Road trip news, rants, and ruminations by the Editors of RoadsideAmerica.com
December 6, 2016
Buttons don’t just hold clothes together; they hold forth with announcements, art, and opinions. It’s those kinds of pin-back buttons that are made at the Busy Beaver Button Co., which in late November 2016 moved to a new location, doubling the size of its production facility and its Button Museum.
Company co-founder Christen Carter told us there was no direct correlation between the expansion of the museum and the 2016 Presidential election, although the increased demand for opinion buttons helped boost BBBC production to 4 million this past year.
“I feel like this will be an era of ’cause’ buttons; a big time for that,” said Christen, recalling the heyday of such buttons in the late 1960s. Since the company saves one of each button it makes — over 90,000 thus far — a boom in buttons could potentially overwhelm the Button Museum’s display space. “We’re already starting to outgrow it,” said Christen, laughing, although she felt that the museum would be able to cope even if a future Button War produced a button surge.
“We’re having a nudist group come in for a museum event,” said Christen, demonstrating the popularity of buttons even among those who can’t wear them. “We’re wondering if we should give them scarfs.”
November 30, 2016
Michael “Jim” Delligatti can eat all the Big Macs he wants in heaven, having passed away Monday at the age of 98. He invented the Big Mac nearly 50 years ago, in 1967, a beefy achievement celebrated in the earthbound Big Mac Museum, which is at the McDonald’s franchise his family has owned for generations in North Huntington, Pennsylvania.
Delligatti was one of the first McDonald’s franchisees (going on to own 48 McD’s in Pennsylvania), and his culinary creation outlived dozens of subsequent Golden Arches menu flameouts such as McLobster and the Hula Burger.
How much Special Sauce did Michael Delligatti ingest over his long lifetime? Perhaps it serves as a Fountain of Youth for those genetically inclined to unlock its tasty secrets.
Long after the meat in our intestines is finally digested, the legacy of the Big Mac will endure — especially for generations of children who still can’t stop themselves from completing the magical marketing incantation: “Two all beef patties special sauce lettuce…”
November 26, 2016
Will Knight, proprietor of Knight’s Spider Web Farm, says he hopes to revive his attraction in 2017 after a devastating fire burned down his workshop barn on October 25th, 2016.
Knight made the pledge to a group of students from Williamstown Elementary School, who visited the farm and gave Knight a check from funds raised by the kids, and a pie topped with a spider-shaped crust. Trapped in a web of love, the normally crusty Knight was reportedly teary-eyed by the outpouring of support.
Knight, who is 90, calls himself Spiderwebman and has been harvesting webs at the Spider Web Farm since the late 1970s. He turns them into art, through a speedy process that is far less labor-intensive than the art created by his only known predecessor, the Spiderweb Lady of Alabama.
Knight is fortunate to live in a rural neighborhood with many spiders. He could return to production as soon as he can rebuild his workshop, which used only simple tools, and preferably organize it in such a way to make less combustible. Easier said than done for someone in their ninth decade (and with half the arms and legs of a spider), but Spiderwebman sounds determined to get the job done.
November 22, 2016
Dalton Stevens, who said he never did get much sleep, now has gone to his eternal rest.
Dalton became known as “The Button King” for his obsessive hobby of gluing and sewing buttons onto every available surface — his way, he said, to pass the hours he would otherwise have wasted when he couldn’t fall asleep. His artwork was so admired that he opened the Button King Museum next to his house, where he would greet visitors and often serenade them with his original button songs. Because of his insomnia, the museum had no set hours; visitors could find Dalton at work by day or night.
Dalton (1930-2016) passed away on November 21. He vowed that his Button Museum would remain open forever, although its fate remains uncertain at the moment — it certainly won’t be the same without Dalton there. He was a rare folk artist who had the forethought to create not only his own custom coffin but his own custom hearse as well, embellished with “FINAL LAP” in big red buttons.
November 21, 2016
The new proprietors of the Famous One Log House, a vintage tree-home along California’s Redwood Highway — land of the Drive-Thru Trees — want to diversify the flora of their plant-based attraction.
According to an article in the North Coast Journal newspaper, the new (and young) owners hope to embrace the recent passage of Prop 64, legalizing recreational marijuana in California, by opening a “testing lab” for cannabis at the Famous One Log House, as well as an Amsterdam-style weed cafe.
The article notes that this is not the kind of “tacky crap” that would upset the locals, such as “Bigfoot holding a bong.”
Bigfoot holding a bong doesn’t sound bad to us, of course. And the Famous One Log House already sits at a strip of tourist-optimized businesses, including its own large gift shop and cafe filled with Bigfoot t-shirts, redwood log clocks, and other Avenue of the Giants bric a brac. A Pressed Penny machine offers to distort a patron’s pocket change into elongated One Log House currency.
As to the log itself, perhaps it will be preserved as is, with rustic decor and historical items inside creating the atmosphere of mid-20th century hollow tree lifestyles. Pot in the weed cafe will be more accessible, but what about the One Log House, which is currently highly regulated?
Access is restricted to visitors who pay its $1 entrance fee; the security lock on the One Log House door requires tapping in the day’s secret key code.
Stoners will have to navigate from the gift shop cafe cash register, along the porch past other distracting, brightly hued shops; then ignore gaps between parked cars that lead into Highway 1’s speeding traffic, then walk up the ramp to the One Log House, without forgetting the secret string of numbers. And without spending too much time along the way at the Penny Pressing machine.
Once inside the log, cannabis customers experience the dark and cramped but soothing embrace of its circular rooms. If that isn’t their trip, other attractions beckon next door — the Grandfather Tree, Paul Bunyan, and a wood-carved bear holding a soft-serve ice cream cone.
November 14, 2016
Among the Seven Deadly Sins of roadside attractions, Procrastination is perhaps the worst. It keeps the outsider artist from propping up his sagging sculpture barn, and the mom-and-pop museum from moving the oily rags away from the furnace. Gravity, fire, and age take over, and another roadside wonder goes to attraction Valhalla.
The guillotine blade of deferred maintenance is currently hanging over the World’s Longest Trainspotting Footbridge in Springfield, Missouri. It’s stood for 114 years, and has been recognized as an attraction by the city for so long that it even built the bridge its own parking lot.
But Springfield apparently never bothered to maintain the bridge itself. In March 2016 it was abruptly closed, and now the city faces a number of unfortunate choices. The cheapest, according to the Springfield News-Leader, is to simply tear the bridge down, which will cost over $400,000. If Springfield wants to repair the bridge or build a new one so that people can actually spot trains from it again, the cost will run as high as $17 million.
It could have been avoided by paying a city worker with a wrench and a bucket of paint to tighten the bolts and keep off the rust every couple of years — remember, this bridge has been standing since 1902. But it’s apparently too late for that now.
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