Saturday, November 12, 2022

Old Car City in White, Georgia

On Sunday 6 November, 2022 I drove the 4 1/2 hours from Nashville to Greater Atlanta so I could vote in the mid-term elections on Tuesday Nov. 8. Before, I usually voted during advance voting at the main Cobb County polling place, but this time I could not. At about 10 am I drove to where I used to vote in my area. There were just a couple of cars in the parking lot; I thought they had moved the voting location but a sign showing "vote here" was in front of the door so I went in. I was first in line and it took me only ten minutes to vote. Of course I live in the extreme northwest of Cobb County, in the rural area where houses are far in between (my neighbor has 40 acres between us behind the lake, and the next one is a farm.)
Thursday Nov. 10 was a bright and sunny fall day begging for me to stay oudoors, but where to go? In early 2020 I had planned to become a member of the Nashville Photo Club; then Covid happened and I did not. They met monthly and went on regular outings, near and far. They had been planning to drive to White in North Georgia to an old car junkyard-museum. I checked and realized it was only 26 miles from my Georgia house. If they were willing to drive 4+ hours to visit, I certainly could drive half an hour to take a look. So this is what I did that day. My house is not far from the Bartow county line. The red dot below, between Acworth and Kennesaw, is where my house is located.
Arriving around 10:30 am there was just another car in the parking lot (from Pennsyvania.) Old Car City is on highway US-411 with just a small southern restaurant across the road. I went in and paid the entrance fee (cash only.) There was an eclectic assortment of memorabilia, vintage collectible, antique toys, Americana, an old piano, etc. in the interior area.
I was shown a map then told the property had 6.5 miles of trails on the 34 acres (137,593.12 sq meters.) I walked by a sign with a short history of the business and a witch left over from Halloween when they offered a spooky "Haunted Trails." (Click on collage to enlarge and read better.)
The parents of Dean Lewis, the current owner, started a general store in 1931 that sold various items from tires, gasoline, clothing and car parts. Because of the Great Depression steel was scarce so they changed their line to scrapping cars; by the late 1940s it had become a salvage yard. When Dean acquired the business in 1970 there were 40 cars on the lot. He had a passion for old cars and spent decades acquiring wrecked and junked vehicles from recycling yards, auctions and private parties. But Dean did not like to sell the old vehicles' parts, he wanted to preserve them. He kept collecting them, had to buy more land; he stopped counting when he had collected over 4000 rusting metal carcasses. People were stopping by to take a look or take pictures, so about 15 years ago Dean realized that the business could be better sustained as a museum charging admittance. I started walking on the grounds, passing more unusual items, rusting bicycles and tricycles.
Then I entered the trail, looking in awe at all the decaying cars covered with pine needles and creeping vines. Some cars had trees growing through their bumpers or windshields and even lifted them. Some cars were on top of each other, maybe as they had been delivered. After more than 80 years the cars had been taken over by nature, they were part of it. This is why the slogan here is "Nature, Art, History and Cars." It was an amazing sight, but very quiet, with just the birds chirping, and no one else around.
Stopping to take photos, walking, turning, I knew I was getting lost, but so what.
Along the way there were random unique hand-painted signs, with optional spelling.
It was in the high 70s (26 c) but under the pine canopy it felt cool. It was a forest, really, with some very large trees and a heavy carpet of pine straw on the ground and covering the cars.
Actually with all the pine straw it was hard to read the make of the cars. I like vintage cars but I am not an enthusiast and unless I can read it I can't distinguish between all the different brands and certainly can't tell the models or years. Maybe after a good rain, if the straw moved it would be easier to read. I kept stopping and snapping - I had brought my Nikon D5200 and my small Sony DSC-HX90V plus took some with my Iphone. There was an embarrassment of choices - where to point?
I read the oldest car there was a 1918 Buick, then a few from the 1920s, more from the 1930s and most vehicles from the 1940s to 1972. They included Packards, Desoto, Chevrolet, Studebakers, Hudsons, Fords, Edsels, Mercury, Buicks, Plymouths, Oldsmobiles, Dodges, Cadillacs, Chryslers, Pontiac, Lincoln, some buses, a 1941 Mack milk truck and a few foreign cars - I recognized some VWs. From a distance I thought I read "vagabond" on the back of a car. Getting closer, sure enough, it read "vagabond." I never knew such a model ever existed. Back at home I researched it. From 1946 to 1951 the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation made upper-medium price luxury automobiles; their Frazer Vagabond was a unique hatchback sedan. The Vagabond shown below (courtesy Wikipedia) has been restored to its prime glory. (I wish I could be restored...)
There certainly was a plethora of rustic relics from days gone by and I understood why another of the Old Car City's slogans was "Photographer's Paradise." How to select the best angle to snap these decomposing dream cars?
Some metal chairs were placed in some of the trails for a quick rest or meditation or reflection?
Then I saw it - a car I knew. Flying to France in 2008 I watched on the flight the movie "Gran Torino" starring Clint Eastwood with his prized muscle car, a 1972 Ford Torino. Here was a poor sweet green Torino resting under the Georgia pines.
It was already past 1:00 pm. I had been wandering in the forest among this chrome and rust cemetery for 2 1/2 hours. It was time to go back and cross the highway to the restaurant for lunch, but which way to get back? I kept going up and down trails, and they all looked alike. I did not reach the restaurant until close to 2:00 pm!
I understand that locals gather there for lunch and it gets quite busy, but by then there were just a couple of patrons. Wes-Man Restaurant is a typical rural southern restaurant. They open 6:00 am to 3:00 pm. Inside it looked cozy and tiny with license plates covering the wall along old newspapers, old high school annuals, etc. The lunch menu has a large selection of classic southern comfort food with burgers, salads, blue plates (meat and 3) and more.
There were bags of water hanging over the booths - to prevent flies they told me. I ordered the standard southern vegetable plate: fried okra, turnip greens, black eye peas, fried green tomatoes and corn bread. I'm pleased they served the vinegar pepper sauce for the greens, as they often don't in Tennessee. For dessert I had the blueberry cobbler. Everything was tasty especially the okra and fried green tomatoes.
Now that I had re-fueled my body I was ready to cross the road back to the forest of disintegrating relics. Close to the front of the lot the cars and trucks were parked on cement or gravel, not under pine trees. Many had moss and grime from all the decades they had been stationed there.
I wish I recognized some of those cars, like that long black one above. I did drive two vintage cars back in the days. My father, in the late 1940s, had bought a 1936 Simca-Fiat coupe, with stick shifts, for my mother so she would learn to drive. She always refused. The car spent years in storage in a French country warehouse until she gave it to me for my 18th birthday. I drove that old car all over Paris in the early 1960s and had so much fun. I also drove my boy-friend's 1939 Chevrolet coupe in Great Falls, Montana, a couple of times. The Chevrolet is in the bottom photo, below.
Walking back to the forest trails I passed some vehicles that were under shelter and some above the shelter's roof.
I kept on my little trek stopping here and there to snap hood ornaments, car remnants, ghosts of VW Beetles and vans, and crumbling school buses.
At 3:30 pm I was ready to head back as they close at 4:00 pm. Getting back to the main building I stopped by a collectible automobile in great shape. It was the maroon 1977 Lincoln Mark V Elvis Presley bought in 1977, just months before he died.
Later I read some negative comments about this unusual museum. Some said it was useless hoarding these pieces of junk. Other said the land would be better used in more money productive ways or that the owner Dean Lewis would profit more by selling the land than keeping that garbage around. I don't think Dean is interested in that. He says "I don't know what I would do if I couldn't get up every morning and look at old cars."
Since a little boy Dean had a passion for old cars. He was able to build a business around it and make a living. Eighty plus years later, Dean is still around his beloved old cars (he was born in 1937.) There is a lot to be said about this - life is not just measured in dollars. These vehicles had their day, their use and now can freeze in place and give pleasure to others. About 99% of them are unsalvageable. They have another use - a destination for families to walk in an uncommon forest. They are ideal as photo opportunities for professional photographers, ad agencies, media companies, videographers, photo clubs or just people like me who enjoy shooting unusual and unique pieces.
Another comment was: "A friend and I just traveled almost 1400 miles to photograph the incredible cars at Old Car City. We arrived at opening and stayed till closing for 3 days and didn't even come close to seeing/photographing it all!" There have been visitors from Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, China, Russia, Canada and the UK in addition to domestic visitors. I truly enjoyed getting lost in this one-of-a-kind forest and snapping these lovingly neglected car remains fading away under the Georgia sun.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Farewell dear Naomi ...

My friend Naomi has left us, she died on July 30, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. Naomi Caryl Hirshhorn was 91 years old, born on June 27, 1931. I'm very sad but I'd like this post not to be somber, but to celebrate her life.
Along the years I wrote several posts about my friend Naomi - you can click on "Naomi" on the right side of my blog and see them. I explained her childhood, family, career, art and more. I visited her childhood home in Great Neck, Long Island, New York and also her home in Los Angeles in the Hollywood Hills. There are several photos of them in my previous posts. Naomi was a very special person, talented, creative, generous, fun and lovable. (Click on collage to enlarge.)
Naomi accomplished a great deal during her long life. She was a composer and lyricist and sang on Broadway when she was young. She made records and she and her music were featured in a CBS television "special" and were nominated for an Emmy. Her talent covered many areas in art, music and entertainment.
She appeared as an actress and singer on several television shows. She was also an artist, working in acrylic and pastel. Her art was exhibited in several large cities in the country. She told me she had made about 2000 drawings and 850 paintings - see example below.
A famous artist friend of hers, Morris Broderson (1928-2011) even painted a standing portrait of her.
For about ten years she had a blog where she would show photos of her succulent garden, her parties and more. Her posts were always interesting, informative and fun. She had a free spirit.
Unfortunately when she was young she suffered a terrible illness of the lungs - bronchiectasis. With the years it worsened and she had to stay indoors most of the time. But even in her confinement she enjoyed nature around her. Her house was on the Hollywood Hill, hanging out cantilever style. From her balcony she could see the city below, with an incredible view that would not quit, seeing all the way to the sea on a clear day.
She delighted in watching the birds flying to her outdoor balcony as well as the many wild animals walking in the hills below her house.
Naomi was knowledgeable in all aspects of show business. She saw many new films at home on DVD's because of her affiliation with the Screen Actors Guild (and was on the Film Nominating Committee.) On her blog she would give good critiques of the films. Along her long career she had met many well known actors, such as Paul Newman, and would share anecdotes on them. She never married but had a large circle of friends. For years she doted on her beautiful white cat "Sweetie." I did pet him, and his fur was the softest ever.
Naomi was very social and many friends and family came to her home for luncheons and parties. She would set up an attractive table with delicate china and her favorite blue crystal goblets.
Loving nature, Naomi was fond of gardens but when she no longer could visit them she would surround herself with stunning flower arrangements.
With the passing of years many of her old friends started falling ill or died. It caused her much grief. Her health deteriorated as well and she could no long type on her computer or move easily. Watching the formation of the clouds from her balcony and the colors of the sun was still a joy. She always had a great sense of humor and a sharp mind, but alas, an uncooperative body.
In 2020 I was supposed to fly to California to visit my San Francisco friend George then go down to Los Angeles to visit Naomi - COVID in the US cancelled all my plans (and George died last year.) On her telephone, Naomi would not "speak" a call back message, she would sing it "Speak to me ...and I will listen to you ..." I shall miss our long telephone conversations; now I'll cherish their memories. Rest well, my dear Naomi.
"The song is ended, but the melody lingers on..." - Irving Berlin (American composer, 1888-1989.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

July 14 Paris celebration and some sights along the Tour de France 2022

The Patrouille de France (French Acrobatic Patrol) of the French Air Force is shown above. It has been active since 1931 and is one of the oldest and considered one of the best in the world. It traditionally opens the military parade in Paris on the 14 of July /French National Holiday (also known as Bastille Day in anglophone areas.) Then about two weeks later, it flies over the Champs-Elysees Avenue at the close of the Tour de France. Nine pilots fly the Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jets with a team of 32 mechanics for support.
A 14 of July military parade down the Champs-Elysees Avenue in Paris has been a tradition since 1880. The parade starts at 10:00 am and lasts two hours. This year's theme was "Sharing the Flame" - a reference to the flame of the Resistance, and to the Olympic flame of which France is now the custodian until the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024. Olympic and Paralympics' medalists were part of the procession. This year French President Macron wished to honor Eastern European nations and invited their troops to open the parade (photo shown below courtesy Ministère des Armées.) The units and flags of the Baltic States, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary opened the parade with troops on foot, followed by the soldiers of the French regiments engaged within the framework of NATO on the eastern flank of Europe, such as the alpine hunters deployed in Romania and Estonia. (France's Rafale fighter jets are also helping to protect the Polish sky.)
The parade included 6,300 soldiers on foot, 71 aircraft, 25 helicopers, 221 vehicles and 200 horses of the Republican Guard. Louis, a 17 years old ship's boy and future ship's mate, was the youngest soldier in the parade. He is pictured below, courtesy Le Ministère des Armées.
In the evening of July 14, Parisians, French people and foreign visitors were invited to gather near the Eiffel Tower to watch the fireworks at 11 pm, for about 30 minutes. The theme this year was "Carpe Diem" (seize the day - take advantage of life.) The fireworks paid tribute to Ukraine, projecting the Ukrainian flag on the Eiffel Tower, the blue and yellow rockets drawing hearts in the sky, on the song "Stefania" by the Ukrainian group Kalush Orchestra, winner of the Eurovision contest. (Photo of the Ukraine colors in the first left photo below, courtesy Le Parisien.) This was followed by a public concert then popular dancing in various streets.
Most large towns, small cities and villages in France display fireworks for the national holiday, the 14 of July. However, this year to minimize the risk of fire linked to the ambient dryness and extreme heat, some municipalities canceled their traditional fireworks. One of the cities still with great fireworks was Carcassonne, shown below, courtesy Aude Tourisme. The Tour de France stopped to rest in this town, but on July 18, 2022.
The Tour de France 2022 started on July 1st and ended on July 24, 2022, including two rest days. It covered a total distance of 3,328 kms/2081.4 miles, about the same distance as Helsinki, Finland to Lisbon, Portugal or Washington, D.C. to Las Vegas, Arizona. There were 176 international riders from twenty-two teams (8 riders in each team.) The 21 stages covered 6 flat stages, 7 hilly stages, 6 mountain stages and 2 individual time trial stages. Apart from France the Tour visited 3 foreign countries, Denmark, Belgium and Switzerland. The cyclists rode into 39 stage towns. The Tour attracted 12 million spectators and was broadcasted into 190 countries. Founded in 1903, the Tour de France is the most prestigious bike race on the planet. Below is the 2022 route.
If you click on the Tour de France link on the right side of my blog you will see 21 entries. Along the years I have given the Tour's history, explained the stages, the colors of the jerseys and more. Please check any of these posts. It is quite fitting that the Tour started in Copenhagen, Denmark. Copenhagen is the world's most bicycle friendly city where the number of bicycles outnumbers the number of cars. If the US is known for having more guns than people, Copenhagen is known for having more bikes than people - 745,000 bikes for 602,000 people, and just 120,000 cars; the number of SUV vehicles, unlike in the US, is at a minimum. The first time we were in Copenhagen we stayed in a central hotel. I was so surprised to see more bikes during rush hour than cars, with business people in suits and some women in dresses and heels.
Accordingly, the Climate Change Performance Index's for 2022 shows Denmark as the top-ranking country in the world for global climate policy. Out of rankings of 60 countries and the EU, the US trailed the pack in 55th place. It could be the US's obsession with SUV vehicles. On average, SUVs use about a quarter more energy to move than a standard-sized family car, because they are larger, heavier and create more drag. A quarter might not sound like much, but between 2010 and 2018, the proliferation of SUVs on the road resulted in an increase of 3.3 million barrels of gasoline used per day. This created an uptick of 0.55 gigatons of CO2 over one decade, to 544 million tons of CO2, making SUVs "the second-largest contributor to the increase in global CO2 emissions since 2010 after the power sector." To put it another way, it means SUVs are producing more emissions than the entire aviation industry. The IEA forecasts that if conventional SUV purchases continue at the same pace, by 2040 they will have offset the emissions savings of close to 150 million electric cars. But, in the US, SUV sales continue to grow regardless. In Denmark there are twelve freeways just for bicycles.
The Grand Depart started in Copenhagen and stayed three days in the country. Fans came out to cheer the Tour in incredible numbers - thousands in every town. The Tour is truly international. One of the reasons I really enjoy it is because fans cheer the racers regardless of their nationalities. Of course I am happy if a French or American racer wins a stage but I am as happy to see a deserving racer win from another country. It was so sad at the Atlanta Olympic Games when most of the public left the indoor bike racing event when there were no US bikers left but just racers from the UK, Australia and Italy. Only a handful of people watched the winners get their medals - truly a shame.
If I could, I'd fly back home to France every July to watch the Tour. But since I can't, watching this most famous race live on TV is a highlight of my summers here. I love the high drama of the race so physically challenging as well as the passion of the riders. Watching the hundreds of thousands of spectators from many countries is also fun. Of course, the scenery along the route or from the helicopters and drones over all the cities, towns, villages and hamlets is a joy; many castles are shown. I visited two of the castles below - the castle of Chillon in Switzerland (in center of collage) when I went twice to Lausanne and the castle of the Malmaison (bottom left) which is only 15 kms from Paris (about 9 miles) and visited it several times with my mother.
Since 1905 the Malmaison Castle has been a French National Napoleonic museum. Bonaparte had bought it for his wife, Josephine de Beauharnais (1763-1814) in April 1799. Napoleon lived in it several years and Josephine died there in 1814. The interior of the castle is one of the few places in France to exhibit a homogeneous set of furniture from the Napoleonic Consulate and First Empire. My mother and I loved to visit the rose garden there. One of their old antique Bourbon roses is called "Souvenir de la Malmaison." Originally it had been called "Queen of Beauty and Fragrance" but when one the Grand Dukes of Russia obtained a specimen from the Malmaison gardens for the Imperial Garden in St. Petersburg it was renamed "Souvenir de la Malmaison" as a remembrance for him. It produces light pink color blooms with a delightful fragrance; it is a climbing rose. I grew one in my garden in Georgia, shown below.
I even drew one of my Souvenir de la Malmaison roses.
The Tour racers drove by numerous lovely and historic towns. To mention and show even some of them would take pages and pages. Stage 13 ended on July 15 at Saint-Etienne. It is the only French city designated Creative City of Design by UNESCO. In 2020, Saint-Etienne also received its second UNESCO label as an "Inclusive City of Design." Saint-Etienne with all its museums and buildings is a permanent design experience, in architecture as well as in every day life. In 1915 the mayor of the city ordered a replica of the Statue of Liberty. Stage 19 ended in the town of Cahors. This city is famed for its wine and gastronomy and holds the label "French Town of Art and History." The famous medieval Valentre Bridge here is part of the pilgrimage path to Santiago de Campostela. The 14th century bridge took 70 years to complete, from 1308 to 1378 (in center of collage below.) Two new cities on the Tour were Lacapelle-Marival with its blue lake (bottom left) and Rocamadour (top left below.) From the Middle Ages on Rocamadour has been visited by pilgrims as it is also on the route of El Camino de Santiago. The population of 600 rises to 1.5 million tourists in summer.
The 21 stage ended in Paris as usual. The winner of the Tour this year was the Danish rider Jonas Vingegaard. He is the first Danish rider to win this race since 1996. At the start of the race in Copenhagen, 35,000 paying fans had packed into the Tivoli Gardens to greet the riders. They must have been deliriously happy to have one of their own win this grueling race. The 25-years old Vingegaard showed an impressive display of strength. He is below with his little daughter Frida.
Another thrilling Tour de France has ended. Now we have to wait for the 2023 rendez-vous in Bilbao, the Basque country of Spain, for the Grand Depart of the Tour de France 2023.
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