Friday, April 3, 2020

Mighty Joe

Posted by Stu On September - 26 - 2012

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Anyone driving on Route 206 in Shamong has surely seen the gorilla in the parking lot of Mighty Joe’s, a gas station and convenience store.  Formerly found along the Wildwood boardwalk and more recently serving as a decoration at a go-kart track, the gorilla, now known as Mighty Joe, has since been fixed up and moved to the side of Route 206 as an homage to the owner’s deceased son, also named Joe.


The sign says it all.



Popularity: 10% [?]

South of the Border

Posted by Stu On June - 28 - 2012

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Photos from June 2011


For a few years during my childhood, my family would drive down to Florida every February, and my brother and I always anticipated the stop at South of the Border.  If you have never heard of South of the Border, then you haven’t done much driving on I-95.  This roadside oddity, literally just south of the NC/SC border, is a Mexican themed, well, tourist trap, complete with its own motel, multiple gift shops, arcade, and restaurant.  For decades, it was a must-see spot for folks driving to DC or Disney, though it seems we’re hard-pressed to figure out why.  At the time, signs for it would pop up hundreds of miles away; I believe when I was younger they began showing up in northern Virginia, heading southbound anyway.  To be honest, I don’t have much memory of just why I liked stopping at the place.  There were big statues of animals and Pedro, the place’s mascot.  Sure, there were fireworks, but even at that young age I knew cheaper fireworks could be found elsewhere.  I remember my parents saying even back then, “This place is stupid.”  I’m pretty sure they only stopped there to shut the kiddies up.


Fast forward about 20 years.  Since my wife and I have been vacationing in coastal North Carolina for the past few years, I wanted to make a day trip out of SotB, since I hadn’t been there in nearly 2 decades.  At first she was hesitant, but then when I mentioned a bomb crater would be included in the day’s itinerary, she agreed.  So off we went, to see if my childhood memories were accurate, or if SotB was indeed “stupid.”  Was there more to this place than gift shops and kitsch statues?  Hearing many people say the place had gone downhill in recent years added to my curiosity.  The dwindling number of signs along I-95 and their ever-shrinking radius seemed to reflect this idea; I believe the first southbound SotB sign now appears somewhere in the middle or bottom of NC as opposed to northern Virginia 20 years ago.


The 200′ Sombrero Tower is very noticeable from I-95.  Upon pulling in, however, we learned that this place needs a lot more than a 20-story hat to keep tourists’ attention; the place was a virtual ghost town, with maybe three other cars in the parking lot.  Much of the animal statuary from my childhood was gone, not that this should be a selling point to begin with.  The first building we entered was the arcade.  The sign promised “hundreds” of games; there were maybe twenty.  A few buildings were closed.  We entered a few different gift shops, all of which sold essentially the same stuff; we of course bought our obligatory fridge magnet and shot glass.  Some of the merchandise was quite off-the-wall, even for a place like this.

I’d also like to point out that even the signs have gone downhill.  Besides there being fewer of them, they are now much more boring.  I remember when I was a kid, they were over-the-top ridiculous, with terrible puns, gaudy colors, and often 3-D or used some other sort of prop.  In short, they were creative; they made you WANT to visit SotB.  The new signs just plain suck; they’re all black with ugly white lettering. I was going to do a side-by-side comparison, but I’m having trouble finding pictures of the older signs online.  I had a book of old SotB signs I bought as a kid; if I can find it, I will scan some pictures and post them.

There really wasn’t much to do, so we walked around for a bit and took some photos.



Ethnic stereotypes have never been so happy to see you!





I love that game!












Popularity: 6% [?]

The Shoe House

Posted by Stu On June - 14 - 2011

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In 1948, Colonel Mahlon M. Haines, the owner of several shoe stores in PA & MD, decided to implement what is likely the ultimate advertising gimmick.  He had a house shaped like a shoe built in Hellam.  The house was actually intended to be used as a vacation getaway for older couples.  Due to the building’s peculiar architecture, however, moving around was quite difficult.

Ownership has changed hands a few times over the years.  Fortunately, the current owners have decided to keep the house open to visitors.  Even more fortunate, they are very nice people.  Looking up information about the house, I saw at least two different sets of hours posted online.  We went on a Monday in August of ’10, and after nearly a 2-hour drive, we were greeted with a CLOSED sign.
Apparently the schedule I decided to abide by was inaccurate.
Outside, however, I saw one of the owners doing some yard work.  I approached him and explained I had driven quite a distance to come to the house and had read it would be open.  I asked for permission to photograph the grounds and he agreed.  He even opened the gift shop for us so I could buy a magnet.  I did not get any pictures of the inside of the house, however.  I wasn’t going to press my luck any further; I already felt like I inconvenienced him enough and wasn’t about to ask for a private tour or anything.
Perhaps I’ll get back someday and take the tour.  I’m pretty curious to see what the inside of the house looks like.

The owner said the house is fairly hard to find because of local advertising ordinances; you’re not going to see any billboards for it.  Just look up Shoe House Road in Hellam, PA.

For the correct schedule of hours and admission fees, go to










Popularity: 7% [?]

Route 309 Cow

Posted by Stu On July - 13 - 2010

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It seems for as long as anyone can remember, this giant cow has been standing along Route 309 in Wilkes-Barre Township.  It stands guard in front of an Amish shed shop.  It’s a popular landmark and has apparently had a few paint jobs over the years.


As you can see, the cow has its own fenced-in area.


Popularity: 5% [?]

Giant Coffee Mug of Wilkes-Barre

Posted by Stu On July - 13 - 2010

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I’m not really sure how many times I’ve driven by this without giving it too much thought.  Recently I heard this building was to be sold, so I figured I’d check it out before it was possibly razed.

Turns out this was, unsurprisingly, supposed to have been a coffee shop.  The sign for the business is still out in front of the mug.  For whatever reason it never materialized, and the property was put on public auction a few months ago.



Popularity: 7% [?]

Freeport’s Big Indian

Posted by Stu On December - 27 - 2008

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Normally, I don’t bother with big roadside things. Coming from South Jersey, I’ve seen plenty of them and never saw the big deal. I mean, I had a dinosaur down the road while I was growing up; the only reason he (she?) is on the site is because that’s my hometown. I’ve passed by Mr. Bill, Mighty Joe the gorilla, the Muffler Men in Seaside, the giant cassette tape in Howell, and the Big Lady countless times, and they’ve yet to make an appearance on the site. I currently live a few miles away from a big friggin’ roadside cow, and I haven’t put that on the site yet either. So why this guy?

‘Cuz he’s damn huge.

I mean, this guy’s over 50′ tall. The base he’s standing on is almost as tall as me.
He is on the site because if all the big roadside things I just mentioned ever got into an all-out brawl, he would win.
Hands down.

…I suppose this means I now have to put all the other “big things” on the site.

Popularity: 3% [?]

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