Archive for March, 2010

Today’s sunshine after yesterday’s sleeting miserableness made me want to take a retro road trip to grab an ice cream, and if I weren’t so beat from work a perfect destination would’ve been The Circle S Ranch House in West Lawn, PA.

Luckily Retro Roadhusband and I roadtripped up there last week, so I can tell you all about it!

Ranch House Neon Sign

Serving Greater Berks County since 1973, RRH and I were intrigued by the great neon sign and the western motif. Decorated in a 1970’s interpretation of the old west, replete with knotty pine paneling, cowboy paintings, faux old signs and giant wagon wheel chandeliers with spurs on ’em, it’s a bit like the Brady Bunch interpretation of the wild west. Pardner.

Please Wait to be SeatedWhile trying to research the restaurant online the only review I saw mentioned that it was her “grandmother’s favorite restaurant” and I could totally see that. There were grandmas mixed in with families with kids and when I posted a photo of the neon sign to my Facebook account, friends were reminiscing about showing up here after junior high school dances!

They’ve got a bit of a “western” flair to some of their names, but alas their “Wagon Wheel” was a burger and not a slab or slice or chunka, as we products of the 70’s TV think of a wagon wheel! The food is affordable and a nice alternative to the chains in the area. As I said to RRH when I ate my BLT, “There’s nothing wrong with regular food for regular folks”.

Welcome to the Circle S Ranch House

I wasn’t  planning on having ice cream and in fact our next stop was supposed to be a giant dairy twirl down the street in Wernersville (we’ll get there soon, don’t worry). But when I saw trays go by filled with ice cream sundaes, banana splits and dishes of ice cream ALL WITH A PRETZEL perched on EACH ONE I was POWERLESS to resist the lure  of my favorite flavor combo “the crunchy salty with the sweet cold smooth” – powerless, I tellya.

The Pretzel Made Me Get It!“the crunchy salty with the sweet cold smooth”

The ice cream was smooth and flavorful, they had butterscotch topping and you just can’t get that everywhere nowadays and even Retro Roadhusband was thinking he should’ve gotten a sundae after he kept tasting mine. I’m hooked.

The place was bustling when we were there (hooray!) so I did not get to ask anyone about the reason behind the pretzel on each ice cream. Since this is practically pretzel country with Tom Sturgis pretzels are made just down the street, that must have something to do with it.

Who am I kidding? They put a pretzel on each ice cream because it sells ice cream to folks who weren’t planning on eating it- folks like me! I fell for it, but that’s fine, it was sweet and delicious and I’ll be glad to bring them my ice cream business and help keep their great retro signs lit.

Exit Circle S Ranch House

The Circle S Ranch House
2738 Penn Avenue
West Lawn PA 19609
(610) 678-6282

Circle S Ranch House on Urbanspoon

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We had a swell evening at the talk given by Len Davidson about the neon and vintage signs in Philadelphia (and beyond) and I wanted to remind folks where they can see some of Davidson Neon‘s signs “in captivity”:

These signs and others are hanging in the Philadelphia Center for Architecture on Arch Street:

Neon Signs In Captivity(This was actually taken after our talk was over, you don’t have to see it through the grates when the museum shop is open- it just made me think of them being in the zoo!)

Go dog, go!

Even if the Center is closed you can enjoy them from the street:

We also got the insider skinny regarding one of the marvelous old porcelain enamel and neon signs from Philly’s past- Pat’s King of Steaks:

This giant sign once stood high atop a now closed location, but Davidson neon now displays the enormous crown at Jack’s Firehouse just across the street from the historic Eastern State Penitentiary. Of course as soon as we heard that we knew where we were going to eat our after-talk meal!

Pat's King of Steaks Crown

(I hope I didn’t ruin their first date!)

As a quick aside, Jack’s is a great place to grab a bite – we loooved the pulled pork on home made corn chips- AND it is in a renovated fire house, which is pretty cool. The night we were there it was warm and balmy out, and the giant doors were thrown open to catch the night air. A great end to a great evening in Philly!

Davidson Neon has been tapped to reproduce this once glorious neon and porcelain enamel sign, to be shown atop the legendary Pat’s Steaks in South Philly. Stay tuned for more exciting sign news, and don’t forget to take a look at the signs around you!

Neon Museum Satellite Collection
Center for Architecture
1218 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 569-3188

See how close the Neon Museum’s satellite collection is to other cool stuff, click here for the Retro Roadmap!

Pat’s King Of Steaks Sign
Jack’s Firehouse

2130 Fairmount Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19130
(215) 232-9000

See Pat’s Crown at Jack’s Firehouse – and on the Retro Roadmap!

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Sometimes dreams do come true- if you happen to dream that a once beautiful old theater could be restored to her original beauty- and that theater happens to be The Paramount Theater in Boston MA. Thanks to the old broad, the Boston Glob for letting me know of this happy occasion long distance


(but poo for not showing the fab photo that accompanied the article,
and replacing it with the video of the light show next door!)

I first saw The Paramount back in 1984 (gulp) when I was doing a class project on The Old Theaters of Boston (see I told you I’ve been Retro Roadmappin for a long time-!) I fell in love with the towering art deco marquee, which had been painted by some local groups hoping to spark interest in the dilapidating building, which had opened in 1932 and closed in 1976.

Paramount Theatre Sign Boston 1984

and the sense of history that must’ve happened behind the boarded up facade:

Paramount Theatre Entrance 1984

These photos were taken from slides I had used in my presentation, and aren’t the best, but even back then I knew that this was a masterpiece, even after reading about rats in the orchestra pit and crumbling moldy plaster.

What a mix of joy and amazement I had when I read about it’s rebirth as part of an Emerson College project. Joy that the place had finally been recognized and repaird, and amazed at how quickly 25 years can pass!

The Paramount Theatre
560 Washington St
Boston, MA 02111

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Not one to dwell on the negative but wanted to let my dear Retro Roadmap readers know that Mod Betty has been a little under the weather these past few days, which is no fun for anyone. Luckily I appear to be on the other side of the worst, and true to my nature I’m recuperating in true Retro Roadmap fashion (turban optional).for headaches congestion and anemia

As I type this Retro Roadhusband just walked in the door with some chicken croquettes and mashed potatoes from The Fisherman, which aren’t the most picturesque items, but hopefully will hit the spot with their mushy goodness. (update: they did, mmm….)

Also through the power of modern technology I was able to check out a DVD from the Library down the block and as luck would have it one of the many wonderful shows from WQED’s Rick Sebak was on hand. After croquettes we’ll be enjoying A Ride Along The Lincoln Highway from the comfort of our own couch.


For those of you who don’t know Rick Sebak by name, or from the lovely tidbits he’s shared here on Retro Roadmap, he’s responsible for some of the more enjoyable original programming on public television, including features about diners, Pittsburgh, amusement parks, ice cream and Mr Rogers; pretty much all the stuff that I hold dear to my lil Retro Roadmap heart.

According to the WQED website:

Rick Sebak makes unusual television programs. His slightly wacky documentaries celebrate various aspects of modern American life and the unexpected charms of Pittsburgh. Audiences have learned to recognize his friendly narrative style and the unusual topics that he obviously loves.

So even if you’re not sick in bed, you’d do yourself right to catch up on all of his features, and enjoy one of his virtual road trips- many of which are available to purchase in the WQED store!

•    The Mon, The Al & The O (1988)
•    Kennywood Memories (1988)
•    Holy Pittsburgh! (1989)
•    Our Neighbor Fred Rogers (Two versions: 1989, 1990)
•    Flying Off The Bridge To Nowhere! And Other Tales Of Pittsburgh Bridges (1990)
•    Things That Aren’t There Anymore (1990)
•    Downtown Pittsburgh (1992)
•    The Pennsylvania Road Show (1992)
•    Pennsylvania Diners And Other Roadside Restaurants (1993)
•    Stuff That’s Gone (1994)
•    Houses Around Here (1994)
•    The Strip Show (1996)
•    An Ice Cream Show (1996)
•    Shore Things (1996)
•    North Side Story (1997)
•    South Side (1998)
•    Things That Are Still Here (1999)
•    A Hot Dog Program (1999)
•    Great Old Amusement Parks (1999)
•    Something About Oakland (2000)
•    Pittsburgh A To Z (2001)
•    A Flea Market Documentary (2001)
•    Sandwiches That You Will Like (2002)
•    Happy Holidays in Pittsburgh (2002)
•    Things We’ve Made (2003)
•    Fred Rogers: America’s Favorite Neighbor (2003)
•    It’s the Neighborhoods (2004)
•    A Program About Unusual Buildings & Other Roadside Stuff (2004)
•    A Cemetery Special (2005)
•    What Makes Pittsburgh Pittsburgh (2006)
•    Underground Pittsburgh (2007)
•    To Market To Market To Buy A Fat Pig (2007)
•    Invented, Engineered, and Pioneered in Pittsburgh (2008)
•    A Ride Along the Lincoln Highway (2008)
•    Right Beside the River (2009)
•    Breakfast Special (TBD 2010)

We’ll be back to our regular Retro Roadmap programming tomorrow, as I hope to be able to attend the Philadelphia Neon Talk, health willing. Now pardon me as I allow Retro Roaddog to hop onto the bed and help heal his poor ailing momma!

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Those of us in the Philly area are in for a real vintage sign treat, as Len Davidson – owner of Davidson Neon and curator of the Neon Museum of Philadelphia -is giving a slide presentation and discussion of “The History Of Neon in Philadelphia” this Wednesday March 24, after it was snowed out this past February.

Even cooler is that it is being held at the Philadelphia Center for Architecture, where you can see in real life 13 of these wonderful neon signs all lit up in the satellite location for the Neon Museum.


– For those of you who can’t make the talk you can still see the signs from the Neon Museum at the Center For Architecture during their normal business hours, so make it a stop on your  next visit to Philadelphia! –

I contacted Len a while ago asking him about the original McGillin’s Ale House sign and he was kind enough to give me some details about Thursday’s talk. Starting at 6pm we will learn about the types and history of neon signs, not only ones in the Philadelphia area, but some of the greats from around the country. We’ll also learn about different initiatives for getting the remaining neon signs the recognition they deserve, not only for being colorful and wonderful, but as a part of the folk art of  our past. His beautiful book Vintage Neon, as well as his line of neon sign postcards will be available for purchase.


Len began collecting neon in the 70’s and has collected or helped preserve more than 200 vintage signs, including such distinctive Philadelphia landmark signs as The Reading Terminal Market sign, Pat’s Steaks neon sign and the Levi’s Hot Dogs neon sign among others. I was thrilled to learn that he was responsible for the cheery yellow neon on the marquee of my fave local historic movie house, Phoenixville’s Colonial Theatre!


The Philadelphia Center For Architecture is located just down the street from the famous Reading Terminal Market, so get into town early to pick up a bite to eat (that’s our plan!) there before the talk, absorb the history of this great market, and check out their great neon signs.

The talk is sponsored by The Society of Architectural Historians / Philadelphia Chapter, and AIA Phila Historic Preservation Committee. The cost is $5 for members and $10 for the rest of us.

Neon Museum Satellite Collection
Center for Architecture
1218 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 569-3188

See how close the Neon Museum’s satellite collection is to other cool stuff, click here for the Retro Roadmap!

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I’m getting a bit jazzed up for a retro roadtrip and am “wicked psyched” at how many fun vintage and retro inspired events happening- the latest is Surf Ohio FesTiki 2010 – held in Dayton OH on Saturday August 14.

Aloha! Mark your calendar for Surf Ohio FesTiki 2010, the second annual celebration of classic surf, tiki and hot rod culture in Dayton, Ohio.


Catch the big wave of family fun on Saturday, Aug. 14, at historic Old River Park — Dayton’s “vintage playground,” featuring a 1.5-mile scenic lagoon.

Take an exotic trip back to America’s “Polynesian Pop” era of the 1950s and ’60s with six surf, rockabilly and Hawaiian music bands on the FesTiki stage!

Thrill to the captivating rhythms of hula and fire dancers!

Watch tiki carvers transform wooden logs into strange and frightening idols!

Marvel at the gleaming chrome of classic pre-1970 hot rods!

Gaze at the astonishing retro treasures in the vendors’ marketplace!

Surf Ohio FesTiki is a production of Surf Ohio and the Fraternal Order of Moai. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Surfrider Foundation, a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enhancement of the world’s waves and beaches.

Click here to read more about Surf Ohio FesTiki 2 a surf-tastic Retro Inspired Event!

Here’s where it is on the Retro Roadmap!

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