Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Midwest

Growing up in a Navy family meant moving a lot. I've spent most of my later life in Southern California - howver, I was born near Chicago, and still have family ties to the Midwestern portion of the U.S. I love the midwest! Today I have two random vintage slide scans to share.

I'll begin with this industrial view, dated "June 1959". The slide was hand-labeled, "Indiana cement factory, Lake Erie". Which is very helpful - except that Indiana has coastline along Lake Michigan, not Erie - the photo appears to be along a river. So I don't know what to make of that! Is this even a cement factory? I sure don't know. I thought cement came out of the ground like crude oil. 

Nevertheless, I still find the rust-belt image of a spidery steel structure looming above some train tracks, like a scene from a steampunk video game. When you drive through the midwest, you'll see stuff like this all the time, to the point where you might not even really notice it.

Next is this 1954 photo from the Detroit River, looking up Woodward Avenue (to the right), with the Vernor's ginger ale plant a block inland. Vernor's dates back to 1866, though this 230,000 square foot factory (encompassing an entire city block) was built in - - well, I can't find exactly when this factory was built. It might have been converted from a former power plant.

Here's an interesting aerial view. In the 1950's, Vernor's made a deal with the city of Detroit, selling the property so that Cobo Hall and other riverfront properties could be developed. Meanwhile, Vernor's had a new, streamlined facility a few miles north on Woodward.

Here's a look from the Detroit River. Notice the signs for "Bob-Lo Island", and amusement park on Bois Blanc Island in Ontario (Canada) that operated from 1898 until 1993. Two steamers ferried guests from Detroit to Boblo Island, the SS Ste Claire and the SS Columbia.

I hope you have enjoyed your visit to the midwest!


Nanook said...


For the second day in a row, the second picture is a beauty. As a kid, I really enjoyed Vernor's Ginger Ale. It's doubtful I could stand its rather sweet taste today - although I would be more than willing to "visit their ageing cellars". (That's an odd way to spell 'aging', isn't it-?)

I'm afraid the 3rd image is most-definitely flopped, as we are looking at the opposite side of the building, as seen in the second image; not to mention all the flopped signage.

Thanks, Major.

K. Martinez said...

There's something about the look of industrial zones that I love. Driving down 405 seeing the oil refineries near Long Beach is one of the highlights of my trip down to Anaheim/Buena Park. I also like industrial port areas as well. There's a certain industrial gigantism to it all. Thanks, Major.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I don’t think I have ever had Vernor’s Ginger Ale - it’s “Canada Dry” for me! I have tried ginger beers that are super spicy, and not really my thing. However, I do like a nice ginger ale float, as a rule. And YES, that photo is flopped, but I didn’t flop it; that’s the way I found it on the internet, though I did add a pleasant sepia tone. Whoever put it on their site must have switched it around so that the large “Vernor’s” was “right-reading” even though, as you said, everything else was backwards.

K. Martinez, I know what you mean, sometimes industrial zones can have their own sort of weird beauty. El Segundo has a lot of refineries, and they look kind of neat at night. There was a big Edison plant near my school when I lived in Huntington Beach, and even at the age of 7 or 8 I thought it was cool.

Nanook said...


So, it was the work of the ‘flopped bandit’-? They’re definitely lurking-around the Internet.

Many years ago, a friend of mine with a great talent for drawing, used black paper and (I believe) water colors, to create a great nighttime image of the oil refineries at El Segundo. It was quite stunning, and really captured the feeling of driving past the area at night.

Melissa said...

The closest I've come to the actual Midwest was through O'Hare airport on the way to the Other Coast. But it's said that, culturally speaking, Buffalo has more in common with Chicago than with NYC, and Pennsylvania is part of the Rust Belt. And I did grow up with Vernor's (well, Diet Vernor's). My sketchy bonafides aside, I love there pictures, even though everybody knows cement comes from ponds in Beverly Hills.

Melissa said...

Maybe "Indiana" was the name of the company or the town? On our recent Pittsburgh road trip, my sister suggested we stop at the Jimmy Stewart Museum in his home town.

I said, "I thought he was born in Indiana."

"Yeah," she replied, "Indiana, Pennsylvania."

Warren Nielsen said...

Major, I have to agree with Nanook about Vernor's ginger ale. It is a tad on the sweet side, and has a sort of vanilla-ish taste to it too. It seems to taste the best when served cold Cold COLD over crushed ice. I wonder if it still 'aged' the same, or if that whole practice went out the window. You should try some Seagram's ginger ale, it's tart and not too sweet.

When the kids were little, we would sometimes focus side trips on vacations to industrial type tours, like sawmills, newspaper production and power plants. Was great fun for all of us, and lots of good memories.

Interesting material today. Thank you.


Melissa said...

"Ageing" is mostly a British spelling these days, but I've seen it it American novels of the nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I am trying to imagine a Charles Sheeler painting, only at night! Yes, I blame the “flopped bandit” - I believe I got that photo from a University website, which makes it extra odd that it was flopped. Maybe it was scanned from a negative, sometimes I scan B&W negatives backwards by accident.

Melissa, I have never been to upstate NY, sadly. When I look at a map of the U.S., there are large chunks that I haven’t seen, and I’d like to someday. I forgot about those ce-ment ponds in Beverly Hills!

Melissa II, there should be a law forbidding naming a city after a state.

Warren, ginger and villa sounds like a good combination! When it comes to root beer, I’ve always been partial to A&W, which has a wonderful vanilla flavor along with the root beer flavor. So good! Seagrams, I’ll have to try it and see if I like it. I’ve only done a few factory tours in my life, including a tour of the Hormel factory in Austin, Minnesota. It was horrific! The smell, yikes. We only got in because my grandpa worked there on the loading docks - it was not a tour for the public.

Melissa, nothing is more classy than spelling things like the Brits did 100 or 200 years ago!

Dean Finder said...

In an odd coincidence, I was just at a canal society meeting last night looking at photos of iron mills from the 19th century (apparently very rare, since few people considered industrial facilities worthy of capturing in the early days of photography)

Myself, I'm partial to Reeds "Extra" Ginger Beer, with the bits of fresh ginger floating around in the bottle. Not to drink straight, but to mix with black rum in a Dark & Tropical Stormy, a drink I found at Trader Sam's Grog Grotto at the Polynesian Village in WDW.

Nanook said...

@ Dean Finder-

Please sign me up-!

Chuck said...

Sorry I'm late - I was camping with the Scouts this weekend.

That first photo is of the port facilities at Conneaut, Ohio, located on Lake Erie at the mouth of Conneaut Creek. Lake Erie is behind us and to the left; the Pennsylvania border is about a mile and a half to the east.

The rust-colored Bessemer & Lake Erie hopper cars in the foreground are the key clue to answering the mystery; the main line of the B&LE runs from just east of Pittsburgh, PA to the port at Conneaut. Since the B&LE hauls a lot of iron ore, the rust color was selected to hide any stains on their hoppers.

Looking at modern photos, while the foreground structure on this side of the harbor is long gone (it was missing by the time the 1973 photo aerial photo on this page was taken), the bridge immediately behind it crossing the West Branch of Conneaut Creek is still standing.

While I was unable to find any reference to an "Indiana cement factory" in Conneaut, I did find several references that suggest a fair amount of cement is shipped from that port.

Chuck said...

You know, it's funny how hyperlink tags don't work the way you want them to if you type the wrong code.

Here's the link to that 1973 aerial photo:

And, just for the fun of it, a 1992 photo showing the relationship of the port to Lake Erie:

Melissa said...

Maybe "Indiana cement factory" is some really specific local slang for "port facility." Kinda like a "Glasgow smile" or an "Oklahoma Hello."

Anonymous said...

These are excellent pictures. For a while in the early industrial era, there was a small group of artists that painted and photographed the new "look", but most people just thought it was ugly. I rather like the "rough and ready" approach to design of industrial facilities. No one cares how they look, efficiency is everything.

I have a little experience with cement and it's processing, and cannot identify anything in that photo resembling a cement plant. The connection must come from transport or perhaps something else.

It's pretty obvious that the Vernor sign is one of those big neon openwork signs, seen from the back. Also funny that the random internet archivist flipped it so that sign reads right, and all the rest of the signs are reversed.

I've had Vernor's once or twice, but along with Dean Finder, prefer Reed's, especially when properly adulterated with dark rum. Goslings is the official Dark & Stormy liquor, but Whaler's is just as good at a fraction of the price. It's a great cocktail for hot weather. Everyone come over and I'll make a few pitchers.


Chuck said...

I appreciate the offer, JG, but I'd rather come look at the finished products when they're done. With apologies to Bob Ross, paintin' pitchers isn't much of a spectator sport.