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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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I don’t know about you, but any time I hear music from the 1930’s and 1940’s – Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw – it makes me want to dance!

So when I found out a while ago that Swing Kat Entertainment was offering swing dance lessons and live music dances in a vintage building in Pottstown PA, I packed up my dancing shoes and shuffled off to the ballroom – with a VERY reluctant RetroRoadhusband in tow. He’s a good egg but even he has his limits.

Ballroom On High StreetThe ballroom is on the 2nd floor, so climb the stairway to paradise along with me!

Stairway to ParadiseThe dance lessons with RetroRoadhusband were a disaster, so I had not been back here in a while, but I recently met with Faryl Codispoti – founder of Swing Kat – so I could learn more about what went on in the ballroom so I could share it with you RetroRoadmap Readers.

faryl-codispoti-swing-kat-pottstown-dance-instructor

One thing I remembered from when we took lessons was the story that Faryl told us about his motivation to start Swing Kat.

He had never really danced at all until he was 25, when his sister was diagnosed with a terminal illness. She loved to dance so in the last few months of her life she and Faryl learned to swing dance together, bringing joy to both of them and fond memories to him. He’s been dancing ever since and teaching dance since 2003.

ReneeI’m happy to report Swing Kat will be celebrating their 5th anniversary of dancing at The Ballroom on High this September. Not only do they teach swing lessons but Jitterbug, Charleston, Balboa, along with Ballroom, Country, Salsa and more.

Everyone here is very friendly and welcoming even if you’ve never danced before, and Faryl says that’s what keeps people coming back to the ballroom. While they may be reluctant or shy at first, the comfortable environment and friendships made make the ballroom someplace to look forward to going.

Swing Kat 1st AnniversaryThe ballroom itself is in a grand building on High Street, the main street in Pottstown. Built in 1928, it was originally a Fraternal Order of the Eagles building. You can rent the ballroom for weddings or other events, with room for a live band on the stage and plenty of floorspace.

Ballroom On High(I know, there are no people dancing – do I ever take photos with people in them? :-))

One thing I think is so great about this whole scene is that live band perform at the dances held every third Saturday of the month.

Coming up this Saturday February 19 the The Blue Vipers of Brooklyn are playing and you can check the Swing Kat Live Swing Dance Events page for links to sample tunes and info about the other bands scheduled to play. There are also dance nights hosted by a DJ playing appropriate dance music for swinging and swaying like these folks:

The lessons and dances attract folks of all ages, from high school students (there are light refreshments included in admission price, but no alcohol served) all the way up to folks in their 70’s. I was charmed to hear that there is a 93 year old gentleman who comes to the dances and just sits and watches the band and enjoys the evening. If you’re not sure of your skills there is a lesson offered before each dance, ranging from beginner steps for newbies, to more advanced skills for those who have been around Swing Kat a while.

So while you may not think you can dance, who knows, you could be the next Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers!

Swing Kat Dancing
Ballroom on High
310 East High Street
Pottstown, PA 19464
(610) 348-6727

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I don’t think it’s hard to believe that Mod Betty has never been in a barber shop- beings that I’m a lady and all. However after visiting my first barber shop –  John’s Old school / New Skool Barber Shop in Schwenksville PA I think I’m spoiled forever, since I’ll be thinking that all barber shops are as hip, cool and happening as John’s!

From the vintage decor to the 50’s tunes on the hi-fi, to the tattooed barbers giving old school cuts and shaves like you don’t get anymore, this place is a destination for sure.

Classic Barber ChairFirst of all I must give props to WendyVee over at Roadside Wonders who hooked me up with a link to an article in the Washington Post about  John’s Barber shop extolling the virtues of John’s ability to give a proper old school pompadour as well as his cool shop filled witn memorabilia, vintage toys, and cool ephemera of all sorts. (I also found out that this repository of retro wonder was just 20 minutes from our house!)

Checking out their website I saw that the barber shop was voted Best Barber Shop in the Philadelphia area for 2010 and I also found out:

John’s Old School / New Skool Barber Shop specializes in hot lather face and neck shaves.We are the authority on all mens hairstyles from the 20’s through the 60’s and all the kool updated styles.

We do Greaser Cuts and Rockabilly Styles including but not limited to Pomps, Psychobilly Flat-Tops,Peter Gunn,D.A.’s etc…..We also specialize in flat tops, fades regular mens cuts and Whiskey Company Cuts.With over 19 years experience owner John Scioli will surely please even the most discerning male.

At John’s we make it a point to know our customers and look forward to the friendships we forge with our clients.

So I grabbed RetroRoadhusband and off we went!

As any good barbershop should, there was a barber pole lighting up the entrance to John’s on Friday night, making it easy to spot on Route 29. Within a half a heartbeat of us getting into the shop John greeted us while he was giving a shave, and let us know that there was PBR and blue Birch Beer in the fridge.

I was a bit overwhelmed taking in the scene – 3 tatooed barbers standing behind vintage barber chairs cutting flat tops and giving straight razor shaves, classic tunes on the hi-fi, pop culture and rockabilly memorabilia on every surface. I couldn’t even see where the vintage refrigerator was at first- but John, the host with the most, got his apprentice Alec to bring us some cold beverages.

Blue Birch Beer in Glass Bottles Catawissa

While a cold can of PBR always hits the spot – even for a lady like myself- I was more intrigued by the blue concoction in a glass bottle – Big Ben Birch Beer from Catawissa Beverages (you may remember my first encounter with Catawissa, at the Old Sledworks in Duncannon, PA) Not sure what it would taste like, but since John was having one himself we took one, and found it to be a tasty treat, much like root beer (der) but not as cloyingly sweet. Despite the Windex blue color we downed it and are now birch beer fans.

The Elvis Colleciton - Elvi?Retro kitchen chairs line the walls for folks who are waiting for cuts, or just those stopping by like ourselves, so we sat with the Elvises and chatted with Drew Nugent leader of Drew Nugent & The Midnight Society. He was waiting for his bandmate from Brooklyn to get his hot lather shave and then they were off to play some “Red Hot Jazz of The Roaring 20’s” in Philly. Had my elegant gown not been at the seamstress we were tempted by Drew’s invitation to attend the soiree but I’ve added it to the list of Retro Roadmap things to check out.Vintage Barber Shop Memorabilia

As we sipped our beverages we tried to take in the cool atmosphere all at once, but there is so much neat stuff to look at – Bob’s Big Boy figurines, H.R. Pufnstuf posters, vintage soda dispensers, barber chairs made by Triumph motercycles and more – a wonderful overload of vintage cool.

Not wanting to disturb John – especially when he was wielding a straight razor for a shave, we took some time to see the back room, also know affectionately as The Schwenksville Museum of Nostalgia.Enter the Schwenksville Museum of Nostalgia

This cozy space at the back of the shop contains the best of John’s collection of vintage pop-culture memorabilia and his huge assortment of shaving mugs. He doesn’t collect your standard vintage toys (no Disney here) but instead focuses on the lesser known but even cooler characters from shows such as The Banana Splits, H.R. Pufnstuf, The Bionic Man, Land of The Lost, Lidsville (!!!), The Bugaloos, Sigmund & The Seamonsters and so many more. It was like walking down memory lane where all the cool kids lived!

Museum of Nostalgia Vintage Toys

This 1973 catalog totally brings me back to my childhood- I had a bike like that and that girl in the front is the spitting image of my neighborhood friend Jane Hall!

Nostalgia and Ephemera
I could spend a gagillion years here looking at all the cool things (there’s Ernie from the Keebler Elves! Little Green Sprout too!)
Little Green Spud in Gumball MachineI could not look at the magazine at the left without pronouncing it in my head with my native Boston accent ( StaahRinGahhtahhh) but wanted to get back into the barber shop proper where all the action was.

Star & Garter, Juke Box, Barber Shop

Back out in the barber shop, John had Alec put on a new record- I think he was trying to get in my good graces by putting on Connie Francis, and I chatted a bit to the two other barbers – Rich and John, who each drive a long distance to learn from John and be a part of this scene.

As John finished up his last client I asked him about his barber shop and the random tangents and cool off the beaten track topics that come up in such a place.

No Jibber Jabber

The barber shop has been open for 4 years but John has been barbering a lot longer than that, a skill he picked up as “something to fall back on” as his parents suggested when he got out of college. Lucky for John’s clientele he focused on barbering instead of teaching highschool German, and learned the proper way to give a precision hair cut with scissors, trimmer and a good old fashioned straight razor. And while the service goes for a little more than the old “two bits” the prices are crazy affordable- especially for the precision service you get.

Folks come to John’s Barber Shop from everywhere for a cut and a shave like it should be done, as well as the one-of-a-kind atmosphere. The fact that his shop is a place where local law enforcement can peacefully co-exist with rebels, rockabilly cats and punk rockers is a testament to his ability to welcome everyone who walk in the door, and treat everyone with the same frankness and humor. While things got topical, it never offended my ladylike sensibilities (or perhaps I’m not so ladylike after all?!)

Please Don't Swear

The clientele also spans family generations: I overheard the local young basketball player in the chair chatting with John about his great-grandfather who had been in the shop earlier in the week, and both laughing fondly at John’s interactions with “the old geezer” (note that he won’t become an official Old Geezer until he turns 90 in May). Can’t say you’d find that familiarity in your local chain salon or cuttery.
Elvis is Everywhere

Elvis is everywhere in the building and you may just run into him on Saturday mornings- as the barber shop often has live musical performances for the customers and fans of rockabilly and vintage rock and roll. If you’re local, think of bands that would play The Blue Comet and that’s what you’ll hear at John’s – Dibbs Preston and the Detonators and the like.

But what’s up with all the toys and stuff? No, they’re not some “put a buncha stuff you just found up on the walls and hope it looks good” corporate directive. You know the places I’m talking about! No, this is John’s personal collection of cool.

Vending Machine of Cool
John says he started collecting toys back when he was a kid, ” I was a nerd with Tourettes and had no friends” This last claim is hard to imagine, with the easy banter he has with everyone who walks into the shop this evening, the offering of drinks (in ice cold glass bottles) and fun free stuff just for the heck of it. Highschool? Whatevs.

Playboy Club, Sid & Marty Croft, Cocoanut Grove, Fat Albert
Try as I might, I just could not picture myself with a flat top, but I absolutely insist, that if you’re a boy, with hair, you must visit John’s Old School / New Skool Barber shop if you’re within any radius of Schwenksville PA and get yourself a cut or a shave.

As it says on their website they make it a point to know their customers and look forward to the friendships they forge with their clients, and with just one visit you’ll want to be part of this most excellent scene.

John’s Old School New Skool Barber Shop & Shwenksville Museum of Nostalgia
546 Main Street
Schwenksville, PA 19473-1044
(610) 906-0063

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What to do when you want to preserve and renovate your downtown movie theatre but the building is too far gone? Do what Ephrata PA did, and save as much of the vintage neon, chandeliers and vintage charm as you can, before the place falls apart, then display them for all to enjoy!

Main Street Theater Ephrata PA

While the building that now contains the Main Street Theatre is “vintage 1993”, I have to hand it to the folks of Ephrata for preserving as much of the old theatre’s pieces to incorporate into this new structure that sits on the site of the old theatre.

Main Theatre Ephrata PA - Before

Like this cool brushed steel ticket booth for example!

Ticket Booth Main Theatre Ephrata PA

And this swell art deco chandelier:

IMG_2048

And cool curved glass blocks and etched mirror:

Main Theatre Art Deco Glass Block

I know from first hand experience living in a town with a downtown movie house how a place like this can become a central part of a community, and think it is cool that the builders of the Brossman building even considered putting a theatre into this space. With a covered parking garage in the back and a great restaurant on the 3rd floor (Lily’s on Main) it’s a great place to go for dinner and a movie!

Main Theatre Tickets

And if the wonderful artifacts saved from Ephrata’s old movie houses inspires new film goers to check out some of the wonderful vintage theatres still in existence (and keeps ’em out of the mega screen boxes ) well wouldn’t that be nice?

Ephrata Main Theatres
124 East Main Street
Ephrata, PA 17522
(717) 733-9098‎

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