Sunday, May 15, 2011
Words: Steve Rogers
Photo: Roy Inman
Kansas City Star: 5/15/11
Baseball, apple pie and Route 66 — it doesn’t get much more American than that. Many songs have so aptly penned the beauty of our native land in words and verse. Our rich heritage, our treasured freedom, the vast topography from west to east and the melting pot that makes us one nation.
So it got me thinking about those things that are unique and influential within the American landscape. From the signs that beckoned travelers to the carnival games that lined the midway at the state fair. A handmade soap box derby car, ice cream from the local drug store soda fountain or weekend camping at the lake — these are the things that made my childhood, and bring a smile to my face as I associate them with the past.
There are many things that can fall into the classification of Americana, often with patriotism and nostalgia playing defining roles. The latter seems to be cropping up in recent finds I’ve made for the store in addition to design playing out in the homes of my clients. We all like to identify and connect to our past (think Facebook). Here are some elements of Americana that can play center stage right in your own home.
Remember when “vacation” was an overnight at the Holiday Inn or sleeping bags in the Grand Canyon? I bet there are a few of you with a stash of ashtrays or hand towels monogrammed with the Ramada crest (you know who you are). Remember that flashing neon “vacancy” sign? Wouldn’t that look terrific over a fireplace mantle to perk the room up a bit?
Although I’m not quite 40, I did make many trips to Palace Drug Store in my hometown for a cherry cola (three cherries, please). I can still picture the old apothecary bottles that lined the store shelves, holding the various compounds within reach of the drug store pharmacist. Today I use these bottles for an artful arrangement on bookshelves and in the bathroom for all the small catchalls.
“Wizard of Oz” is part of my earliest memories. I spent countless summer days tucked into a sumptuous velvet theater seat for an afternoon matinee. I recently hauled some away for a client’s home theater. Next up are classic movie posters to line the wall. Popcorn, anyone?
Well, I can officially kick myself for never taking shop class. I am always on the hunt for great wood boxes, carvings and crude furniture that is best defined as outsider art. If you were an American boy growing up in the ’50s or ’60s, there is a good chance you made your share of it.
There is something magical about the transition of summer to autumn and the opportunity to visit the local fair. Funnel cakes, ring toss and balloon-dart throw are within reach of every fairgoer. As a test of my skills, I knocked down countless punk dolls and shot many crossbows only to haul away a new treasure. These relics are turning up as great touches in home décor and are especially fun in a kid’s room.
So whether you grew up rural or urban, humble or affluent, chances are you have experienced a little bit of Americana. Woody Guthrie put it best: “This land is your land, this land is my land, this land was made for you and me.”