Presidents Hall of Fame

Presidents Hall of Fame
A pleasant, dark night in Calhoun Kentucky by the Green River.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine Florida is such an intoxicating city.  There is such a great amount of REAL history that has been preserved.  The place is flooded with museums of all sorts, historic relics, food, and shops.  AND, there is a very authentic and continuous history covering about 5 centuries.

We were here about 4 years ago, (see my old mention of it here) but we budgeted out only a brief stop.  We knew we needed to get back, and to spend more time here.

As a tourist, there are somethings I really like about certain towns.  I love rich history.  I love access to that history.  Nice restaurants and shopping don't hurt.

I know this may sound odd, but I like easy travels.  There are a lot of things to do in this part of Florida, and places are generally pretty easy to get to.  AND getting around St. Augustine is easy.

There are so many places here and there that I want to see.  There are still about 15 states that I haven't made it to yet.  As we travel, there are places we visit- and we are happy to say that we have been there.... but there is no reason to go back.  St. Augustine is not one of those places.  St. Augustine is a place I hope to go back to many more times.

On this trip we made sure to allow ourselves more time than the last time we were here.  Still, there are things we weren't able to make it to.

We did buy one of the Ripley's Museum multi-attraction tickets.  In general, we were very happy with this.  It is always fun running through a Ripley's Odditorium.  This one is no exception.

We also used their Red Train while in town.  You can buy a three day ticket for the train which lets you get on and off of the trolley at 20 different stops around town.  I love these kind of deals.  You can pretty much get to anywhere you want in town, and the train drivers explain the sites and history.  We had a great driver that we kept getting who was very informative and entertaining.  I think her name was Cheryl.

We also did their "Ghost Train" one evening.  Ghost Tours can be so hit or miss.  On this tour, they handed out EMF readers and a weird green dotted flashlight thing.  We were then taken to two locations and told a little about things that had happened in the area.  It was kind of fun seeing the town at night and all, but next time I will likely stick to a straight forward historic tour. 

More on some of the places we saw later......

Friday, May 22, 2015

Random Thoughts on Friday

Just a few VERY random thoughts.  Some you may care about, some you may not.  Whatever.

Animal Sightings-

First off......  during our travels I have noticed some animal related things lately.  While in Tennessee, we thought we saw an armadillo.  Then we saw another one!  I guess I wasn't aware of this, but these guys have pretty firmly made their way into that state!

ALSO, while in Cincinnati (we were in the Kenmore area) I warned my buddy to watch out for a very fast moving dog.  As we watched him, and got a better look, we realized that we were watching a coyote!  We were very close to the mall there- this is not a secluded, rural area.


I have been reading a lot of books on the Civil War lately.  I wasn't aware that there are SO MANY GREAT battle sites in Kentucky!  More on this topic too- but I don't think people realize all of the good history they can research locally.


I have been watching the oldies TV stations some lately.  Newhart is probably one of my all time favorite shows, and I could watch that stuff over and over.  If I could live in a TV show, it would be Newhart.  It was a weird show too- many of the characters were over the top.  It was like Bob was living in a Twilight Zone... or a dream.

I have been catching the old George Burns and Gracie Allen shows here and there!  This is some FUNNY stuff!  Why didn't anyone tell me about them sooner?  I've always loved Lucie, but Gracie is a LOT funnier.  Her timing is flawless, and about every other line is hysterical.  I am so glad this show is still showing in reruns.

Oh, I have to mention David Letterman!  I have always loved the guy.  I almost feel like I grew up on his show- and it is sad thinking that he won't be a late night option anymore.  Original comedy is scarce anymore.

My wife met his mom in the mid 90s at Boone Tavern.  According to her Dave's mom was very pleasant and sweet.  My wife over heard someone mention "Dave's mom" and my wife brought up the fact that Dave's Mom mentioned the Tavern in a book.  Well, a lady turned around and said, "I'm Dave's Mom!"  How cool is that?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Mermaids at Weeki Wachee, Florida

Weeki Wachee may be the most perfect retro roadside attraction out there.

Our visit started at 9am.  We wanted to be there right when they opened, to beat any crowds.  Well, we were the only ones there at that time.

Sure, it was on a weekday, but I figured the place would be packed.

People did start rolling in over the next hour.  I would say that, by 11, the place had a good crowd.

For half an hour or so we had the park to ourselves, so we got our gift shop purchases out of the way.  That was convenient!

We walked around the park some and ended up taking a boat tour.  This was a very nice, 30 minute or so trip around the area.  The boats captain told us all about the area and the park.

After our boat ride, we walked around some more, admiring the area, especially the peacocks that seemed to be everywhere.  We were so excited to see that there are TWO Mold-A-Ramas available here.  If you aren't familiar with Mold-A-Rama, it is the coolest tourist souvenir ever.  For a couple of bucks you get to watch as a very cool small toy- like a mermaid- is made!  Then, you have a great souvenir to take home!

Anyway, we made it over to the theater at Weeki Wachee to see the main attraction here- the mermaid show!

We grabbed a couple of seats in the theater and waited.  There is a real sense of excitement before the show. 

There is something so unique and exciting about seeing a mermaid after the curtain comes up.  Yes, everyone is expecting it, and everyone knows that this is a show, but it absolutely feels real.

These aren't actors on a stage pretending to be underwater. 

They interact with the animals that find their way into the performance area (one turtle was constantly swimming towards one of the mermaids- which was very funny).  We were told that manatees have made their way into the shows.  Gators have also popped up (the mermaids get out of the springs pretty quickly when this occurs).

This is a complicated production with several performers.  The star of the show had several costume changes, and even appeared inside of the theater.

This is one of those things where, the history of the performances, along with the pure coolness of the shows, kind of turn this mythical thing into something real.  If someone were to ask me where they could see an authentic mermaid, my answer would be "Weeki Wachee".

Monday, May 18, 2015

Glass Bottom Boat at Silver Springs, Fla.

Here is another great Silver Springs postcard!

Sent in 1942, a friend tells someone that they took the glass bottom boat trip at Silver Springs, and it was wonderful!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Florida's Silver Springs Postcard

We JUST went to Silver Springs!  Here is a vibrant old postcard that notes

"Florida's Silver Springs, with its 100-acre landscaped park and six outstanding attractions, is a photographer's paradise.  The famous Glass-Bottom Boat ride is the feature attraction of this famous resort."

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Silver Springs, Florida

IN our quest to visit all of the great old roadside spots in Florida, we HAD to stop and see Silver Springs!

We really had a great time, but we did hear a lot of people talking about how they had been here before, and it just wasn't the same.  It seems that the state park system has recently taken over, and some of the old attractions are no longer there.  In fact, for the most part, there are some places to walk around, there is a small museum, and there are the legendary glass bottom boats to rides- but that's about it.

We bought our tickets and got on a boat.  We had a great captain who seemed to know everything about the park, the boats, and the sights underwater.  He told a great story about the Creature from the Black Lagoon.  He said that he mentioned that some of the movie was filmed at Silver Springs.  Well, after hearing about that, a passenger got scared, and said he saw the creature looking at him through the boat's glass bottom!  It turned out it was just the man's distorted reflection!

We also learned that the boat we were on had been in use since 1962!

Under the water at Silver Springs are many amazing sites.  We did see turtles and fish swim by.  Our captain pointed out a cave, and some statues that had been used (and left behind) in a James Bond movie!

An old Indian canoe and another sunken boat were also visible... not to mention a very old tree.

Our captain had eagle eyes, and he made sure that we all noticed a gator not too far from our boat!  I was very excited about this, as this would be the only gator in the wild I would see on this trip.

I am hopeful that the Florida State Parks System will add some more here, because the glass bottom boats are cool and amazing.... but something a little extra would bring in more tourists.  Hopefully, Silver Springs can go back to its glory days....  but it is still a cool place simply because of these boats!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Silver Springs Florida postcards from the late 1930s.

 I found these three beautiful old Silver Springs postcards recently.  The back of all three are almost totally identical.  They note-

Largest flowing springs in the world, over 750 million gallons daily.  Electric driven glass bottom boats.  Greatest depth 80 feet.  Temperature of water 72 winter and summer.  Shown from sunrise to sunset, in all weather, everyday in the year.

2 are postmarked from Silver Springs, in the late 30s and early 40s.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Glass Bottom Boats and Mermaid Tails: Florida's Tourist Springs by Tim Hollis

I picked up Tim Hollis' book, "Glass Bottom Boats and Mermaid Tails" before our trip to Florida.  I have read Tim's writing before, and I really like the picture he paints of the old tourist stops throughout the south.

I still enjoy stopping at the colorful roadside attractions that are still up and down the road- the weirder the better!  AND it makes me sad when legendary old ones close down.  Fortunately, as Tim Hollis points out, the Florida State Parks System has kept a few going. 

Mermaids, Indian Princesses AND the Creature from the Black Lagoon ALL make appearances on the pages of this book..... and in the decades of roadside tourist attractions in Florida.

The book talks about how the springs attracted explorers forever.  At a certain point, people realized that the beautiful, clear springs would make $$$ pleasant family tourist spots.

The sites became popular, and tourists came.  Then, some spots even used the clear springs to make movies.

As other tourist locations opened, many of these great springs saw the number of visitors decline.  Some closed up shop, some evolved.  Some closed, but later opened again.

Tim talks about how the whole idea of mermaids being used at Weeki Wachee came about, and he also covers the use of the glass bottom boats.

This was a great book to read before visiting some of these places!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Presidents Hall Of Fame, Clermont, FL.

The Presidents Hall of Fame museum is in Clermont Florida, right next to the Citrus Tower!  This was a "must stop" on our latest road trip!

Unlike many of the other museums we have visited, this museum doesn't focus on one president, it covers them all!

Inside, there are wax statues of all of the Presidents!  There are also many toys of each one (I was pleased to see the Marx toys Presidents, one of my all time favorite toy lines).  A nice display case with buttons, other toys, postcards, and other collectibles is devoted to each individual President.  I loved looking through these cases!

Inside the main attraction is arguably the 1/12th scale replica of the White House!

The smaller White House has been admired by Presidents and First Ladies, some of whom have left signed notes mentioning their approval.

This doll house version of the White House is very exact.  It is so perfect that it has been used as a stand in for the real thing!  In the museum, we watched a very nicely done video about the limited time when one president moves out, and a new one moves in.  Well, the people who made the video had very limited access to the real White House, so THIS ONE was used instead!

The museum does have a bit of a disorganized feel at times.  Other unrelated relics and displays are here... and I have read some critical reviews of the museum because of the weathered outside appearance.

To me, I admire the slightly random feel here and there at the Presidents Hall of Fame.  It lets you know that the museum is owned and operated by a passionate collector and not a stuffy, formal curator with little personal connection to the displays.

The place has a great gift shop too, with some cool vintage items being sold at reasonable prices.  I found some old slides of the wax presidents for pocket change each!  I also picket up a few political buttons!

The Presidents Hall of Fame Museum is amazing, I could spent hours just admiring the detail on the White House....  I could spent hours admiring the cases.....

Stopping here and stopping to see the Citrus Tower would be a great way to spend a day on your next drive through Florida!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Florida Citrus Tower- Clermont, Florida

We were trying to stop at all of the classic roadside attractions that are still around in Florida.  The Florida Citrus Tower was on our list!

The Tower was built in the 50s to let tourists see all of the oranges grown around the Orlando area!

Well, there really aren't any oranges being grown around here now.  You can still take the elevator to the top to see the area though!

In the main entrance area (before you take the elevator ride to the top) there are cases full of Citrus Tower memorabilia, and there are pictures up, showing off some of the proud moments of it's past.

Lilly's Gift Shop is set up here too.  This was a very nice, slightly more upscale type of gift shop.

The Florida Citrus Tower is not the huge draw it once was, but it is still very cool!