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Archive for December, 2009

Just a quick holiday reminder that because you’re such a loyal reader of Retro Roadmap, you get a great discount on tickets to an off Broadway musical! I think these would make a perfect gift- who could resist a night in the big city and a show! Memories are made from events like this, not out of some thing you buy in a big box store, ya know! Just a word to the wise the show closes on January 3, so take advantage of this opportunity today!

Discount for Retro Roadmap Readers -The Marvelous Wonderettes!

I have a great offer to share with my loyal Retro Roadmap Readers – discount tickets to the musical show  The Marvelous Wonderettes !

MARVWON14138-playbill4c-retroroadmap

I can’t wait to head up to New York City to see this with Retro Roadhusband, as it looks like a lot of fun:

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I could not let one more holiday moment go by without sharing with you the clear toy candy that the Franklin Fountain folks hand make every Christmas season from authentic molds.

Franklin Fountain is  a “new but looks old” place that is totally charming in its turn of the century soda fountain ways, and will get it’s own proper write up once ice cream season resumes, but for now, I’m simply raving about their clear candy.

Franklin Fountain Toy Candy

Clear Toy Candy is a Pennsylvania-German tradition that dates to the 18th century when children were gifted them during the holiday season. These candies are handmade in historic Old City, Philadelphia using antique Victorian hard candy molds. Molds were made in Philadelphia at the turn-of-the-century and were in continuous use by Young’s Candies on Girard Avenue since 1897. When Young’s closed in 2006, the Berley Brothers purchased their collection of over 250 molds and are continuing the Philadelphia tradition of clear toy candymaking from their Old City soda fountain.

While these charming folks behind the counter aren’t the ones who waited on me when Retro Roadhusband and I popped in here before a show, I will say that I was beyond impressed with the help I received when trying to pick out 3 candies that were different but also exactly the same, so that the Retro Roadkids would not bicker about who got the better gift. Our pleasant clerk headed “upstairs” to see what they had in additional stock and came back with a selection that was just spot on perfect!

(Thanks to intrepid reporter Constance H for the daytime photos)

Take a look at this PDF that shows you all of the wonderful old time candy molds they use, some of these wonders measuer 4-5 inches high and are rife with detail.

Edited to add: Who knew that I was on the cutting edge of coolness with my post about Clear Toy Candy at Franklin Fountain! Here’s a link to their December blog where they let spill that not one but two Food Network shows will feature the Fountain!  Marc Summers stopped by to host the acclaimed “Unwrapped” show and “American Classics”  will document their Clear Toy Candy making process. There are more interesting tid-bits in their Scoop, so click the link and have a look!

Clear Toy Candy at Franklin Fountain
116 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 627-1899

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When I found out (courtesy of @lehighvalleypa on Twitter) that I lived a little over an hour from one of the world’s foremost Christmas light displays, I made sure Retro Roadhusband and I could visit it in time to share it with everyone on Retro Roadmap for this Chrismas season. So this past Monday (when I should’ve been prepping for our upcoming Holiday Open House at the Hacienda) we drove up past Reading to Bernville, PA to check out Koziar’s Christmas Village!

Christmas Barn in Bernville

The Koziar family has been putting on this light display for 60 years and it is rated in the top 10 attractions of Pennsylvania. Now, you could take my word for it, but you could also listen to our pardner the train conductor tell the tale (or just read my transcription below):

To quote our Railroad Train Engineer Pal (who sounds a bit like The Coz, ya see):

This is the 60th year that the Koziar family has created, and continues as a family to to operate, this spectacular Christmas attraction.

It started way back in 1948 -1948! – by William Koziar and his wife Grace who created this for the joy it brought to his four children, his friends and his neighbors.

By adding more and more lights each and every year, this farm, set in the valley, became known as the Christmas House.

Buildings were added, unique displays were created, pathways were made – so that visitors could walk through this extraordinary site – and the Christmas House soon became known as Koziar’s Christmas Village.

According to Wikipedia the “Christmas Village utilizes approximately one half million Christmas lights and other decorative effects in a presentation that has repeatedly been listed among the top tourist attractions in Pennsylvania and the top Christmas displays in the United States.” Having seen my own electricity bill go up from our modest use of Christmas lights, I fully understand why there is an entrance fee at this lit up location!

Koziar's Christmas House

The Christmas Village is definitely aimed at kids, but at Christmas time who isn’t a kid at heart? I oohed and aahed over the gazillion lights, cracked up at the cutouts of cartoon characters both popular and iffy (Jon from Garfield?) and while I’m not usually a fan of crowds, I loved hearing the random comments of over excited children (“Dad! Look! It’s Santa! He’s stuck in the Chimney!”)

Tall Santa

There’s a set pathway through the lights and houses with displays inside so you get to see everything and a few gifty/hot chocolate stands along the way to warm up in.

Christmas Chateau

Towards the end the buildings get larger and more filled with things to buy, but at that point that’s OK, you will probably want to warm up your toesies and watch the giant train displays or look at the kistchy tacky Christmas items for sale.

Tacky Plastic Christmas

Do yourself a favor and drive to Koziar’s via the Route 183 way, as the view from the top of the hill is nothing short of spectacular. We came from the other direction and when we left, our view from the rearview mirror was so awe inspiring I turned the car around and drove back, just so we could experience it the way it was supposed to be seen.

Not many days left = bundle up and head out to The Christmas Village!

Koziar’s Christmas Village
782 Christmas Village Road
Bernville, PA 19506
(610) 488-1110

 

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Thanks go out to a swell co-worker who reminded me of a wonderful holiday tradition in the Philly area – The Wanamaker Organ and Christmas Light Show in the Wanamaker Department Store ( now Macy’s ) in downtown Philadelphia, PA.

Wanamaker Christmas Tree

The old Wanamaker department store (now Macy’s) in downtown Philadelphia has a very interesting history, including at one point having a in house radio station, kiddie mono-rail and the first department store to be lighted by electricity. My personal fave thing is that that it houses The Wanamaker Grand Court Organ – the largest operational pipe organ in the world!

The organ was built for the 1904 St. Louis Word’s Fair, and now a National Historic Landmark and has been entertaining shoppers for over 100 years. I encourage anyone with even a little bit of curiosity about what once was a magnificent department store to visit the informative website of The Friends of the Wanamaker Organ, who have done a great job of collecting information about the organ and the store itself. Job well done, folks.

Even though department store chain Macy’s now does business in the Wanamaker building they have upheld the Christmas Light Show tradition that was started in 1956. From the day after Thanksgiving until New Years Eve you can walk through the grand hall of the store and not only hear music being played on the organ, but see the giant Christmas tree and 15 minute light show every hour on the hour. ( During the year there are more lengthy organ recitals, don’t miss those either.)

Christmas Tree and Organ Loft

(Apologies for the soft focus photo  above, but my little point-n-shoot camera was overwhelmed by the scale of the grand hall which goes up 9 stories! What I did want to illustrate with this fuzzy photo is the lit up section to the left of the tree, which is where the organist sits. Behind the tree itself is where all of the pipes for the organ are- you can just catch a glimpse of some of them behind the massive 2 story tree.)

Retro Roadhusband and I went to check out the light show last Monday evening. This was a nice time to catch the show rather than in the hustle and bustle of weekend shoppers. While I was bummed out that there is no easy way to see the organist playing close up,  I have to hand it to modern technology for giving us the ability to view the organist as he played some music before the show:

We stood on the 2nd floor to see the show but many folks like to be on the ground floor looking up at the massive display of lights. Kids in fancy dress sprawl on the carpet and gather around the giant Eagle sculpture which, like the organ, also came from the St. Louis World’s Fair.

Waiting at Wanamakers

The Eagle sculpture weighs 2,500 pounds and sits on a granite base – the floor of the Grand Court had to be strengthened with girders to accommodate it!  When brought to Wanamaker’s it became the John Wanamaker chain’s corporate trademark. (I have no idea if it has to do with the local sports team, sorry!)

Wanamaker Eagle

Like trying to take a picture of a sunset, even a moving snapshot of the Light Show doesn’t capture the experience of being there surrounded by it all. Feeling the bass notes rumble through your core, craning your neck to take in the grand and beautiful architecture from the golden era of department stores, you’re becoming a part of its history just by being there.

Even the somewhat hokey light show,aimed more at kids than grown ups, isn’t as tacky when you realize that just down below, sprawled out on the red carpet, holiday memories are being formed in a little kid’s brain, or being relived in the mind of an oldster – hopefully fond memories that last a lifetime.

The Christmas Couple

One thing that I love about the this Philadelphia holiday tradition is its ability for the music  to connect a random group of people into a group of folks sharing the same experience. One minute you’re shopping for gloves and scarves after work, or trying on shoes. Or perhaps you’ve planned all day to come to the city for this annual holiday event. But as soon as that giant organ booms its music out, everyone who hears it is connected, and in that same moment we’re all together on a certain level, whether we fully realize it or not.

Watching At Wanamaker's

For those of you who want to wander down more Philadelphia Department Store Memory Lane, you can  also now see the Dickens Christmas Village from Philadelphia’s Strawbridge & Clothier Department store – within what used to be the Egyptian Hall in Wanamakers.

A Christmas Carol

This is definitely more child oriented than for grown ups, but I hope kids will be charmed by the story and the animated characters, even if they look even more old fashioned now than they were meant to when they were first displayed.

I raced through here with Retro Roadhusband, who shared with me that he had played Fezziwig in the school play. ( Though this Fezziwig looks more like Harry Shearer to me!)

Fezziwig's Party

We had a busy night in the city planned and RRH was relieved when I declined the offer to see Santa at the end of our journey. But if you do happen sit on Santa’s lap, let him know my Christmas wish is that the Wanamaker Organ continues to play and remind us of a bygone era for years and years to come!

Wanamaker Grand Organ Christmas Light Spectacular
Macy’s
1300 Market St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 241-9000

RETRO ROADMAP RECOMMENDATION- If you drive into the city don’t park in the underground parking lot – which used to house a post office, lost and found, shoe repair, and the Dairy restaurant – which can be quite expensive! We found affordable parking in the garage at the corner of Sansom and 12th.

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The nice note I got about my post on The Fisherman Restaurant in Phoenixville PA reminded me that Retro Roadhusband and I had not been there in ages. We went there tonight for dinner, and basked in the glow of their cheery Christmas decorations, while dining on my fave chicken croquettes.

Christmas At The Counter

Christmas Tree At The Fisherman

I am glad to report that we were not the only diners there, though my photos always seem to show that. Sometimes we get so busy trying to find the new old-fashioned places to add to Retro Roadmap that we neglect some of the gems just around the corner. So glad we went there tonight, it was a swell time!

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I read about Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl of Zanesville Ohio on Rick Sebak’s* blog and he was kind enough to allow me to share this great vintage ice cream parlor with Retro Roadmap Readers.


Rick writes:

I think it’s silly to drive from Pittsburgh to Columbus or vice versa without stopping in Zanesville OH at Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl. It’s been a family tradition now for nearly twenty years since this guy at work, Bob Meek, insisted that I stop. He kept telling me it was like the Fifties, and I thought he meant fake nostalgic Fifties, all James Dean-y and Marilyn Monroe-ish, and I didn’t bother, but then one day I did take the Maple Avenue exit off I-70 and found the place.

It’s astounding. A time machine. It transports you to what-I-want-to-call the Forties. It’s untouched, unchanged. A piece of another era that you can step into and get ice cream and really good roasted nuts.

So we stop. Bob and Glenn are impressed. It is a magical place where they put the names of the seasonal flavors of homemade ice cream on paper cards and post them high on the one wall.

Glenn gets eggnog. I get rum raisin. (Those are seasonal holiday flavors.) Bob gets black raspberry, a year round flavor that’s listed inside the wooden cabinet in the corner of the room behind the nut-and-candy cases. These are “single-scoop” dishes. Big single scoops. The sundaes overflow the bowls they come in.

toms-ice-cream-bowl-zanesville-oh-scoops-rick-sebak-retro-roadmap(Back in 1996 when we made “An Ice Cream Show” for PBS and CPB, I always thought I’d include Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl, but we ran out of time and travel money in our budget.  Still I mentioned this beautiful little place when I gave a list of great ice cream places to USA TODAY back then.)

If you’re ever near Zanesville, stop.

Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl
532 McIntire
Zanesville, Ohio 43701
(740) 452-5267

See how to get to Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl on The Official Retro Roadmap!

*WQED producer and host of such gems as “Pennsylvania Diners and Other Restaurants” and “Great Old Amusement Parks to just name two, Rick is an inspiration for those of us who love vintage roadside delights! Don’t forget to check the annex of the WQED shop devoted completely to DVDs of Rick’s road shows – they make perfect gifts this holiday season!

Tom's Ice Cream Bowl on Urbanspoon

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Our visit to The Nest Diner in Mattapoisett MA couldn’t have been more well timed for our day of adventure.

The Nest Diner Menu

First of all I hadn’t realized that the bowling alley didn’t open ’til 1pm so we got into town with about an hour “to spare” (couldn’t resist some bowling humor there). Also we found out that the diner is only open until 2pm, so if we had waited until after bowling we would’ve — struck out -! (I promise to stop.)

The Nest Diner Mattapoisett MAI realized that this was the first time 2 of the Retro Roadkids were eating in a real diner and I was glad that it was a such a good example of the genre. The Mattapoisett is an authentic 1954 Mountain View diner with the stainless steel outside, counter and booth service and original terrazzo floors.

Counter Service

With a kind word the gentleman seated at the counter was nice enough to move down a stool so all six of us could sit together. The kids had a blast spinning on the stools and us grown ups tried the best we could to corral them into some good behavior with the promise of a kids’ meal or pancakes.
Swivel Seats

We all ordered our meals from the menu of classic diner fare, and now came the time to look around a bit. I had eaten at the Nest eons ago (it’s been on the same site for over 40 years), when the place was actually called the Mattapoisett Diner, It had a great sign that said diner on it twice, which was always a memorable sight. You can still see that if you look at the illustration of the diner in the lower left corner of the framed 1996 calendar of Classic Diners of Eastern Massachusetts, posted on the wall at one end of the diner.

Classic Diners of Eastern Massachusetts 1996 Calendar

(one thing neat to note is that 2/3 of these diners are still in operation 13 years later!)

Our food arrived quickly courtesy of our friendly waitress- who introduces herself to us but I forgot to write down her name, sorry! Even though we had just eaten donuts not too long ago we all managed to polish off our burgers, pancakes, BLTs, franks and beans, and kids meals before it was time to head out the door to the bowling alley.

One thing I love is when Retro Roadmap worthy places have some sort of token of remembrance for sale- post card, mug, calendar, what have you. The Nest has a classic diner coffee mug with their image on it for sale at the register. Do yourself and the diner a favor and pick one up on the way out- a gift for you or just in time for the holidays!

Nest Diner Coffee Mug***Update 4/2010- We learned recently that the Nest has changed hands. Would like to think that they are still giving the same fine service and food that we experienced when we visited, but haven’t been there since the change. If you visit please leave a comment on this post so we know what to expect- thanks!

The Nest Diner
81 Fairhaven Rd
Mattapoisett, MA 02739
508-758-3600

Nest Diner on Urbanspoon

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