The New Jersey Expeditions

HY, Hy-Way Bowl, Union, NJ

There are plenty of things I forget on a constant basis. Among them:

  1. The Cubs are not going to win the division.
  2. Lid down.
  3. Just because a burger is flame-broiled doesn’t necessarily make it a good burger.
  4. Although that Toyota ad with “Jan” started out with a promising concept, it’s not going to be in the least bit funny.
  5. New Jersey is within easy driving distance.

This last one, of course, is the one I forget the most often, and it’s only when I go to Easton and see a sign that says “New York City, 68 miles” that I realize just how close a lot of the places on my to-do list for New Jersey truly are. On Tuesday of this week, I found myself in Easton with some extra time and I realized I was within striking distance of a couple great signs. Considering the recent lessons of the Port Motel and how there’s no time like the present to get these shots, I had no doubt what my course of action should be.

My main target was Hy-Way Bowl in Union, New Jersey. Bowling signs are some of the best, but unfortunately, most of the best ones are somewhere other than eastern Pennsylvania, and as a result, I have precisely zero classic bowling signs in my collection. Secondarily, I wasn’t sure if the Hy-Way was still in operation (They have a Facebook page, but the last post on it is from some time last year), so rather than wait to see it disappear to some scrap heap, I was going to go after it. From there, I was just going to drive back on US 22 to see what I could see. The old US routes, as I’ve often said, are the best, and US 22 is one of the oldest.

I made it to the Hy-Way in under an hour. The parking lot was a disaster and the building looked dilapidated, and a check-cashing place had moved into one part of it. It didn’t look like much bowling was going on. But the sign was intact, and just as I had seen it in posts by others:

Hy-Way Bowl, Union, NJ

A couple things. Number one, what’s with the cactus on the bowling ball? I’ve seen dozens of pictures of this sign, and yet no one asks this question, so dadgummit I’m asking. Second, that’s a whole heaping helping of neon bullet holes in the bowling ball; was there something written on it? What must this have looked like in its day? The internet is frankly stumped, and shows me the pictures I’ve already seen, from Tony Zarak and others.

Hy Way Bowl detail, Union, NJ

Where do I start with this one? I just love the detail above, with these customized letters that spell out “bowl.” They’re uneven, the “O” is smaller than the others, but it fits the space so well and it’s own type of art. When they say “they don’t make ’em like they used to,” this is where it begins and ends for me. It’s like the uneven shapes of the Wrigley Field or Fenway Park outfield. It’s not perfect and gorgeous in its imperfection.

I must have stayed here for a half an hour, watching people struggle in and out of the check cashing place and the traffic roaring down US 22. But I knew I had to move on.

From Debra Jane Seltzer’s website I knew about another one in Union, but I wasn’t sure if it was still there. It was for the Union Shade & Awning Company, and from all reports it was the original sign from 1940:


This one was just off US 22, and although I had a good idea where it was, I was surprised to see that it was right there ahead of me once I got off the highway. There was no place to park, so I ended up idling with my four-ways on as I jumped out and took about seven rapid-fire shots. I liked the one above the best.

So I should say another thing I’ve forgotten:

  • 6. Driving in New Jersey is always a challenge.

In order to get back on US 22, I had to drive back all the way to the Hy-Way Bowl. I’m sure there was an easier way to do so, but being a stranger there myself, and since New Jersey sees fit to hide their directional signs from the eyes of tourists, I ended up about a mile in the opposite direction. Once I was back on US 22 west, life continued as normal.

There was a Jimmy John’s on the left side. I couldn’t get in that lane because of traffic, so I thought if I turned right and went around the block, I’d end up in the right spot.

  • 7. Never ever under any circumstances get off of US 22 if you don’t have to. Ever.

Fifteen minutes later and the allure of Jimmy John’s seemed not entirely worth it. I struggled back to US 22 with my tail between my legs, having seen the inside and out of an industrial park and 415 dead-end side roads. The sun, which had been burning bright during my first two shots, went away, so when I reached the next port of call, The World of Tile in Springfield, conditions were not at their best. But I can’t complain much:

World of Tile, Springfield, NJ
World of Tile opened in 1957 and it is every inch 1957 from its globe to the TILE individual blocks to its space-age building, preserved for all these years.

World of Tile Building, Springfield, NJ

More to come later. New Jersey is a wild, wonderful place with much to explore!

Farewell to the Port Motel

Port Motel, Port Trevorton, PA

The news hit me last week that the Port Motel sign has officially disappeared. Built in 1952, the Port was part of a bygone era, before interstate highways, when US routes were the main mode of transportation. This motel was along US 11 and 15 along the Susquehanna in the town of Port Trevorton, PA, and its original design contained an Esso station and the Port Diner. The motel closed a number of years ago and it had been turned into storage units, all the while the motel sign remaining.

From old post cards of the motel, I discovered that the star was added later, perhaps as late as the seventies. If you’ll notice on the wireframe below the sign and to the left, that once housed a bit of neon as well, proudly announcing that they had “TV.”

Port Motel, Port Trevorton, PA

This sign was the subject of at least three photo shoots of mine. This last grouping was from August of last year, and as far as anyone can tell, the sign disappeared over the winter. I had previously shot the sign in the morning, and these were from magic hour, as you can tell from the shadows of me and my Elantra above.

Port Motel sign, Port Trevorton, PA

If anyone has any news about the whereabouts of this sign, it would be greatly appreciated. I would hate to think it’s lying about in a junkyard somewhere.

Farewell, old friend. Visit this and many other lost treasures in my Vanishing America section.

Philadelphia Freedoms, Part 3 (Termini Brothers)

Termini Brothers, Philadelphia, PA

There is a deep mystery about Philadelphia. I shared with you a little bit of that in my first post from Philly, about my friend who couldn’t say enough bad things about the city but still insisted that he loved the place. I was reading up on Sun Ra, the legendary jazz performer and outer space traveler, who came to Philadelphia from New York in the late 60s. In his own inimitable way, he described Philadelphia as “the worst place in America” and “the headquarters of the Devil.” Yet he lived the last 25 years of his life in the city, and enjoyed perhaps his greatest acclaim during that time period.

Clearly, there is a paradox. For instance, take my last stop in Philadelphia last month, Termini Brothers. It is on 8th Street in Philadelphia, and if you’ve never been there, when I say 8th Street in Philadelphia, you’re probably thinking of some decently broad street. In fact, 8th Street is a tunnel burrowed through row homes. Not the worst neighborhood that ever existed, but undeniably cramped. You can hardly believe that a legendary business such as this exists here. But eventually, the tunnel came to rest at Termini Brothers, and if you note the picture up top, you’ll see that to the right, behind that fence, is an unusually large parking lot.

Termini Brothers Pastries, Philadelphia, PA

I came for the neon, and I snapped away for a good ten minutes or so, but sooner or later the scent of fresh baked goodies was going to get to me. I considered putting the camera in the car and indulging, but I figured, what the heck, I’d bring my camera along, too.

Inside Termini Brothers, Philadelphia, PA

First of all, once you step inside, it’s hard to believe that this place is not, in fact, Heaven. The smell is intoxicating. Your eyes want to look everywhere at once, because there’s so much to see, so much history in the building, and so many things you want to stuff in your face. I take it all in for a minute and a girl with the name Brianna on her name tag steps behind the counter. She is smiling and friendly, completely contradicting the stereotypes of Philadelphia floating around in my head, the people who would boo Santa Claus. She suggests the cannoli, which I would certainly go for if my wife was with me and we could share. I briefly consider taking one home, but then I think it would be better to make a return trip with her. A cannoli at home is one thing, but one in a place this rich in history would be that much sweeter. For that moment, I chose a tea biscuit, which looked freshly baked and too good to pass up.

And then Brianna asks me if I’d like to take a tour.

The answer to that question is Yes, I would like to take a tour, please.
Termini Brothers Bakery, Philadelphia, PA
Cannoli at Termini Brothers, Philadelphia, PA
Icing on the Cake, Termini Brothers in Philadelphia, PA

Wedding Cake, Philadelphia, PA

I even got a paper hat with Termini Brothers on it, which I already count among my prized possessions. So, in reality, the question isn’t if I will return, it’s when. Maybe this is what makes us keep going to Philadelphia. Sure, it’s rough in places, and I’m sure there are places that make you believe it’s the Devil’s HQ, but there’s definitely enough to balance all that roughness out. I’ll let you know when I go again, and I’ll let you know how the cannoli is.

Visit Termini Brothers here