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.
The First Parking Garage in the USA
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.