Thursday, May 27, 2010

Have Ladder, Will Work

Is that a ladder?

By Mick Melvin:

While taking a Sunday drive in early spring, I came across something unexpected. I actually did a double take upon seeing a ladder cruising down the street in a Hartford neighborhood. I checked my rearview mirror and then stopped to take the first shot, because I didn’t want to miss it. I then drove to the stop light and got the next two shots.

is that...

In these troublesome times, I found it inspiring that this unknown cyclist was doing what it took to get the job done. It’s obvious he didn’t have the most adequate mode of transportation for the job, but he was making due. And I bet when he got to his final destination, he got that job done. I’m glad I took that drive and caught this backside moment.


Monday, May 24, 2010

This Old Truck

OId Chevy - Woodstock, VT

From Michelle Loya:

After being dragged to car show after car show as a little girl, I guess an interest in older cars became natural for me. It’s a treat to see an old car rather than a more modern car, which we are so used to seeing everyday. It’s interesting, however, to see the strides we’ve made in technology through automobiles.

chevy interior

I was lucky enough to stumble upon this old chevy in Woodstock, VT, one day. It was sitting alone in an empty lot. The building in the background was so old and worn, just as the truck was, and I felt as though I had stepped into the past. It was all so perfectly placed as if it had been done on purpose.

The reason I love photographing old cars is because I always imagine the beauty and life they once possessed. I can see this truck the way it was brand new and I can imagine someone being very proud to own this shiny red truck. It is sad to see it broken down after so many years of wear and tear, but it is also a reminder of the past. It is something that we are fortunate to see these days and something that may one day never be seen but in pictures.

step back in time

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sleep Well

Rest for the Weary

From Joe Viger:

Connect to the interweb with wi-fi, tune in some HD and enjoy the neon and motel goodness. They don't make 'em like this anymore.

Granby, Colorado
Elevation 7939 ft

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Nuclear Dump Playground?

Watertown Arsenal nuclear reactor uranium dump site

From Dave Brigham:

I have a thing for government conspiracies. UFO cover-ups, espionage, secret midnight dumping of nuclear materials (I have a concept album years in the making about the first topic, and many years ago wrote a song about the latter subject). Having lived in the Boston area for nearly 20 years, I've driven past the site depicted in these photos countless times, and wondered what dangers and mysteries lurked behind the vines clinging to the fence.

Located in Watertown, the 12-acre site was once part of the massive Watertown Arsenal complex, where the Department of Defense manufactured and stored munitions. This specific site was used as a staging facility for the leftover metals from the manufacture of armor-piercing rounds, which were made of spent uranium. The tailings were trucked to the site in oil and burned in order to stabilize them, and then shipped off-site for disposal (I'm getting a lot of this info from a recent Boston Globe article).

Contaminated like crazy, the area may one day become a recreation area with walking trails and restored wetlands. But first the US Army Corps of Engineers must complete tests on the soil to see how deep the nasty stuff is, and just what it comprises.

I can only imagine how long and involved the process of cleaning this site will be. I hope it gets turned into a beautiful and useful area, but part of me will miss driving by the site and speculating on just what sort of awful things are buried in the sludge.

Watertown Arsenal nuclear reactor uranium dump site

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Truck With No Name

Desert Truck

By Kristen Alvarez:

(Backside of America friend Kristen Alvarez took the above photo and many more during a recent hiking trip in Utah. We welcome this great shot, and her write-up, and hope to see more from her in the future -- ed.)

This photo was taken just as my friends and I left the "town" of Thompson Springs, Utah, and headed towards Sego Canyon, where the petroglyphs were maybe 3 miles off the major highway of I-70. I had never heard of this place, nor had any of my friends, but my traveling partner Ben had heard of it. I did not know there was a ghost town further up the road or I would have gone to see it. Next time!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dead-End Tracks, Part I

Boston & Maine trestle, Waltham MA

From Dave Brigham:

There's something about trains and railroad tracks that stir my mind. I become nostalgic for a time that I never witnessed, a time when freight trains delivered lumber to local yards, heavy machinery to factories and cattle to slaughterhouses. Passenger trains shuttled people across town or across the country.

I hearken back to my childhood, when I would often hear, and sometimes see, the freight train that ran through my hometown, Simsbury, CT. I wondered where the trains were coming from, where they were going, who was on them, what was on them. I wondered why, when I walked along the tracks, I saw so many liquor bottles strewn about (teenagers, surely, rather than hobos).

The abandoned trestle above, once part of the Watertown Branch of the Fitchburg Railroad, crosses the Charles River and a walking path less than a mile from my house. For a time, the branch served as the main passenger line between Boston and Waltham (thank you Wikipedia). The tracks were used until 2000 for freight service.

Tracks and trains bring to mind westward expansion, and exploration of new and exciting places. My wife and I took the kids to New York City a few weeks ago on the Acela and it was a great ride. Relaxing, sure, and filled with so many great views of the Connecticut coastline and the southern cities of the Nutmeg State. I was jonesing, however, because there were so many opportunities for Backside pictures, especially in unfortunate Bridgeport, but we were going way too fast for me to get any good pictures.

Anyway, in this age of turning old railroad beds into biking and hiking trails (an effort that I fully support), I'm glad that there are still some industrial age relics like this trestle hanging tough. I discover beauty in its solemn, sentinel-like presence. But I also wonder about unsavory types hanging out late at night. I see the old mattress on top and wonder whether somebody sleeps on it, or, mind wanders into dark territory.

Mattress on top of B & M trestle, Waltham MA

Monday, May 10, 2010

Got a Quarter?

Jukebox 1

From Joe Viger:

On a recent business trip in Sacramento, California, I stumbled on this shop that sold long forgotten records and jukeboxes. When I saw these great machines, I flashed back to being a kid in Berlin, NH, where many Friday nights my parents and I would go to Sinibaldi's Restaurant for pizza. It was the late '70s and I was a pre-teen sorting out my musical tastes for a quarter. "Hotel California" was the be-all and end-all jukebox song for me at the time. At least until the first singles from The Cars and Devo came around or if they happened to have a Kiss song. The quarter my dad gave me got three plays, but he never weighed in on song selection. My mom always got a vote and it was usually the AM radio hit of the day from the long-gone local station WBRL. She was partial to scary stuff like Tony Orlando and Dawn, Captain and Tennille or Starland Vocal Band.

Jukebox 2

Dave Brigham, friend and editor of The Backside of America, saw one of these pictures online and commented, "Ah, that makes me feel good." Even with a mash-up of "Tie a Yellow Ribbon," "Muskrat Love" and "Afternoon Delight" buzzing in my head, I have to agree. It makes me feel good too.

Check out more photos from Joe Viger at

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Of Bradlees and Muhammad Ali

From Mick Melvin:


I was out taking pictures one day and came across a deserted shopping center in Manchester, CT. What caught my eye was a tall Bradlees sign that I could see for a 1/4 mile down the road. I followed the sign down the street with memories of my childhood visits to Bradlees. I would go there with my family when we lived in New Jersey in the '70s. I was surprised to see the sign because the Bradlees chain has been out of business for nine years. When I got to the location, I found a completely dead shopping center. The only life I saw was a flock of pigeons and the occasional pedestrian walking through the massive parking lot.

Bradless was the anchor store in the once thriving shopping center. From what I could make out from the silhouettes of signs, there was a Stop N’ Shop, a movie theater, Hobby Tyme, Joann Fabrics, Card Gallery and a couple of others I could not identify. I decided to take a closer look at the stores and read some of the graffiti-strewn walls. On my stroll through the shopping ghost town, I came upon a store front that was on the side hidden away from the other stores. The Genesis Center, Inc., “Local Mental Health Authority,” had its share of graffiti, too, and a side door with posters of my childhood hero, Muhammad Ali. The back of the stores were full of graffiti and trash left there over the years.

The Greatest

The shopping center is a sad sight when you first look at it, but I’m glad I saw that familiar red and white Bradlees sign that day. It brought back many memories of shopping with my family and, like a lot of the subjects from the Backside, it gives you that great nostalgic feeling. It seems as though people who worked there have that feeling too. There is a facebook group for Bradlees and the Manchester, CT, store is mentioned. It closed its doors in 2001, but still stands to remind us of our retail past.

Dead Strip Mall

(For those who want to read more about abandoned Bradlees stores, this time in the Garden State, we direct you to a site we just discovered: The Caldor Rainbow -- ed.)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Ones That Got Away, Part I

From Dave Brigham:

I wish I had started taking pictures of the Backside of America when I was young, and had started this blog years ago, because there are so many places I've been that I would love to have documented here.

1) The abandoned house on the outskirts of my neighborhood that my friends and I stumbled across when I was a kid. The place was filled with the stuff of everyday life -- clothes, books, dishes, furniture. Seemed as though whoever lived there left in a hurry, or was forced out. Some older kids had found the house before we did, as evidenced by the fact that the place was trashed, everything tossed about, drawers opened and emptied, things torn apart. Not long afterwards, the house was torn down to make way for a condo development. I never found out the story behind that house. It haunts me to this day.

2) The abandoned nursing home in my hometown that I walked through late one night with my friend John and his brother, Backside contributor David Burke, and other folks. I felt like I was walking the set of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

3) The Fraternal Order of the Eagles building I discovered on a back-lot tour during college in Keene, NH. There was nothing remarkable about the building, but just stumbling across it with a few friends as we searched for the "real" Keene was really cool.

4) Various and sundry old diners, junkyards and abandoned houses across the country.

In researching pictures I plan to post separately at this site, I found some information about an old auto manufacturing facility in Waltham, just five minutes from my house. The building stood until just a few months ago, part of a long-abandoned Raytheon facility that's been dug up and is being turned into a BJ's Wholesale Club. I passed the building countless times, and knew it had been part of defense contractor Raytheon (a sprawling complex, parts of which still stand, much of it just weeded-over parking lots). Had I known that some of the buildings dated to the early 1900's and were part of the Metz Autombile factory, I would have snapped some pictures and posted them.

But instead, all I can do is link to this old photo and embed this video:

I'll comb my memory and the Internet and post some more photos, links and remembrances of the ones that got away. Stay tuned.