Saturday, May 15, 2021

Around the USA

See the USA in your Chevrolet! Or Studebaker, or VW, or DeSoto, or... you get the picture. Today's scans are from two locations around the US.

First up is this wonderful June 1961 photo of a lovely car (tailfins, and with a lavender roof?!) toodling down Route 66 (aka Central Avenue SW) toward downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Sandia mountains loom on the horizon, I'll bet we saw those plenty in episodes of "Breaking Bad". It's funny, I've never been to Albuquerque (though my family almost moved there), but I instantly knew where this photo was taken, just from picking up clues on TV. 

I wanted to find a "today" view of the first photo, and went to Google Maps "street view", and "drove" down Central Avenue toward the city until I got to this location. Views vary with different lenses, but I feel like this must be pretty close to where the vintage photo was taken (around 5300 Central Avenue). What do you think?

Ah, there's nothing quite like a factory belching smoke to make one's eyes tear up. Literally. This one was labeled "Cement Factory, Skyline Drive". The famous Skyline Drive is in Virginia, but thanks to the large sign on the factory ("Universal Atlas Cement Company") it was easy enough to determine that this was taken from Skyline Parkway in Duluth, Minnesota. The St. Louis River runs just above the middle of the photo, and in the distance is Lake Superior. 

Looking for information about the Universal Atlas Cement Company, I found these two postcards, including one that looks very much like my photo. 

The factory was built in 1915 for Universal Portland Cement in order to use granulated slag from a nearby steel mill into cement. It produced up to 4,000 barrels of cement daily. In 1930, Universal Portland Cement merged with Universal Atlas Cement Company and took on that name. According to, in 1976  the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency pressured the steel company to arrest air pollution caused by cement dust, and the cement plant closed, taking two hundred jobs with it. The plant was demolished in 1978.

I tried to get a "street view" image of how the area looks now, but the trees and bushes along Skyline Parkway have grown so much that it's hard to get a clear view now. This is the best I could get - I'd wager that this is the same turnout that was used for the vintage scan:

I hope you have enjoyed your visits to Albuquerque and Duluth!


TokyoMagic! said...

Now I feel like having a B-B-Q Chicken & Rib.

I always like your "then and now" photo comparisons, Major! Thanks for taking the time to find the "now" images, for us.

Chuck said...

I'd never really thought about what happens to slag after the smelting process, but your post sent me down a short rabbit hole that has embiggened my knowledge. I'll never think of slag in the same way again. Which I'm going to say up front won't be very often.

I'll echo TM! and say that I, too enjoy your "then and now" comparisons. Saturdays are always fun because I'm never sure where you are going to take us. From the mountains on New Mexico to th slag hills of Minnesota, this is America.

JC Shannon said...

That is a great looking car. I love the tail fin era for it's futuristic look. I bet it's a beast to control, but very cool. There is nothing like industrial waste to brighten one's spirit. I too enjoy the before and after stuff. Thanks Major.

"Lou and Sue" said...

Even the mountains look lavender-ish!

Nanook, what IS the color of that car roof?

Grant said... with big tail fins, Route 66, roadside motels, roadtripping through Albuquerque smokestacks pumping out mystery smoke...

This was a time-travel-to-my-youth post :) Thanks Major!

Bu said...

Had to zoom into pic #1...thought I saw a vintage "In and Out Burger" sign...looks like their logo was "Alamo Court" way back when. Love the lavender...that had to be a special color like Mary Kay pink Cadillacs.

Irene said...

When I read Albuquerque I could hear it in the voice of Bugs Bunny, aka Mel Blanc!

Does anyone else here follow Charles Phoenix? Almost daily on his Facebook page he features a car from the 50's or early 60's and they are restored or in near perfect original condition - drool worthy.

JG said...

Major, great time travel!

I’m off to see my kids, back later.


Major Pepperidge said...

TokyoMagic, I assume you mean a McRib, the greatest sandwich ever conceived by mankind. Glad you liked these!

Chuck, I never thought about slag either, other than hearing vague references to “slag heaps”. I certainly didn’t know it was used in the making of cement. Hopefully, from now on, whenever you think about slag, you’ll think of GDB! Finding a contemporary view can sometimes be frustrating (it just wasn’t going to happen with the Skyline Parkway photo), but when it works, it is a lot of fun.

Jonathan, were those old cars hard to control? I have no idea. Maybe the lack of power steering made it hard to drive a slalom course. For some reason I enjoy industrial views, even if they can also be kind of ugly!

Lou and Sue, Nanook is too busy polishing his collection of Faberge eggs today. I’m going to say that the lavender was called “Evening Primrose”, even though I just made that up.

Grant, ah, if only I could have explored Route 66 at that time! And taken tons of pictures. I have another factory photo that has the most yellow, most toxic looking smoke you’ve ever seen. You’ll see it someday!

Bu, I was hoping that the “Alamo Court” was still around today to help me exactly orient the “today” photo, but I guess that was hoping for too much. I have to admit that a lavender roof would probably not be a factory-standard color!

Irene, ha ha, or Jack Benny’s show (which also had Mel Blanc)! Yes, I follow Charles Phoenix - I’ve met him a few times, and saw his live show twice!

JG, your kids can wait! Just tell them you were looking at GDB, they’ll understand.

Nanook said...

You'd a-thunk with those rather distinctive tail fins, taillights, very tall trunk (I'm thinking dead bodies, here - sorry), it would be a cinch to ID that car. It comes very close to a De Soto, or some other Chrysler product - or maybe even a 'late model' Packard. But nothing I can find will verify the make, exactly. I dunno. it's a stumper - for me, at least. Calling real experts...

In the meantime... it's all about the slag.

Thanks, Major.

Anonymous said...

Major- Just in case you didn't know, Sandia is watermelon in Spanish (there are different theories as to why the mountains have that name...).

Bu- I also thought that was an In-N-Out sign, when I first looked at the photo- I was all ready to turn in there to get a Double Double for lunch... ;)


Melissa said...

Visit your local DeSoto Plymouth realer, and tell them Groucho sent you!

The “Alamo Court” motel sign reminds me of a family trip to Niagara Falls when I was little. It felt to us kids like Dad drove around for hours looking for a place to stay; we were so hungry and tired I’m sure our crabbiness didn’t help. We finally ended up at a place called The Alamo, with a lighted sign in the shape of a giant green four-leaf clover. It turned out to be a particularly seedy place, with patched carpet and mildew in the shower, and magic fingers so rough they knocked my sister right out of the bed. For years, whenever the topic of cheap lodging came up, we’d look at each other and say, “Remember the Alamo?”

I love pictures like today’s - artifacts of the Great American Road Trip. And great detective work on the modern views!

"Lou and Sue" said...

I wonder if that's a metal "S & H Green Stamps" sign, below the Alamo Court sign, and to the right of the Phillips 66 sign, near the ground...

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I admit that I was sure you’d ID that tail-finned car in a flash! But I can appreciate that you can’t know every single make and model. Hopefully somebody will figure it out. Steel mills should give out souvenir slag. Or even charge for it! It’s ideas like this that have made me a zillionaire.

DW, I did not know that “sandia” was Spanish for “watermelon”! It does seem like an odd name for those rugged, dry hills. Maybe they were named during a rare rainy season when they were covered with green? And I had a Double Double just a few days ago. So good!

Melissa, I tell EVERYONE that Groucho sent me. Waitresses, bellhops, cashiers at the grocery store; it makes them treat me with more respect. I love your story about The Alamo in Niagara! It was no fun at the time, but now you have a great story and funny memory.

Lou and Sue, that is definitely an S&H Green Stamps sign! If you save enough, you can get that color TV, or maybe the 5-speed bicycle.

"Lou and Sue" said...

Major, there's a strawberry-shaped bathroom scale I have my eyes on...on one of the pages I attached HERE.

JG said...

Fly ash, by-product of cement manufacturing is in demand as a “green” building material, it can substitute for cement in some concrete applications. That’s the sum total of my slag data, not being expert in concrete.

Great story, Melissa. Family road trips generate vivid memories, not always pleasant in the moment. We were talking about them yesterday with our kids, I must have subconsciously known you would post that.

I loved the country around Albuquerque, but the town itself not so much. Always makes think of Bugs Bunny.

Major, thanks for the pics!


Anonymous said...

Big cars with big steering wheels. With no power steering, it took a 'manly man' to turn those boats quickly at slow speed. KS