A Delivery from Norman’s Kill Dairy (Conclusion)

Update.  For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working on turning an old wooden milk crate into a piece of waycool hanging art.  I removed the oak slats from the crate, sanded them down to bring out the grain in the planks, and stained the edges of the planks with black stain.

Here’s where we are at now.

Now I’m not going to leave this bare wood just sitting there and aging.  That’s not part of the project.  I need to make this thing look awesome.

Continue reading “A Delivery from Norman’s Kill Dairy (Conclusion)”

A Delivery from Norman’s Kill Dairy (Part Two)

If by chance you followed my previous blog post … I acquired a vintage milk crate from the old Norman’s Kill Dairy, a historic Albany creamery.  Rather than just keep an old milk crate around – even though old retro wooden milk crates are kinda cool – I took some of the oak slats out of the crate, with plans to re-purpose them into a new artwork.  In the previous post, I removed the slats from their metal reinforced milk crate ribs, and I palm-sanded the front of each slat to expose the wooden interior.

Now for the fun part.

I need some more wood.  And by “need some more wood,” I have to apply the slats to some sort of wooden substrate backing.  Ergo … a trip to Silver Fox Salvage.

Continue reading “A Delivery from Norman’s Kill Dairy (Part Two)”

A Delivery from Norman’s Kill Dairy (Part One)

The Capital District’s consumer product advertising history often fascinates me.  So when an eBay auction came up that featured this old milk crate … I couldn’t resist snagging it.

Is that completely waycool?  Yes it is.  That’s an old milk crate from the Normanskill Dairy – okay, back in the day it was called Norman’s Kill Dairy, and it – like many local dairies and creameries in the area – used these porchside milk crates as repositories for milk and dairy deliveries.  If memory serves me correctly, there was a Norman’s Kill Dairy outlet in downtown Albany – I believe its exact location is now part of the Empire State Plaza complex.

I’ve had this crate for a while – and during that time, I tried using it as a convenient endtable, as a storage crate, as something, anything.  But there was something about this little crate that really interested me… not so much as function, but as fashion.

And like my “K-Chuck Cabinet” project last year, where I took a 1930’s radio highboy cabinet and upscaled it into a super-awesome hideaway storage cabinet, I wanted to upscale this milk crate into something artistic.

And thus began my first steps in achieving this lofty goal.

Continue reading “A Delivery from Norman’s Kill Dairy (Part One)”

A new life for Frontier Town in 2017?

Frontier Town, January 1, 2017. BlackBerry PRIV camera phone. Photo by Chuck Miller

Frontier Town, January 1, 2017. BlackBerry PRIV camera phone. Photo by Chuck Miller

You might have missed it when Governor Andrew Cuomo issued his recent “State of the State” addresses, but buried on page 102 of the adjoining “State of the State” budget report is a $32 million plan to revitalize what was once the Frontier Town amusement park into a new type of tourist attraction.

The plan would take the land on the Frontier Town campus and convert it into a “Gateway to the Adirondacks” tourist facility.  This would include a visitor’s center, a campground, an area for horseback riding, and a festival staging area.

The “Gateway to the Adirondacks” project also has the potential to revitalize tourism and recreation in the Adirondack towns of North Hudson, Newcomb and the surrounding communities.  Plus, with the recent State acquisition of the Boreas Ponds tract, a “Gateway to the Adirondacks” project would certainly boost job opportunities throughout the region.

I’m for this.  Yeah, we’ll never get Frontier Town back, and even if someone did try to revive the old amusement park, it wouldn’t be the same as it was in the past.  It just couldn’t be.  This “Gateway to the Adirondacks” concept makes so much more sense.

As a public service for those of you who don’t normally read Governor Cuomo’s budget reports, I’ve included pages 102-104 here in this blog.  They describe the “Gateway to the Adirondacks” project, its future and its goals.

Oh, and if you DO want to read all 383 pages of Governor Cuomo’s budget plan, here’s a link to keep you entertained over the weekend.

Proposal: Create Master Plan for “Gateway to the Adirondacks” at Northway Exit 29 in North Hudson

The Frontier Town theme park was built in the Adirondacks in 1952. For more than four decades, this entertainment destination was a boon to the local economy, drawing visitors from across the country to the town of North Hudson. But since 1998 when the theme park was closed, this site at Exit 29 of the Northway has sat dormant. As a result, local jobs, restaurants and lodging have all but disappeared from this once thriving Adirondack community.

In 2016, recognizing a critical need to invigorate the economies of these Adirondack communities, Governor Cuomo challenged the Open Space Institute and five neighboring Adirondack towns to collaborate with the State to design a blueprint for a new recreation hub at this location. In 2017, that challenge will be met and a new world class recreational experience will be realized through the establishment of state, local and private partnerships led by Governor Cuomo to invest up to $32 million to create the Gateway to the Adirondacks.  The new hub will include:

  • A DEC campground and day use area along the Schroon River;
  • An equestrian camping and trail riding area, similar to DEC equestrian camping and riding facilities at Otter Creek and Brookfield, which are drawing visitors from throughout the eastern United States;
  • A Visitor Information Center to introduce visitors to the world class recreational opportunities in the Adirondack Park;
  • An Event Center with tourist accommodations and facilities for hosting shows and festivals;
  • Interactive exhibits in historic structures highlighting the past, present, and future of the Adirondack forest products and local food industries; and
  • Areas designated for commercial business development including those which provide food, lodging and amenities for visitors and those which can grow at this strategic location along the Northway corridor.

As a first step, the Department of Environmental Conservation will acquire a conservation easement on approximately 300 acres of land with support from the Environmental Protection Fund. This will allow construction of the public and equestrian camping and day use areas. Paradox Brewery will also be investing $2.8 million to expand its operations at the site thanks in part to $200,000 in incentives from the Empire State Development Corporation.

Governor Cuomo’s goal is to promote and increase the economic vitality of the towns connected to this North Hudson location.  Transforming this site into an attractive destination will link local and regional resources and provide year round recreation opportunities and services for multiple uses, users and businesses.  The Gateway site will welcome, orient and connect visitors to trail networks, recreation destinations and businesses in the Adirondack Park.  Drawing visitors to North Hudson to connect with premier opportunities for hiking, biking, horseback riding, snowmobiling and boating. This, coupled with commercial business development, will revitalize communities and help transform this region.


This will be big.  And much needed.

But even though all this is on the table… I just ask Governor Cuomo for one thing when his people work on this project.

Just save something from Frontier Town.  Revitalize the Main Street facade.  Restore the old chapel.  Something.  Just as a reminder of what Frontier Town used to be for generations of families who originally visited North Hudson and the Adirondacks for a day trip or for a weekend.

As much as it means to preserve New York’s beauty and majesty…

Let’s just save a small piece of New York’s history while we’re at it.

BUILT 2016 is coming…

One of my favorite charities during my late-year “Charity Season” is Historic Albany Foundation, and their BUILT: Albany’s Architecture Through Artists’ Eyes auction and fundraiser is an event I totally treasure.

BUILT is an amazing charity event, in which Albany’s top artisans create breathtaking artwork and imagery inspired by the architecture – past and present – of the Capital City.  And it’s all available for purchase and bid.

From Historic Albany’s Facebook page about the event.

BUILT promotes awareness of Albany’s built environment and raises funds for preservation efforts. For the past 13 years we’ve used our annual art exhibit & silent auction to highlight the issue of vacant buildings in Albany. With BUILT, we extend this artistic lens not just on vacant architecture, but onto Albany’s entire BUILT environment. A portion of the proceeds from the reception and art sales will benefit the Foundation’s programming and technical services.

In 2015, we had 80 artists submit close to 200 works of art. We are constantly impressed by the caliber of artwork that is part of the show and we encourage any and all artists to submit once the call for art is released.

And with that in mind, BUILT is currently calling for new and unique artwork that showcases Albany’s brilliant architecture and vibrancy – oh, and this year, they’re also including art that showcases the architecture of Schenectady and Troy as well, as part of Historic Albany Foundation’s collaboration with the Breathing Lights art project.  BUILT’s prospectus can be viewed by visiting this link.

Nipper's Flip Side
Nipper’s Flip Side. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 80-200 f/2.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.


Oh, and how’s this for super-coolness… the prospectus has one of my entries from last year, Nipper’s Flip Side, as one of the art examples!  Yes, the photo I took with the RCA dog atop the Arnoff Moving and Storage Building (the former RTA Warehouse), as shot off a reflection in a street puddle.  I blogged about taking that photo in this post.

If you plan on entering BUILT, you should get your pieces ready.  This is one of the best showcases of the Capital Region’s artisans and craftspeople, and it also affords buyers the opportunity to purchase these artworks – and those purchases will help preserve our area’s most beloved and endangered buildings and architecture.

So here’s the deal.  Read the prospectus, look for your three best pieces that represent the visual excitement and wonder of Albany, Schenectady and Troy, and submit them to BUILT.

You’ll be glad you participated.

Trust me on this.

L-Ken’s sign, restaurant, demolition began today

I knew it would happen.  It was only a matter of time.

But when I received a message from one of my loyal blog readers, I knew I only had a few moments to act.


I had just put the finishing touches on this morning’s blog, when I received a comment on one of my other blog posts.  It was Dave.  And his message:  “They tore down L-Ken’s Drive-In today.  Go buy the sign.”

Well, I didn’t have enough money to buy the sign – heck, if I did, that sign would have been in the Town and Village years ago – but I did have enough time this morning to race over to Colonie and see if it was true, that L-Ken’s Drive-In was on its last heartbeat.

Demolition worker begins removal of chef logo from L-Ken's sign. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.
Demolition worker begins removal of chef logo from L-Ken’s sign. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.

And the sign – the last remaining example of Googie advertising on Route 5 between Albany and Schenectady – was now being disassembled by Town of Colonie construction workers.  As I arrived, a worker in a cherry-picker had already loosened off the RC Cola sign from its moorings, and was now carefully removing the plexiglass waiving chef from the sign itself.

“Hey, you!”

It was another Town of Colonie construction worker, looking directly at me.


“This is a hard-hat area only.  If you want to take pictures, you need to step back.”

I took a few steps back.

“More steps.”

Great.  I’m playing Mother May I with the Town of Colonie public works department.  I look around.  There are no other photographers or interested parties nearby.  If I don’t get these shots… no one will.

I took a few steps back.  I also stayed along the sidewalk and used as much technical acumen that my BlackBerry PRIV could achieve.

Construction worker removing L-Ken's chef panel. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.
Construction worker removing L-Ken’s chef panel. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.

And slowly, surely, the construction worker removed the panel.  I wached as another worker manipulated the cherry-picker basket to bring the panel safely to the ground without it shattering into a million pieces – either the sign, or the construction worker.  Safety first.  It is a hard-hat area, after all…

A couple of construction workers took the panel and hauled it over to a flatbed.

“Hey!” I called to them.

They looked up.

“Hold the sign up, I’ll get your picture.”

And sure enough…

Construction workers with piece of L-Ken's sign. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.
Construction workers with piece of L-Ken’s sign. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.

I swear that chef sorta looks like a caricature of Mario Cuomo.  Doesn’t he?

Anyways, the cherry-picker construction worker tried to examine if the next piece of the sign – the rotating hot dog that had “DRIVE-IN” and “SNACKS” in neon tubes – could come down.  But it was bolted together in such a way that other pieces of the sign had to be removed beforehand.

The workers moved their equipment to the other side of the sign, and the cherry-picker started to remove the second chef sign.

Construction worker confirming the removal of the sign. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.
Construction worker confirming the removal of the sign. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.

And within minute, that sign was removed as well.

Demolition on the L-Ken’s sign will continue throughout the day, I expect.  At 7:30 a.m. this morning, this was all that was left of the sign that once brought generations of fried food lovers to this little corner of Central Avenue.

L-Ken's sign, July 26, 2016. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.
L-Ken’s sign, July 26, 2016. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Wow.  Just wow.

I know the sign had become an eyesore over the years, but there was some faint hope that maybe someone would restore the sign or declare it a landmark or restore the sign or buy the property or restore the sign or restore the sign.

At this point, though… all that’s left are memories once again.

And I suspect that the next time I visit this little corner of Central Avenue…

The sign will be gone.

I’ll still have memories of L-Ken’s – including those based on photos I have taken.

Like this one from 2014, in which I re-animated the sign with digital colored neon.

Re-lighting L-Ken’s. Nikon Df camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens, and a little electronic paint job. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Or this restored L-Ken’s sign with its original ice cream cone replacing the garish real estate advertising sign.

L-Ken's Drive-In Updated Sign//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Yeah, L-Ken’s is now officially gone.   The sign will vanish.

I’m sad to see it go.

But I’m glad I was around when it was there.

The Storytown U.S.A. “Do Declare” Coloring Book

By now, I’m sure you’ve enjoyed watching the WMHT documentary “Charles R. Wood: A Storied Life.”  It’s a great piece about the history of the man who created Storytown U.S.A. / The Great Escape, as well as creating Gaslight Village, the HH Ranch, all those great businesses and entertainment spots throughout the Adirondacks.

And since I know people are now getting involved in adult coloring books, I thought I would share this with you.

Back in the 1950’s, author Lula A. Shaver and illustrator Janet W. Brotherton combined their talents for a series of coloring books called the “Do Declare” series.  As the opening titles state, “A Do Declare Book is just what you need // In each there’s a story for you to read // Color the pictures with the greatest of care // And hear Mommy say, I DO DECLARE!”

One of those coloring books tells the story of Mother Goose as she visits the then-new amusement park Storytown U.S.A.  She visits all the buildings and meets all her favorite storybook characters.

I can’t remember when I acquired this coloring book; but after watching the documentary, I knew I had to share this book with you.

So if you feel the urge to print out the pages and sharpen up your colored pencils or your vintage 64-count Crayola box…

Have at it.

Or you can just read along with the book as you see it here.  That’s fine as well.

And if you’re interested in collecting Lula Shaver’s other works, here’s a checklist, as near as complete as I can achieve, of the Lula Shaver “Do Declare” books.

  • Frontier Town (Illustrated by Janet W. Brotherton) 1955, A179055
  • The Gingerbread Castle (Illustrated by Janet W. Brotherton) 1955, A179054
  • An Invitation to Storytown U.S.A., Inc., the never-never land of the Adirondacks (Illustrated by Janet W. Brotherton) 1955, A190046
  • Larry Tours Franconia Notch, New Hampshire (Illustrated by Janet W. Brotherton) 1955, A190047
  • Outside My Window (Iullstrated by Janet W. Brotherton) 1955, A190048
  • Maple Sugaring Time in Vermont (I Do Declare Book)
  • To the Top of Mount Washington by the Way of the Cog Railroad (I Do Declare Book)
  • Trimble Bear (I Do Declare Book)
  • The Molly Stark Trail
  • Larry enjoys Mount Sunapee State Park, New Hampshire
  • Larry Visits the Wildlife Exhibit at Crawford Notch, N.H.
  • A Visit to Cape Cod
  • Little Red Arrow of Lake Minnewaska
  • Enchantment at the Land of Make Believe
  • Calling on Santa at The North Pole
  • Chipper and Chee Chee
  • Humpty Dumpty’s Night in Storyland
  • Santa’s Listening

If I come across any more of these “Do Declare” books in my travels, especially if they pertain to the Adirondacks or New England entertainment locales, I’ll certainly pass them along to you.  Because I’m sure you will enjoy them, too.

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