Sunday, November 27, 2022

Dutch Bicycles

The Dutch are serious bicycle riders, both in their cities and in rural areas. My family and I walked all around Amsterdam but took a bicycle tour out into the countryside on the dikes that enclose polders (low-lying areas that have been drained and have become farmland). We met tens of families and individuals happily peddling along. This was in 2004. By now, many of these bikes have been electrified or riders have bought new electric ones. I think Gazelle and Batavus were among the most popular brands in the past, but many other companies sold bikes. We need to return to the Netherlands and see how people with a long tradition of biking are doing and what they are riding. 

Here are a collection of interesting bicycles in Amsterdam. (I was inspired by my friend Jim Grey, who posted pictures of bicycles from Indiana.)

Commuting bicycle with enclosed chain

This is a comfortable commuting bicycle with a step-over frame for ladies and a totally enclosed chain to keep rain and mud off their clothing. I think it has a front drum brake, also enclosed for rain protection. 
Polka-dotty step-over frames
Big wheel (28" ?) cruising bicycle

This is a laid-back frame designed for comfort and carrying a child. I do not see  brake handles on the handlebars. so possibly this is a one-speed with a coaster brake. Note the rain covers over the chain and rear wheel. The old-fashioned light generator with an incandescent bulb is seriously inefficient - I remember using them. The faster you ride, the brighter the light.

Step-over bicycle with rusty chain, drum brake, and light generator. Note comfort seat.  

This another single-speed coaster brake bicycle with a relaxed frame, ready for wet riding. I assume these models are old and have heavy steel frames. But they last for decades.

At the Amsterdam central train station.

Commuters come in from the suburbs by train and pick up their bicycle from an outside rack or an enclosed bicycle garage. 

Newer step-over with enclosed chain. Are those white sidewall tyres?
Step-over without hand-operated brakes. More white sidewall tyres??

This is a nice commuter step-over bike with a curved upper bar, similar to the polka-dot models in the previous picture. Nice comfortable seat. This may be a Waffenrad from Steyr - Daimler - Puch AG, Österreich, or an Omafiets. The early Waffenrads used rod-actuated brakes rather than cable-actuated. Rod brakes are still common in India and Nepal.

Sturdy worker bike with double upper frame bars.
Extended wheelbase bicycle for carrying two children. Note the front enclosed drum brake.

These long bicycles have an added triangular frame behind the seat. The add-on section connects to where the rear wheel axle was formerly located.

Two more Waffenrads?

Bicycle bridge and brave pedestrian crossing a canal.

Oops, this lady should have ridden her bike that day. Town of Edam.

The tow truck had a bit of a challenge retrieving the little red car because the tree was in the way and the road was narrow. Maybe this happens a lot?

These are early-vintage digital files from a compact Kodak LS743 digital camera. It applied too much JPEG compression but otherwise did a surprisingly nice nice job for 2004 technology. This was the first digital camera in the family and it served us well.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

The Mississippi Delta 38b: Hwy 49W and the Belzoni area (XPan 12)

Dear Readers, let's take another look at the Mississippi Delta with the panoramic Hasselblad XPan camera. Please type XPan in the search box to see older articles from Vicksburg, the Delta, Jackson, and Louisiana.

After my drive north on Highway US 49E to the little town of Sidon, I headed west through flat and lonely farm fields on MS 511 (Phillipston Road) and MS 7, finally reaching Morgan City on US49W. Long-term readers may remember that I looked at Morgan City in the Mississippi Delta 23. I also explored junk in the woods in 2015. 

1st Avenue, Morgan City (30mm ƒ/5.6 lens)

This former commercial block has only one building with an intact roof. The dudes were hanging out in the shade and drinking.

Fixer-upper barn, Swiftown (45mm, yellow filter)
Gin, Swiftown (90mm ƒ/4 lens)

Swiftown is not really a town, just an unincorporated community in Leflore County about 7 miles south of Morgan City. The barn next to a trailer was interesting. The cotton gin looks unused.

Head south about 10 miles and you reach Belzoni. 

Junction of MLK Jr. Drive and Church Street, Belzoni

My friend, who grew up in Belzoni, told me that these Quanset huts were restaurants owned by a local Italian family, the Mechattos. They were immigrants from Sicily. My friend's grandmother called them "The Hut." They made wonderful homemade salad dressing. One waitress was called Tootsie. My friend did not know when the family left or stopped operating the restaurant. 

China Street, Belzoni

Much of Belzoni is pretty rough today. And it may no longer be the Catfish Capital of the World. Please click the link for some 2021 photographs of Belzoni.

Thank you all for riding along in the Mississippi Delta.

Friday, November 11, 2022

The Mississippi Delta 37b: Eden, Tchula, and Sidon (Xpan 11)

On my recent trip north on Route 49E, I revisited the tiny town of Tchula. I photographed here in 2020 with black and white film. This time, I was using my friend's Hasselblad XPan panoramic camera and wanted to capture some scenes in the wide view.


Attack of the Spacemen, Eden, Mississippi (45mm lens, ƒ/8.0½, yellow-green filter)

Eden is a little town of about 130 inhabitants in Yazoo County just west of 49E. There is not much to see except for the Cyclopian spacemen in front of the closed convenience store. I have admired them before. We continue north on 49E.


Bridge to Cooper Road, Tchula (45mm, yellow-green filter)
Guinea hen house, Front Street, Tchula. Note the wandering rooster.
Time for lunch, Front Street, Tchula (45mm lens, yellow-green filter, ƒ/8.0½)

Front Street may have been the former 49E. It semi-parallels Tchula Lake, which is really a tributary stream to the Yazoo River.

The Tchula Hardware Company on 201 East Main Street is like a throwback to another era - a hardware store with all the useful things you can use to fix your house, bicycle, car, flooring, or appliances. The gent siting outside graciously said I could to take pictures inside. A young lady in a couch did not pay any attention to me. I placed the XPan with the super-wide 30mm lens on a counter and set the self-timer. The exposures at ƒ/11 were in the 2-4 seconds range. To see some of the detail, please click any picture.


West Railroad Avenue, Sidon (45m lens, yellow-green filter, ƒ/11)

There is not much to Sidon now. East and West Railroad Avenues have no commercial buildings any more other than the post office. The wide bare stretch where my car is parked may have once been a rail yard or the location of a depot.

This ends our short trip on US 49E in the central Delta. Stand-by for more exploring in the future. Thank you for riding along.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

The Mississippi Delta 39: Thornton

Thornton is the remnant of a town on US 49E south of Tchula and north of Yazoo City in the Mississippi Delta. Two dilapidated square-front commercial buildings remain on the only street in town. More buildings would have once formed a small commercial core. 

Silos and gin south of Thornton (Kodak Tri-X film, Fuji GW690II camera, 90mm ƒ/3.5 EBC-Fujinon lens, yellow filter, 1/250 ƒ/8)

I drove on 49E on a blazing hot day in 2020. This gin and the silos may be unused, but possibly in Autumn, when cotton is harvested, the gin is put back into operation. The frames above are from a medium format Fuji camera with Tri-X film (click any frame to see details at 2400 pixels wide.

Mark's store in Thornton (45mm lens, yellow-green filter)

Mr. Kevin hangin' out, Thornton (45mm lens)

In 2022, I drove back north on 49E but this time stopped in Thornton. Mr. Kevin was standing in front of one of the square buildings. At 11:00, he was already slurring and asked me if I came to see Mark. I said sure. Mark came out of the other square building and was in much better shape. He said his father formerly owned the building and ran a store. At this time, it looked like Mark lived there. I forgot to ask if they had safe drinking water. Other gents in town were also drinking or enjoying weed. Mark generously said I could photograph the store. They all admired my 40-year-old car, which is a conversation ice-breaker. Kevin said with a car like that, he could get the chicks.

J. Chambers Street view west, Thornton (45 mm lens, yellow-green filter)

The three last photographs are from a Hasselblad XPan panoramic camera and the 45mm ƒ/4 lens. The film was Fuji Acros, exposed at EI=80. The light was harsh and glarey.

For more articles about the Delta, type "Mississippi Delta" in the search box. Click any photograph above for more details.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Good Stuff in the Attic: the Coca Cola Bottling Plant, Vicksburg

Dear readers, in my last article, I took photographs in the basement of the former Coca-Cola bottling plant on Washington Street in Vicksburg. The basement had some interesting heavy-duty machinery, patterns, shapes, pipes, and dust. How about the attic? The Open Market occupies the main floor of the old bottling factory and sells antiques and furnishings. I asked Lisa if I could photograph upstairs, and she graciously said I was free to go ahead. 

1977 payroll checks (with names removed)

I first went up to the attic with Mr. Cripps, the carpenter who rents the basement (see the previous article). Oh oh, trouble. A rooftop access trapdoor was open. A big egg was on the floor with some twigs and debris. A grumpy black vulture was on the roof beyond the trapdoor. We left the trapdoor and grumpy vulture alone. Later, some guys moved the egg and some straw out to the flat rood and closed the trapdoor. I hope a chick hatched successfully.

Roof ventilator turbines (minor fill flash to the right)

The attic is reasonably intact, and the the roof appears to be sound. This was a well-built structure. The attic floor is concrete, so no danger of falling through rotted flooring. 

Burroughs check-printing machine (1 sec. ƒ/8)
Burroughs check-printing machine platen detail (1 sec. ƒ/5.6)

This machine with a complicated keyboard almost surely printed the checks that you see in the first photograph. It may have also tabulated the amounts on some other media, maybe paper tape? Burroughs was an old-line American industrial concern that started in the 1880s with adding machines and branched into more sophisticated payroll systems. They moved into digital computers and developed main-frame systems in the 1960s, with emphasis on the banking sector. 

Gearbox of unknown purpose

The attic did not have too much material so I descended one floor to what was once the office space of the bottling plant.

The lavatory had some nice old porcelain steel sinks with dual water valves and high backsplash. Notice the slightly raised lip to reduce splashing over the sides. Compare with the typical modern bathroom sink, which is guaranteed to allow splash all over the vanity/floor and a soap film mess on the sheetrock behind. The worst examples of style over function are the goofy glass bowls sitting up on a platform or vanity. Really dumb. 

Radiator for hot water heat
Classic GE drop-in range with east-to-use button controls

At some time, likely the 1970s, the company built a kitchen on the second floor. The cabinets were generic, but the sink and range were matching avocado. Nice! The GE range had easy to use push button controls. The first button on the right is off, and the buttons to the left are for progressively higher temperatures. You can use them by touch and do not need reading glasses to see a programmable screen or LED display. Sometimes technology does not make machines easier to use. My former home in Massachusetts had a GE range with such buttons. Simple and reliable.

Former corner office? (Fuji X-E1 digital file converted to B&W)
Twist a Pepper Dr. Pepper bottle caps

These bottle caps contained numbers, possibly for some sort or promotion or prize. Twist enough caps from enough drinks and you get a prize (besides stomach rot).  

Finally, on the ground floor, a display of classic Coca-Cola bottles. I remember when these bottles contained 6.5 oz. And once upon a time, Coca-Cola was a treat that you drank possibly on Saturday afternoon or evening. A 6-pack lasted in the refrigerator all week. No one civilized drank soft drinks for breakfast or swilled it all day long in slurpy cups. How times have changed.... 

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Good Stuff in the Basement: the Coca Cola Bottling Plant, Vicksburg

1938 Coca-Cola bottling plant, 2133 Washington Street, Vicksburg

Dear Readers, you likely know that I like old industrial sites with machinery, pipes, tubes, tanks, and other remnants of industry. The basement of the former Coca Cola bottling plant at 2133 Washington Street in Vicksburg, Mississippi, fits this criteria. This was the last bottling plant that the Biedenharn family built in Vicksburg. This sturdy 1938 brick industrial building stands at the corner of Washington Street and Bowman Street. 

Note, this is not the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum in downtown Vicksburg, where Coca-Cola was first bottled in 1894 (back when it still had coca in the secret ingredients). The family also operated another plant on Grove Street, later the site of the Vicksburg Steam Laundry. I have negatives of this building to scan one day (you know that fairy tale - one day....).

Here are some photographs of the basement from February of 2022. Mr. Anthony Cripps, a carpenter and cabinet maker, was renting the basement and generously let me photograph the old fittings and machines. He had run new fluorescent lights to illuminate the gloomy space. Most of the frames below had side-lighting from the dusty windows. Enjoy the shapes, patterns, and forms - industrial art.

Air compressor (50mm ƒ/4 Distagon lens, 1 sec. ƒ/11)
Compressor with a beer (80mm Planar-CB, 1 sec. ƒ/11.5)
Water-cooling jacket (80mm Planar with Proxar no. 1 close-up diopter)
Lubricator, manually cranked? (80mm Planar lens with Proxar no. 1 close-up diopter)
Back cap and bolt patters (80mm Planar-CB lens, 1 sec. ƒ/11)
GE electoral control box (80mm Planar-CB, ½ sec. ƒ/11)
Hot water boiler (1 sec. ƒ/11.5)
Fuse panel (4 sec. ƒ/11)
Among the hundreds of valves (1 sec. ƒ/5.6)
Stairway to upper shop (40 sec. ƒ/8 with minor fill flash on right)

The stairway was challenging. It was lit with a dim lightbulb above on the ceiling. My incident light meter measured 10 seconds at ƒ/8 on the center of the stairs. I used a 40 sec exposure to accommodate reciprocity of the film. I also added fill flash on the right, but it likely added very little light. 

Long-forgotten icebox (1 sec. ƒ/5.6½)

I took these photographs with my Hasselblad 501CM camera, most with the 80mm ƒ/2.8 Planar-CB lens, on Kodak Tri-X 400 film. I stabilized the camera on a tripod because of the long exposures. Northeast Photographic in Bath, Maine, developed the film. I scanned it with a Minolta Scan Multi medium format film scanner.   

Standby for the attic in the next article.