Dear Readers, I recently found in my too-many boxes a plastic slide holder with some slides that I sent as a submission to Leica Fotografie International
. They never published my essay and returned my slides, but I never got around to filing them away. I decided to scan them first and show you some samples. Store fronts and home-made signs have always interested me. They demonstrate merchants advertising their wares and trying to attract customers, a form of folk-art. So here we go, in chronological order, but no specific geographical order.
|Front Street, Morgan City, Louisiana (Leica IIIC, 5cm f/2.0 Summitar lens)|
|Front Street, Morgan City, Louisiana (Leica IIIC, 5cm ƒ/2 Summitar lens)|
In the early 1980s, I worked for a marine geotechnical company. We had steamed (dieseled) in to Morgan City after a couple of weeks offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. I had never been to Morgan City before and found the floodwall a convenient viewpoint of the old downtown.
|Jerry's, Corpus Christi, Texas (Rollei 35S, 40mm ƒ/2.8 Sonnar lens)|
A relative lived in Corpus Christi, and this pottery company offered a wealth of garden art. I should have bought that pink donkey, or maybe the leopard.
|Galveston, Texas (Leica M3, 50mm ƒ/2.8 Elmar-M lens)|
was a powerful hurricane that caused major damage in coastal Texas in August of 1983. We drove to Galveston to see what had happened. Many cottages on the beaches had been damaged, but others, like this beach shop, were intact.
|Bremond, Texas (Rollei 35S, 40mm ƒ/2.8 Sonnar lens)|
Bremond was a typical agricultural/cattle town northwest of Houston. Even in the 1980s, many of these small towns were quiet, with closed stores along the main strips. That is when I first became interested in photographing urban decay. Bremond looked like it was doing a bit better than many other Texas towns, but I have no idea of its status now.
|Mendenhall, Mississippi (Olympus OM1 camera, 35mm ƒ/2.8 shift lens)|
In 1990, on my way to Mobile, I decided to stop in Mendenhall and look around. There was an old theater/cinema in reasonably sound condition near the courthouse. Do any readers know if the theater is still existent? (Update: the building burned down)
|Rooster-mobile, Mary Esther, Florida (Olympus OM1, 35mm ƒ/2.8 shift lens)|
Mary Esther, Florida, had a rooster car, as well as some pig- and cow-mobiles. And the rooster was built onto an old Chevrolet El Camino. Maybe I should have offered to buy it and drive it home to Vicksburg. El Caminos now fetch serious prices (and a rooster may enhance the value).
|Crossroads store, Reganton, Mississippi (Leica, 50mm ƒ/2.8 Elmar-M lens)|
The venerable Crossroads store is on Old Port Gibson Road in Reganton, near the Big Black River, about 20 miles south of Vicksburg. I have visited on an off over the years, most recently in 2018
|Biloxi, Mississippi (Leica M3, 50mm lens)|
Before Hurricane Katrina, US 90 along the shore featured many beachy shops, including this pink palace. But I prefer the gorilla on Alberti's Italian Restaurant. I wonder if he swam to safety in Katrina?
|Snuffy Smith's, Wilmer, Alabama (Leica M3, 50mm lens)|
Snuffy Smith's antiques and gasoline was a famous landmark on Moffett Road in Wilmer, Alabama. Classic folk art - I stopped several times to photograph. But the last time I drove through Wilmer, I did not see Snuffy's. Is it gone, or did I just drive by too quickly?
|Original Oyster House, Gulf Shores, Alabama (Leica 50mm lens)|
The Original Oyster House, as I recall, had excellent seafood (and alligator, if you were interested), along with condiments from Greece. I assume the owners were Greek, which usually bodes well for a restaurant. Is this still existent?
|Santa in Seminary (Nikon F3, 50mm ƒ/1.8 Nikkor lens)|
Finally, the well-traveled Santa Claus comes to Seminary via tractor. Good choice in a farming community.
|Madison St. (Old Hwy 80), Bolton, Mississippi (Leica M3, Kodachrome film)|
Well, Santa can relax with a brew or a Bud at Mack's Cafe in Bolton.
This is the end of our short random tour of southern stores, rooster-mobiles, and other oddities. All photographs were from Kodachrome film
, mostly K25. Using Kodachrome was a bit clumsy because you needed to mail the exposed film to one of the few processing laboratories in the United States that could handle the highly specialized processing and dye chemicals. The ISO 25 emulsion was unsurpassed in grain size and resolution. Also, Kodachrome had excellent archival properties when stored in the dark in reasonable climate control. As you can see, the examples above scanned well and the colors are still vibrant.
Sadly, Kodachrome manufacture ended in 2009, after 7 (seven) decades of production. The last processing was in December of 2010 at Dwayne's Photo in Parsons, Kansas. The movie, "Kodachrome
," is about this last processing and a road trip to Parsons. In the poster, you can see that Ed Harris is wearing a Leica