Sentimental Journey, Part 2 (Electric Boogaloo)

When last we met, we were in Milford, Pennsylvania, basking in the glow of the early morning neon while on our way to my wife’s ancestral home in the Catskills. Still traveling the back roads into the town of Matamoras, we crossed the Delaware in to New York. The bridge to the town of Port Jervis is one of those steel grate jobs, the older kind that makes you change lanes against your will. By the time we landed in New York we both needed dramamines but we soldiered on, undeterred.

I could have continued on US 209, which would have been longer, but decided to get on NY 42, which was more direct. I was convinced we wouldn’t see anything along this section, but I comforted myself with the knowledge that I had gotten some good stuff in Milford. And almost immediately as I started to think that, something came into view that made my poor heart beat.

“Oh, my…” Laura said.

A beat-up motel. One of those places that seems to only exist for long-term clients. But a nice old sign at the top, rusting at the edges:


Laura gets excited as she stares it down, but I see something else as I look around for some place to pull over: the motel is not alone. Up on the hill sits another building, a large, three-story faded beauty that looks more like an old plantation than something you’d see in upstate New York. And topping it, another neon sign, which has the matching Alexander name:

alexander-hotel alexander-hotel-close

From the little I can gather on the interwebs, this was originally called the Raymar Hotel, and it opened in the late 1800’s. It’s in the town of Sparrowbush, and it was an antique shop for a time, but it has since closed and remains vacant.

The motel, however, is still going, and really looks like the motels of yesteryear:



We moved on, and here’s the good news: we made it up to the house where Laura was born. We took some shots outside (pardon me for not sharing, but we wanted to keep this part private) and saw that no one seemed to be home. Laura was quietly devastated. She wanted to go inside the old house in the worst way. So we decided to go next door to see if anyone there knew anything about who lived there now and if they would be back. As we did, a couple with a baby came walking down the old country road. Laura asked them about the house, showed them the yellowing pictures she had.

“You mean, this house?” the woman said, and pointed at it. We nodded. “That’s the house we’re renting this weekend!”

So the upshot is this: not only did we get to go inside, but we discovered that we can rent the house for a weekend if we want to. Laura was shaking her head in disbelief the whole weekend.

The bad news: there was some festival going on in the town of Liberty on July 4th (go figure) and the sign shots I planned to take didn’t materialize. But, I’ve added those signs to my new section: Scott’s Online To-Do List. If you see anything on there, or better yet, if you don’t see anything on there that you think I should get, please leave a comment!

More signs to come from this trip, when I crossed off my first sign from the to-do list…

Sentimental Journey

My wife grew up on a farm in Central Pennsylvania, but before her family moved there, they lived in the Catskill region of New York. She was born in a hospital in Monticello, and for the first two years of her life she lived in an old house that sat along the banks of the Neversink River. She had never been back since the day they moved, and she only knew her first house from a set of yellowing photographs that her father kept.

“We’re so close,” she said one day. “We really should go. On the way up to your parents. It’s not that far out of the way, is it?”

No, it wasn’t. Only a half-hour or so. Her old house was only 80 miles from where I was born. Funny that we had to meet in Chattanooga, 900 miles away. “Fourth of July,” I said. “We’ll have a little more time.”

There’s no real direct route to the Catskills from Allentown. Just a bunch of back roads, which suited me just fine. I did some research and came up with a few signs in nearby Liberty, New York that looked interesting. We’d have to travel up US 209, and although I knew most of the way from Stroudsburg to Milford was mostly parkland, I knew good things awaited in Milford.

It was the morning of July 4th and it was getting hot. Brutally hot. Insanely brutally hot. We got to Milford with the air conditioner going full blast at 9am. We made a wrong turn, righted ourselves and continued along US 6 and 209. Laura spots something: “Did you see that?”

I hadn’t. It was nice and picturesque, but not quite what I was looking for. She insists that she saw something and it would be foolish of me to argue. I trip down a side street, around a corner, and then I see:

milford-theater milford-theater-straight

The Milford Theatre lay dormant for a number of years until a casting director who was originally from the area came in and restored it. Literally, there was no way we would have seen it had we not gone around through the back roads. It’s now home to the Black Bear Film Festival and hosts theatre productions and the occasional stand-up act. The original structure was put up in 1911! The fact that such a place could exist down a back street in a historic little town like Milford makes me smile.

The funny thing is, the Milford Theatre was not what she saw that made me turn off the main road. What she saw was the Tom Quick Inn, one of those grand places that’s been around since north of whatever (1880’s, actually). The sun’s against me, but I make a game attempt at that one too:


There was only one that I remembered for certain, the Village Diner. I had seen it from I-84 many moons ago and knew I had to swing by there eventually. As the old US routes came parallel with the slightly newer interstate, I knew it was coming up soon. I had never seen a really good shot of it, but as I pulled off and snapped off a few, I had to wonder why:

village-diner-medium village-diner-closeup

The Village Diner has been standing since 1956, and judging by the considerable traffic at 10am on July 4th, it’s still going strong. Unfortunately, we already had breakfast, but I filled up on pictures.

Around the corner, we hit some old motels, one right across from the other. I pulled off next to a garden center and wandered over to the one on our side of the road. The garden center was adorned with the name Myer, and so was was the motel.


A man was out front spraying down some plants with a hose. He saw my hasty parking job and smiled a bit, then watched as I crossed the road to get the Milford Motel:

milford-motel-wide milford-motel-close

In the immortal words of Bob Ross: Happy trees, happy trees.

As I crossed back over to get back in the car. The smiling man at the garden center caught my eye. “Do you like motels or neon?” he asked.

“Both,” I replied.

But it made me feel good. There’s nothing worse than when someone gives you that what-the-heck-do-you-think-you’re-doing look. The people who understand immediately are few and far between. And even though I’m sure this spot has been photographed many many many times due to the presence of a) motels and b) neon motel signs, it felt good that someone appreciated what I was doing. Thank you, sir.

But there was more to come and probably too much to put into one blog post. More later!