Rockford Furniture Ghost Sign

Rockford Furniture Ghost Sign
Faded brick ad for Rockford Standard Furniture Company at the corner of 9th Street and Railroad Avenue in Rockford, Illinois. At the turn of the last century, Rockford was a manufacturing powerhouse, especially for machine tools and furniture established by its large population of Swedish immigrants. Rockford Standard Furniture opened in 1887 and manufactured dining room furniture, desks, and bookcases.

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Past Shadows

Past Shadows
Monument to Big. Gen. Gustavus Sniper (1836-1894) in Woodlawn Cemetery, 800 Grant Boulevard, Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York. Sniper was colonel of the 185th New York Volunteer Infantry.

He was brevetted brigadier general on March 13, 1865 for “conspicuous gallantry in the battles of the Quaker Road and White Oak Road, Virginia.” These battles were fought at the opening of the Appomattox Campaign southwest of Petersburg, Virginia. The 185th NY was in Joshua L. Chamberlain’s (of Gettysburg fame) brigade of the First Division, V Corps.

Black Rock Battlefield

A roadside sign is all that reminds us of that time the British savagely burned the towns of Buffalo and Black Rock, New York to the ground.

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The Battle of Black Rock was fought on December 30, 1813 between British forces commanded by Major General Phineas Riall and American militia commanded by Major General Amos Hall in the present day city of Buffalo, New York along the Niagara River during the War of 1812. The engagement was a decisive British victory, resulting in the burning of Black Rock and Buffalo.

On December 10, 1813, Brigadier General George McClure decided to abandon Fort George on the eastern bank of the Niagara River, which the United States had captured in May. His troops burned the nearby village of Newark to the ground before retreating across the river. The British wasted little time in retaliating, and they captured Fort Niagara by surprise on December 18th.

Maj. Gen. Phineas Riall then floated 600 British regulars, 50 Canadian militia, and 400 American Indian allies to a landing site two miles downstream from Black Rock. Lt. Col. John Gordon and 370 men from the Royal Scots Regiment landed at Black Rock. Opposing them was Maj. Gen. Amos Hall and approximately 2,000 New York militiamen.

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T. J. Buckley’s in Brattleboro, Vermont

T. J. Buckley’s, at 132 Elliot Street in Brattleboro, Vermont, is a restored 1925 Worcester Dining Car (#424) owned by chef Michael Fuller. Don’t look for the usual diner fair at T.J. Buckley’s. It was originally located in Woburn, Massachusetts but moved to Brattleboro in the 1950s.

Look for a new diner every Tuesday in 2019! Click to expand photos.

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Devils Lake in Baraboo, Wisconsin

I have fond memories of Devil’s Lake near Baraboo in Sauk County, Wisconsin. My family vacationed there when I was a kid in the late ’80s, early ’90s. You could say it’s a family tradition. I’ve seen photos of my grandparents and great grandparents climbing the boulders. It’s a great spot for family vacationers looking for something more low key than nearby Wisconsin Dells.

Formed millennia ago by a glacier that cut off part of the Wisconsin River, it was originally called Ta-wah-cun-chunk-dah by the Ho-Chunk, meaning “Sacred Lake”. According to legend, a Winnebago Indian fasted and prayed at the shore for twenty days, after which a water spirit called the Wock-cheth-thwe-dah (or Wakjexi) arose and told him he would live a long and happy life.

Another Indian legend tells of a green water spirit with seven heads that demanded an annual sacrifice of a maiden. River Child spoke with a sturgeon, who told him the water spirit had a vulnerability. A well-aimed thrust behind its center head’s left eye would pierce its brain.

On the day the maiden was to be sacrificed, River Child spread walnut husks in the water, causing the spirit distress and forcing it into his net. After a long struggle, he stabbed it in the left eye with his knife, killing it. River Child married the maiden and they started a village along the shore, but the ghostly screams of the water spirit arose with every storm, so they were forced to move away.

Today, Devil’s Lake State Park is a popular destination for camping, swimming, boating, rock-climbing, and hiking.

Whately Diner in Whately, Massachusetts

Whately Diner, at 372 State Road (just off I-91) in Whately, Massachusetts, is a 1958 Kullman model “princess style” diner, also known as the Fillin’ Station. It originally opened in Chicopee, MA as the Princess Diner, but moved by the F.L. Roberts Company in the early 1970s to its current location and called The Maverick. A scene from In Dreams (1999), starring Annette Benning and Robert Downey, Jr., was filmed there.

Look for a new diner every Tuesday in 2019! Click to expand photos.

Diner Resources

Class of ’61: Disappointing and Forgettable Historical Drama

This made-for-TV drama meanders through the opening salvos of the American Civil War.

Written by Jonas McCord, directed by Gregory Hoblit, and produced by Steven Spielberg, Class of ’61 premiered on ABC in April 1993. This confusing drama follows members of the West Point class of 1861 and their families as they head off to join opposing sides of the war. It’s notable for an early appearance by Clive Owen, who is the only actor to stand out among the myriad of stock characters.

As the film opens, three friends, Shelby Peyton (Dan Futterman), George Armstrong Custer (Josh Lucas), and Devin O’Neil (Clive Owen), are attending the United States Military Academy at West Point. Tensions are high as Confederate troops fire on Fort Sumter, leaving cadets with divided loyalties. Shelby Peyton, a Virginian, decides to resign and head south to join the Confederacy, despite his engagement to O’Neil’s sister, Shannon (Sophie Ward).

Back home in Maryland, Devin O’Neil learns his brother Terry (Christien Anholt) has joined pro-Southern partisans, which upsets his pro-Union Irish family. Things get complicated when O’Neil is unable to secure a commission in the Union Army. He rooms with George Custer in Washington, DC, where he falls in love with Lily Magraw (Laura Linney), who also happens to be a Southern spy.

Things get even more complicated when Shelby Peyton returns to his plantation, where his favorite slave, Lucius (Andre Braugher), has killed two slave catchers in an escape attempt. He is forced to flee northward in the Underground Railroad, leaving his pregnant wife behind to an uncertain future. Will destiny reunite all these characters at the First Battle of Bull Run?

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