Flaneuring Fun in Maple Creek SK!

Just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season. Thanks for all the support in 2013 and looking forward to some interesting dialogue in 2014.

Thought I'd share with you some vintage Christmas decorations we found in downtown Maple Creek SK. outside their thrift store.  

If you are driving past Maple Creek on the Trans Canada Highway this Holiday Season (or anytime for that matter), Maple Creek is definitely worth getting off the beaten highway.  

Happy Travelling Everyone Everyday!

Found these fun lawn ornaments lined up on the wall outside the Maple Creek thrift store.  We had to stop and check it out.

Don't you just want to take these guys home with you?  Love the shape of the shadows.  

The classic Santa Claus!  

Sorry, can't stop now!  

Looking at the photos taken while flaneuring Maple Creek, thought some of you might like to see more  fun finds. 

We found this totem piece with the little buckaroo very fun!

Great welcoming entrance to the historic Jasper Colonial Hotel bar...

Howard's  Bakery was chosen as best bakery in Saskatchewan in 2013...loved the apple fritters and the maple glazed cinnamon buns.  

BC Cafe is the classic prairie restaurant - Chinese Western menu.  Definitely worth a try - grilled cheese and soup recommended. 

Yes they love their football?  

The new prairie sentinel! Brutalist architecture at its best? worst? 

For flaneurs there are lots of flashbacks to the past in Maple Creek!

Happy and safe holidays everyone!

 

If you liked this blog, click on these blogs:  

Ten Commandments of a Flaneur

Flaneuring Uptown Plaza  

Tale of Two Donuts!

 

Las Vegas: Neon Boneyard

By Richard White, 

I often wonder when developers and urban planners will wake up and see the light (pun intended), recognizing the importance of “lighting” in creating urban vitality - and I am not just talking about street lights.

When will they realize the bleakness of today’s city centers and urban streets is due in part to the absence of the colour, charm, playfulness and character that neon lights provided (day and night) to downtown hotels, restaurants, pubs, clubs, theatres, cinemas and retailers.

Show me a street full of neon and I will show you a street full of life.  Human beings are attracted to neon like moths to a light bulb.  

Downtown Decline

The heyday for most of North American cities’ downtown was in the early to mid 20th century.  It was a time when downtown streets were full of bright, flashing neon lights. 

Perhaps the best articulation of the importance of neon light to creating great street life was in the 1964 hit song “Downtown” in which Petula Clark belted, “Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty. How can you lose? The lights are much brighter there. You can forget all your troubles; forget all your cares.” 

 In retrospect, the mid ‘60s was also the beginning of the rise of minimalism urban design that shunned “ornamentation and decoration,” including neon signage.

Neon signs are works of art and function much like public art in creating a more visually engaging public realm that invites people to stop, look around and linger.  Cities around the world spending millions of dollars on public art each year that rarely captures the public’s imagination and is soon forgotten or ignored in the new minimalistic urban landscape.

Perhaps we should be encouraging developers to create signature neon signage that are “works of art” while at the same time help brand the building and add to are part of an engaging downtown wayfinding system.        

 

In my mind, the Boneyard Park is a must see Las Vegas attraction, way more interesting than The Strip.  It is much more authentic and offers an up close and personal look at one of the iconic artifacts of urban design - the neon sign. 

The link between folk art and neon art becomes more obvious the more you explore the Boneyard Park.

I am not sure which came first Disneyland or Vegas but there is a strong link between the two i.e. the sense of play, fun and fantasy. 

A perfect example of how neon signage was critical to the branding of hotels in Vegas. The sign immediately said "Fun" even without the lights on. 

Another example of branding and signage.  Love that the signage is large and easy to read. Too many downtown and suburban buildings today have small signage that is hidden away making it very difficult to find them.

The Boneyard is like a grave yard or junk yard; this just adds to the fun of exploring.  The juxtaposition of the different signs is wonderful. You also get the sense of how sculptural the signage is.  These truly are works of art. 

The Boneyard entrance is a wonderful mid-century modern building that is very inviting and memorable.

Freemont street recalls the main streets of many cities from the mid 20th century when the streets were indeed brighter and more fun visually than they are today.  

The Silver Slipper is fun day and night, male or female, young or old.  

Love the link between cartoons and neon characters.  

A good example of how neon signage can be used to add fun and colour to an otherwise ordinary streetscape. 

Lighting can also used to create a fun facade in the evening, which is even more important in winter cities like Calgary. 

Las Vegas’ Boneyard Park

Being in the Neon Boneyard Park (a two-acre oasis with over 150 historic neon signs) is like being in a museum’s storage room, with the “museum” being outdoors in the middle of the city. See artifacts in their raw state, not polished, lit up or presented in isolation on a pedestal. Here you see them randomly mixed together in junk-yard like fashion, yet they are still  wonderful works of art.

Las Vegas Signs Project has been restoring signs from the Boneyard Park and installing them along Las Vegas Boulevard in downtown Vegas since 1996. Several restored neon signs including the Horse and Rider from the Hacienda Hotel and the Silver Slipper can be enjoyed day and night by both pedestrians and those in vehicles. 

Access to the Boneyard is by guided tour only.  Our tour guide was very informed and informal, providing lots of information but allowing lots of freedom to explore on our own, take pictures and ask lots of questions. 

Guided tours are 7 days a week and reservations are recommended.  (Note: As tours can be cancelled due to inclement weather - especially wind storms - don’t wait until the last day of your Vegas vacation to visit).

The Neon Museum’s Visitor Center is the lobby of the old La Concha Motel Lobby designed by acclaimed architect Paul Revere Williams. It is like something right out of the Jetsons.  Built in 1961, it is an excellent example of the mid-century modern Atomic and Space Age design with its curvilinear arches.

See Appendix for history of neon.

The crowd gathers waiting for the Freemont Experience to begin.  

Age of LED

Today the most popular form of decorative lighting is LED light.  There are several reasons for this. While the initial price is almost the same as neon, once you have a neon sign there is no changing it, whereas LED lights can be updated as often as you like. 

Secondly and the biggest advantage of LED displays is that they use 5 to 10 times less power. Thirdly, neon tubes need their gases refilled periodically and the glass can break, while LED is maintenance-free. In addition, LED lights are brighter and can be seen from further away and even in daylight. 

Arguably, the best use of LED lighting is also in Vegas – The Freemont Experience, which began in 1995. Today, a 1,500 foot-long canopy (three football fields) covers Freemont Street in old downtown Vegas. It acts as a movie screen.  The canopy has 12.5 million LED lights, which when combined with 180 strobe lights and 8 robotic mirrors on each block plus a sophisticated computer system, can generate 16.7 million colour combinations. 

Combine this with the 555,000 watt sound system and you get an amazing light and sound show that attracts, on average, 25,000 people per night for the Freemont Experience.

While I realize not every downtown can afford this kind of nightly entertainment, more downtowns should seriously look at how sound and light shows can be part of their quest for 18/7 vitality. 

Another good example of use of LED lighting to enhance downtown vitality is “Crown Fountain” at Chicago’s Millennium Park.  Learn more: Putting the public in public art.

 

The Freemont Street canopy is washed with colour as thousands of people mill about waiting for the show to begin.  

Let the show begin...the canopy becomes a huge video screen for spectacular light and sound show.

Even at night the Crown Fountain attracts hundreds of people of all ages and backgrounds to play and interact with the LED faces and the wading pool. 

Take away idea

Downtowns need to focus more, or as much on becoming entertainment districts as business districts.

They need to become a place where people, “Linger on the sidewalk. Where the neon signs and LED lights are pretty. The lights must be much brighter there, so you can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares.”   

If you like this blog, you might like:

Downtowns need to be fun

Putting the public back into public art

Cruising in Chicago

The curse of minimalism

 

 

 

 

 

Neon History (excerpts from www.neonlab.com)

Over the last 150 years, the luminous tube industry has evolved from the simple laboratory experiments in the second half of the 19th century to an industry of world-wide proportions.

In the late 1800s, scientists developed reliable and somewhat safe high voltage supplies and began running high voltages through many things to observe what would happen. Often, they tested to see how wide of an air gap the spark could jump. It was discovered the spark gap was inversely proportional to the pressure of the air and that an evacuated glass tube was the ideal method for viewing light from gas discharges.

After British researcher William Ramsey discovered the five rare gases between 1894-1898 (receiving the Nobel Prize in 1904), it then became possible for French scientist, Georges Claude, to figure out that these gases could be made to produce light discharges when electrical discharges were passed through them. Finally, the long desired method that scientists had been looking for - a form of practical lighting by glowworm or phosphorescent light which emitted “light without heat.”

By World War l, Claude had acquired many patents, but he had more on his mind than strictly scientific knowledge. He envisioned a lucrative market for his tubes in lighting and signage. Because neon gas produced the brightest light, it was used almost exclusively and soon the generic “Neon Sign” was born. By 1924, “Claude Neon” franchises appeared in 14 major cities across the United States. And by 1927, 611 out of a total of 750 neon signs in New York City had been made by Claude Neon Lights, Inc.

A great period of creativity for neon took place in the years that followed, a period when many design and animation techniques were developed. Unfortunately, the economic conditions caused by the Depression slowed neon’s growth. However, one place neon continued to work its magic during this period was on the exteriors of movie palaces, providing a colorfully glowing invitation to the fantasy world within.

Then following World War ll and the advent of plastics, manufacturers began promoting Plexiglas shadow boxes with fluorescent lighting, neon’s cousin, behind lettering and graphics. Neon, by then considered old fashioned, was relegated to use as a hidden light source. Still today, 75% of neon is used in this way.

During the last decade, neon has seen a rebirth, as artists, architects and interior designers have begun to rediscover its exciting possibilities. Neon tube construction hasn’t changed much since the days of Claude Neon. It’s still a handcrafted medium where a glassbender heats and forms each letter, one bend at a time. However, state-of-the art components and much-improved equipment make the neon tube of today superior to its predecessor.

 

Boise...going once...going twice...sold!

By Richard White, October 20, 1013

Attention all collectors, antiquers, bottom feeders, scavengers, thrifters, flea marketers and storage warriors - bet you don’t know about the “Mega Marathon Auction” in Downtown Boise?  Even the local tourism folks don’t know about this “off, off the beaten” track attraction. 

Yes, since 1937, every Saturday morning at 10 am sharp at 2912 Main Street, Boise the auction begins with two auctioneers starting at either end of an old horse barn going until everything is gone, usually means until after midnight. 

The Main Auction is pretty much devoid of people when we arrive at 9am.  This allows us an opportunity for a good look around.

We didn’t believe it so we had to see it for ourselves.  Arriving at 9 am for previewing, we found 50+ stalls jammed with every imaginable thing you could think of  - from lumber and construction supplies, to industrial clothes washers and dryers, to art, antiques and household accessories.  Thousands of items are neatly neatly piled-up behind chain linked fence barrier so you have to count on your eagle eye to spot what you want.

Lucky we got there early so there weren’t many people and we could have a good look.  Brenda’s eye caught a 1950s West German cheery yellow kitchen weigh scale branded “Accurate” with a needle that didn’t accurately point to zero. 

Another patron also noticed the irony at the same time and a lively discussion ensued.  Dan was a regular and explained the process and confirmed the auction could easily go past midnight.  He thought Brenda’s piece would be auctioned off about 1 pm. 

We didn’t want to hang around but he explained we could place our maximum bid for the piece with the teller and come back later to see if we were the successful bidder.  

This is the cheery yellow scale that Brenda spotted tuck in with hundreds of other pieces in one of the stalls.  Note the needle is not pointing to zero.

A crowd has gathered as the auction begins.   

By 10 am, the crowd had grown to over 100 people and we stayed for a bit to get a feel for the animation.  We quickly understood why it takes until midnight to complete the auction as they auction off the items piece by piece… a set of 8 glasses for $2, a TV for $25 and a load of lumber for 100 bucks – you get the picture. 

You have to be quick as these guys are auctioning off several items a minute.  This is definitely all about the art of the quick sale.  Did I tell you that there are two auctioneers? One starts at each end and they work toward the middle. It was wild.

We came back at 2:00ish after flaneuring the downtown checking out the Saturday’s Farmers’ Market, Artisan Market, Capital Building and Freak Alley (Downtown Boise is a fun place on Saturday).  

As promised the auction was still going strong and our piece still hadn’t come up for auction, so we headed back to our room at The Riverside Hotel for a quick costume change (orange and blue is a must) for the Boise State Broncos tailgate party and football game (another fun tale for a later date).

A Mom and her young daughter were the successful bidder on this Disney rug for $9.  It was 10:30 at night.

After the game, we headed back to The Riverside Hotel but not before checking out the Main Auction – it was 10:30 pm. Yep, auction was still going strong…while the crowd was down to about 50 people (amazingly some of the same people were still there) and  there were still several more stalls packed with items to be auctioned.

We couldn’t believe that the same auctioneers were still there and that they still had a sense of humour.  When taking pictures one of them quickly shout “ Hi Mom!” without missing a beat in the auction. Impressive! 

By late in the evening the floor is full of auction items in various stages of being picked up.  But the auction continues at the other end.  

Bonus

Indeed, Brenda was the lucky bidder for the inaccurate Accurate scale with a winning bid of $3. Willing to go as high as $6, she was thrilled. 

FYI: We are less tourists and more treasure hunters as we are always looking for something fun, funky or quirky to add to our collection of FFQ art and artifacts. But it must be a deal - anyone can go into a major gallery, boutique or store and buy something.

The thrill comes from the story around the acquisition. And our local man Dan was a key part of our memory.  Thanks Dan!

Brenda's new treasure with her lucky #795 bidding card.  Not sure if that means there were 795 people who had taken out bidding cards by 10 am or not. Could be!

History

The Main Auction has been family owned and operated for over seventy years. Established in 1937 by Colonel Paul Owens. After many years of running the auction, Paul decided to sell to his nephew Robert Wesely. 
Robert had six children that all worked at the auction for the next several years. 
In 1976, Robert sold The Main Auction to his son, Danny Wesely. 

Danny owned and operated the auction the longest, at thirty-two years. 
In the beginning of 2008 he sold it to David Wesely Jr., his nephew who is the current owner and works full time at the facility. For more information mainauctioncorp.com

If you ever find yourself in Boise, Idaho on a Saturday (pretty much no matter what time of day it is) be sure to check out the Main Auction. It is great fun for anyone who loves “people watching” or loves the “thrill of the hunt.”  

Even if you aren’t there on a Saturday, you can drop by any Tuesday through Friday from 8 am to 6 pm for previewing the stalls as they fill up with items for next Saturday’s auction.  

Here is the Accurate scale with some of our Idaho friends that we collected along the way.  

Flaneuring Finds at the Uptown Plaza

By Richard White, October 4, 2013

Had great fun this morning flaneuring at the Uptown Plaza in Richland.  We had been told that we should check out Spudnuts a Richland icon but what we didn't know was that the entire plaza was a living history museum.  

Upon finishing our spudnuts for breakfast we decide to check out what else was around - as any good flaneur would do.   

Below is a photo essay of our flaneur finds at the Uptown Plaza which looks like it was built in the '60s and today has evolved into a second-hand, thrift, vintage, estate sale mecca.  For treasure hunters like us it was like we had died and gone to heaven.   

There are several of these Las Vegas like retro neon signs marking the entrances to the Uptown Plaza.  Why can't modern shopping centers create signage like this any more.  Where has the character and charm gone - stucco and rock just doesn't do it.  

The Spudnut Shop was established in 1948 when Jerry Bell bought a franchise for $50 and 100 sacks of Spudnut (potato) flour.  The store has been featured on Food Network and Travel Channel.  It is a local icon.

Inside Supnuts is full of local characters.  There was a long line-up not only of people waiting to get in but also people want to pick-up and go.  Everyone seemed to know everyone - it was like a big family kitchen. 

One of the quirkiest things about Spudnuts was the coffee served with two same straws.  We have never seen this before. At first thought this might be a way of noting which coffee was black and which had milk but B didn't have milk so both were black...strange?

We decided to check what else was in the plaza and just a few door around the corner was the sign "Desserts by Kelly" with the Atomic Bombe cake.  Who could resist checking this out. Once inside we found the strangest shop.  The front had framing and art supplies, another wall was all baseball collectables and then at the back was the bakery with wonderful looking cakes, cookies, scones and of course the Atomic Bombe cadke.  

This is the Atomic Bombe Cake with layers of velvety chocolate mousse, pralines and chocolate truffle icing.  It retails for $28.95 and they sell at least 4 per day.  I was sooooooo tempted. 

Just ahead was this wonderful neon sign announcing Lee's Tahitian Restaurant in the pink flamingo pink building.  It just doesn't get any better than this. 

One of the things we love to do when flaneuring is "window licking" i.e. window shopping (the french word literally translates into window licking).  One of the things like love is the reflections in the windows and the juxtaposition of the images.  They create rich collages of images that have their own wonderful narrative. Like this one in the music store.  

At the end of the Uptown Plaza's shops was a huge antique mall that was full of treasure's for someone.  We didn't have enough time to explore but will be going back.  

Flaneuring back we took a side alley like sidewalk just incase there might be something else and stumbled upon Becky's.  It was a hybrid between thrift and antique store...lots of interesting artifacts. Brenda has this place on the top of her list to go back and check out.  

No sooner had we left Becky's when we were at the Estate Sale.  While the Uptown Plaza doesn't have the upscale traditional tourist shops, it is a "treasure hunters" mecca.

While we didn't find the "kitchen sink" at the Uptown Plaza we did find a "four poster bed."   

As we were quickly shuffling off to meet up for lunch one of the last shops was this barber shop.  This was the exclamation mark on the Uptown Plaza experience for us.