National Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore, Maryland

This eclectic museum brings the African American experience to life, but some sections are definitely not suitable for children.

As a fan of both history and wax museums, I was thrilled to discover this museum in Baltimore’s struggling northeastern neighborhood of Oliver. The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum features over 150 life-sized wax figures representing a range of personalities from African American history, as well as a few ancient ones as well.

The museum’s depiction of ancient history is, for lack of a better word, imaginative. In the entryway, a large figure of a dark-skinned Hannibal the Great sits on a war elephant. Hannibal, a Carthaginian leader who fought the Romans circa 218 BC, was ethnically Phoenician, not from Sub-Saharan Africa. Likewise, the museum depicts Egyptian pharaohs as black when they were actually Middle Eastern in origin. Some even had red hair.

Perhaps the most controversial exhibits have to do with the Atlantic slave trade, lynching, and racism. It’s estimated 12 to 12.8 million Africans were forcibly transported across the Atlantic over a span of 400 years under horrible conditions. The wax exhibit leaves nothing to the imagination.

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Ralph’s Rock Diner in Worcester, Massachusetts

Ralph’s Rock Diner, at 148 Grove Street in Worcester, Massachusetts, is a 1930 Worcester model, #660. The Worcester Lunch Car Company operated in this city from 1906 to 1957 and manufactured hundreds of lunch carts and classic diners. Robert and Mamie Gilhooly originally opened this diner on Grove Street in Worchester’s Chadwick Square (hence the name, Chadwick Square Diner).

After Gilhooly’s death in 1955, James and Mary Clingen purchased the diner. In 1979, ownership passed to Ralph Moberly, who moved the diner to its current location, next to a brick fire station. This unique establishment is a bar and music venue. it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

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

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Civil War History Tour of Old Town, Alexandria

Ed Moser led us on a trip into Alexandria’s complicated and exciting past.

Sunday night, a small group of history enthusiasts gathered at the Lyceum in downtown Alexandria, Virginia for a tour of that storied city’s Civil War sites. It began in the shadow of Alexandria’s Appomattox statue, a statue which epitomizes the city’s complicated place in America’s bloodiest conflict.

As a thriving trade and manufacturing city at Washington, DC’s doorstep, Alexandria was a prized possession for both North and South. The Union controlled it for almost the entire war, but it teemed with Confederate sympathizers and spies. It was also the site of the first Union casualty of the Civil War.

Our tour guide, Ed Moser, an author and former writer for the Tonight Show and speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush, highlighted many contradictions that characterized Alexandria’s role in the Civil War. This included the story of an enslaved woman who had a common law marriage with a Confederate officer. She escaped during the war and founded a school for other escaped slaves.

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Redwood Motel with Color TV!

Redwood Motel with Color TV!
It’s unfortunate this vintage motel sign, at 3912 N. Hackbarth Road (off U.S. Route 14) outside Janesville, Wisconsin, is partially hidden behind bushes and looks to be missing its neon lights. Check out the sign for “color TV”! Luxurious. In the mid-twentieth century, many motor inns adopted a “populuxe” style to appeal to travelers on a budget, promising comfortable accommodations at an affordable price.

Lake George Battlefield Park

Visitors to beautiful Lake George, New York can camp and hike on a 264-year-old battlefield and see the ruins of old British and American forts.

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The Battle of Lake George was fought on September 8, 1755 between French forces under the command of Jean Erdman, Baron Dieskau and British forces under the command of Sir William Johnson and their American Indian allies commanded by Chief Hendrick Theyanoguin at the southern tip of Lake George, New York during the French and Indian War. The battle ended in British and Iroquois victory over the French, and the building of Fort William Henry.

In early September 1755, Sir William Johnson marched north from Fort Edward intending to capture the French Fort St. Frédéric at Crown Point on the western shore of Lake Champlain. Around the same time, Baron Dieskau took 222 French regulars, 600 French-Canadian militia, and 700 Mohawk allies and moved south with the aim of destroying Johnson’s base of supplies at Fort Edward. While camped on Lake George’s southern shore, Johnson learned of the French movement and sent 1,000 Colonial militia and 200 Mohawk allies to reinforce the fort.

In what became known as the “Bloody Morning Scout,” Baron Dieskau ambushed the British relief column and inflicted heavy casualties, however, the British and Mohawk warriors were able to inflict equally heavy losses on the French during their fighting retreat back to camp. Both sides lost experienced officers in the engagement. When French forces reached Johnson’s camp, the militia and their Indian allies refused to attack because the British had erected makeshift fortifications.

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Martindale Chief Diner in Craryville, New York

Martindale Chief Diner, at 1000 NY-23 in Craryville, New York, is a 1958 Silk City (#5087), formerly owned by Bert Coons, who operated several diners in that area (three of which had the “chief” theme). It’s unfortunate someone removed the neon lights from this slightly politically incorrect sign.

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

Diner Resources

Fosters Coach House Tavern

Fosters Coach House Tavern
Neon sign for Fosters Coach House Tavern, at 6411 Montgomery Street (U.S. Route 9) in Rhinebeck, New York, along the Hudson River. The tavern opened in 1890 and its first owner was named Walter Decker. Wally Foster called it Foster’s Coach House in the 1940s. In 2016, the Bender family purchased it from Bob and Karen Kirwood, restored it to its original furnishings, menu, and decor, and have been running it ever since. It is a staple of downtown Rhinebeck.