overpass west of Nevada.

Saltair UT in Carnival of Souls movie, 1962

March 2, 2008

Carnival of Souls, a low-budget horror film directed by Herk Harvey in 1962, never achieved much fame or acclaim, yet it’s become a a cult favorite and is often mentioned as an influence by other filmmakers. It’s theme of a woman caught between life and death was unusual for its time and is cited as a reason that it rises above similar films. For Lincoln Highway fans, it offers a glimpse of Saltair, the famed lakeside bathing resort west of Salt Lake City, opened 1893 and connected to the city by rail. It later became a regular stop for cross-country travelers.
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Above: The Moorish domes of Saltair are represented in the Carnival of Souls movie poster.

The lead character, Mary, is in a car wreck and assumed drowned. Instead, she apparently lives, becoming a church organist, but is haunted by a ghostly man. Her journey culminates in a trip to an ominous pavilion, which takes place at Saltair.

The creepiness in Carnival of Souls comes mostly from the dreamlike atmosphere instead of cheap scares or special effects. The pavilion keeps drawing her until she visits it in the climax. This clip, part 11 of 11 on YouTube, features great views of Saltair before it burned again in 1970. The first minute is spent with Mary reflecting, but then she is spooked, screams, and finding herself in her 1960 Chevy, backs out of a garage. At 1:56 we see her driving the approach road to Saltair and seconds later walking through it. About 3:30 ghouls arise from the lake to dance (or at least that’s my amateur interpretation of the action). About 5:50 they begin chasing her – she tried hiding among the support poles underneath. Views of the exterior start at 6:53 and a minute later it returns to the scene of the crash that started the movie and we learn her fate. WARNING: The scares are tame and the pace slow by today’s standards but nonetheless might be unsettling to some.