Day Trippin' via Amtrak in Vermont

Today is our 5th wedding anniversary. We were looking for something fun, different, and Vermont-centric to do this weekend to celebrate. Ever the fan of nostalgia, Eric suggested that we hop on Amtrak for a day trip somewhere in southern Vermont or Massachusetts. He had admittedly unrealistic romantic notions of dining and enjoying a cocktail in a lovely dining car while the scenery whizzed by. Jen, a long time Amtrak veteran from her college days (where she endured 10+ hour trips back and forth between New York City and Rochester, NY) was quick to disabuse Eric of any such notions. "It'll be late, crowded, and probably will break down along the way, " she told Eric. Thankfully she was wrong.

But where to go?

A quick search of the Amtrak web site revealed that The Vermonter traveled daily between St. Albans, VT (one stop north of us) and New York City (and in fact continued on all the way to Washington, DC for any especially brave souls). There are several stops in Vermont, including Waterbury, Montpelier, Randolph, White River Junction (WRJ), and Brattleboro. We'd been to nearby Hanover, NH (where Dartmouth College is) before, but we'd never stopped in neighboring WRJ. After some quick research, we decided that it looked like a cool little New England town that could be a lovely place to spend a day in October. WRJ it was! A note for those interested - for a limited time Amtrak is running a special where tickets between any 2 stops in Vermont are only $12!

Unfortunately, there is only one Vermonter train each way per day. Meaning on Saturday we'd catch the 9am train from Essex Junction, VT southbound arriving in WRJ at 11am and we'd board the return train from WRJ at 6:45pm. We hoped there would be enough to keep us busy.

Heading south on the Vermonter

A Step Back in Time

When we stepped off the train in WRJ it did have a certain feeling of stepping back in time about 50 or 60 years. The downtown is a relatively compact old school New England sort of town. There are a lot of old buildings with signage from the 50s or earlier. Very few cars (or, in fact, people) were downtown so I would not describe it as bustling by any means. But it was lovely. When an 80 year old driving a 1950s vintage two tone Chevy drove by, we looked at each other and said, "that seems about right."

Jen did a bunch of research before our trip and the destination we were mainly looking forward to was a shop called Revolution, a clothing store that specializes in clothes from independent designers from the region as well as a lot of great vintage stuff. It did not disappoint. Jen picked up a cute colorful wrap skirt by Mountain Ash Design, and Eric found a fantastic vintage, Made in USA dark green tweed blazer, probably from the 1960s. One of the shop  owners, Kim, was extremely helpful and friendly and gave us tips of what else to check out in town. We highly recommend checking out Revolution if you're in the area.

Eric was tempted by this blue tux jacket, but alas, it was not meant to be!

 After Revolution, we wandered over to a couple of architectural salvage shops. The first was the non-profit ReCOVER Store whose proceeds help fund the COVER organization. Their mission is to "build community and foster hope through cooperation and fellowship among all home repair and reuse participants."  The shop was filled with reclaimed material - everything from lovely vintage glass light fixture shades, to tile, to flooring, to bed frames, and even kitchen utensil and tools. The second shop we visited was Vermont Salvage which was bigger and sold only architectural/larger salvaged items.

Need a claw foot tub to complete you vintage bathroom? Plenty (as well as just the claw feet). Or how about a gigantic wooden mantle, or even a set of pews from a church? Check. Many to choose from. There was a set of cubbies from an elementary school with the children's names written on masking tape still stuck to the wood. There was a huge half-circle window that was probably 100 years old. Doors, desks, lockers, file cabinets, toilets, sinks of all sizes, benches, windows, even old school tall men's room urinals - they had it all. If we lived in a Vermont farm house instead of a 1,065 square foot condo, I could easily see myself going absolutely crazy in a place like that. There was an old EXIT sign that lit up that was only $20 which tempted me and would fit in our condo, but we didn't purchase it. They also have a fair amount of smaller stuff - hinges, switch plates, some pulls, knobs, faucets, etc. - and no other knick-knacks. Everything is strictly architectural/building salvage stuff. If you are in WRJ and enjoy this kind of thing, don't miss this store.

Next stop was a visit to the Center for Cartoon Studies, a school that "offers a two-year course of study that centers on the creation and dissemination of comics, graphic novels and other manifestations of the visual narrative." They have a small gallery/visitor center that was open when we were there. We stopped in and admired some original comic strips they had on display from the 1950s including a few vintage Nancy strips.

It's in a really cool old building with a few really nice vintage signs, including this one from the old Colodny's Surprise Department Store.

One of the more eclectic stops in WRJ was the Main Street Museum.

The museum's Web site describes it as "An eclectic display space for material culture and an experiment in a new taxonomy. Originally thought of as an "alternative" museum, the museum's present form and activities resemble the 18th and 19th century "cabinet of curiosities" and point to an interest in the historic roots of museums and museology."
Personally, we thought the museum was akin to taking a brief peek into the mind of someone like John Waters.  The museum contained everything from taxidermied animals to a rubber doll leg and a large image of a salad all with intriguing descriptions. 

Part freakshow, part get your freak on, this was definitely a great stop on our trip! 

With some time to kill prior to our train we grabbed a cup of coffee at the Tuckerbox Cafe, which provided a nice end of the day shot of caffeine and place to rest our feet.

The bulk of the shops in town closed at 5pm on Saturday, which left us with an awkward hour and a half to kill prior to hopping the train back north.  We headed to the Food Co-Op to purchase some provisions for our train ride to avoid dining on a dinner of Amtrak snacks. 

All-in-all a lovely retro-fabulous day in Vermont, and proof that there is always something to explore in the Green Mountain State!


The Film "Coast Modern" Comes to the East Coast

The folks of Burlington's Merrill's Roxy Cinema were kind enough to alert us of an event they'll be hosting in the coming weeks. The film Coast Modern will open at the Roxy starting on October 18th. In addition, on Sunday October 21st there will be a Q&A session with the film's directors Mike Bernard and Gavin Froome for both the 3pm and 6:15pm showings. 

From the film's Web site:
"Coast Modern is an independent documentary by directors Mike Bernard and Gavin Froome. Travelling along the Pacific North West coastline from LA to Vancouver, the film showcases the pioneers of West Coast Modernist Architecture, and the homes that have become their legacies.

This relaxed journey takes us across three generations of Modernist architecture, all finding beauty in their own times, and all taking us back to the basics of true living – a sense of place, light, and a deep connection to the earth. Interviewed in Coast Modern are some of the most respected names in architecture, including James Steele, Barbara Lamprecht, Ray Kappe, Hernik Bull, Pierluigi Serraino, Michael Folonis, Dion Neutra, Douglas Coupland, John Cava, Barbara Bestor and legendary photographer Julius Shulman."

Hope to see you there!


Palm Springs - Modernism Week 2013!

We can't think of a better way to spend a week in February than heading to Palm Springs, CA for their annual Modernism Week. The week is full of 75-degree sunny weather, as well as thousands of enthusiasts of midcentury modern and retro design, architecture, and culture hanging out in Palm Springs, taking in the sights, going to cocktail parties, art openings, and exhibits and talks about architecture and design from the middle of the 20th century. In 2013, Modernism Week runs from February 14-24, 2013. Heading west? Let us know!

As it turns out, the good folks who are running the PR for Modernism Week contacted Eric recently about featuring some of his photos from our 2011 trip to Palm Springs on their blog. Check out the post! Are you on Instagram? Follow Eric (@erichauser)! He will be Instagrammin' away while we're in Palm Springs.


Finding the Bright Spots in the Darkening Months

As the days get shorter and nights get longer Vermodernists must brace themselves for a New England season of leaf peepers, sleeping bag coats, and pumpkin spiced-everything.  However,  this fall there are several events and activities popping up that will allow mods and retro-appreciators to come out of their holes far sooner than Groundhog's Day when one hopes to look out and see the shadow of a Fred Perry logo. Here are just a few in the coming weeks:

Calling all DJs

For the Burlington-area music fan who all too often utters the phrase "there's nothing on the radio here" now's your chance to change that.  On Sunday, September 16th at 5:30 pm WRUV - the radio voice of UVM - is holding their fall DJ training session.

Put that collection of mod favorites together and let the world (or at least the local listening area) hear it!

The word Docomomo sounds more like the name of a chic Sushi restaurant than an international organization, but Docomomo stands for the documentation and conservation of buildings, sites and neighborhoods of the modern movement.  The US chapter is holding their annual Tour day on October 6th throughout the country. 
Tour Day 2012

While there are no tour sites in Vermont this year, New England is definitely represented. Given it's a long weekend for some, this may be just the event to inspire some regional mod travel.

On Tuesday, October 16th Morrissey is slated to perform in the Green Mountain State at the Flynn Mainstage. We use the term "slated" because for as many times as we've actually seen the Mozzer, we've had tickets to shows cancelled last minute.  But fingers crossed that the man, myth, and legend who has defied classification will actually grace us with his presence! 

While these events are just a sampling of what's to come in the cooling months, Autumn in New England seems to be shaping up nicely. As always, if you know of any events that may be of interest to Vermodernists please feel free to contact us and let us know!



Mods vs. Rockers: A False Dichotomy...

Here's a chance for anyone with any sort of vintage/retro/rockabilly, and yes /mod sensibilities to join like-minded folks for a weekend filled with music, dancing, tiki drinks, and 1950s nostalgia. The Red Hot and Blue Rockabilly Weekender is happening again this year up in Montreal from August 30 to September 2, 2012. This year features a great lineup of bands including Toronto's The Royal Crowns and Boston's The Raging Teens, a jive dance contest, burlesque performances, an antique car show, and Hawaiian happy hour.

I know, I know - the mods fought against the rockers on the beaches of Brighton in the 1960s. Bollocks. Mods didn't want to get their suits dirty. Ok, maybe there were skirmishes here and there that were sensationalized by the press. I don't care about any of that. Fact is, there's been more Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry emanating from my iPod lately (I know, oh, the irony! an iPod used to play old music! Sue me) than anything mod-related. I don't care - I love it all - from Fred Astaire to Ray Davies to Chuck Berry to the Who to Elvis to Cock Sparrer to the Jam to Little Willie John. It's all great stuff, and I don't label myself. And, living in Vermont, I will take what I can get when it comes to anything with a retro/vintage spin that doesn't remotely involve fleece, clogs, or Phish.

So Montreal, here we come - again. Are you going to be there too? If so, get in touch!


A Quadrophenic Revival

The Who's seminal Quadrophenia double album, released in 1973, is about to turn 40 years old. Leading up to this anniversary, the album and film are enjoying a bit of a revival.

Quadrophenia - The Director's Cut (Super Deluxe Edition) was released late last year. This edition includes 6 discs that include previously unreleased demos, a hardcover book, as well as never-before-seen notes, photos and other memorabilia about the making of the album.

On August 28, 2012 a new Criterion Collection (in both Bluray and standard DVD) special edition of the film will be released in the US. The DVDs will include a bunch of extras including a new high-definition digital restoration of the uncut version, new audio commentary featuring director Franc Roddam and Tufano, an interview with Bill Curbishley, the film's coproducer and the Who's co-manager and a bunch of other goodies.

Unfortunately we're a little late to the punch with this next item, but on July 24, 2012, a documentary about the making of Quadrophenia, entitled "The Who: Quadrophenia - Can You See the Real Me?" was released in the US. This 90 minute film features behind the scenes archival footage, interviews, etc. It's playing tonight up in Canada, and I know a certain contingent of Canadian mods will be in attendance, suited and booted! You can read Wilt's review of the film, over on his blog, Anorak Thing.

All of these little tidbits are leading up to the Who's upcoming tour this fall and winter, where they will be performing Quadrophenia live. For fellow New Englanders, you can catch The Who in Boston on November 16 and up in Montreal on November 20. They take another swing through New England in 2013, playing Manchester, NH on February 24, 2013 and Providence, RI February 26th 2013.

There's little left to be written about Quadrophenia that hasn't been said before. All the great mod stuff (and Sting's great dancing) aside, it remains a timeless story about youthful angst and exuberance, the desire to fit in with a group of like-minded people while still standing out as an individual, and about figuring out who you are.

"Look, I don't wanna be the same as everybody else. That's why I'm a Mod, see?" - Jimmy


Stick Your Claws Into Some Barbacoa This Thursday in Winooski

If you're looking for a night of music this week, we thought we'd point out a couple of local bands that may appeal to Vermodernist readers that will be playing in our very own Winooski.  This Thursday, July 19th (doors at 8:30 pm, show at 9)  Barbacoa and the Persian Claws will be playing at The Monkey House.

Grab a dose of surf in Vermont by checking out Barbacoa.  If you can't make it to the show, or even if you can, listen and download some Barbacoa for your next summer gathering!

The Persian Claws who offer both style and sensational sounds will also be playing!


Hope to see you there!


Ska, Robots, and a Promise for More Posts!

We're still here!  We apologize to all our Vermodernist readers for our many-month lapse in posting, but we're back just in time for summer.

To kick off summer and our rebirth of posts, we'd like to pass along some happenings that you may be interested in.

First off, the Skatalites are coming!  While the lineup of this Jamaican band credited as being the founders of ska has changed over the years, the Skatalites are still a force to be reckoned with and worth a night out to see.  Here's a little "Guns of Navarone" to get you in the mood, or at least stuck in your head.

The Skatalites will be playing at Higher Ground on Friday, June 22nd with doors opening at 8:30.  We'll be there and hope to see you too!

Another event we're eager to check out is the upcoming exhibit Time Machines: Robots, Rockets, and Steampunk opening this Saturday June 16th and running through October 28th in the Webb Gallery at The Shelburne Museum.

According to the Shelburne Museum Web site "The exhibit includes toys and textiles, decorative, graphic and fine art representing the Golden Age of sci-fi – the 1930s-1950s – as well as work by contemporary artists and designers."

We've dug up this little gem to get you in the mood for the exhibit:

We hope your kick off summer with a bang and we look forward to putting up some more posts in the coming weeks!


Retro Immersion - British Style

The doldrums of winter are finally setting in here in northern Vermont. The holidays have come and gone, and we're having single digit temps these past few days. What better time to curl up on your couch and take in some retro television viewing?

While doing some research online for retro kitchen designs, Eric stumbled upon this article from the Daily Mail in the UK about "Time Warp Wives." It profiles three women who have basically shunned modern life and live in a different time - one in the 1930s, one in the 1940s, and another in the 1950s. The article mentioned a television series that was shown in the UK of the same name, and bits of it can be seen on YouTube:

Unfortunately we haven't been able to track down any full episodes as it is not available on demand via Channel 4 in the UK. But the YouTube clips themselves are worth checking out. 

Of course, there's also (an unrelated) blog of the same name: Time Warp Wives. It's a fun blog with a wealth of information on everything from home economics to retro fashion and design.

Also worth checking out is The 1940s House - a reality show produced by Channel 4 and also shown on PBS here in the USA. A modern British family was selected to live as a typical middle class family during the Blitz in World War II. The family must deal with rationing, and as if they were actually under the constnat threat of air raids. They black out their windows nightly and even build a bomb shelter.

The entire program is available on YouTube. 

If you're here in Vermont and getting tired of wearing fleece and boots, and are hankering for a little taste of something from a by-gone era, then dig into your closet and get into that vintage dress or three piece suit and  come dancing! On the second and fourth Saturday of each month, Vermont Swings hosts swing dancing at the Champlain Club in Burlington. There's a beginner lesson from 8:00pm to 8:30pm and then the dancing goes till 11:00pm. The suggested donation is just $5. the next dance is on Saturday January 28th (bring clean shoes to change into once inside - they need to protect the floor from all the salt and winter grit). 

Know of any other retro events or goings-on in Vermont or the rest of New England? Drop us a line and let us know. 


Starting 2012 Off with a Thick Shake

Happy New Year!  One of our chief resolutions is to post more regularly in 2012. 

To kick it off, we wanted to post an announcement about an upcoming show at The Monkey House in Winooski, Vermont that we're looking forward to checking out.  Thick Shakes will be performing on Sunday January 15th at 9pm

Here's a little preview of their style:

While we've never heard them play before, any band that has an organ can't be all that bad!  Hope to see you there!