Cypress Gardens 1965

I loved Cypress Gardens in the 1970's. Lush gardens, beautiful Southern Belles, and remarkable water ski shows in Winterhaven, Florida. With the introduction of Disney World in the early 70's, Florida garden parks began to dwindle. People were ready for a new kind of entertainment - my guess is they figured tropical plants were common, why pay to see them?

Here's a shot of the water ski show in 1965. Note that the spectators sat on the grass. This was before the grandstand (if that's what they call it) was built.

A close up of the skiers in one of their famous formations.

I know Cypress Gardens closed a couple of years ago, and rumor had it that they might sell to a developer. Well, it's still a theme park, and the Southern Belles and water ski shows have survived!

Thanks for the photos dad!

Find out here:

coming soon:
Silver Springs
Sunken Gardens
Weeki Wachee

My New Mr. Toast Photo Blog!

Mr. Toast is a lovable little charactor whom I will be photographing from time to time. Creator Dan Goodsell had a photo contest and I was one of the winners, so I won a Mr. Toast doll to photograph doing all sorts of things.

Check out my Mr. Toast Photo Blog
every so often to find out where Mr. Toast has been!

Happy Birthday Danny!

Saturday, February 25th was Danny's second birthday, and (because they are so close) it was the combined birthday party for Dan and Mike.

Mike will be 4 in a few weeks.

They are both pictured above with their brother Chris singing "Happy Birthday"

More photos soon on my web page -check it out over the next few days.

Today Is John's Birthday!

It's John's birthday today, Friday, February 24th!

Happy Birthday!

Six Gun Territory

As the sign says, between Silver Springs and Ocala Florida, there once was a place called "Six Gun Territory." This park had an old west theme and from the looks of the photos, was pretty much a ghost town. Perhaps it was the time of year (April) and there weren't many tourists around.

These photos were taken around 1965. The weather looked great, and the park looked well maintained. I don't have any idea when the park opened or what year it closed, but if you're interested, you can look here at this web site:

More tomorrow!

Tiki Gardens 1965

Let's travel back in time to the 1960's when Florida still had some of it's little theme parks. On Florida's west coast, in Indian Shores (near Clearwater) there was a place called Tiki Gardens.
This small park included some gift shops and a restaurant calledTrader Franks. I remember walking through Tiki Gardens as a child in the early 70's. There were lots of little things to see and plenty of photo spots such as tiki statues, gardens and a rickshaw which my brother and I had to jump in.

I also remember palm trees that were trained to grow into strange shapes, almost lying on the ground for several feet then growing upright again.

What Florida park would be without one of these - a sign you could put your face into and take a photograph! -Gotta love it!

Sometime in the late 80's Pinellas county acquired the old park and razed the buildings to produce a parking lot for the Indian Shores Beach Access. Every time I drive by I sigh and think of what once was.

Grocery Of the Past

Whatever happened to family owned neighborhood grocery stores? You know, the kind that sold a little bit of everything - from bread to screwdrivers. Here's a photo of a store that probably didn't change much from 1930 until the time this photo was taken in 1973. Adair's Grocery was a small store located in Palm Harbor, Florida, on Florida street, a couple of blocks east of Alt. 19. The building is still there, but it's been renovated.

This store had old worn, hardwood floors, wooden shelves and the old fashioned red coke cooler with the door on top that slid open and a bottle opener on the side. My family would stop in here every year after picking grapefruit at our friend Mike's house. I don't think I've ever been as hot as I remember the inside of this store was. And I can still remember wandering the back aisles and seeing products for sale that were probably on the shelf for 10 or 20 years, judging by the packaging and the amount of dust and spiderwebs on them! But if I think about it, every Walmart I've been in has the same amount of dust and dirt between the entry doors - what's their excuse?

Calhoun Georgia Great Sign

Here's a photo taken in 1975 of the Holiday Inn sign in Calhoun, Georgia at the Redbud Road exit. Don't ask me who Kim and Kathy are, but the boy in the front gives you an idea of how large these signs were.

My brother and I used to play catch next to this exact sign, if we arrived at the motel before the sunset. As we got older, we would throw the ball over the sign trying not to hit it. We never did break anything, but I imagine the Innkeeper would have been on pins and needles if he saw us throwing a ball over his sign.

I wish I had a photo of the sign at night. If you watch the movie "The Blues Brothers" or some episodes of "Starsky and Hutch" you'll see the sign at night, all lit up.

Ice on Fish Lake

After a record setting 60 degree Valentines Day, super cold air dropped temperatures below zero. In just 2 days the lake is beginng to freeze. Here's the vacation house today all iced up.

Stevenson and California Exit

Hey! Remember this? No, not the Beatles or the radio station, but the billboard itself. This old building was on California Ave. in Chicago, right next to I-55. All Northbound traffic was confronted by this 4 storey brick billboard that was newly painted every few months. The building probably fell down because of the weight of the paint alone!

I guess the old fashioned painting of billboards gave way to printed tarps stretched onto the steel frames we see all over the country. No special talents necessary, only the ability to work 50 feet off the ground.

This building was razed about 8 years ago, but thanks to Ed K, we've got a photo of it. Hey Ed, do you remember the name of this building?

Chris Meets One of the Wolves!

Today at our local library, a special guest came to the weekly children's story time. Jared Ross, a professional hockey player with the Chicago Wolves stopped by to talk to the kids and sign autographs.

Chris isn't a hockey fan yet, but he really enjoyed Jared's talk and especially his humor. I think it's great that professional athletes take the time out of their schedules to meet little kids and answer their questions about pro sports. The kids seem to discover that the athletes not only worked hard at their sport, but also at their studies in school.

Jared's 23 and he's had a rough year with the Wolves - he lost two teeth! His dentist (also his mother) wasn't too thrilled with that.

Here's a copy of the 8 x 10 photo Jared autographed for Chris.


Just thought I'd share with you a television show I've been watching for the past couple of months on the Science Channel. It's called Survivorman and it teaches you how to survive in various wilderness situations. Survivorman is a one man show, Les Stroud is the host, narrator, cameraman and he even writes the music. The interesting part of this show is the fact that Les is alone for 7 days in the wilderness, he is the camera crew- having to lug 60 pounds of camera equipment with him, and film himself from several different angles. It would be hard enough trying to survive for 7 days in these areas, but he also has to film it.

Les has no food, water or supplies other than what a typical hiker would have. In one show after falling into freezing water, all he had to survive was a handful of cashews and a multi-tool. Other times he re-enacts a plane crash, tipped over canoe, broken down motorcycle, so he shows you how to use the parts from these items to survive. It's very interesting how he finds food and water, builds shelters, makes a fire, etc..

From the frozen arctic to the arid desert, Survivorman is one of the few true reality survivor shows. Watch it this week either on the Science Channel at 8pm ET Friday, or on the Discovery Channel Tuesday night.

How About a Big Kiss?

With Valentines Day on it's way, I thought I'd give everyone a big kiss. This sign was a landmark in the Chicago area. I think there were a few of the Magikist Carpet Cleaner signs around, but I distinctly remember the huge one just off the Kennedy Expressway. We would pass it each time we drove to my Aunt Marge and Uncle Roman's house. This giant sign would light up at night with vertical pieces of red neon and the lights would move from the outside edges to the center and back out again.

This type of sign must have become very expensive to create and keep up, because around 1980, they began to disappear and were replaced with cheap, flat rectangles with the image painted on it.

I miss the signs that used to be along the Kennedy, Dad's Rootbeer, Coke, Magikist, and especially the carpet company with the neon sign shaped like a ringing telephone.

Cathy's phone is ringing!

My Day Had Impact ............Literally!

Finally finished another busy day a work! My assistant has been ill for about two weeks, so I've been pretty busy. I got about 20 minutes from work and got stopped in traffic waiting for a red light about two blocks away. After about 20 seconds of calm WHAMM!!! Someone hit me from behind sending my car into the car ahead of me (which is not pictured).

I got out to take a look at who hit me and survey the damage, it seems it always feels worse than it is. My rear bumper didn't have much damage, just a couple of scratches that can be sanded out. My front license plate bracket is toast, I'll need to replace that. The camera phone came in handy; I can prove there wasn't any damage to the car ahead of me.

The people in the car that hit me were a little hurt, I guess they got whiplash. Everyone else refused treatment by the ambulance that was dispatched to the scene after calling 911.

The police had us move the cars and then proceeded to write up the reports - all three pages and over an hours worth! Turns out that the last car didn't stop in time so he hit the car behind me which hit mine and pushed it (brakes applied fully on impact) into the car ahead of me. The car ahead of me was a rental, so the lady in that car was a bit nervous, but the car didn't have any noticeable damage.

The two cars behind me had considerable damage, but they were all drivable.

Now I Have to fill out my part of the police report and mail it in so the insurance companies can battle things out.

At least nobody was seriously hurt.

Radio Debut!

John and Stan G. will make their "radio debut" sometime in March.
While attending a big band concert in Oak Park, IL, they were asked by WDCB radio host John Russell to record a promotional spot.

Here's the info from the radio station web page:

Midwest Ballroom

Saturday, 5 p.m.
New to the WDCB airwaves, Midwest Ballroom is hosted by John Russell (Ghrist), noted author and authority on Midwest ballroom orchestras from both the present and past. In this hour-long program, you’ll hear music from these dance bands, as well as a five-minute weekly feature highlighting a musician from ballroom history, John’s featured “song of the week,” and “sounds bites” from archived interviews.

So it's not the big time, but it's still fun! Listen for them on WDCB radio 90.9 FM between 5pm and 7pm on a Saturday in March. There are only 4, so sit back and enjoy the big band sounds!

You can also listen live on the internet here:

Cordele, GA Howard Johnson

A great place to stop on the way down I 75 in Georgia is the Best Western Colonial Inn in Cordele. If you leave Chicago before 8:00 AM, you can make it to Cordele by 10:00 pm without killing yourself - earlier if you only stop for gas and the bathroom! They offer very competitive room rates that include a large breakfast bar in the morning. The breakfast goes far beyond donuts, bagels and coffee, it includes lots of cereals, grits, biscuits and gravy, fresh waffles, fruit and lots of juices. If you're hungry after this, it's your own fault.

Traveling down over the years, John seemed to remember another motel at this location, and sure enough, it used to be a Howard Johnson's. Here's an old postcard of the original motel, before the renovation and additions. While I don't remember this Howard Johnson's in particular, I do remember visiting others and stopping by the restaurants - especially for a hot fudge Sundae!

I also remember the urge to climb up that orange roof since it was so low and accessible to me as a child.

Are HOJO restaurants coming back? Look here: Unofficial HOJO tribute site
Another nice site: Under the orange roof web site

Chuggers Lounge

Driving to Florida when I was a kid in the 1970s was a lot of fun. This was before seatbelts; driving in huge cars; 70 mph speed limits; AM radio; a CB; no video games and no air conditioning. All we had to do was look out the window, read books and draw pictures.
Looking at the different sites along the way was a lot of fun. One of the "landmarks" on 1-24 through Nashville was the Holiday Inn with the Chuggers Lounge. Truly a sign that went above and beyond announcing the existence of a bar.
Having no real sense of distance or time when we were kids, we used these landmarks to tell how close we were getting to Florida. It's funny how we could remember all of them from year to year, and some of them are still around today. Now each year, my kids keep looking for some of the same landmarks- and lots of new ones too.