What is: A Simple Spot, Phillips 66 in Adrian TX.

What was: This 1920s cottage style Phillips station was originally Knox’s Phillips 66 and located in Vega, Texas. It was moved to the town of Adrian, TX in 2016. Adrian is known as the midpoint of Route 66. It apparently patiently waits its turn at restoration. The owners, who also own the Bent Door Cafe next door, are rumored to be turning this little spot into a souvenir shop.

According to the Phillips Petroleum Company Museum in Bartlesville, the “Phillips 66” name for the gasoline came about by a combination of events. The specific gravity of the gasoline was close to 66; the car testing the fuel did 66 miles per hour; and, the test took place on US Route 66.

The advent of the Interstate highways routed traffic away from the once-thriving, often family owned gas stations, now located on secondary roads, many falling into disrepair.
In 1969, there were 236,000 gas stations. By 2016, there were 111,000 retail locations in the U.S. that sell fuel to the public.

What is: Robinson Grain Co., Conway TX. The Handbook of Texas reports Conway had a population of 175 in 1969 but only 50 people in 1970. In 2016 the population was recorded as three

What was: Grain elevators were invented by Joseph Dart and Robert Dunbar in 1842 in Buffalo, New York. They created the grain elevators to help with the problem of unloading and storing grain that was being transported through the Erie Canal. Grain Elevators in Conway TX date back to about 1914 and these are beside the abandoned railway roadbed of the Chicago, RockIsland and Gulf Railway.

A grain elevator is a facility for agriculture designed to stockpile or store grain. Bucket elevators are used to lift grain to a and then it can fall through spouts and/or conveyors into one or more bins, silos, or tanks in a facility. It can then be emptied from bins, tanks, and silos, and conveyed, blended, and weighted into trucks, railroad cars, or barges for shipment. Concrete silos are better than wood or metal bins because the thick walls insulate the grain from extreme weather

In 1994, this facility was privately owned and was considered a small regional grain elevator. There were 6 locations in the area with a capacity of 4.5 million bushels of storage. It was part of the Texas Grain and Feed Association representing 900 grain, feed and processing firms at that time. Today that organization supports some 400 member companies ranging from sizable producers to medium and small-scale family-owned companies such as feed producers and grain marketing businesses. Ben Boerner, Texas Grian & Feed president noted, “The small-town, family-owned elevators are going the way of the independent grocers,” Boerner says. “The kids aren’t interested in continuing the business, so they’re either selling out or shutting the doors.” (Source: https://www.austinchronicle.com/columns/2008-02-08/589092/)

“If you had to pick one single spot as the birthplace of the blues, you might say it all started right here,”

said the late and great B.B. King standing at the Dockery 

The Blues: Blues music is rooted in several musical genres and then it spins off as the roots of rock and roll.  Blues Music originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1860s by African-Americans from roots in African-American work songs and religious spirituals. The first appearance of the blues is often dated to the end of slavery and, later, the development of juke joints. It is often associated with the acquired freedom of the former slaves and their challenges. Chroniclers began to report about blues music at the dawn of the 20th century. The first publication of blues sheet music was in 1908.

The main features of blues include: specific chord progressions, a walking bass, call and response, dissonant harmonies, syncopation, melisma and flattened ‘blue’ notes. Blues is known for being microtonal, using pitches between the semitones defined by a piano keyboard. This is often achieved on electric guitar using a metal slide for a whining effect. As a result, blues can be heavily chromatic. Originally the lyrics utilized a call and response component.

Dockery Farms: The Dockery plantation at its peak in the mid 1930s consisted of 18,000 acres and extended over 28 square miles of rich fertile lowland along the Sunflower River. It had its own currency and general store, a physician, a railroad depot, a dairy, a seed house, cotton gin, sawmill, and three churches. There was also a school for the 1,000 to 3,000 men, women, and children who worked during the farm’s busiest times as either day laborers or as sharecroppers. The workers’ quarters included boarding-houses, where they lived, socialized and played music.  Farm workers often sang while working the fields and their music became their basic entertainment.

In the 1900s a young Charlie Patton’s parents took up residence at the Dockery Farms. Charlie took to following around guitarist Henry Sloan to musicals performances.  Charlie would become his own musician, and considered the father of the Delta Blues.

Charlie Patton and other bluesmen, drawn to Dockery by its central location and sizable population, used the plantation as their home base. When at the Dockery they often played on the porch of the commissary and at all-night picnics hosted by Will Dockery for residents. He and the others also traveled the network of state roads around Dockery Farms to communities large enough to support audiences that loved the blues. In the 1920s he could make about $25 for a performance at a party.

It was Patton’s live performances in the area that inspired and influenced fans such as Robert Johnson (who sold his soul to the devil to play blues), Bukka White, Ed “Son” House, Chester Burnett (also known as “Howlin’ Wolf), and Roebuck “Pop” Staples (as in the father and inspiration behind the Staples Singers). These important artists in blues history either lived at or passed through Dockery Farms.

 

 

What is: Historic Jamestowne, VA

What was: In 1607, Jamestown is where the English established their first permanent in the New World. For a long time the actual site of Jamestown was believed to have washed into the James River by erosion and tides.

The winter of 1609-10 is known as the “Starving Time” caused by drought and a fear of leaving the fort. The colonists ate anything they could: various animals, leather from their shoes and belts, and sometimes fellow settlers who had already died. By early 1610, 80-90% had died due to starvation and disease.

It was here that Captain John Smith explored the Chesapeake Bay and tributaries making overtures and enemies with various Indian Tribes. In 1612, John Rolfe helped turn the settlement into a profitable venture with the successful planting of tobacco seeds he had brought from elsewhere, making it the long-awaited cash crop for the Virginia Company and underpinning of American economic growth. It was also the site of glass making, considered the first manufacturing business in the New World.

The first representative assembly in English North America convened in the Jamestown church on July 30, 1619. Also, in 1619, the Virginia Company recruited and shipped 100 women to the colony to become wives and start families. It was also the year of the first documented African slaves arriving, adding the human resources needed for labor intensive tobacco crops. In another first, in 1624 Richard Cornish, a ships master, was executed for an alleged sexual attack on one of his male stewards, the first recorded sodomy prosecution in American history.

What is: Abandoned building, Glen Rio, New Mexico

What was: A roadside America story, without a story. Maybe an abandoned part of a gas station, like an bathroom ?

What is: the Dockery Farms Service Station, between Cleveland and Ruleville, Mississippi

What was: The service station/store, circa 1935, contained the general farm office and Joe Rice Dockery’s private office (Lester, 2005). It retains its original glass front counters, and a scale is visible through one of the front windows.

From Smithsonian Magazine: The plantation was founded on the vision of Will Dockery, a graduate of the University of Mississippi, who took a $1,000 gift from his grandmother and purchased tracts of Delta wilderness in 1885. Over a decade, the transformed the land into a cotton plantation. Eventually, the company town had an elementary school, churches, post and telegraph offices, a resident doctor, a ferry, a blacksmith shop, a cotton gin, cemeteries, picnic grounds for the workers, its own currency, and a commissary that sold dry goods, furniture, and groceries. To ship out the cotton, Dockery built a railroad depot and a spur route, named the Pea Vine for its twisted path, was laid from the main station in nearby Boyle (Patton’s “Pea Vine Blues” pays tribute to the line). At one time, roughly 3,000 people lived on the plantation’s 40 square miles.

Dockery Farms is widely regarded as the place where Delta blues music was born. Blues musicians resident at Dockery included Charley Patton, Robert Johnson (sold his soul to the develi)  and Howlin’ Wolf and Pop Staples (Dad to the Staples Singers)

What is: Po’ Monkey’s was founded by Willie Seaberry in 1963, and was one of the last rural juke joints in the Mississippi Delta, wedged between a cotton field and a gravel road just over a mile west of Merigold, Mississippi.

What was: The shack was originally sharecroppers’ quarters. The building is made of tin and plywood, held together by nails, staples, and wires, loosely fashioned and made by Seaberry. Seaberry was best known for his strangely coordinated outfits of wildly exotic pantsuits. He could be seen sneaking out of bar room, into a bedroom offset of the drinking quarters, only to reappear in a new pantsuit. Seaberry was found dead on July 14, 2016. Po’ Monkey’s ceased operating after Seaberry’s death. The contents, including Christmas lights, signs and X-rated toy monkeys that hung from the ceiling, were auctioned off in 2018. The PORCH (Preservation of Rural Cultural Heritage) Society and Shonda Warner acquired them and hope to maintain the collection in a way that continues to bring it to life.

Po’ Monkey’s gained international fame as one of the most important cultural sites related to blues and American music. The club was typical of modern juke joints in that it rarely featured live entertainment, although it sometimes did. Often instead, Seaberry played recorded music, typically soul and R&B, using a DJ or a jukebox, and patrons danced, mingled, or shot pool. He had a strict rule against playing rap music, which he claimed he detested. Other rules included No loud music, no dope smoking.” Beer was to be purchased inside, but customers could bring in their own liquor.

Classic juke joints are found at rural crossroads and catered to the rural work force that began to emerge after the emancipation. Plantation workers and sharecroppers needed a place to relax and socialize following a hard week, particularly since they were barred from most white establishments by Jim Crow laws. Set up on the outskirts of town, often in ramshackle, abandoned buildings or private houses — never in newly-constructed buildings — juke joints offered food, drink, dancing and gambling for weary workers.

What is: Tennessee River, Florence and Muscle Shoals, Alabama

What was: Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally,” the Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There,” Etta James’ “Tell Mama,” Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman,” Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man the Way Love You,” the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar,” Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome” – they were all recorded at Muscle Shoals by a strange and driven record producer named Rick Hall and a group of white musicians who loved music, the Swampers.

The Tennessee River was once known as “The river that sings,” and the local tribes believed that a female spirit lived there. According to legend, she would sing and protect the people around her. This legend is offered up as one of the many reasons for the area’s near mythical status as a recording mecca.

Muscle Shoals was where Franklin stopped singing light pop, found her voice, and revived her career. It was where Pickett recorded his best material. It was where Duane Allman talked Pickett into recording The Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude,’ on which Allman played guitar and laid the foundation for what would become ‘southern rock.’

 

 

 

What is: Silos in the field, near Victoriaville, VA

What was: America was built on agriculture, from the colonists’ adoption of Native American methods to the early plantations exporting tobacco to the westward settlements across the land. Economic expansion and growth was rooted in farming.

“In 1862 Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act which granted Americans 160-acre plots of public land in the Western territory. Noted as being one of the most important pieces of American legislation to pass, this new act invited families to settle in the Great Plains and grow what we now call the breadbasket. By 1870, 50% of all Americans worked as agricultural laborers” (Source: https://www.wideopeneats.com/family-farm/)

The United States began as a largely rural nation, with most people living on farms or in small towns and villages. While the rural population continued to grow in the late 1800s, the urban population was growing more rapidly. Still, a majority of Americans lived in rural areas in 1900.

When the Great Depression hit over a million farmers moved to the cities to find work. This was followed by droughts and the dustbowl, declining exports and prices further causing hardships for family farms.

Today, the United States is the world’s largest exporter of agricultural products. Over two million farms are found across our nation and 98% of them operated by families – individuals, family partnerships or family corporations according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. The more than 2 million farms in the U.S. vary greatly in size and characteristics. For example, annual gross revenue can range from as little as $1,000 to more than $5 million. Family farms provide 88% of production. Most farms are small family farms, and they operate almost half of U.S. farm land, while generating 21% of production (Source USDA). Technology, consumer needs, and agricultural productivity has resulted in family farms growing larger and producing more than ever before.