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While w would have loved to stay at the posh Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis, TN we did  scurry ourselves over there to witness the daily parade of ducks as they make their way to the fountain in the lobby, as they have every day since the 1930s!
Peabody Hotel BookThe place was an absolute madhouse of families and tourists all lined up on the red carpeted path from the penthouse elevator to the fountain, but it was fun to be part of this tradition. We managed to catch a quick glimpse of a duck butt or two as they waddled quickly to their aquatic destination, and I could not help but laugh at how quickly it was over. We did catch a glimpse of the elevator that takes the ducks from their penthouse suite to the lobby, and lo and behold, there’s an egg.

The Peabody Duck Egg Memphis TN

We decided to return to the Peabody later in the day when it wasn’t so crowded, and I’m glad I was able to get some shots of this glorious downtown hotel. As well as the ducks, up close and personal.

Here’s the beautiful centerpiece of the lobby, the Italian travertine marble fountain where the ducks swim daily:

Fountain at Peabody Hotel Memphis TN

And a closeup of the webfooted fiends and their little friends:

Peabody Ducks and Kids

So how did this tradition of the Peabody Duck March of the ducks start?

Funny enough it started with the General Manager returning from a hunting trip and thinking it would be funny to leave their live duck decoys in the fountain (much to the delight of guests). This tradition was given the added pomp and circumstance of the march when a bellman – who happened to be an ex-animal trainer for the circus was put in charge of the ducks. He trained the ducks to march (more like scurry) to the fountain to the strains of the Sousa King Cotton March and it has been a tradition at 11am and 5pm ever since.

This has also become a tradition at the Peabody hotels in Orlando and Little Rock.

Now onto the hotel!

The Peabody Hotel we see today was built in 1925, continuing the tradition and history of The Peabody hotel that had been on a different location in Memphis from 1869-1923. Built in an Italian Renaissance style it is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Peabody Hotel Lobby

A destination in its heyday, The Peabody was famous for it’s rooftop “Skyway” venue – one of just three national locations for live radio broadcasts during the 1930s and 1940s.

Peabody Hotel Skyway Postcard ebay mikeleach

I may sound like a broken record when I remind readers of the dark times that many of these historic downtowns went through in the 1960s and 1970s, and Memphis was no exception. The Peabody closed down in 1975 but then was luckily saved and restored, to once again serve the public in 1981.The reopening of The Peabody is considered by many to have been a major inspiration for the downtown revitalization that continues to this day in Memphis.

One of the many interesting thing to note about the Peabody is that it has 13 floors – not a particularly lucky number to many. Because superstition is so strong about this number in many hotels, the Peabody has replaced the number 13 in their elevators with the letter S – for Skyway. Bad luck avoided!

House Phone

So if you’re in the mood for some silly swimmers or a swanky swig at the Grand Lobby Bar (named by Esquire as a Top Ten Best Watering Hole in America) waddle on over to the Peabody!

The Peabody Hotel
49 Union Avenue
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 529-4000

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Looking for a cool place for a classic cocktail, live music and all around hip scene with a vintage vibe? Then look no further than The Blue Comet in Glenside, PA.

The Blue Comet Exterior Sign

I’ve already told you how excited we were to find that The Blue Comet had reopened after being closed for 2 years, and I was psyched that RetroRoadhusband and I were able to visit there recently before-and after- a show at the Keswick Theatre for a swell date night! And since I’m hunkered down at home with the RetroRoaddog tonight, what better time reminisce about some weekend fun?

Blue Comet Door

It’s a cozy space with the bar up front where you can look at the vintage barware and entertaining kitsch while you wait for your perfect Manhattan to be created by one of their nattily dressed bartenders.

Bar Scene
Ah! There it is! Come to Betty!
Manhattan
You can order food at the bar if you like-or wait here for a booth in the back. I like the bar scene here, as you can watch people come and go, and best of all – talk to the person next to you, as instructed by one of their TVs.
Talk To The Person Next To You

Since we were heading out to a show we did order some nibbles and decided to sit at one of the upholstered booths in the back to eat. I dig the mood lighting in the Blue Comet as it does wonders in making everyone look young and beautiful, alas not so good for the photographing of food. Which was tasty for sure!

Glass Block Wall and Ortliebs BeerFolks all around were enjoying their dinner and drinks, and if it were a Saturday or Sunday they’d also be able to enjoy live music, with a Rockabilly bent. The memorabilia above our table showcases some of the bands that had played there in the past. The best place to keep up with their schedule is on The Blue Comet Facebook page.
Rockabilly Rumble PosterSince we were off to see some live music ourselves, we reluctantly had to leave the vintage environment of the Comet sooner than we’d like, but are already making plans to go there with some pals very soon.

Glenside is a neat little enclave of independent businesses – don’t leave without enjoying the science-fiction like displays of their neighbors Humphrey’s Pest Control (in business since the 1950’s – nice!):

Damage To Suitcase By Termites

And, horror of horrors:

Slide Carousel and Slides Destroyed By Termites

The Blue Comet Bar & Grill
106 S Easton Rd
Glenside, PA 19038
(215) 572-9780

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Speaking of vintage Italian restaurants – Tony’s Baltimore Cafe in Atlantic City New Jersey is an authentic old time AC eatery, located just a block from the famous boardwalk.

Tony's Baltimore Grill Atlantic City, NJ

There are 2 entrances- one on the corner that leads directly to the bar, another into the wonderfully in-tact retro dining room. Either way you’re told to sit anywhere you like, by one of the seasoned waitresses.

Bask in the Glow of Red Neon

We opted for the dining room, which at the time of night we were there wasn’t packed, but did have a decent stream of folks coming in out of this freezing cold windy evening for some warm pasta, pizza and throwback ambiance.

If you’ve spent more than a minute inside one of the many boardwalk casinos, with their recycled air and shopping mall vibe, you will appreciate the authentic feel of a place that has been here long before the giant buildings took over the seashore. And as you can see, they cater to the late night crowd.

HoursOpen for over 70 years, you could almost envision the Rat Pack sitting at one of the booths. (Alas the music on the jukeboxes did not live up to my swingin’ sounds expectation).

Tony's Dining RoomLike the front sign says “Spaghetti Pizza” and we said YES! I got the pizza, RetroRoadhusband got the spaghetti and meatballs and we both split a “Large Salad Bowl”. As well as a couple of affordable beers!

The pizza crust was definitely fluffier than the thin crust pies that are my fave, but this pizza was still good. RRH dug his spaghetti tho the meatballs are on the mushy side, however I informed him that I read they’ve been that way for years.

Tony's Grill PizzaI thought it was ironic that some of the casino hotels and restaurants give that old time vibe (thinking of The Continental, etc) but right here, in the shadow of these behemoths, the real deal lives on.

You Go, Little Guy!

Tony’s Baltimore Grill
2800 Atlantic Ave
Atlantic City, NJ 08401
(609) 345-5766

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I’m happy to report that one of my fave bars, the Blue Comet in Glenside PA is open once again! This great neighborhood bar, famous for their live rockabilly music on Sunday nights, was closed for almost 2 years and Retro Roadhusband and I were delighted to see that they were open (since June) as we drove past this afternoon.

blue-comet-bar-grill-glenside-pa-reopen-retro-roadmap

We took a quick peek in and I’m pleased to report that the place looks the same, if not better than ever, down to the “Talk To The Person Next To You” sign I LOVE, pasted across the screen of the TV. If you didn’t know that this bar had been opened within the past 20 years you’d swear it was a holdover from another era, with its vintage style interior, classic standards and rockabilly playing in the background and blue neon Cocktails sign.

With a fresh coat of paint, outdoor patio ’round back, good food and live music, we raise a toast to the Blue Comet – Welcome back!

Become a fan of The Blue Comet on Facebook if you like!

The Blue Comet Bar & Grill
106 S Easton Rd
Glenside, PA 19038
(215) 572-9780

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The recently renovated Tonga Room, an historic tiki fixture in the basement of San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel since the 1920’s is slated for demolition now that the building has gone condo- not cool! If you’re in the SF area and want to lend your voice to saving this slice of history, there’s a meeting at Smuggler’s Cove on March 23. Here are the details as I found’em on that fabulous tiki resource, Tiki Central!

tonga-room-save-retro-roadmap

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – To all concerned San Franciscans, Tiki freaks, Dionysians and Sybarites, mid century fans, and rum aficionados; come one and come all to a gathering at Smuggler’s Cove (650 Gough St. San Francisco, CA 94102) on Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 starting at 5:00PM to sign a petition opposing the demolition of the Tonga Room to make way for a parking garage and yet more luxury condominiums. ( Mod Betty says, “the thought makes my heart sink!”

After you sign the petition, stay a while and enjoy a fantastic rum cocktail or two while you mix and mingle with like-minded people and listen to Exotica under the soft glow of Tiki torches and beachcomber lamps. Around 6:00 PM, Chris VerPlanck and Erica Schultz of S.O.S. Tonga will provide a brief update on efforts to save the Tonga Room and exhort you to contact your local supervisors and the president of the Historic Preservation Commission, urging them to designate the Tonga Room as a local San Francisco Landmark. Mahalo!

Located at The Fairmont San Francisco, The Tonga Room has delighted guests with its tropical décor, decadent libations and Asian cuisine since 1945.

If you want to help but can’t make the meeting, also consider becoming a fan of Save The Tonga Room on Facebook.

I’m putting The Tonga Room on the Retro Roadmap as we speak and hope, with the input of concerned citizens it gets to stay there for a very long time!

The Tonga Room at the Fairmont Hotel
950 Mason Street
San Francisco, CA 94108-6000
(415) 772-5278

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Spying McGillin’s Olde Ale House tucked away on a narrow alley just off the main streets in Center City is like catching a 3D glimpse into Philadelphia’s historic past. The only business on this teeny strip of road between massive high rise buildings and just 2 blocks from City Hall, the warm glow from their vintage looking neon sign beckoned us to step back in time on a chilly December evening.

Down The Alley

I didn’t know what to expect from the Oldest Continually Operating Pub in Philadelphia (150 years, this year!) and was crossing my fingers that the place had retained some of its authentic charm and not succumbed to the faux historical look popular with businesses in touristy areas, or turned into a sporty frat bar.

McGillan's Neon SignWhen we saw the care that was taken with their neon sign ( only 7 years old but an exact replica of their original sign- see below about that) and the cheery holiday decorations we hoped for the best, opened the narrow swinging doors, and ventured inside.

THEN what happened? Click through to find out!

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This post- on a restaurant I’ve never been to, on the total opposite side of the country- began with a less than satisfying visit to a diner (I won’t get into it but will just say it wasn’t Retro Roadmap-worthy). As I drove away with a weight in my tummy, I began to question myself, “What IS Retro Roadmap worthy? Exterior? Interior? Food? Ambiance? Why do some places make the cut, and others don’t cut it?”

As I was trying to articulate this in my head, to myself, a story came on the radio about Musso & Frank Grill in Hollywood California. The restaurant has just had its 90th birthday and is going stronger than ever (you can listen to the story yourself, on NPR right here )

(thanks to daisylind  on flickr for the use of her fabulous photo!)

Suddenly I was hearing phrases like:

Musso’s has thrived by remaining faithful to its traditions.

Step into this red leather and mahogany interior, and you step into another world, another era.

You walk into Musso’s, and it embraces you. Musso’s is historical serenity.

It was then I realized that I was hearing some of the definitions of Retro Roadmap worthiness coming out of my very own car radio, as if a voice from another sphere knew what I wanted to hear!

I  knew at that moment I had to get on the Retro Roadmap hotline to our West Coast Correspondent Anna B, who has been a fan of “Musso’s” since she has lived in L.A. From her new digs in San Fran she was kind enough to articulate in her own way what makes this place so wonderful: (more…)

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