While visiting Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida, a couple of months ago, I noticed a book on Florida Kitsch. Having recognized the photo on the cover, I picked up the book and began to browse through it. I recognized another "landmark" not far from where I now live. As I am now pursuing a different career, I have had opportunities to think about this newfound interest, and how I might be able to relate it to teaching. As much as the word "tacky" comes to mind, this stuff is really a bit of history. Some of it is no longer anything but a distant memory. Some of it lives on. And some of it is simply a monument to the past.
A recent visit to Orlando brought me face-to-face with the symbol of it all. The signature piece, if you will. Yes, I am referring to Orange World. I have been in it a number of times, the first of which was in 1996. At the time, it really stood out as 192 was not quite as built up back then. There are a couple of other places nearby that certainly could be considered in that category and I will be back to take note of them. Kitsch cannot be described, but you know it when you see it. It harkens back to a simpler time before Theme Parks that cost $80 or more per day just to pass through the gates. Back when the car was king of the family vacation. Gas was 39 cents per gallon. Bumpers were made of chrome. Drive-in theaters dotted the landscape. Attractions like Clark's Trained Bears in North Woodstock, New Hampshire, were the entertainment.
Kitsch by another name is Americana. Anyone over the age of 40 can remember something local. I remember the Giant Cree-Mee at the Open Hearth Snack Bar in St Albans, Vermont, where I grew up. The Farmer's Daughter in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, meets some of the qualifications of kitsch. The sign out front is the qualifier. The former Land of Makebelieve in Upper Jay, NY, which was washed out in stages by various floods of the Ausable River, is in the memory category. It was washed out by red ink much before the floods took their toll, however. Land of 1000 Animals in Lake Placid, New York, is also a distant memory, and I don't even think the chain link fence that surrounded the property leading out of town remains. I last traveled by the location about 1995 or so.
I have some places to photograph around the area that meet my criteria for kitsch and may turn this blog into that type of theme. The history aspect of it intrigues me as well. Send me your pictures and your stories. It should be a fun ride.