National Museum of the U.S. Air Force: Dayton, OH

You wouldn’t think one of the best FREE museums in the world would be in nowhere Ohio, but you’d be wrong. If you’re even marginally interested in flight, technology, engines or just history, The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is amazing. I enjoy this place so much that this was my second time coming here, the first time was by myself in September of 2009, the second was July 23, 2018 with my travel buddy, Mik.  Let me remind you that the Wright brothers, who are the ones usually given the credit (cough) for having invented the airplane, did so in Dayton, Ohio. And, that is probably the reason why this is located in the Wright-Patternson Air Force Base.  (That and the fact that it IS the middle of nowhere means land prices are very low.) Be prepared to devote a few days to it (I suggest a minimum of three)… and like the Smithsonian, it’s FREE (your tax dollars at work).

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two photos on left are 2009, right is 2018

Also, having been to both museums twice, far as I’m concerned the Smithsonian’s Air and Space in D.C., can’t really compete; it can’t, it hasn’t the space.IMG_2809.JPGNote the photo in the 1903 photo bottom right (above) is the same airplane in the photos below, that’s one of the great things about this museum, they don’t just have photos of historic models, they have the actual airplanes (and according to their website they’re all kept as much as possible in perfect ‘airworthy’ condition. fullsizeoutput_424e.jpegThe Air Force Museum in Dayton is HUGE; it has close to 900K square feet of hangar space within which its planes are displayed … according to Wikipedia it’s the largest military aviation museum in the world… it has to be, they currently have around 360 different aircraft and missiles on display, including most of the Air Force One‘s not in usage, and the number will only grow. What I tell my friends is if it historically relevent, belongs to the U.S. Air Force, and the Smithsonian doesn’t have, it’s probably in Dayton.IMG_2812In addition, it is a REALLY well curated museum, that tells a very easy to follow story of the history of flight (as it pertains to the military), and does so in a way that keeps you engaged and willing to come back for more …. and they have actual examples of EVERY plane they mention, full size sitting right in front of you.fullsizeoutput_4252.jpegThis is one of my very favorite museums anywhere… and I’ve been to a lot of museums. I liked it so much I’ve been to it twice. I feel that it has something for everyone, it’s about history, war, technology, etc… As an example, I had been trying to convince my travel buddy to come here with me, but he kept saying he had little to no interest in flight technology…. as it turns out however he’s a big fan of engines, and for almost every type of innovative airplane they would have a display showing the engine it used (so he was very happy).

 

IMG_2814In addition to all of the engines, which made my friend happy… the museum includes all sorts of memorabilia from flying squadrons, to keep the interest of folks who aren’t interested in technology at all, but might enjoy human interest details.IMG_2815.JPG

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There’s a hallway of the museum devoted to Dayton locals who survived the Holocaust

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A different hallway devoted to WWII airforce art, like the bomber jackets, and the designs on airplanes (giving them personalities, and keeping track of how many bomber raids they went on)

IMG_2820A hallway devoted to the Berlin Airlift after WWII, when the Russians tried to strangle hold part of the city. IMG_2818IMG_2560

The first time I came was in 2009, when for family reasons I found myself stuck in Cincinnati for a few days. My brother had been to this museum once before, and STRONGLY suggested that I rent a car, head North, and go to Dayton once I got bored with what Cincinnati had to offer. I ended up coming here three days in a row.

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I then returned in 2018 with my travel buddy, because I was coming from Chicago, had a spare week to fill before heading off to Pennsylvania, and as a fellow geek I felt he’d really enjoy this place (and would never have come here on his own). That said, I the more I see of Dayton the more I think that I would happily came back to here for a third extended stay (one of my one month trips) in order to take the place in, in full, at my leisure.

For the two pictures above of the thermonuclear bomb, my 2009 visit is on the left, while my recent 2018 visit on the right…. The major change seemed to be the placement of the Mark 41 sign (not a huge change)

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The picture above is 2018, while the parallel image from 2009 is below (top left image) … the rest are all from 2018… not much has changed in this exhibit (I image moving intercontinental ballistic missiles –ICBMs– isn’t all that easy to do)

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Then and now, one of my favorite sections of the museum is the collection of Airforce One airplanes. The first time I went this was located at the very back of the museum, where there were normal quick construction airforce hangers (the sort the military can put up in a few days during war-time rather than actual buildings) that were, as such, FULL of natural light… (something that is NOT considered a good from an archival point of view, since harsh sunlight can cause things to fade over time) that were absolutely crammed full of the newest of the high-tech airplanes (that weren’t secrets anymore) that they had to display. I was told by a docent that they had plans to build a fourth building to house them in the near future (by my 2018 it had been done)

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2009, crammed together planes in a hangar

Behind these most recent high-tech airplanes they had just sort of lined up next to each other, the Airforce ones planes.

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Where by 2019 they were in a darkened structure that had to lit artificially

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The first plane I went into was the plane made especially for transporting Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945), who as we all know was paralyzed.

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Between 2009 and 2018, I found two major differences in the first Airforce One plane display (the one Roosevelt flew in). Firstly, in the President’s office part of the plane, in 2009 they had a Roosevelt manikin sitting in his office

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while in 2018, when I visited the same plane I found it had been removed. Note the white decoration on the drapes for evidence that it’s in fact the same space (sorry for the lousy 2009 picture, my digital camera then, and it was a camera — not a camera in a phone, was nowhere near as good as the camera currently in my 2016 iPhone SE)

IMG_2826Additionally, at the back of the plane, where the elevator was located, in the 2009 version a wheelchair was located in the elevator, which included a sign explaining the use of the elevator…. (top two photos below)

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But when I returned in 2018, the elevator well was empty… and I didn’t spot the wheelchair till AFTER I’d already left the plane, and spotted it sitting on the ground in FRONT of the elevator’s cage.

The next plane was flown by both Harry S. Truman (1945-1953) and in the very beginning of the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961)

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in this one I found a MAJOR change… firstly, in 2009 the cockpit came with tags attached to the plexiglass explaining who was sitting where

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Which had been removed by the time of my 2018 visit… but LOOK AGAIN, they had refurbished the chairs and changed the color of the leather???? From a historical standpoint, WTF????

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ALSO, in 2009 there were mannequins seated in the plane while in 2018 they were gone. (Note that Truman was at a special presidential desk while Eisenhower wasn’t) During Eisenhower’s tenure, he also got a new plane…a Lockheed VC-121E

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The final airplane, a Boeing VC-137C, was flown the longest of all the Airforce One planes, for almost 30 years before it was finally replaced, from the Time of John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) all the way through Bill Clinton (1993-2001)

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In this plane I was unable to spot any differences between 2009 and 2018

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By the time we were done with the presidential planes it was almost time to go (the place closes at 5pm) but we managed to fit in one last plane, one of the transport planes that took soldiers to Vietnam, and nicknamed by them as the “Hanoi Taxi”

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Oh, and I’m adding one last photo, this was from 2009: I really wanted to do this again in 2018 but we didn’t happen to find it… that said we were only in the museum for about 5 hours… nowhere near enough to do it justice and see everything

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Me in 2009, you stood behind it and put your head up into the helmet

World Largest Gavel? Columbus, Ohio

The “Gavel” is a whimsical piece of outdoor art by Andrew F. Scott, that some are on the web have declared the World’s Largest Gavel (although I’m not sure that’s true). According to CivicArtsProject.com it is 30 feet long, 15 feet wide, and 12 feet high… so pretty frigging big! IMG_3076.jpgIF you’re in or driving through Columbus it’s worth a stop see, in part because it’s located in a man-made pond/water feature located adjacent to the Ohio Supreme Court building.

IMG_2573.JPGI searched online for verification that the “Gavel” was in fact the world’s biggest, but other than it being called such by various websites (of the tourism variety) I didn’t find anything from let’s say the Guinness World’s Records people verifying it such.

Anyway, the Ohio Supreme court is a rather impressive building and worth looking at in its own right

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The tower in the distance is the LeVeque Tower, the 2nd tallest building in the city

and it is right next to a very pretty river walk area, along the Scioto River. That and parking in the area was really easy to find — we arrived at about 6pm and had NO trouble at all finding a spot.

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I loved the bunch swings

I didn’t really come to see Columbus this trip; rather my travel buddy and I were visiting Dayton, OH (about 1.5 hours away) and we arranged to have dinner with an old friend of his who used to live in San Francisco, but now lives in Columbus with her family. We’d arrived about a half hour early, so he said, “we’ve got a half hour to kill, what do you want to see?” (He was driving.) I quickly pulled out one of my travel apps Roadtripper, which allows you see what’s around right now, as well as plan in advance, and pretty quickly spotted this — and we all know how much I love big things.

James Whitcomb Riley, Boyhood Home & Museum; Greenfield, Indiana

I LOVED this place! Sitting right on the National road (Also called the Cumberland Road, or route 40), is the boyhood home of one America’s great poets, James Whitcomb Riley, sometimes known as the Hoosier poet, because of his connection to the Hoosier state (Indiana). Now I admit a personal connection because his most famous poem, Little Orphant Annie, was one of the few poems I ever memorized (for school), and as Riley is one of those writers who wrote what he knew, all of his poems that stem from his childhood experiences lovingly reference specific details of this home.

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With respect to his poetry: for those who don’t already know this, Riley and Mark Twain were both part of the same movement in American literature to elevate and appreciate the “authentic” phonetic voice of the American people when writing, rather than to use the “Formal” voice of educated society. Hence the “Orphant” is NOT a typo, it’s how the word orphaned was pronounced in 1885 by the average person then living in the Hoosier state (Indiana), and this technique is used through the whole poem (most of his poems actually) so that if you carefully read it OUT-LOUT, but AS WRITTEN you can’t but help but switch into something approximating the accent intended  (which is different from how Twain had Tom or Huckleberry sound, as the accents in the deep south were different).

Little Orphant Annie [first stanza only]
Little Orphant Annie’s come to our house to stay,
An’ wash the cups an’ saucers up, an’ brush the crumbs away,
An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the hearth, an’ sweep,
An’ make the fire, an’ bake the bread, an’ earn her board-an’-keep;
An’ all us other children, when the supper-things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an’ has the mostest fun
A-list’nin’ to the witch-tales ‘at Annie tells about,
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘at gits you

Ef you

Don’t

Watch

Out!

To this day I have an image indelibly marked into my brain as my grade school English teacher stood before the class and recited Little Orphant Annie to us, using a completely different accent than she normal spoke in… and then assigned for us to memorize it so that we could each recite it in class the following week. I LOVED that poem and can (pretty much) still do a decent job of recalling it to this day (so that the fact that the docent was reciting various stanzas of the poem, as she took us through the house, made it doubly meaningful for me).

One of the things to be aware of before heading here is that the museum building closes at 4pm, and the last tour of his childhood home, which is the adjacent home  (and you are NOT allowed to enter it without the docent guiding you) begins at 3:15pm. I arrived at 3:25 (immediately after a group of three other women) only to be told, “we’re sorry, you’re too late for the tour, please come another day).

The museum, which is where you enter via an adjacent house (the main house is locked up at all time, except for when the docent allows you in) is sort of major non-event in my opinion, and NOT really worth visiting. It’s mostly a holding area should more people arrive at once than the available docent can safely escort through the home next door. It has a tiny little excuse for a gift shop located in a back room of the house alongside the offices for the docents. (It has some books on CD, magnets, a few toy type things — this one shelf is pretty much it)

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And then in the main “living room” are cases holding some first editions, and pictures of his life POST when he lived in his childhood home (his adult home was in Indianapolis).

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This is an original poem, written in Riley’s own hand that they have on display

The reason his photo (below to the right) was drapped in black was because I visited the house on July 21st, 2018, and we were approaching the 102nd anniversary of his death, July 22, 1916

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the Sofa below the screen belonged to Riley, and was known to be a favorite napping place

You then are led to sit on some folding chairs and watch this short video of just under nine minutes, the highlight of the museum, which I found was also available on YouTube (so you don’t need to drive there to see it)

while researching for this blog piece I found this 20 minute documentary about Riley was on YouTube, it seems to be made by a person who visited the house (apparently more than once), and contains parts of the tour as well as a load of biographical information about Riley

Before we sat down to watch the video I had loudly commented on how sad it was that we’d JUST missed the last tour window. How much I LOVED Riley, and had even memorized Orphant Annie in school… and then recited bits of it out loud… and how sad it was that I’d driven ALL the way from Chicago only to miss the window by 10 minutes, and how I’d probably not pass this way again. I think this had the desired effect because half way through the movie the manager of the place said that even though we’d arrived late, she’d stay a bit late and give us the tour herself (which she normally never does, as she’s not a docent).

[To paraphrase the movie Wall Street, “guilt, for lack of a better word, is good” — guilt & greed, they both work as motivators. Another great motivator would be sexual desire — somewhere in the Talmud there’s a comment that but for sex no man would build a house or plant a seed — but I dont’ think I was her type. (Joke)]

So she took us outside to the home next door and let us in. A very cool point that the docent comments on repeatedly is that Riley’s father,

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His father served in the Civil war, and came back suffering from serious PTSD which essentially broke him

who was a lawyer by profession (and had been the town mayor at one point), was a member of the historic fraternal organization of The Freemasons (so-called because of claims of connection to the Masons of the medieval periods who, because of their specialized knowledge of masonry, were alone of the working classes free to wander Europe, going from castle or monetary building site, to site as needed or wanted) …

IMG_2377… his father took the group’s history seriously, to the point of designing and building (by HAND) not only a lot of the furniture in the house, including a “partner’s legal desk” AND chairs for his legal practice which he worked from his home office (it’s a two-sided desk  — she noted how at the time there were no law schools, you studied law by working with an older lawyer… so the ‘apprentice’ or Jr. Lawyer, would be on the far side supporting the older lawyer who would see customers)

IMG_2551This chest was also one he built by hand; it has no nails, but rather is put together like a puzzle and then glued. It’s very beautifully carved, and the docent said that various woodworkers who’ve come through the house have commented on how, even with today’s tools, making a chest like this is VERY hard. That it exemplifies just how skilled of a woodworker he was.IMG_2552He also built these rocking chairs and did the caning himself. The docent particularly like the way you could see how the hands had worn over time, and would imagine the family members sitting there, maybe rocking a baby to sleep.

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This ladle and bucket were also and made, the ladle is special as it is made from a coconut shell. Think about it, this is the mid 1800’s, coconuts were incredibly rare delicacies. But the position of the home directly on the National road meant that at least there were (according to the docent) an average of 90 vehicles passing a day, many of which had goods to trade. After eating the flesh of the delicacy, James’ father had the foresight to make use of the shells.

So we know that Riley’s father was a highly creative and artistic master furniture maker; but get this, he also built the ENTIRE house by himself… (although I’m sure he had help with the multi-man jobs like getting the framing for the walls up, etc.)IMG_2540.JPG

and this was INCLUDING the stairway!!!!

IMG_2548.JPGThe docent spent a lot of time telling us about how he constructed it, how he soaked and twisted the wood of the railing by hand, and put the shape of musical note at the bottom to symbolize a harmonious household. She also told us how “Orphan Annie” otherwise known as Mary Alice “Allie” Smith, had thought the staircase was the most amazing thing she’d ever seen, and had fancifully named each step.

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Photos of the original “Annie” as a child, and as an old lady

Interestingly, the poem had originally been “Little Orphant Allie’s come to our house to stay”, Allie for Alice, but the printer hadn’t been able to make sense of Riley’s handwriting and screwed it up. By the time Riley discovered the error too many copies had been printed, and the poem was already a major hit, so it stayed as Annie.

That said, if you know Riley’s poetry visiting this home is something of a treat as he references it often in his poems.

 

Little Orphant Annie [continued from above]
Wunst they wuz a little boy wouldn’t say his prayers,–
An’ when he went to bed at night, away up-stairs,
His Mammy heerd him holler, an’ his Daddy heerd him bawl,
An’ when they turn’t the kivvers down, he wuzn’t there at all!
An’ they seeked him in the rafter-room, an’ cubby-hole, an’ press,
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A ‘press’ is a built-in half closet, that’s only as deep as the distance from the interior to exterior walls. The cubby hole is a room under the stars.
An’ seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an’ ever’-wheres, I guess;
But all they ever found wuz thist his pants an’ roundabout:–
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James’ pants to the left, the roundabout is a shirt with buttons around the bottom that button into the top of the pants ensuring a tidy appearance
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you

Ef you

Don’t

Watch

Out!
An’ one time a little girl ‘ud allus laugh an’ grin,
An’ make fun of ever’ one, an’ all her blood-an’-kin;
An’ wunst, when they was “company,” an’ ole folks wuz there,
She mocked ’em an’ shocked ’em, an’ said she didn’t care!
An’ thist as she kicked her heels, an’ turn’t to run an’ hide,
They wuz two great big Black Things a-standin’ by her side,
An’ they snatched her through the ceilin’ ‘fore she knowed what she’s about!
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you

Ef you

Don’t
Watch

Out!
An’ little Orphant Annie says, when the blaze is blue,
An’ the lamp-wick sputters, an’ the wind goes woo-oo!
An’ you hear the crickets quit, an’ the moon is gray,
An’ the lightnin’-bugs in dew is all squenched away,–
You better mind yer parunts, an’ yer teachurs fond an’ dear,
An’ churish them ‘at loves you, an’ dry the orphant’s tear,
An’ he’p the pore an’ needy ones ‘at clusters all about,

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Er the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you

Ef you

Don’t

Watch

Out!

[Note: When looking at where Annie slept, while working at the Riley home, it’s important to remember she arrived after the Civil war had started, and James’ father was away fighing. She had been staying with relatives, but their father was also going away to war and the family didn’t feel they could afford to support her during that time. She was brought to the Riley home, as they were one of the richest families in town. Mrs. Riley

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said she couldn’t afford to pay her, as her own husband was also away at the war, but could provide free room and board. BUT, since Mr Riley was away, there was no one to build Annie a bed to put her mattress upon.]

 

A BACKWARD LOOK

Away to the house where I was born!

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⁠And there was the selfsame clock that ticked

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Note the clock on the mantel-shelf

From the close of dusk to the burst of morn,
When life-warm hands plucked the golden corn
⁠And helped when the apples were picked.
And the “chany dog” on the mantel-shelf,
⁠With the gilded collar and yellow eyes,

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The [chinese] or chany dog, on the mantel-shelf
Looked just as at first, when I hugged myself
⁠Sound asleep with the dear surprise.
And down to the swing in the locust-tree,
⁠Where the grass was worn from the trampled ground,
And where “Eck” Skinner, “Old” Carr, and three
Or four such other boys used to be
⁠”Doin’ sky-scrapers,” or “whirlin’ round”:
And again Bob climbed for the bluebird’s nest,
⁠And again “had shows” in the buggy-shed
Of Guymon’s barn, where still, unguessed,
⁠The old ghosts romp through the best days dead!
And again I gazed from the old schoolroom
⁠With a wistful look, of a long June day,
When on my cheek was the hectic bloom
Caught of Mischief, as I presume—
⁠He had such a “partial” way,
It seemed, toward me.—And again I thought
⁠Of a probable likelihood to be
Kept in after school—for a girl was caught
⁠Catching a note from me.

— James Whitcomb Riley

 

In addition to Orphant Annie, one of the other poems of Riley that even students today are sometimes taught is this one:

The Raggedy Man

O the Raggedy Man! He works fer Pa;
An’ he’s the goodest man ever you saw!
He comes to our house every day,
An’ waters the horses, an’ feeds ’em hay;
An’ he opens the shed—an’ we all ist laugh
When he drives out our little old wobble-ly calf;
An’ nen—ef our hired girl says he can—
He milks the cow fer ‘Lizabuth Ann.—
Ain’t he a’ awful good Raggedy Man?
Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!
W’y, The Raggedy Man—he’s ist so good,
He splits the kindlin’ an’ chops the wood;
An’ nen he spades in our garden, too,
An’ does most things ‘at boys can’t do.—
He clumbed clean up in our big tree
An’ shooked a’ apple down fer me—
An’ ‘nother ‘n’, too, fer ‘Lizabuth Ann—
An’ ‘nother ‘n’, too, fer The Raggedy Man.—
Ain’t he a’ awful kind Raggedy Man?
Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!
An’ The Raggedy Man one time say he
Pick’ roast’ rambos from a’ orchurd-tree,
An’ et ’em—all ist roast’ an’ hot!—
An’ it’s so, too!—’cause a corn-crib got
Afire one time an’ all burn’ down
On “The Smoot Farm,” ’bout four mile from town—
On “The Smoot Farm”! Yes—an’ the hired han’
‘At worked there nen ‘uz The Raggedy Man!—
Ain’t he the beatin’est Raggedy Man?
Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!
The Raggedy Man’s so good an’ kind
He’ll be our “horsey,” an’ “haw” an’ mind
Ever’thing ‘at you make him do—
An’ won’t run off—’less you want him to!
I drived him wunst way down our lane
An’ he got skeered, when it ‘menced to rain,
An’ ist rared up an’ squealed and run
Purt’ nigh away!—an’ it’s all in fun!
Nen he skeered ag’in at a’ old tin can …
Whoa! y’ old runaway Raggedy Man!
Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!
An’ The Raggedy Man, he knows most rhymes,
An’ tells ’em, ef I be good, sometimes:
Knows ’bout Giunts, an’ Griffuns, an’ Elves,
An’ the Squidgicum-Squees ‘at swallers the’rselves:
An’, wite by the pump in our pasture-lot,
He showed me the hole ‘at the Wunks is got,
‘At lives ‘way deep in the ground, an’ can
Turn into me, er ‘Lizabuth Ann!
Er Ma, er Pa, er The Raggedy Man!
Ain’t he a funny old Raggedy Man?
Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!
An’ wunst, when The Raggedy Man come late,
An’ pigs ist root’ thue the garden-gate,
He ‘tend like the pigs ‘uz bears an’ said,
“Old Bear-shooter’ll shoot ’em dead!”
An’ race’ an’ chase’ ’em, an’ they’d ist run
When he pint his hoe at ’em like it’s a gun
An’ go “Bang!—Bang!” nen ‘tend he stan’
An’ load up his gun ag’in! Raggedy Man!
He’s an old Bear-shooter Raggedy Man!
Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!
An’ sometimes The Raggedy Man lets on
We’re little prince-children, an’ old King’s gone
To git more money, an’ lef’ us there—
And Robbers is ist thick ever’where;
An’ nen—ef we all won’t cry, fer shore
The Raggedy Man he’ll come and “splore
The Castul-halls,” an’ steal the “gold”—
An’ steal us, too, an’ grab an’ hold
An’ pack us off to his old “Cave”!—An’
Haymow’s the “cave” o’ The Raggedy Man!—
Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!
The Raggedy Man—one time, when he
Wuz makin’ a little bow-‘n’-orry fer me,
Says “When you’re big like your Pa is,
Air you go’ to keep a fine store like his—
An’ be a rich merchunt—an’ wear fine clothes?—
Er what air you go’ to be, goodness knows?”
An’ nen he laughed at ‘Lizabuth Ann,
An’ I says “‘M go’ to be a Raggedy Man!—
I’m ist go’ to be a nice Raggedy Man!”
Raggedy! Raggedy! Raggedy Man!

Tippecanoe Battlefield Museum: Battle Ground, Indiana

This travel stop was in my opinion a complete let down to the point of being annoyed that it took up so much of my time for that day (So what comes next is a very long RANT). The Tippecanoe Battlefield Museum has got to be one of the worst local community sponsored museums I’ve seen, especially when compared to all of the sites that I’ve been to that focus even peripherally on Native American history. But that said, it had hands down the BEST gift store (priorities, clearly). This place is in DIRE need of a skilled curator… it’s clear they had brought one in for the “white people” stuff, but the Native American areas are a pathetic and almost insulting joke. The focus here is almost entirely on what the Federal government did, including the blow by blows of the battle. [This is probably because the U.S. military officer in charge was the local Indiana boy William Harrison, whose success, in said battle, helped him to go on to become our 9th President — a presidency that only lasted for 31 days before he died of pneumonia making his the SHORTEST term in office]….  IMG_2254

One of the annoying things about this site was, at least with regards to the Native American’s side of the story, you didn’t really learn anything on the inside of the museum (after paying your entry fee) that you hadn’t already learned while reading what was presented on the OUTSIDE of the building from the various signs and plaques.

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Erected 1974
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This was probably the first thing put up at the site, and is clearly all about the US forces

Adjacent to the museum is this park with a massive monument dedicated to the American Forces, with a uber masculine/sexy statue of what I’m assuming is Harrison, who as I said went on to become our 9th President, in large part because of this battle. (which tells you something of its political relevance in the day). Please note the:
LOSS, Americas Killed 37, wounded 151…. Indian loss unknown …

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And then these small off to the side plaques, added in 1996 — about the forced removal of the Potawatomi Native populations in the area, called the Trail of Death that happened to the in Sept – Nov. of 1838… a 660 mile forced march during which many children died.

[An important note which I did NOT see explained ANYWHERE in the museum (DID I MENTION that the museum sucks?) is that, the Potawatomi were the tribes that were traditionally a settled/farming tribe that lived on this land, while the Shawnee Indians — the ones involved in the battle — were actually a semi-migratory nation whose lands overlapped Potawatomi land in Indiana and Illinois (in low numbers), but who had MOSTLY lived in lands that extended EAST as far as Maryland. As such, they had already been pushed off those lands by American settlers, and were regrouping and building permanent settlements in Indiana (Indian land anyone?) before the battle happened (which probably didn’t make the Potawatomi very happy)]

fullsizeoutput_4205.jpegOnce I paid to go inside it become incredibly obvious to me that most of the focus of the museum is firmly on the white people, with the Native Americans only really given lip service as an after thought… to be honest, I didn’t really read the poster (below) that blocks your entrance into the place like a warning sign until AFTER I had left the place… and was paying closer attention to the photos I had taken.

IMG_2280This attempt at an apology, which as I said was located JUST at the entrance, in the middle of the path, STRONGLY suggests to me that I’m not (by a long shot) the first person to notice this…  “Originally preserved as a tribute to the soldiers who fell here. We recognize today the bravery of both the Native American and United States military forces who died here defending their way of life.” So, what they have there was about the Native Americans is almost a “lip service” nod to them, and is presented in the most boring, cost-effective ways possible, so the likelihood of customers ‘taking it in’ was unlikely.

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So, even though you’ve walked into a museum that is supposed to be focused on the battle, the first section is devoted to the lesser findings of local archeological digs about a a village where the French and the Miami Indians were living together peacefully… which is more than a bit confusing, largely because it’s not properly segregated nor introduced (to that point, the fact that it was Miami AND French was something I figured out later as I put the disparate pieces from the various signs together — really it was NOT clear). I’m guessing the good stuff went to bigger museums or the University’s museum.) That said, what was presented was a bit scattered and a bit hard to make sense of….

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There was VERY little reference to the French traders nor any mention how well they integrated themselves into the local populations, other than by reference (they lived were living side by side)… so NO comments anywhere about how the Native Americans were never threatened by them, and how their presence was almost diametrically opposed to that of the American settlers…. just these few items

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Seriously, this is IT, this is ALL they had on the French traders

and then there is an equally tiny a bit about the later American white settlers who lived in the area other than that they were there (with some bit and pieces of archeological evidence of their lives… ). Again, NO mention or explanation about how they were invaders, from the local populations’ points of view: i.e., the settlers were forcing Native Americans off their ancestral lands, destroying their hunting grounds and converting them to farms.  And again, there’s no discussion of how those white settlers got there or why… nor of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, etc. (I did spot some reference to the Founding Fathers buying land in the area, but it didn’t come with any explanation of how those land speculations — and the fact that the British said, “sorry no, that land belongs to the French so no you can’t claim ownership of it.” Nor was there any good explanation of how this land greed was something that most historians at this point recognize as being part of what motivated the decision to break from Mother England; all I spotted was a one sentence reference to it which most people would likely miss as it wouldn’t make sense to them.

There are a few scattered references to the settlers’ presence being partially responsible for The American, War of 1812, with Britain, (which from the British point of view was a minor theater of what historians argue was actually the first World War) that happened during the same time period as this battle… but very little explanation of what that connection was….

The Native Americans involved in the Tippecanoe battle receive barely enough focus on the Shawnee Indians to make any sense of the motivations of Tecumseh (one of the most famous Native American tribal leaders EVER, whose name is probably better known than Harrison’s) and his brother Tenskwatawa (other wise known as ‘The Prophet”)… that, and their offerings were so badly displayed as to border on nonsensical (it was just stuff, it didn’t tell any sort of story).

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Also, if you DO actually stop and read what’s written on the various posters (make sure you read the one above first) it’s repetitive, and the time lines of the thing are confusing. It’s almost as though they copy and pasted things they found on-line or in books into the various posters scattered almost thoughtlessly on the walls

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Then, you come to what this museum was CLEARLY intended to be focused upon when first created; it is the section where — by far — most of the money was spent, and actually looks like a serious museum rather than a slap dash attempt at one. This section is a glorification of the American soldiers who arrived for the sole purpose of breaking up any last hope attempt on the part of the Native populations of the area to live peacefully.

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Note the concerned look of the Native American looking up the barrel of a rifleman (who is ridiculously decked out, but that’s what militaries did back then)

Right after this is a multi-media sound and light show devoted to giving you an intricate blow-by-blow of the battle.

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It reminded me of a much smaller, and more affordable version of the Battles for Chattanooga presentation in Tennessee that I love so much that I’ve gone there three times in the last 10 years.

And then back to lip service to the Native Americans… a few posters stuck up on the wall

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After these few pieces of paper stuck to walls, the exhibit returns to its true love of the U.S. Military and Harrison

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A case devoted to the medical tools of the day used by army doctors
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A case devoted to what the soldiers carried with them
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If you have a kid who likes guns, just saying….

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As I was leaving the place, the ONE thing the woman running it insisted on leaving her desk to point out to me was the fact that Harrison’s campaign for President was what we today might consider a “modern” one, in that it utilized slogans “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!” and the media in order to make Harrison popular and promote his candidacy

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But, let’s talk about the gift store….

… IF you’re searching for a decent source for historic clothing to wear to a historical reenactment of circa 1811, this is the place… IMG_2422Hand made, historically correct round hats selling for $342 are not the sort of items you normally see for sale in local museum gift stores!  While there were some items, cheap knickknacks that are more normal for these sorts of gift stores, the MAJORITY of items this place was selling seemed to be AS focused on historic reenactment. They weren’t selling little rubber Tomahawks for kids, they were selling REAL ones, and historically correct hand-made leather bags, pipes, and either the clothing, or the pattens so you could make them yourself…  as in exactly the sorts of goods for sale (but for a different time period) as what I found at the store of the  SCA Pennsic event I went to last year — which is a medieval reenactmentIMG_2423

APPARENTLY, this is because there are TWO reenactments that happen in the area devoted to this period of history (below is just one of them), one devoted to the pre-revolutionary war period, and one to the Tippecanoe battle.

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Fair Oaks Dairy: Fair Oaks Indiana

I’ve been to Fair Oaks Dairy restaurants twice now, but have yet to visit their theme park. Apparently, it the ONLY theme park devoted to dairy in the who country. The first time I was in 2015 when I was driving from Chicago to Florida, and spotted the road side advertising for the place (there’s a lot of them, and they are all way cool, MUCH nicer than the shoddy billboards you usually see — when researching this I learned the dairy had been bought out by Coca-cola in 2014), and they are one of the biggest and most high-tech dairies in the country.

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Last time I was here I was able to grab a meal at their cheaper food option, which is off on the other side of the parking lot from the restaurant and theme park (above)

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but that closes at 6pm (I didn’t show up there till about 6:30 today).

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which they call the Cowfé… it’s a no frills cafe that serves produce and food items fresh from their farms…

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cuban sandwich, $7.75 and an iced tea

and from what I could tell it’s SOME of the same foods as at their restaurant called ‘The Farmhouse,’ (the cafe has a MUCH smaller menu), for about half the price… I know this because I apparently ordered the same dish both times I’ve been there (hey, I like cuban sandwiches… )

IMG_2396.JPGbut without the table service, massive order of fries, and the all you can eat jalapeno cornbread… So the Cuban sandwich which was $7.75 at the cafe, is $14 at the restaurant. (I’m also willing to consider that the cafe sandwhich might be a bit smaller in size — I could only eat half of the restaurant’s sandwhich.) Looking at the foods offered, a lot of it is the same stuff you’d expect to find in Appalachia, which is not surprising as the culture extends about this far north.

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while walking back out to the parking lot I passed the table where some people who I had gotten friendly with when I entered were sitting, and they allowed me to photograph their food (I was amazed at how MASSIVE their portions were)…

IMG_2400.JPGand the woman gave me one her disturbingly large fried chicken wings (I was utterly underwhelmed by it, almost no flavor at all). On my way out of the parking lot I realized that the BP (British Petroleum) gas station adjacent to the Fair Oaks Dairy was actually sort of an extension of it (the gas station store ALSO sells their food).

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Giant Lady’s Leg Sundial: Lake Village, Indiana

This is exactly what it sounds like, it’s a sundial made using a very large cutout of woman’s leg. Apparently if it’s a sunny day the thing actually works… which is helpful since it’s located in a nudist colony (yup, lot’s of naked people, with no wrist watches).  I had learned about this place years ago before my first commute from Chicago to Florida …  pretty much EVERY road tripping web site lists it … but I haven’t managed to make it here till today.

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The manager was kind enough to take the photo for me, after first being sure none of his members were visible to the camera (they were visible to me)

Please note, I went to this shortly after TRYING to see the Jesus thing… note the puddles on the ground. The gods were NOT OK with me seeing Jesus stuff, but lots of naked people (??) sure, no problem with that…

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The sign I found most amusing was this one:

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The Shrine of Christ’s Passion: St. John, Indiana

From the little I was able to see, this Passion of Jesus and the Stations of the Cross  attraction (the whole thing is free) — things that I, as a nice Jewish girl, really only know about because I spent a few weeks teaching social studies at a Private Catholic grade School in Chicago (teaching 5th, 8th, and highschool history and economics) … during Lent is a massive garden devoted to the story of Jesus — with a few other things thrown in,.  That said, I was expecting The Shrine of Christ’s Passion to be more over the top than it turned out to be… it’s actually rather tasteful… from the little I saw

That said, I didn’t managed to see more than a bit of it, nor was I able to appreciate the what I did see in full due to a horrible traffic leaving Chicago that DOUBLED the amount of time it took to get here … I was supposed to arrive at 3:30, but instead arrived about 10 minutes before it closed at 5pm …. So I had NO time to explore the MASSIVE gift store (seriously massive) before heading to the main event of the place…

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Moses on the mount, with the burning bush off to the side

When I first arrived, it the weather was cloudy and dry, but you could still see blue sky, so I went to first see Moses on the mount (above)… cause you know… Moses…otherwise, I know, this is not someplace you’d expect a nice Jewish girl to go, this is SO NOT something Jews tend to do — idolotry anyone? But I love this sort of stuff — I mean come on… they advertised as having a 33 foot tall steel lady!!! (never saw it)IMG_2235

and then I entered the Jesus section and it started to rain, but lightly at first …. The first Jesus thing was the last supper… Every tableau came with a recorded “acting out” of the scene — the sound system at this park ROCKED… they have spent serious money on it.

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For the “Garden of Gethsemane” tableau you pushed the button at the entrance to a cul-de-sac type layout, and the loudspeakers were spread in such a way that you could walk through it at your own pace without missing any of it.

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When I got to Jesus being condemned the rain was starting to come down harder, but I was determined to not turn back…

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I made it through a few different stations of the cross, at which point I was starting to get soaked through and my iPhone’s touch screen stop working making it impossible to take photographs, even though it was in a “water-resistant” Otterbox case — at which point I gave up and headed back to the car….

As SOON as I was at my car, the rain stopped and the sky blued up…. almost like the powers that be didn’t want me seeing the Jesus stuff

(googlemaps not working for some reason, try this link)

Adelaide Australia

I was only in Adelaide for about two and a half days (arrived Feb 15th, around dinner time, left Feb 18th, 2018, around noon), and most of that time was spent convalescing (from the massive concussion I was suffering), so I really didn’t get to see more than glimpse of the place. That said, I would happily go back again. It’s the sort of city that’s big enough to have a bit of everything you’d want in a city, but not so crowded that you can’t find a parking space. (Sort of like Evanston, IL, or Chattanooga, TN) — also not many photos were taken

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The first night we were there my travel buddy (who is an Aussie himself) walked me over to the “Rundle Mall” partly just to see it, but also because we needed to run by the local Target (yes Australia has this chain too) in order to pick up REALLY BASIC things the Airbnb host had not thought to provide for us, and I’m talking pillows and towels sufficient for two people. (This Airbnb sucked so bad that the sheets on the bed didn’t pass the sniff test — not by a long shot — for having been washed after the last guest had left.)

Oh, and he told me that in Australia the term ‘a mall’ tends to refer to a human-traffic only shopping street (cars are excluded), which may or may not be covered, as if not more often than it means a massive indoor shopping town, as it almost always does in the USA. An arcade by comparison isn’t a place full of games, but rather it’s something like the picture below (which is closer to an American idea of a mall, only it seems to be one walkway with shops on each side)fullsizeoutput_41c4.jpegThis sculpture located in mall and according to my  is fairly iconic to Adelaide, and is titled, A day out. I only took the one picture, but it actually consists of a four different pigs scattered about….

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If you look carefully at the bench where the guy is sitting and talking on his phone, below it is a 2nd pig….

Alongside the pigs statue (I’m blanking on the correct word, I’m finding my ability to recall words is still not back to 100% even though it’s almost six months since my accident)… OH, remembered it… the ‘art-term’ I was searching for was an installation, since it’s actually a collection of statues rather than one.

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Adjacent to the pig statues stood this group of protestors, the screens were all showing a movie that demonstrated the conditions of pigs on farms, including how they were killed, and the squeals. The protesters stood there silently. Add the two things together and you really do essentially have a performance art piece… even if it wasn’t what was intended by the artist of the pigs.fullsizeoutput_41c3

This art piece is another Adelaide landmark called either Mall’s Balls (I have a feeling this is Aussie humor), or ‘the spheres’ that serves as a meeting spot for people.

(the google map refuses to embed, so please check this link for the location)

Personally, it reminded me as an inferior version of Chicago’s (my home town) Cloud Gate, affectionately referred to, and better known as “the bean” — in fact I doubt most Chicagoans could tell you the proper name.

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During my time there I ate at one fairly decent restaurant, a Japanese place called Gyoza-Gyoza, which is apparently a local chain Japanese Izakayas (sort of the Japanese version of a pub, where folks come after work to drink and eat).

IMG_2124Overall the food was pretty good, very authentically Japanese

Halls Gap & Grampians National Park, Victoria, Australia

If you’re traveling around the state of Victoria in Australia, and want to visit Grampians National Park, which lies about three hours northwest of Melbourne, or a full five and a half hours drive south-east of Adelaide, take my suggestion and seriously consider a stop in the small town of Halls Gap. Based on my own perusal of google maps, of all the various ways into the park (which is a fairly large 646 square miles), Halls Gap is the only one ‘organized’ to support tourists’ needs. It is located on the side of Grampians that is closest to Melbourne, and its the only place where I know of where you’ll find a specially trained and staffed “Information Office” who are ready to provide you with suggestions of what to do while there; and it’s also where you can pick up things like hiking or driving maps, or arrange for various tours of either the parks or of one of the nearby vineyards, book a golf time, book lodging for the night, etc. (If it’s anything like the information offices alongside Roosevelt National Park in the states, their computer’s are organized to tell you which hotels still have availability for that night — but don’t hold me to that as we weren’t looking for lodging.)

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Our first stop was at the information center for maps, and then we went to the nearby Brambuk Aboriginal Cultural center & Bush Tucker Cafe, for a bite to eat (I strongly suggest checking out the Cafe as it specializes in the unique foods and flavors that the native Aboriginals and original European settlers to the Bush would have experienced.. but, that said, the cultural center was kind of a major let down and only suggested if you have time.)

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After that we drove into the park itself….. Because this visit was on February 10th, only about two weeks after I fell down and went boom on Jan 25th, giving myself the worst concussion of my life, our visit was limited to easily accessable by car locations… so no hiking for me, not even a little bit. Just sitting in the car, being driven around and seeing new things was exhausting for my brain at that point. Getting out of the car to experience the lookouts was about all I could manage.

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Our first stop was at Boroka Lookout

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The first time I tried to take a picture of the friends that I was visiting the park with they had their faces completely in the shade, making taking a photo of them almost impossible. The picture of me (above) was me trying to show them an awareness of light what was necessary in order for them to be well-lit in this harsh/high-contrast light situation (things photographers know); that said, the woman on the left is the friend who I was staying with (who serendipitously for me was a former registered nurse, so she perfectly understood my limitations at that point).

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Before this photo I had them do a little dance (“go left, no, not that far, yah stay there”) in order to make sure they were well-lit

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Our next stop was at Reeds Lookout and balconies …. apparently from the car park & lookout there’s an easy walk to the balconies, but like I said, I was not physically able at that point to do even that. That said I found a REALLY well done video on YouTube that someone made of the walk and the views I would have seen had I done it:

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That said, we met up with a fairly large group of bikers, while at the lookout
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After this we headed to Bunjil Rock Shelter, one of the many Aboriginal religious sites scattered throughout Australia, and then home.

 

 

Big Mac Museum; Irwin, Pennsylvania

Everything is invented somewhere, and while you might think that the Big Mac, the signature burger for McDonald’s might have been created by Ray Kroc, the chain’s founder, or the two McDonald brothers he had partnered with (it was they who had invented the business model) and whose business interests he ultimately bought out… or maybe at their food labs in their global headquarters in Oakbrook, Illinois, you’d be wrong. The Big Mac was invented in Irwin, Pennsylvania by a franchise owner by the name of Jim Delligatti in 1967…

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To be honest, I don’t think I’d eaten a big mac in 20 years (I tend to go for the quarter pounder with cheese) but since I was here, I felt it was obligitory.

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Different containers the Big Mac came in, my favorite is the tin one
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McDonald’s collectables, I THINK they’re figurines of corporate managers
I am deeply embarrased to admit that there’s a 14 foot Big Mac somewhere on the property and I missed it… it is my intent to go there again at some point and take a picture of it.