Roadside Curiosities: Things That Make You Go "What the Heck?"

September 22nd, 2016

unnamed-5

unnamed-5

"Ol' Woodenhead," Revelstoke, British Columbia, in 1940.

unnamed-5

"Ol' Woodenhead," Revelstoke, British Columbia, in 1940.

unnamed-2

"Ruby's Yard" in Yazoo City, Mississippi, in 1992. (Photo by Jim Linderman)

unnamed-6

"World's Largest Chair," Gardner, Massachusetts, between 1905 and 1922.

unnamed-4

"Palace of Depression" postcard, Vineland, New Jersey, circa 1930s.

unnamed-1

Oregon Woods Camp, Sutherlin, Oregon, 1932 postcard.
The text reads: "Largest log entrance of nature in the world, taken from a dream, built by Loring A. Wood alone. 3200 logs from 464 trees. If interested in nature buy a postal or picture. Sutherlin, Ore."

unnamed

Stump House store postcard, Eureka, California, circa 1930s.

unnamed-4

Yard art by James P. Scott, Lafitte, Louisiana, 1992. (Photo by Jim Linderman)

unnamed-3

Ed Galloway's "Totem Pole Park" press photo, Foyil, Oklahoma, 1947.

unnamed-5

Perry's Nut House store postcard, Belfast, Maine, circa 1930s.

unnamed-9

Irving Keene's weathervane sculpture, "Baltimore Sun" press photo dated December 1959.

unnamed

Renner Bros. for Shoes advertising postcard, from Indiana, circa 1910s.

unnamed

W. C. Rice's "Cross Garden," Alabama, circa 1995. (Photo by Jim Linderman)

unnamed-15

"Spikehorn's Bear Den" postcard, Harrison, Michigan, 1935.

unnamed-2

Robert Howell's sculpture garden, rural Virginia, 1992. (Photo by Jim Linderman)

unnamed-10

Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus sideshow banners, 1954.

unnamed-3

Two men hold a scarecrow, date and place unknown.

unnamed-1

Burrill Redwood Terraces postcard, outside of Garberville, California, circa 1940s.

unnamed-7

Press photo of champion whittler C.A. Hughes with a female figure and Uncle Sam mailbox, Mena, Arkansas, 1927.

unnamed

A circa-1930 postcard of a birdhouse sale lot, location unknown.

unnamed-6

Postcard of Stanley Smolak and some of his driftwood sculptures, Legs Inn, Cross Village, Michigan, 1950s.

In the introduction to his new self-published book of vernacular photography and tourist postcards, In Situ: American Folk Art in Place, archivist and collector Jim Linderman, who’s known for his Dull Tool Dim Bulb blog, warns that these images he’s gathered “don’t belong together at all. My arbitrary curating criteria is a falsehood.”

“You know, he is kind of eccentric, and his yard is full of all sorts of things.”

Yet his oddball collection makes perfect sense: When wandering North America’s highways and backroads in the 20th century, you could have stumbled upon any one of these landmarks. They’re the sort of things that make you stop and exclaim, “What IS that!?” Sometimes it’s an obvious advertisement, a come-on for gawkers or tourist dollars—“Come see The World’s Largest Chair!” Other times, it’s an object-filled front yard of the town eccentric, whether he or she is obsessed with windmills, birdhouses, or the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. There are Uncle Sam mailboxes, straw-stuffed scarecrows, truck-stop dinosaurs, sand sculptures, hand-painted signs, parade floats, toothpick sculptures, and even early art cars—anything made by self-taught artists, or what we now call folk art, in its original, intended context.

While most of the images are old postcards and vintage found photos, some were taken by Linderman himself. In the introduction, he explains his method: “One trick during my folk-art picking days was to stop at the local post office and say I was a working photographer sent to document a place I could not find. ‘You know, he is kind of eccentric, and his yard is full of all sorts of things.’ As often as not, the clerks would come up with an answer. ‘Oh, yeah, the one on Jackson Street with the carvings!’ Many towns had a fellow who qualified and many still do.”

(To buy a copy of “In Situ: American Folk Art in Place,” go here. Follow Jim Linderman’s folk art collection at Dull Tool Dim Bulb and on Collectors Weekly’s Show and Tell.)

Jim Linderman's "In Situ: American Folk Art in Place," cover design by Shannon Regan.

Jim Linderman’s In Situ: American Folk Art in Place, cover design by Shannon Regan.

One comment so far

  1. john Says:

    Scars me alot, but very intresting….


Leave a Comment or Ask a Question

If you want to identify an item, try posting it in our Show & Tell gallery.