New York City removed its last public payphone from service, per a tweet from Reuters, complete with video.
I posted the photo below the other day and sent a Flickr link to to firehydrant.org, which accepts photos of fire hydrants.
The fire hydrant is a necessity, not a relic, but this one on the University of Chicago campus near the anatomy building is certainly vintage. I did some poking around and found a website dedicated to the fire hydrant and its history.
The next morning I received this response from firehydrant.org volunteer Jim Q. I wondered where the hose would attach!
That’s an indicator post that controls a valve for an automatic sprinkler system. Indicator posts are used because it would be easy to shut a valve during sprinkler maintenance and then forget to open it. The indicator post eliminates all doubt as it displays OPEN or SHUT.
Interesting photo because I didn’t know the Eddy name was still in use in 1962 for indicator posts. Eddy Valve made fire hydrants. After the company was bought out their fire hydrant design continued and is still sold today by Clow Valve.
There’s more here about indicator posts.
While returning from Indiana Dunes today, I looked for the Interstate Inn off the I-90 on ramp. A quick glimpse left me with the impression it was gone. I was not wrong. It was demolished in June.
There’s some background about the inn at Lost Indiana.
Added July 12, 2020: The sign remains, much worse for the wear of the past two years.
When I came to Chicago in 1979 (gulp!), you could still find a newsstand here and there. The most prominent, outside the Chicago Cultural Center at Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street, was the first and last thing commuters saw at street level as they left and returned to the Illinois Central Railroad’s Randolph Street Station — the perfect place to pick up a paper or magazine for the train ride home.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the newsstand predated the 1929 stock market crash. At one point it was owned by “King of the Newsstands” Robert Katzman, a fellow Hyde Parker who also owned a busy newsstand at 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue.
Richard J. Daley, “da Mare,” didn’t like newsstands, claiming many (most?) were dilapidated and didn’t fit in with his beautification plans for Chicago. It also sounds like he may have had the support of one particularly vocal citizen obsessed with getting rid of newsstands. In the end, like Meigs Field, they had to be destroyed.
By then, the newsstand at Randolph and Michigan, Rick’s News, was owned by Rick Graff, who’d bought it in 1984 when he would have been about 22 years old. (That makes Graff one year younger than me — and here I would have thought a newsstand owner would have been some crochety older man, the street equivalent of Mike Royko.) It’s hard to conceive of a young man investing in a newsstand in the 1980s.
From the Chicago Tribune, dated June 12, 1992 (when I would have been 30):
There are about 355 newsstands in the city. The city put final notices to apply for permits on 155 of the stands, and 85 of them did not respond. Those 85 are to be demolished.
. . .
Although the city began its work on the South Side, the most publicized case involves Rick’s News, on the corner of Randolph Street and Michigan Avenue, in front of the Chicago Public Library’s Cultural Center. Rick`s, which is owned by Rick Graff, is not one of the first 85 targeted, but the stand is expected to be demolished.
A newsstand has been at the corner for the past 80 years, but General Services Commissioner Benjamin Reyes and other Daley officials have made it clear that they want it removed.
Also from the Chicago Tribune, dated May 23, 1994:
OK. So City Hall won.
And Richard Graff, owner of the oddly charming newsstand on Randolph Street outside the Chicago Cultural Center, lost.
The long-running legal fight between Graff and Mayor Richard Daley’s administration ended when the U.S. Supreme Court refused on May 16 to hear Graff’s appeal of a lower court ruling that the city can force him to close his business.
Never mind that a newsstand has been at that location on Randolph for at least 70 years. Never mind that Graff paid $50,000 to buy the business in 1984. Never mind that he has a steady clientele for his magazines and comic books, not to mention dozens of passersby who pat his friendly Alaskan malamute-the one usually found wearing sunglasses.
. . .
Even people who have never spent a dime there can see that it is an eccentric little piece of a wonderfully eccentric city. Rick’s News belongs in that spot.
Finally, from June 13, 1994:
Crews tore down the stand Sunday afternoon, marking the last chapter in a four-year legal battle between the city and newsstand owner Richard Graff, 32.
. . .
“Do you believe it?” a passer-by muttered as he stared at the spot Rick’s no longer occupied. “This was a landmark.”
For 26 years, people new to Chicago have never browsed Rick’s News or experienced this piece of Chicago’s eccentric history.
Even if you’ve never seen a newsstand in person, you may have spotted them in vintage movies or TV shows, or in movies or TV shows set in the early to mid 1900s. One of my favorites is in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “The Big Goodbye.” Jean-Luc Picard, as his favorite hard-boiled private eye, Dixon Hill, didn’t think to bring money to pay “Mac,” the newsstand vendor. “Mac” says Dix can catch him next time. No wonder newsstands in Chicago were dilapidated! No cash for upkeep!
According to Yelp! there are a few newsstands left are, including this highly rated one. It was out of Daley’s reach in Evanston, north of Chicago, and looks more like a store than a newsstand.
Here’s a review from March 2020:
I wish we could clone Chicago-Main Newsstand and put them all over the US because newsstands like this simply don’t exist anymore. They’re a dime a dozen in Europe but stateside if you want a Financial Times or Italian Vogue you need to subscribe. OR, you could go to Chicago-Main and get just about any magazine your heart could desire. Sports, travel, lifestyle, art, home decor, fashion, auto, literature, wedding, parenting, pet, food, architecture, naked people, crossword puzzles, sudoku, atlases, Chicago history, and a great newspaper selection. Cigarettes, candy, gum, and some greeting cards, too.
I’m glad it’s around. Where else could you get one of those elusive out of town papers?
Did someone come out at night and insert the HELP . . . . .?
I can’t say we took any great American road trips when I was a child — mostly 200-mile jaunts to visit family in the Altoona area of Pennsylvania or rare shorter ones to local attractions like Niagara Falls or Letchworth State Park. The first car I remember was a powder blue Ford Falcon. With Virgil and me in the back seat picking on each other and wondering “Are we there yet?” after 25 or 50 miles, time and money may not have been the only reason we didn’t travel far or often.
Later, my dad bought a used van with two back seats. This was such a novelty that kids stopped by to pile in. All that room! Of course it was bare bones, a working man’s van, with none of the comforts of today’s SUVs and minivans, like DVD players or even — gasp! — cup holders. We “roughed it” back in those days with tap water or water from a roadside spring in Pennsylvania kept in a jug. We’d have to pull over to drink it. And we didn’t know about “hydration,” only thirst.
We had only an over-the-air radio — no Sirius, no subscription services tailored to our tastes. You might find yourself in a part of the country with only bland pop and country & western. Our series of bare-bones vehicles didn’t have 8-track tape decks or CB radios for chatting with passing truckers. I don’t think the radio played much of a role in our trips, except to get traffic and weather.
We had games like “punch bug,” in which being the first to see a Volkswagen Beetle on the highway entitled you to punch your annoying brother, sister, or friend. We also kept an eye peeled for “beavers,” station wagons with wood-paneled sides. We’d make a pulling motion to truck drivers to try to get them to pull their air horns. We liked the ones who accommodated us. I understand the tradition continues today, although with safety first (no startling of unaware drivers) and the hope it doesn’t provoke a modern road rage incident.
Of course there were no USB ports, but there were cigarette lighters — in 1965, a whopping 45 percent of Americans smoked. I’ve never bought a car, but it sounds like what Wikipedia describes as a “de facto DC connector,” or cigarette lighter receptacle, is more likely to be used to power portable accessories (“lights, fans, beverage heating devices, and air compressors for inflating tires”). I wonder if it can be used for e-cigarettes? J’s is used for an iPhone charger. With only about 15 percent of Americans smoking today, I suspect the car cigarette lighter as such has achieved “relic” status for many of us.
Neither the Ford Falcon nor the vans that followed had air conditioning save that offered by an open window and a speed-generated breeze. I don’t know how we held conversations on the open highway. Maybe we didn’t, other than, “He’s picking on me!” and “Are we there yet?” punctuated by “Ralph, STOP!” (My mother had imaginary brakes on her side and possibly a worn-out floorboard.)
Most cars sold in the U.S. now come with air conditioning as a standard; it’s a given, not a luxury — not so north of the border. Today we “wind” the windows down mostly to take photos, ask passers-by questions, pay entrance fees or talk to booth operators, and on occasion encourage a fly or mosquito to vamoose. I say “wind” even though the push of a button opens the windows (as long as they’re powered, that is).
In the old Ford Falcon and vans, you did wind the windows up and down, just like we used window winders to open and close the trailer’s jalousie windows. I had to look that term up — jalousie windows in campers/trailers/mobile homes were common in the 1950s and ‘60s, but aren’t anymore.
Although cars.com talks about “old-school manual crank windows that seem, especially now, from a bygone automotive era,” they’re also not quite a relic. People don’t want them for themselves, but they do want the lower car price. They’re also found in many trucks. The 2015 cars.com article concludes, “For now, at least, it’s clear there are enough price-conscious new-car shoppers to keep manual windows around.”
I’ve never been a smoker, and I don’t feel nostalgic about car cigarette lighters. As with push lawn mowers and clotheslines, however, I do miss manual windows and window winders. Power windows have their advantages when you spot something and want to take a photo or video quickly (although they make enough noise to scare off animals). On the other hand, when I wait in the car I don’t always remember to open the window when the power is on, so I resort to the alternative, awkward in a parking lot, of opening the door. It doesn’t sound like much, but sometimes I want to crank open the window.
At least it’s not because someone used the cigarette lighter.
This isn’t the first time the sign for the Interstate Inn has captured my attention. The decrepit sign, with “Restaurant,” beckons you to a building that persists in a half state — still standing but open.
According to Lost Indiana, it was once a Holiday Inn strategically placed to lure travelers on Dunes Highway. To me it’s a metaphor for most of the works of man — a short productive existence followed by a long deterioration haunted by aging, fading memories. It’s like an example of Life After People, only the people haven’t died, just given up.
And now that I’ve seen the Doctor Who episode “Blink,” when I see the Interstate Inn, which is not unlike the fictional “Wester Drumlins,” I’ll think of this bit of dialogue:
I love old things. They make me feel sad.
What’s good about sad?
It’s happy for deep people.
Do you remember Fotomat? You drove up, dropped off your film, and got your photos back the next day. (I can’t swear they were always on time.) If you don’t recall the distinctive Fotomat kiosk, you may be familiar with the idea from That 70s Show. The name was disguised as Photo Hut, which loses the charm of the alternative spelling common in the era’s advertising and the nod to the old-school automat.
Fotomat seems like a natural extension of mid 20th-century culture. Interstates, drive-in restaurants and movie theaters, motels (motor hotels) — why not drive-up film processing and prints?
In Hamburg, New York, the nearest Fotomat couldn’t have been any closer to us. It was plopped near the outer edge of the South Shore Plaza parking lot, where my dad could stop on the way home from work or to the store. If he’d been so inclined (and willing to dodge Route 20 and parking lot traffic), he could have walked over from the trailer park.
My dad liked Fotomat because they used Kodak processing and film for his primarily 126 film prints. He could be snobbish about certain brands, and Kodak was one of them. If I remember right, our South Shore Plaza Fotomat and others switched to another brand, possibly Fujifilm. That’s when and why he began to use Fotomat less frequently.
According to Wikipedia, the photo minilab made Fotomat obsolete in the late 1980s. The brand continued online with photo storage and editing until 2009. It’s funny to think of a brand built upon its unique physical locations and look surviving (barely) as a virtual service.
South Shore Plaza, opened in 1960, died a long, painful death, finally torn down and replaced by a Wal-Mart in 2009. I’d guess the Fotomat succumbed long before the plaza emitted its final gasp.
As we know from many creepy images of Poconos resorts or old amusement parks, when an idea or place is abandoned, it’s sometimes left in place until it falls apart or something comes along to take its place. Some of the 4,000 Fotomat booths remain, repurposed. Drive-through coffee or cigarettes, anyone?
Further reading: Democrat & Chronicle, “Whatever Happened To … Fotomat?”
Do you remember “lovely Rita, meter maid”? If your name is Rita, you may never forgive the Beatles. If you remember the Beatles’ heyday, you may recall parking meters.
Once upon a time in Chicago (and today in many suburbs), you put coins into a metal contraption embedded in the sidewalk to pay for parking. The challenge was to have enough quarters and not to over- or underpay. You might have to dash outside in the middle of a restaurant meal or movie to check on the meter or add coins.
To keep you honest, uniformed “meter maids” patrolled the meters, writing a ticket to place on each car next to a meter with a red “expired” flag. Alternatively, she might listen to your sob story about how you were just leaving, etc.
If you were running a quick errand and were lucky, you might find a meter with time left on it. No matter your financial lot in life, whether rich or poor, finding an unexpired meter made you feel great. You saved a quarter or 50 cents!
In Chicago, the traditional parking meters by each parking spot are long gone. Instead, you pay at a “pay box” on the block, usually with a credit or debit card.
If you have a smartphone, there’s an app for that. This lets you avoid the walk to the pay box, alerts you when time is almost up, and allows you to add time if needed.
Parking meters are relics, along with the term “meter maid.” “Parking enforcement officer” sounds better, that is, if you’re not parked illegally.
This is the only parking meter left near me, the only one of several that lined the block.
I haven’t seen a cyclist use this parking-meter-turned-bicycle-post. Yet.