Summer Flamingo-grams

A scrapbook of summer adventures to share with you. Here, there, everywhere, what a whirlwind (the good kind)! Check out some from the past few months.

Irene: Two Years Later

August 28, 2011 was a day that many Vermonters will never forget. It’s etched in memory, vividly due to its recentness and yet vague in the sense of lifetimes ago. Tropical Storm Irene changed the landscape of Vermont and altered the lives of communities and individuals. Rain fell all day as Irene worked her way north. A snowy winter and wet spring left the ground overly saturated, unable to handle the incredible amounts of rain flowing in the mountains and into our rivers and streams. By nightfall, Irene had slammed and flooded more of the state than anyone imagined. Vermont’s villages and towns are settled in linear fashion along waterways and in valleys. The terrain is such that we have thousands of bridges in such a small state. While beautiful, the landscape leaves Vermont vulnerable to flooding. Irene took advantage of that fact, flooding towns, overtopping river banks, filling houses with feet of muddy water, washing away entire roadways and sweeping bridges off their abutments. It was devastation on an enormous, unbelievable scale, surpassed only by the flood of 1927 (history and photos).

This was the type of event that you see in the media and cannot possibly imagine it being your own town or home. That is, until it is your town and your home. And even then, your first reaction is: what in the world are we supposed to do now? What do you do when your house is flooded with river mud, sludge, and dirt? Well, you let the water subside and then pump out the rest of the water. And then cleanup begins. River mud is disgusting; it gets in every nook and cranny. Unless it’s a completely washable object, you might not want to keep it. Dried mud – dust – flies through your windows and the dust settles on everything. After dealing with the flood cleanup, I never wanted to be dirty ever again, nor swim in the Winooski River.

At the time of the flood, I lived in Waterbury, which was one of the hardest hit towns in Vermont. And my house was one of the least flooded in town, but the basement still filled with seven feet of water. The streets were covered in this heavy mud and garbage that people had to remove from their homes, with buckets and shovels. It was backbreaking work. Walking down the muddy sidewalks was an obstacle course, only not a fun one. The week following the flood was a week of cleanup for the entire town. I’ll never forget the volunteers (kind-hearted souls who were not flooded and could help others) who drove around food and drinks to those of us cleaning our homes. Green Mountain Coffee and Ben & Jerry’s, two big businesses in town, provided food and ice cream to the residents. It was a week of togetherness. People joined forces, organized and helped one another, even long beyond that first week. This was not unique to Waterbury; stories like this can be heard about almost any flooded town in Vermont.

Aside from the togetherness (Vermont Strong!), I will remember, always, the heavy-hearted feeling that I had as I traveled the state for work. My job included documenting the damage of historic bridges across the state, which took me to all of the flooded towns, seeing the aftermath of Irene at such a fresh, unique, sensitive time. Cleaning my house and dealing with my own matters seemed minimal compared to what others had to deal with, perhaps because they were in communities without as many resources or as much help, or because their entire house was destroyed. Driving through the Mad River Valley and the Route 100 corridor was difficult emotionally. Even though towns were recovering, the process was long, seemingly too long in some places, and it was heartbreaking. Slowly, most everyone visibly recovered, but even today there are empty, flooded properties with no occupants. It’s a visible reminder of the devastation for all. It’s still hard to see these places, knowing that some are still recovering and some people have yet to receive help, or just never knew what to do. And others were left without a home.

Thankfully, there are good stories to share, such as the reconstruction of the Bartonsville Covered Bridge and the businesses and residences that have been improved and are better than before the flood. Irene tested the strength of Vermonters, whether longtime residents or new residents, and we all came out stronger. We  all found friends and neighbors who opened their hearts and gave us time and care. Or we were inspired by the generosity and faith of others. I’m sure that I am not the only who learned that you do what you have to do, and that everything will be okay. Irene was cruel, but there was no option other than to get to the other side and recover. The process continues everywhere, but people and communities have come so far.

It’s been two years, and I might always cry when I hear Grace Potter’s Mad Mad River or watch the Rebuilding Waterbury film, but the tears are two-fold: heartbroken for everyone who suffered, but proud of Vermont for being so strong and inspiring, and proud to live here.

Preservation Photos #196

The lenticular truss bridge in Highgate Springs, VT.

The lenticular truss bridge in Highgate Springs, VT. Currently closed, in need of repairs, but otherwise a pedestrian bridge. 

Sunday Snapshots for Summer #12

Oakledge Park in Burlington, VT looking towards the city.

Oakledge Park in Burlington, VT looking towards the city.

A perfect spot for a summer day, all or part of it. Where have you been lately? (More about Oakledge Park.)

Project Drive-In

Save the Drive-in

Save the Drive-in. Project Drive-in.

Drive-in theaters represent classic Americana, a part of our roadside, automobile-loving culture that is still tangible on the landscape. The first drive-in opened in Camden, NJ in 1933.  At the height of the drive-ins in the 1960s, there were thousands; whereas today there are only 368 drive-ins operating. Drive-ins declined with the creation of air-conditioned movie theaters, the increase in land values, and a sinking reputation that followed. Now the greatest threat to drive-ins is the necessity to convert to digital projection, which all must do by 2014 – a cost of about $80,000. Without this conversion, these remaining drive-ins will not be able to reopen for the 2014 season.

Project Drive-in is a partnership between Honda and all drive-ins across the country. Honda will donate five digital projectors to the drive-ins that earn the most votes. Aside from votes, you can also pledge money to the drive-in project, which will help to fund the drive-ins. Watch the Project Drive-in video to learn more. It’s about three minutes long, with great stories and images of drive-ins at the end. Definitely worth a watch!

How can we help Project Drive-in? There are four things that this project recommends:

(1) Vote!

(2) Donate what you can.

(3) Spread the Word via twitter, facebook, blogs, emails, word of mouth, anything!

(4) Pledge to visit a drive-in this summer. Not sure where there is one? Check out the map to find one closest to you.

Have you been to a drive-in theater? Where? Is it still operating? A few that I’ve come across in my travels include the 66 Drive-in Theater, Carthage, MO; the Moonlite Drive-in, Abingdon, VA; Badin Road Drive-in, Albemarle, NC; Sunset Drive-in, Colchester, VT; St. Albans Drive-in, St. Albans, VT; and the former Rocky Point Drive-in, Rocky Point, NY.

I hope you’ll make the pledge in one form or another. Drive-ins have a special place in my heart. While a historic preservation undergrad at the University of Mary Washington, I wrote a research paper on drive-in theaters and nostalgia in American society. That was a fun semester for this American girl.

And lastly, what do you think about Honda sponsoring this project? Most of us aren’t fans of big corporations, but it is nice to see one helping out. It makes perfect sense that a car company would partner to save drive-ins. After all, it’s hard to go to a drive-in theater without a vehicle! However, here’s some drive-in trivia for you: there were also fly-ins and drive-ins for boats. Often towns and schools and community groups have big screen nights out on a green space, but there’s something unique about a vehicle drive-in. To see them disappear from the American landscape would be an absolute shame.

See these related posts from Preservation Nation.

Save the Drive-in!

Save the Drive-in!

Tourist Cabins: Wallinda Cabins

Perched on US Route 2, just west of Marshfield Village are the Wallinda Cabins. For years I’ve seen this sitting quietly on the side of the road, presumably unoccupied but having a neat and tidy appearance. Just last week on my way through Vermont, I decided that I would finally stop and photograph these before they disappeared. Unfortunately, I was just a few days or weeks too late — only three of the five remained!
This sign used to be posted on the roadside for passersby. It was only recently removed.

This sign used to be posted on the roadside for passersby. It was only recently removed.

The view from the driveway. The missing cabins are on the far left and the right.

The view from the driveway. The missing cabins are on the far left and the right.

One has been removed.

This one has been removed.

The cabins still have beds in them! Perhaps they were recently occupied.

The cabins still have beds in them! Perhaps they were recently occupied.

A key!

A key!

Front of a cabin.

Front of a cabin.

Rear of cabins.

  Rear of cabins.

It's a picturesque spot.

It’s a picturesque spot.

Novelty siding, original doors and windows, interior furnishings: these cabins seem more intact than most. It’s a shame that the land and the cabins are for sale. If you have any information, please share. And here’s my lesson: if you want to photograph something, don’t wait four years!

Tourist cabins have not been easy to photograph, but here’s another one.

Summer Keeps Going!

It’s a busy summer, filled with travels an adventures. Posts are piling up, ideas forming and stored for the cooler months. So for now, enjoy the photo-based travel posts and share your adventures.

Start with Frosty’s Donuts in Freeport, Maine. Have a glazed twist and a cup of coffee. Delicious! More to come.

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A unique use of the barn; not a bad commercial adaptive reuse as it reads as a barn still. And yes, those girls are my sisters enjoying the donuts.

A Real Giant Stride!

It finally happened: a functioning giant stride has been found on an active playground. Raina Regan, fellow preservationist, found this giant stride in Winamac City Park in Winamac, Indiana.

According to Raina, the park dates to at least 1923, if not earlier. And the giant stride proved to be quite the strain on arm muscles, but many kids were using it. Hooray! Check out these photographs, all taken by Raina.

A giant stride in Winamac City Park, Winamac, IN. Photo courtesy of Raina Regan.

A giant stride in Winamac City Park, Winamac, IN. Photo courtesy of Raina Regan.

Looking up towards the rotating cap. This is remarkably intact. Photo courtesy of Raina Regan.

Looking up towards the rotating cap. This is remarkably intact. Photo courtesy of Raina Regan.

Close up of the giant stride ladders (chains and handles). Photo courtesy of Raina Regan.

Close up of the giant stride ladders (chains and handles). Photo courtesy of Raina Regan.

A beauty. The giant stride. Photo courtesy of Raina Regan.

A beauty. The giant stride. Photo courtesy of Raina Regan.

This giant stride is similar to the 1926 US patent, though as is the case for many, it is not exact. I’d be interested to see if there are identifying marks as to the manufacturing company and what other details can date this apparatus. Obviously, Winamac City Park is now on my list of places to visit in life.

If you come across more in your travels, I’d be delighted to hear about it and to see photographs!

If you love playgrounds, check out the Preservation Nation blog for my intro to the summer playground series.