Help my 81 year old Harley ridin' dad win his DREAM CHOPPER! Vote for LEROY "HandlebarMan" LAXTON - the original hipster!

Adventures in Roadside Archaeology - Florida Welcome Center, Hilliard, FL

I like to think of Route 301 as the East Coast’s Route 66. 66 carried travelers east and west, 301 carried folks north and south.

66 got the cool song and a TV show. 301 did not. 66 became part of movies and Americana. 301 did not. 66 still gets travelers from around the world looking to get some kicks. 301 does not. And I like that.

Full of small towns, abandoned buildings and fading neon, US 301 is a roadside archaeologist’s paradise.

Heading home from Georgia on a family vacation, we crossed into Florida on 301. In the first mile we passed by an old motor court, a former Stuckey’s, and the St. Mary’s Motel. Promoted as “longest motel in the South,” the motel (now a senior center) had one floor, 78 air conditioned rooms and a restaurant.

At one time, the busiest place in Hilliard was just across the street from the St. Mary’s Motel. It was the site of a Florida Welcome Center, where thousands of travelers stopped in for a free Dixie cup of orange juice. Now just a vacant lot, remnants of an old parking lot and curbs are still visible. I can’t help but wonder what a metal detector would turn up.

Today, the Florida Welcome Centers can be found on the Interstates, and yes, you can still get a cuppa OJ.

Thanks, but no thanks. I’d rather pick up a bottle of OJ at the roadside stand and discover some cool stuff on an old highway.301864956_5292078194174835_404967700760169606_n302062364_5292078507508137_6230774347231416293_n

Adventures in Roadside Archaeology - Abandoned US 301, SC / GA state line

Established in 1932, US Highway 301 was promoted as the fastest route to Florida for East Coasters looking for some fun in the sun. 301 still takes travelers to Florida, but the Interstate took most of the traffic away…which of course, suits me just fine.

US 301 today has a few traffic-filled towns, but the majority of the old highway is full of neon signs, abandoned buildings, mid-century roadside motels and small towns with local diners serving up tasty food. Think of it as East Coast’s “Route 66” but without a cool song and a TV show.

The first time I traveled 301 to Florida was in 1992. I rode my old Harley dresser down to see my parents. In South Carolina, just before the Georgia line, an elevated ghost section of 301 to the left caught my eye. Then my mind was blown.

This elevated, abandoned section of US 301 was supported by WOODEN trusses, and ended at an old abandoned bridge crossing the Savannah River at the Georgia state line.

Not any old abandoned bridge, but a TURNSTILE abandoned bridge! I had no idea there was such a thing. All the bridges I’d seen with water traffic were “up and down” drawbridges, enabling boats and barges to pass. This bridge didn’t go “up and down,” it ROTATED left and right!

Last year I fell down the Internet rabbit hole and learned the spot is known as the Burton’s Ferry Bridge. It carried travelers from 1938 until 1965, when a fixed bridge took its place. It’s been abandoned - and the turnstile open - ever since.

Most of the Georgia-side of the roadbed is gone, but a 1.5 mile elevated abandoned section on the South Carolina side is now a nature trail, ending with a view of the old turnstile section of the bridge, where the watchtower has been waiting for someone to look out it’s windows for 58 years.

Adventures in Roadside Archaeology - The Orange Shop, Citra FL

December 2022

Every road trip back home to Maryland starts with a stop at The Orange Shop in tiny Citra Florida.

In the ‘50’s & ‘60’s, orange stands dotted old highways in Florida, doing great business to vacationers wanting to take home a bit of the Sunshine State. Then the boring ol’ Interstate came and one by one, these pieces of Roadside America disappeared.

But a few remain…and this gem may be the oldest in the state.

Now in it’s 87th year, the Orange Shop has been serving up the best fruit to roadside travelers in this same spot since 1936.

Not much has changed since then. Sometimes you can peek in the processing facility out back and see machinery well over half a century old, still in use.

They have THE BEST orange juice this side of anywhere. They ship too!

Adventures in Roadside Archaeology - Steffens Restuarant US17, Kingsland GA

Heading back to Florida from a trip north, Dad and I roamed the backroads of Georgia on the way south.
Just before the state line on US 17 in Kingsland Georgia we found another gem.

Steffens Restaurant sits on the southbound side of the old two lane highway and they’ve been there since 1948. It was originally a 24 hour business serving up gas and food to hungry vacationers heading to Florida until the arrival of Interstate 95.

The pump island is now flower pots, but Steffens Restaurant still serves up good food to the locals…and blue highway junkies like me.

With a transmission shop across the street, an old roadside motel next door, and a neon sign with a parking lot absolutely packed to the gills - we had to stop!

Steffens serves up breakfast, lunch & dinner daily. We chose breakfast. Oversized pancakes, full plates of eggs, homemade slices and slices of cake and pie and “Ms. Helen’s Famous Homemade Biscuits” - I know why Steffen’s is a restaurant that’s been in business three quarters of a century.

Next time you’re heading to Florida, get off the Interstate and head to Steffens. It’s a few miles - and a world away - from I-95.

Better yet, get off the Interstate and see America. It’s so much more than chain restaurants and exit signs.

Adventures in Roadside Archaeology - The Last Horne's, Port Royal VA

Back in the wonderful days of mid-century America, Horne’s was a chain that dotted the east coast.
At Horne’s peak there were over 1250 billboards in the southern states advertising their 60 restaurants and half a dozen roadside motels.

The 1970’s gas crisis hit and by 1981, all the Horne’s were gone.

Except one.

Sitting at the corner of Routes 301 and 17 in Port Royal Virginia, the only Horne’s in the USA has been serving up good food to travelers for the past 63 years.

During a trip back home to Maryland last month, I was happy to find Horne’s open, and it’s restaurant counter packed.

Next time you are passing thru Port Royal, stop at the last Horne’s in the USA. Go inside, fill your belly with some good grub and experience a piece of genuine “Roadside America.”

Adventures in Roadside Archaeology - The Pines Bar, Hilliard, FL

Levi and I came across this mid-century gem on the way home from West Virginia last year.

Located on US 301 / US 1 just outside the town of Hilliard Florida , in the middle of nowhere, is The Pines. Half a century ago however, it was a busy thoroughfare. Before the Interstate, US301 was the main drag to Florida for travelers.

A quick search of the Internet reveals The Pines has been abandoned at least 15 years. But, the Interstate 95 bypass from Kingsland to Jacksonville was completed in 1972, so I’m thinking The Pines has been waiting for new owners close to half a century.

I can only imagine how cool that “bricked-back” neon sign looked glowing at night.


Adventures in Roadside Archaeology - The First Parking Garage in the USA


The First Parking Garage in the USA
Welch WV

Spent today visiting towns where dad grew up in the 1940’s and 1950’s. (More on that later).

Driving thru Welch, we happened upon the first parking garage in the USA.

It’s streamline style design was cutting edge when it opened September 1941. JFK spoke in front of it when campaigning in 1960.

80 years later it’s still in use, but hosting nowhere the capacity of cars it did during the town’s heyday.

Adventures in Roadside Archaeology - Georgia's Oldest Drive-In Theater

Jesup Drive-In Theater, US Rt. 301, Jesup, GA

Traveling home along US Route 301 from Tybee Island, we came across the Jesup Drive-In, the oldest in Georgia.

Opened in 1948 as the Family Drive-In, the single screen theater closed for a short time in the late 1960’s. In 1970, the drive-in added a second screen and re-opened as the Jesup Twin Drive-In.

In 2012, the theater dropped its old carbon arc projectors, upgraded to digital, and was rechristened the Jesup Drive-In.

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his place has several things that increase it’s coolness factor - first run films at $5 a head, a great multi color neon sign (photo borrowed from Facebook), it’s Georgia’s oldest drive-in, Georgia’s only year-round drive-in, and maybe best of all - retro attired car hops that bring your food to your car.

Adventures in Roadside Archaeology - Elvis in Tampa

Since “Elvis Is Everywhere” I decided to do some Elvis-related roadside archaeology in Tampa to celebrate my 38th 21st birthday. So I put on my “Old Guys Rule” tee shirt and hit the road.

In the 40’s, Elvis’ manager Colonel Tom Parker / Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk (that’s the Colonel’s real name, but that’s another story for another day) was a dog catcher for the Humane Society in Tampa.

He was a carny even back then, concocting stunts like gathering litters from three or four dogs, put them with one mom, then call the Tampa press with the tale the dog had 21 pups. It was all reported as fact by the Tampa press.

Legend says the ol’ Colonel started what might be the first pet cemetery. Located at the Humane Society in town, he found a monument company in Tampa that would sell cast-off stone pieces to him for $15. He’d mark them up to $100 with the promise of eternal care in the form of old flowers he got for free at a local florist. The stones were dug up and relocated in 2018.

My first stop was the Colonel’s home in the Temple Terrace area of Tampa. His old home is in a nice neighborhood and very well maintained.


After catchin’ dogs, Colonel Tom moved on to music promotion, representing country musician Eddy Arnold for a time. He’d moved to South Tampa, and that house still stands as well. It sold in 2020 for $600k. Built in 1946, the interior has been upgraded over the years and no “Parker-era” touches remain.

Next stop on my tour was Fort Homer Hesterly Arena. Love the architecture of this place. Construction began in the 1930’s and it was dedicated the day after Pearl Harbor.

So many 20th century notables have graced the HH arena. MLK & JFK spoke here. The Ramones, Pink Floyd, James Brown, Buddy Holly, The Doors, Allman Brothers, Johnny Cash and more have played gigs here.


Elvis played multiple gigs over four dates at the Homer Hesterly arena early in his career. He opened for Hank Snow and Deacon Andy Griffith (yep, Sheriff Taylor of Mayberry) in 1955, and headlined twice in 1956.
On July 31, 1955, the arena went down in the Elvis history books for the “tonsil photo” - taken at the gig & used on EP’s first LP.

On August 5, 1956, after playing two shows at Homer Hesterly arena, ol’ EP stopped by Ayers Diner in Tampa, presumably for a fried peanut butter & banana sandwich.

66 years later, the diner still stands. It’s now known as Chanko’s, serving up Asian food. The place has been modernized over the years, but the original floor, bathroom fixtures and diner stools are still there. Best of all, you can eat where Elvis ate, 2nd booth on the left. So I did.

I have no idea what I ordered, but it was two breaded discs that might have been meat. Fried of course, so I think Elvis would agree.

I wrapped up my Elvis birthday with a movie. You guessed it, “Elvis.”

Adventures in Roadside Archaeology - The Headless Brontosarus

A few miles from me resides a headless dino, with an interesting story.

It was created in 1967 by August Herwede after seeing Dinoland at the World's Fair in 1964.

While working on his creation, August fell off a scaffolding and later died.

55 years later, the Dino still stands.

Adventures in Roadside Archaeology - Mayberry RFD (Mt. Airy, NC)

Levi and I stopped by Mt. Airy NC today, the hometown of Andy Griffith. It’s a beautiful small town, capitalizing on their connection to just about the best show ever, The Andy Griffith Show.

We just missed closing time at Snappy Lunch, a Mayberry institution for close to 100 years. So we lucked out with a GREAT Barney Burger (hamburger, bacon, provolone, lettuce, tomato and grilled onions) at Barney’s Cafe.

There’s no better way to see Sheriff Taylor’s hometown than
a guided tour in the seat of a vintage Mayberry Sheriff’s Office squad car, so that’s just what we did.

It was an EXCELLENT history of Mt. Airy, with stops at Andy’s teenage home and the places he frequented, Donna Fargo (she’s from there too) and MUCH more. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly. For my MD peeps, it’s the St. Mary’s County of NC.

Unfortunately we only had a couple hours there. Next time - a couple days!

If you’re ever passing thru, book a squad car tour at Wally’s Filling Station. Ask for Alan.

Adventures in Roadside Archaeology - Georgia Visitors Center, US301, GA/SC line

Just across the Georgia State Line from South Carolina on US Route 301 sits an obscure piece of history.

But first, a bit about US 301.

During it’s mid-century heyday, US 301 was promoted to travelers as “The Shortest Route from Maine to Florida.” Warner Brothers capitalized on the road as a background for their crime movie “Highway 301.” Even “I Love Lucy” had an episode that mentioned US 301. The 12/1955 issue of Man’s Conquest reported 301 thru Charles County Maryland was a “wide open sin strip.” (I’m still looking for that issue…)

Interstate 95 replaced 301 as the main drag to Florida for travelers in the early 1970’s. US 301 became a “local road,” and states relocated their welcome centers along 95.


But not Georgia.

In the town of Sylvania on US 301, the Georgia Visitor Center has been greeting travelers with a smile (and a Coke product of your choice) for the past 60 years.

It’s now the longest continuously operated state welcome center in the USA. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2011.

Located on 3 1/2 acres, sporting it’s untouched mid-century architecture, walking trails and too rarely used picnic tables, the Georgia Visitor Center is worth a stop.

Adventures in Roadside Archaeology - Monticello Motel, Ulmer, SC

Always up for some roadside archaeology, Levi and I went exploring along US 301 in July. It was in South Carolina, we did a quick “drive-by (photo) shooting” in the tiny town of Ulmer SC.

Ulmer is a bit less than 3 square miles in size, the population hovers around 100. If you blink you’ll miss it.

But back in the middle of 20th Century America, Ulmer was a busy stop along US 301 for northerners on their way to and from the Sunshine State.

Owned and operated by Talmage Angle and his wife Virta, the Monticello offered such luxuries as a tile bath, a tub and shower and steam heat…IN EACH ROOM!

In June of 1970, someone at the Monticello was selling a 1960 Cadillac hearse and a set of professional Gretsch drums. I wish there was a photo of that!

Hard times hit South Carolina mom and pop businesses along 301 in the middle of the 1970’s. Interstate 95 was completed thru the state, shortening the trek for Florida bound travelers by an hour and half.

Talmage and Virta? They sold the Monticello Motel and retired to Danville City Virginia. He passed in 1971 at 67 years of age, Virta made it to 90 and passed in 2007.

In later life, the Monticello became the Connelly Motel, with “bikers, hunters and truckers welcomed.”
Since the Connelly closed, time and weather have done their part and the sign out front again advertises the Monticello Motel.

Today, the old gal sits abandoned, waiting for US 301 to get travelers once again.

Adventures in Roadside Archaeology - Florida on Film edition

Got up a bit late for “regular” church, so Levi & I had “car church” today. Car Church consists of a ride thru the Florida backroads, with a soundtrack of Willie & Bobbie Nelson’s “Farther Along” and “Dust on the Bible” by the Bad Livers.
Car Church usually results in some incredible conversations with my big man and of course, a few adventures along the way. The conversations are like Vegas. What’s said in the car stays in the car. The adventures on the other hand, are not.

Being a fan of back roads, we were psyched to discover an abandoned, all wood, one lane bridge and roadway that dated back to the early days of auto travel.

We ventured on to Rosewood, home to one of Florida’s darkest stories. You may recall the film of the same name with Ving Rhames and Don Cheadle. Some scenes were filmed here.

Because “Elvis is Everywhere,” we stopped by Yankeetown Florida, where the bulk of his movie “Follow That Dream” was filmed.

We did some of our patented roadside archaeology and found the Elvis-related “Weall House” back in the hammock (that’s Florida-speak for “woods.”) a couple miles from Yankeetown. The first scenes of “Follow That Dream” were shot here. Unfortunately they didn’t make the final cut, but WE GOT PICTURES!

The house is in the middle of nowhere on a dead end road. The old house (heck, it was old in 1961!) is well maintained and looks like Elvis just stepped off the porch.

We headed over to Bird Creek Bridge to recreate a famous Elvis photo. The exact spot where E sat is the railing on Bird Creek Bridge, 4th post in, just after the expansion joint in the road. We didn’t have to say a word, a local who was fishing on the bridge knew why we were there.

“Y’all need a cane pole like Elvis!”

We chatted a bit. Seems the mullet were being temperamental today. We headed south towards home.

Even though my favorite road Route 66 runs from Chicago to LA, Levi & I even did some 66ing today. Passing thru Crystal River on the way home, we stopped and did a bit more roadside archaeology, standing where Martin “Adam-12” Milner did in an episode of his earlier series “Route 66.”

5 hours after our day began, we got back home.

The next time you oversleep on a Sunday, give “car church” a try. You’ll be glad you did.

Adventures In Roadside Archaeology - "Social Distancing Edition" - Grant Town WV


This COVID era, “Social Distancing” edition of "Adventures in Roadside Archaeology" is brought to you by me (who never left the house) and my Uncle Dick Laxton (who never left his car!)

Dad grew up in the hollers of West Virginia. My granddad was a coal miner and over the years dad has told me a story or two about shopping at the “company store” as a kid.

Coal miners had the opportunity to get paid in cash or script. For every dollar earned, the coal company would offer you $1.10 (for example) in script. The script could only be spent at the coal company store.

If you took the script, the coal company would get you coming and going - they’d pay you more in script than what you earned in cash, but they may have only paid 70 cents on what they were selling in the company store for a dollar.

For dad’s birthday, I found a piece of Koppers Store script from Koppers Coal Company where my grandad and Uncle Dickie worked. I framed it with a 30’s era pic of Koppers Store 23 in Grantown WVA, (where my grandparents lived and shopped at) and gave it to Dad.

I then Facebook messaged my Uncle Dickie who sent me photos of the Koppers Store 23 building as it stands today, almost 90 years later! The front stairs and outside display cases are long gone, but you can still see holes above the entrance that at one time held the frame work for the sign that said KOPPERS STORE 23.

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Adventures in Roadside Archaeology - A Bunker, Bullets and WWII


I‘ve lived in Florida going on 18 years. Just about since that time, I’ve driven by this concrete lump down by the local airport every couple months and wondered, “What was that thing?” Today I found out.

The US Army established the Brooksville Airport in 1942 when Hernando County was a sparsely populated area. During construction , the Army built this 30 foot replica machine gun bunker. Then, they sent B-17’s up and used this thing for target practice.

In the 75-plus years since, the area has grown by leaps and bounds, but this remnant of WWII still remains.

Adventures in Roadside Archaeology - Old FL Route 23 / 50

About 6 months back, my son and I went ‘splorin near the Green Swamp tract of the Withlacoochee State Forest, hoping to find some large "Welcome to Sumter County" markers erected in the early 1900’s, marking the Sumter County FL line. These markers were rumored to be located in the middle of the swamp / forest, on what was once the main road into Hernando County.

During one of my trips down the Internet rabbit hole, I found a 1923 article covering a new 12 mile road being completed in Hernando County. It was given the designation of State Road 23. This road connected Pasco County in the south, and Sumter County to the north. It was gone from maps by the 1940’s. The road was renumbered and realigned to the present day FL50.

In June of last year, we got to a dead end road and the remnants of a long abandoned bridge. We felt we were on the right track, but bugs, temps in the 90’s, a dense forest and church clothes held us at bay.

So today we returned - ready, willing and able. We hoofed it over the remnants of that old wood bridge that hadn’t seen traffic in 75 years. We slugged thru the woods, crossed a barbed wire fence, and there they were maybe 100 yards ahead! Two 8 foot tall concrete markers with the words “Sumter County”...just past the remnants of an even larger bridge, in too bad of shape to try to cross. (We "zoomed in" on our iPhones to capture the markers.)

We tried to access the area from the Sumter County side, but that road was gated and “No Trespassing” signs posted all over. Shortly after our arrival, a local drove down to see what we were up to. Next up - an O.K. from the property owner next to see ‘em close up!
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Adventures in Roadside Archaeology - The Mar-Va Theater in 1985

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Back in 1985 I was 22 years old and worked for a record company, racking records, cassettes and 8-tracks in chain stores like K-Mart, Roses and Nichols. Once a week, my route took me to the Eastern Shore of MD where I overnighted in a cheap old mid-century motel in Salisbury MD.

I usually filled the night with a trip to the local movie theater. One night I checked the phone book and found the Mar-Va Theater in Pocomoke City MD a short drive south. Located a few blocks off US 13, I had no idea of the surprise I was in for.

I got there early before the first (and only) screening at 7pm, so I checked out the building next door. A candy shop? I went in, and ordered a Cherry Coke. Not out of a can, the guy behind the counter grabbed an empty cup, went over to the fountain GAVE IT A FEW SQUIRTS OF CHERRY SYRUP, and filled the cup with Coke! Just like, the old movies I was such a fan of. But there was more.

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The Mar-Va Theater was the genuine article. I paid my $2 to the elderly lady at the ticket booth and went inside.

Growing up in the land of multi-plex theaters, the Mar-Va was a single screen WITH A BALCONY! The place was a time warp. The Mar-Va left me speechless at every turn - leather seats, porcelain and enamel tiling in the bathroom, art deco touches were everywhere. The popcorn machine advertised a price of 15 cents a bag, and the candy in the machine was 10 cents. 1955 prices in 1985.

I went to the ticket booth and asked to meet the owner. The kindly old lady introduced herself - 80 year old Hattie Clarke. She then introduced me to her husband, 81 year old Dawson Clarke. Mr. Clarke was not only the projectionist, he was the theater owner and the Mayor of the town!

Mr. Clarke explained he used to be the pianist when they used to show silent movies there. He then took me behind the screen to show me the piano he played back in the day for the films. He had played it so much, the white keys were worn to the wood underneath.

I attended the Mar-Va weekly for the next several months and was it an education! I got a detailed demonstration of the projectors - huge things that had to weigh a ton - that had no light bulbs. Two carbon rods were burning inside, and when the screen got dimmed, he cranked a handle to bring them closer together.

He showed me the padlocked, long-closed separate entry doors, bathrooms, candy and popcorn machines, and seats (the now closed balcony) used during segregation.

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He told me all about the Mar-Va, built in 1926 and still 100% original when I discovered it in 1985. Still displaying it's art deco touches, the huge curtain still rolled back when the cartoon (yes, a cartoon!) started before each picture. It had 60 years of wear, but that just made the place even better.

That was 34 years ago and I haven't been back. I read that the Mar-Va fell into disrepair after Mr. Clarke's passing. This story does have a happy ending though - I understand a group of dedicated volunteers have saved the old gal. I can only hope some of the interior touches are still there from 1926...along with a big photo of Mr. Clarke in the lobby.


(the) RAZZ

The Razz
I first heard of (the) Razz as a 14 year old when the band’s debut 45 first came out in 1977. It was a trip to Kemp Mill Records (“$4.99 all the time!”) in Forrestville Maryland where (the) Razz and I first crossed paths. Back then, Kemp Mill kept all the “punk rock” 45’s in a wood 45 crate, behind the counter. You had to ask for them - just like Playboy magazines!

Thumbing through the few dozen punk 45’s they had, I came across the band’s first release
C. Redux b/w 70’s Anomie. I picked it up because my dad had a 1950 Ford hot rod, and I could tell by the hubcap that the car on the picture sleeve was a ’49-’50 Ford. It hit my turntable and blew me away.

Razz Air Time
Then a couple years later, I got a driver’s license and happened upon Yesterday and Today Records in Rockville, a short 100 mile round trip from my home in Clinton Maryland. To this 16 year old, it was an oasis in the wasteland of chain store record departments! It was at Y&T I found out there were people just like me! It was at Y&T I saw the Sex Pistols on video for the very first time. It was at Y&T I spent way too much money. It was at Y&T I satisfied my (the) Razz fix with their other two releases, the EP Air Time and their last 45 You Can Run (But You Can’t Hide) b/w Who’s Mr. Comedy.

Those records saw regular duty on my turntable, and when I turned 16 I dubbed those songs on cassette to play in my car with the “fast-forward only” Jensen cassette deck. Co-ax speakers of course. I turned 18 shortly thereafter, but the band had split up before I could catch a gig.

I almost got to see them play though. When I was 14, through nothing short of a miracle, my dad agreed to take me to see the Sex Pistols at the Alexandria Roller Rink on their 1978 tour, with Razz opening! But…a couple weeks before the gig, I copped a cigarette from a kid at school and smoked it when I got home. Then the smoke alarm went off. I went to the laundry room to see what the hell was happening and three foot flames were climbing out of the trash can. It seems this rookie smoker failed to properly extinguish his cigarette butt. After putting out the fire, I sat there staring at the trash can. It now looked like a piece of lumpy plastic pop-art. There was no hiding this one. I dreaded my folks getting home from work that night. You guessed it - dad told me no Sex Pistols / Razz concert. Then the following week, the gig was cancelled due to the Pistols visa troubles. Dad was none the wiser.

So…it’s 40 years later, and I never did get punished for almost burning the house down. Don’t tell my dad, OK?

UPDATE - It looks like (the) Razz story is far from over. After moving to Florida, I learned the band gets together every so often for reunion gigs. A week ago, I learned two DC documentarians, Richard Taylor and Jeff Krulik are now working on a Razz documentary film.

In a perfect world, forty years after picking up that first (the) Razz 45, I’m flying up to see the film premiere followed by a reunion Razz gig. The doc does so well, the band enjoys a
Searching for Sugarman renaissance.

Give (the) Razz a listen. They really should have made it, big time.

(the) RAZZ Links

The unreleased Air Time concert originally broadcast on DC 101
C. Redux on YouTube
You Can Run on YouTube
Cherry Vanilla on YouTube

KEVIN SMITH - from Rockabilly to Willie

Three years ago, I had the opportunity to interview Kevin Smith the bass player for Willie and Family.

Through a series of unfortunate events, three years later the interview is finally here and ready for you to read! interview

For almost two decades, I was the person behind the website The fine folks at Music Realms recently interviewed me about my work to document Link’s career. If you have a few minutes, you can read the story here.

More photos of Old Fort Dodge

Old Fort Dodge Indian Princess
We have just added several newly found photos and the original newspaper captions from the Tampa Bay Times.

If you have a photo, newspaper clipping or memory of this lost Florida roadside attraction, please contact me.

You can read more on my quest to discover Old Fort Dodge in the blog entries below. You can read newspaper articles here.

Billy "The Kid" Emerson- 2017 Florida Folk Heritage Award winner!

Billy the kid Emerson
Eariler this month, my friend Sun / Chess / Vee-Jay recording artist Billy “The Kid” Emerson received the 2017 Florida Folk Heritage Award. This award is given to outstanding Florida folk artists and folk culture advocates who have made long-standing contributions to the folk cultural resources of the state.

As you may know, Sun Records is the birthplace of rock and roll. Billy is the earliest surviving Sun Records artist, having released his first records over 63 years ago in January, 1954. No other African American artist has released more sides on Sun than Billy “The Kid.” His songs were recorded by the links of Ann Margaret, Rod Stewart and Elvis Presley.

I was honored to be asked to speak at his event. A well deserved award for an American Music treasure.


Rumble - The Indians Who Rocked the World
For the past couple years, I’ve been honored to assist Rezolution Pictures as a consultant for their music documentary RUMBLE - THE INDIANS WHO ROCKED THE WORLD.

This film now carries the tagline of “Sundance Film Festival award winner!” RUMBLE is currently on a tour of film festivals around the world, and will be released in US theaters nationwide this summer.

check out their website to stay on top of all the latest details of this film.

Billy "The Kid"

Greg Laxton and Billy
In my ongoing quest to locate American Music treasures, I found one today that was almost in my back yard.

I was honored to have lunch today with the Reverend William R. Emerson of Tarpon Springs. The good Reverend served his country in World War 2 and Korea. He is 90 years young and healthier than I am!

Some of you may know him as Billy "The Kid" Emerson. His song WHEN IT RAINS IT REALLY POURS was covered by Elvis Presley. He also wrote the rockabilly standard (MY GAL IS) RED HOT, covered by Robert Gordon and Link Wray, Sam the Sham and dozens of others.

During his musical career this gentleman was in Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm and wrote songs with Willie Dixon and Buddy Guy. His recording career started in 1954 at the legendary Sun Records. He moved on from there and released sides with Vee-Jay and Chess Records. He later started Tarpon Records and released several R&B and soul sides.

He got the calling in the early 1980's and became a preacher - and still does to this day.

I look forward to having lunch with the good Reverend again soon!

RUMBLE - The Indians Who Rocked the World

Those of you that know me, know I am a huge fan of Link Wray. This past Friday, I traveled to Washington DC. I was invited by the fine folks at Rezolution Pictures, the people behind the documentary RUMBLE - THE INDIANS WHO ROCKED THE WORLD.

Friday night, I met with
Stevie Salas and Christina Fon, two of the film's Executive Producers. I don't want to let the cat out of the bag, but they have an EXCELLENT game plan to tell the story of Link Wray.

Saturday I spent the day visiting some friends and family in Southern Maryland. Of course I took some pictures... Link-related locations were everywhere. Many locations have changed names, changed appearances, but there were a couple that looked like the Ray Men had a gig there last night.

The film crew spent Saturday interviewing some old band members in Virginia. I missed the chance to see Max Navarro, one Ray Man I've yet to meet. Lesson learned.

Sunday was action-packed. I got to the Greenbelt American Legion bright and early, met the film crew and tried not to get on the way. I don't have any evidence (yet) that Link played the American Legion, but it had been there for decades, so he certainly may have. My interview for the film was done in the bar, and it had a period-correct look when The Ray Men were playing the DC "knife and gun" clubs like Vinnie's, Strick's and the 1023.

Greg Laxton, Rezolution Pictures, Rumble film
The film crew was just absolutely amazing. They were half a dozen strong and way beyond cool. I talked growing up in the 70's and early punk rock with the Cinematographer, Lighting and Sound Technicians, and after exchanging emails and phone calls the past few years, it was fantastic to finally meet the Production Assistant, as well as Lisa and Catherine, the Producer and Director of the film.

I was floored at how much these folks knew about Link, his history and his contribution to rock and roll. They are very committed to this project. The entire film is being shot in "4K" which is higher quality than hi-definition. They bought hundreds of pounds of equipment.

I guess I was in the interview chair 45 minutes or so. I shouldn't call it an "interview chair" because Catherine has a style that puts you at ease and makes it feel like a conversation. So I spent about 45 minutes in the "conversation chair."

After that, they broke down the equipment and we all headed to Link's stomping grounds of Accokeek. Catherine drove down with me, and I played her the rarest of the rare Link stuff I had. She was knocked out!

After telling them of Accokeek for the past couple years (they are all Canadians) I was really looking to give them a Southern Maryland experience. After hearing about and researching Accokeek, they were excited to be there too.
We rolled into B&J's Carryout first. B&J's has been opened since 1950 and hasn't changed a bit. Members of Link's Ray Men told me that it was standard operating procedure after a night at Vinnie's or the 1023, the band would head to Ray's to record 'til daybreak, and when breakfast rolled around, it was off to B&J's.

All my new Canadian friends got a taste of Southern Maryland...they ate BBQ with slaw, Southern Maryland style (ie. REAL) crabcakes and I even got a few of them to try a softshell crab. They asked what was in it, I told 'em it was best not to ask, just eat it! (Those from SOMD understand!).

Rumble sound crew
After grub we headed over to the family plot at the cemetery. I was honored when they asked me to do some voiceovers to fit their concept of that portion of the day's filming. If that segment makes the film, I think it will bring a tear to your eye or give you goosebumps.

We headed over to Wray's Shack and (Ray) Vernon Wray's place. It's changed alot over the past several decades. Would you believe me if I told you The Shack is now a full-time residence? Truth is stranger than fiction!

The owner of B&J's mentioned a very scenic country road that lead down to the water nearby. We all took a trip there and Catherine really dug it. I'd lived in Southern Maryland 40 years and I have to say it's one of the prettiest drives I've taken.

Around 7:30 that night we met up with Billy Hancock while the film crew got some shots of that scenic road. Billy's legendary among these parts, playing with Danny (Gatton) and the Fat Boys, as well as releasing a bunch of rockabilly sides on his own.

Billy Hancock
The owner of B&J's was very accommodating. She closed down the restaurant and gave the film crew full run of the place. After it got dark, we cleaned out the front lot. They had Billy strap on his guitar, turn up his amp and Link Wray music was again heard in the streets of Accokeek! After that, Billy told his story of opening for Link and The Shirelles, the prize his group received after winning a "Battle of the Bands," as well as a guitar lesson he, as a 16 year old kid, received from Link.

All good things must come to an end. It was around 11pm, about 12 hours after the day started. It seemed to pass in 10 minutes.

For a look at what Rezolution's past work, check out REEL INJUN on Netflix in the US (and probably elsewhere).
Please understand that RUMBLE - THE INDIANS WHO ROCKED THE WORLD is not an all Link Wray film, Link is one of a half dozen or so artists profiled.

That having been said, it doesn't matter. I've had the privilege of helping Rezolution for the past couple years, and the attention to detail and the concern in getting everything "right" with Link's story, I have no doubt that this will do more good for Link's legacy than anything that's been done.

Old Fort Dodge - Case Closed.

I finally made it up to Weeki Wachee North, the 55-plus retirement community along US Highway 19, the location of the lost Florida roadside attraction Old Fort Dodge.

After I read that the retirement park was a family owned business, I was hoping that perhaps the owners had some old photos from the time they transformed the classic piece of Florida roadside to the mobile home park it is today.

Like just about everything else with my Old Fort Dodge quest, I was a day late and a dollar short. It seems the park was sold a few years ago to a corporation.

So my journey to find Old Fort Dodge draws to a close. I can't complain - it was a lot of fun. I now know more that I ever thought I would about Old Fort Dodge. I hope you do too.

Has Anyone Seen These Gals?

Fort Dodge Cuties

These local beauties appeared in several Fort Dodge promotional articles.

This photograph is from 1962, which would put these ladies in the neighborhood of 70 years old. If you know who these gals are, please get in touch.

Fort Dodge Florida

Wow! A very special thank you to Colleen, who steered me in the direction of some incredible photographs, the most detailed reference of what Old Fort Dodge looked like thus far! You can CLICK HERE or check out the PICS link at the top of the page.

Fort Dodge employees

Fort Dodge in detail

The article below provides us with the best description of Fort Dodge yet.

from VARIETY -

Do-It-Yourself Project Lets Visitor Mine Nuggets at Sutter’s Mill, Picnic, Etc. All for $1.65
by Odie Anderson

Brooksville Fla., May 18

A new Fort Dodge, authentically barricaded behind a solid wall of halved pine and cypress, is rising in Sandland and an impatient public is already trekking down Front Street.

This newest Florida tourist attraction, strategically located six miles north of ABC - Paramount’s Weeki Wachee Springs - home of live mermaids - and a few miles south of the Norris Co. Homosassa Springs on US 19, is the rapidly developing brainchild of Paul Bolstein and family. Significantly, it is a mere one-hour run from St. Petersburg and Tampa.

The do-it-yourself project, with its one-mile highway stretch, was started three years ago by the Bolsteins - wife, two daughters and one son. And this particular bit of west is being won by traditional sweat, guts and imagination.

New Yorker Bolstein, past owner of some 10 weekly newspapers, served a stint as operator of a riding school in St. Pete. This, coupled with a bit of ranching in Texas, prompted the present venture.

The family affair is striving for authenticity. Considerable research has gone into establishing a historically accurate old west and education of small fry is high on the agenda. Emerging is a cowtown where a visiting family can find amusement for an entire day.


A preliminary opening found ready spectators for the Long Branch Saloon - stocked with well-stacked can can dancers - the Globe Press, Dodge House, a land office and general merchandise store.

But the most popular magnet is Sutter’s Mill, with its mountain stream tumbling down some 300 feet into a small pond. Brook is also salted with genuine gold and silver nuggets and semi-precious stones. When panned by visitors, valuables are redeemed at the assayer’s office. Pans are provided and lucky prospectors have gleaned as much as $68 for a single gold nugget. Management purchases back the poke to re-seed Florida’s only gold and silver mine.

Phosphorus painting highlight the history of the day of the Pony Express and it’s brief history in the cavernous Mystery Mountain. Black light plays on colorful scenes of the early west as spectators wind through a darkened area of manmade peaks. A taped recording narrates the saga of the sagebrush

Starring as marshal of the historical replica is Johnny Dodge, film and TV character, who, with his trusty deputies, daily - and inevitably - subdues the forces of frontier crime in well done gunfights.

Christine, the oldest Bolstein daughter, portrays an Indian princess. fitting well into the scene, while a Seminole family village adds color to the compound. Weathered wagon wheels, hitching posts and bovine skulls are used to resurrect picturesque days of the pioneer.

A full-time artist is retained at Fort Dodge, responsible for the art work of the complex as well as roadside signs, more of which are needed to adequately air the attraction.


The family has leased a number of concessions - the press, the steam engine, which shrilly conveys passengers around the 37 acre area, a stagecoach which catapults from the Wells Fargo office, the barbecued popcorn stand and others.

Foreseeing the venture as more than a mere tourist attraction, the Bolsteins are planning a miniature western golf course, archery and shooting galleries and possibly square dancing to the music of The Thunderbirds, a “Grand Ole Opry” group.

Plans have been laid for an adjacent Mexican village, which will require a tour through customs to an adobe studded compound and following an exchange of American money for South of the Border coin.

Also plotted is an arena type area for presentation of theater-in-the-roux for the straw hat circuit and/or possibly bullfights or native talent.

Envisioned is a constantly changing line up of entertainment, well spiced with book learning’ and catering to repeat family trade. Hopefully, Ford Dodge will soon be granted a charter designating it an incorporated town complete with US Post Office and with personnel of the establishment supplying the required population.

Meanwhile, adults are paying a reasonable $1.65 entry fee, children under 12 traipse through the massive gate with its yet-to-be completed block house without charge. Picnic ares are provided in well shaded areas.

Bolstein has clung doggedly to his controlling interest - resisting capitalistic offers which foresee for Fort Dodge a goldmine similar to that of Six-Gun Territory, some 50 miles northwest in the heart of Florida’s horse racing country. This compound, too, has an ABC-Par neighbor, the Silver Springs spread.

Pay dirt is a mere trickle at Fort Dodge to date. However, the compound which was only a sign by the side of the highway for many months is beginning to make noises indicating that its owner has struck it rich. Proper pushing can put it on the map.

Fort Dodge Grand Opening - April 15, 1965

From the April 15, 1965 St. Petersburg Times -

WEEKI WACHEE - Fort Dodge, a few and different Florida adventure, swings open it’s stockage gate to the public at 9am today.

Located north of here in US 19, the attraction is owned and operated by the Paul Bolstein family of St. Petersburg.

Visitors can pan for gold in a cool mountain stream, ride a pony through Mystery Mountain, or watch a daring band of raiders bite the dust - all in one afternoon.

Bostein said, “There’s picnic grounds here and lots of room to roam around.”

Old Fort Dodge - LOCATED!

In my quest for the location of the 60’s era theme park FORT DODGE, I headed to the land office for Hernando County Florida. There I located deeds to property purchased by the Bolstein Family that was once old Fort Dodge.

I also located a bill for electrical work to wire the theme park from an electrical company (now out of business) in St. Pete.

Paul Bolstein and his wife purchased roughly 30 acres on US 19 approximately 8 miles north of Weeki Wachee. I was worried that would put the park on the ground of the current Winding Waters / Weeki Wachee High School.

I found documents and plats that indicated the Bolstein Family purchased three lots in an area known as HI-WAY FARMS, FIRST ADDITION. The dimension of each lot was indicated on the plat. I added up the total number of feet from the reference road (Atlanta Avenue), and determined the conversion to mileage. The portion of old Fort Dodge that fronted US 19 was between .87 and .99 miles north of Atlanta Avenue.

I left the land office, jumped in my car and headed to US 19. I hit the GPS at Atlanta Avenue. As I drove by Winding Waters Middle and Weeki Wachee High, the GPS began to climb - .25 miles - .50 miles - .87 miles….I cleared the school!
But - right next door sat Weeki Wachee North, a 55+ manufactured home community….exactly .87 to .99 miles north of Atlanta Avenue, where property records indicated was once the home of old Fort Dodge.

So, as far as my hopes of locating remnants of Fort Dodge appear to be dashed, but my hunt for information and memorabilia on this lost piece of Florida roadside continues.

I’ll keep you posted.

Adventures in Roadside Archaeology - Old Fort Dodge

Being the roadside archaeologist that I am, I recently found something just a few miles up the road from me that really piqued my interest.

It seems that just over half a century ago, an entrepreneur named Paul Bolstein opened FORT DODGE - a wild west town off US 19 just north of Weeki Wachee Springs. Problem is, it was only in operation for a couple years until the opening of Interstate 75 took all his customers away.

I can find little information on this roadside tourist stop. I did manage to track down one of Mr. Bolstein’s daughters - Paul passed a few years ago, and one of his daughters that did have a lot do to with Fort Dodge passed last year. A day late and a dollar short.

From the information I’ve been able to find, Fort Dodge is either 4, 5, 6 or 8 miles north of Weeki Wachee Springs. My quest now is to find the exact location of this slice of lost Florida Roadside and see if any remnants remain. Until then, here’s an old 8mm film of Fort Dodge in it’s glory days.

If you have any information on Fort Dodge, I’d love to hear about it.

Adventures in Roadside Archaeology - Bullets, a Bunker and WWII

I‘ve lived in Florida going on 18 years. Just about since that time, I’ve driven by this concrete lump down by the local airport every couple months and wondered, “What was that thing?” Today I found out.The US Army established the Brooksville Airport in 1942 when Hernando County was a sparsely populated area. During construction , the Army built this 30 foot replica machine gun bunker. Then, they sent B-17’s up and used this
thing for target practice. In the 75-plus years since, the area has grown by leaps and bounds, but this remnant of WWII still remains.