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Four-Links – Nickle filling station, Penn-Irwin Motel, Keating on Route 66, Baby on Board

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As you top a rise near Powell, Tennessee, you’ll see the former Nickle filling station, a building in the shape of an airplane that has been the subject of a recent preservation effort.

The Nickle brothers closed and sold the station by the 1970s. After that, it was used at various times as a liquor store, produce stand, bait and tackle shop, an office, and a used-car lot. Local rumor says it may have been a moonshine distillery. Then, for a while, it was nothing but an abandoned curiosity.

By the early 2000s, the airplane was in bad shape. Although it remained a local landmark, it was out of use, falling apart, and covered in kudzu. Its second life began in 2002, when Powell resident Tom Milligan passed by and noticed bulldozers outside. Although its roof was leaking and its wooden interior was rotting, Milligan convinced the owners to sell him the property, and preservation efforts began in earnest. He and other residents formed a nonprofit group dedicated to saving the plane, the Airplane Filling Station Preservation Association (AFSPA).

* That said, old motels like the Penn-Irwin Motel in North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, tend not to get the preservation treatment.

Sorry to say that if you didn’t stay at the Penn-Irwin Motel in the past 73 years, you only have one night left to do so. Owner Deb Salada called to tell me they will be closing on Saturday after 35 years of ownership. The motel will be demolished, the hillside removed, and a new strip mall will take the place of the area’s last old-time roadside business.

When the PA Turnpike opened in 1940, the LH was bypassed around Irwin to accommodate all the traffic coming off the Western Terminus exit. U.S. 30 filled with diners, gas stations, and motels serving travelers 24/7. The strip is still filled with businesses but mostly modern franchises in newer buildings.

If you stop by for one last photo (the two neon signs still look great), it’s at 9111 U.S. 30, North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.

* And while we’re on the topic, CityLab recently took a look at photographer Edward Keating’s Main Street, The Lost Dreams of Route 66, which chronicles Route 66’s more pedestrian, less theme-parky elements.

He returned to Route 66 20 years later in the early 2000s as a photojournalist with a mission to capture the forgotten towns and people that continue to occupy old Route 66’s sidewalks. “I’m always surprised that nobody had taken this road on photographically as more than just 2,400 miles of amusement park with one roadside attraction after another,” Keating told CityLab over the phone last month.

He’s referring to the multiple rosy, nostalgic works celebrating America’s Main Street. To Keating, that’s not the story. “It’s a total fantasy — when you get out there, so much of it is such a real dodge.”

* Speaking of things you were bound to see on the road in former times, Mental Floss ran down the history of the “Baby on Board” signs.

While Lerner was profiting handsomely, he was seeing only a fraction of the car sign industry’s total revenue. Once Baby on Board caught on, it became easy for companies to manufacture parody replicas: Baby Driving, Grandma on Board, Ex-Husband in Trunk, and Illiterate on Bord were all snapped up by more cynical drivers who felt the original sign was silly to suggest they’d be driving aggressively if not for the warning. At one point, the knock-offs outnumbered Lerner’s sign by five to one on roads in the New York metropolitan area.

Lerner and his satirists had one thing in common: Road-safety experts had extreme reservations about the signs, which could potentially obstruct the driver’s view through the rear window. While some states approved them providing they were stuck to the lower half of the glass, others were more aggressive. North Carolina law insisted nothing be placed on the window; Maryland had police officers giving drivers a $30 ticket for the infraction. In 1986, the Insurance Information Institute declared the signs posed a hazard for drivers who could become distracted by trying to read them, prompting a traffic accident.

* Finally, for all of you concerned about saving, restoring, or reproducing electronics from late-model vehicles, there’s this guy who showed us how he’s preserving the Electronic Voice Alert module from a 1980s Chrysler. (via)

This video shows you an overview of the tasks involved in preserving rare speaking devices of the past before they are destroyed or lost. The sounds you hear at the end are from the preserved data playing back in chipspeech’s TMS5110 emulation core. While it runs fine in chipspeech, we sadly cannot ship this file with the program because we do not have the rights to it. Maybe one day. In the meantime the data is preserved and backed up safely for posterity. (please do not ask for a copy of the rom until there’s been 75 years since 1982 🙂 Still looking for French and Spanish EVA11 and EVA24. If you have a loose unit please get in touch with me.