Archive for the ‘Museums’ Category

Free Bubble-Up.

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Preservationists are raising money to buy, restore and move the boxcar to the Kern County Museum in nearby Bakersfield, which is just under a two-hour drive from Los Angeles.

You may be wondering why this boxcar is so important to preservationists. After all, aren’t there plenty of boxcars in the world?

Yes. But this isn’t just any boxcar: this is Merle Haggard’s childhood home.

Though the house was intended to be temporary, the remodeling was a family effort: James Haggard added a pop-out dining area, a wash house and a hand-poured concrete bathtub and front steps; his wife, Flossie, planted fruit trees, climbing roses and a backyard grape arbor, drying raisins for pies on the roof.

I wanted to drop some Haggard into this post, but I had a lot of trouble finding a performance of “Rainbow Stew” or “Fighting Side of Me” on YouTube that allowed embedding. So how about this: Merle Haggard in 1978 on “Austin City Limits”.

Burning airlines give you so much more.

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

Roberta X has a funny post up about the misadventures of a tank. (Not a tank car, or a tank of gas; a honest-to-goodness Chieftain tank.) You should really go read it when you get a chance.

This post is about something I found while reading the original tank story:

Evergreen International Airlines Inc., the troubled McMinnville-based cargo carrier, flew its final military flight last Friday and all remaining aircraft are now parked, according to a pilots’ union memo obtained by The Oregonian.

Evergreen International Airlines? Never heard of them? Why should you care?

Closure of the company — originally scheduled for last Saturday, but denied as false rumor by founder Delford Smith – would end a storied, three-decade history for the airline whose baggage includes close ties with the CIA. Evergreen once operated a global fleet of Boeing 747 cargo jets, running round-the-world flights and keeping a plane on standby for secret U.S. military missions.

Oh, so they were tied to Air America? Interesting. But there’s more. Evergreen, when times were good, put some money into non-profit organizations. One of those organizations is the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, which is notable for having a SR-71 and the Spruce Goose.

Managers say the attractions will remain open. But the Oregon Department of Justice is investigating them for alleged commingling of funds between Evergreen’s profit and nonprofit arms, and Smith may have put up some of the planes in the museum as collateral being claimed by creditors.

Oh, dear. Wikipedia has Evergreen shut down as of November 30th:

Hines told The Oregonian Monday the company was still operating and managers hoped to save it. But an airline can’t function after letting go its operations director and closing its dispatch center, which workers and former employees say occurred at McMinnville headquarters Monday.

So what’s going to happen? Will they sell off the planes? Would you like to buy a 747 used by the CIA? (More seriously, Evergreen also has a 747 that’s been modified for firefighting purposes.)

…former managers say Evergreen has long depended on heavy borrowing, leasing most or all of its aircraft and engines, many of which are now being claimed by creditors.

And even better:

Creditors seeking millions of dollars in damages have filed numerous lawsuits, some of which have produced default judgments as Evergreen lawyers fail to show up in court.

I wonder if the lawyers aren’t showing up because they’re not getting paid.

However, Evergreen does have a FAA issued “airline certificate”. I’ll admit, I’m a little fuzzy on the whole “certificate” thing (RoadRich, you out there somewhere?), but as best as I can put it together, the “airline certificate” gives you FAA authorization to run an airline.

Unless Smith has already sold the rights separately, Evergreen’s certificate may include authority for the holder to fly cargo routes to and from Asia, Latin America and elsewhere. At one time Evergreen had authority to fly almost anywhere, and it may still.

So to heck with buying a 747, you can have an entire airline and fly almost anywhere in the world!

However, a buyer could only acquire the certificate if it bought the airline, which would come with mountains of debt.

Oh. Also, with the certificate and the airline, you also get the pilot’s union, which may or may not be a problem, given that Evergreen is $1.4 million behind in contributions to the pension plan.

But other than those minor issues, this sounds like a great chance to make a small fortune in the aviation industry. That is, if you have a large fortune to start with.

Go West, family man.

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Have you ever heard of the Great Platte River Road Archway?

Neither had I, until I read this morning’s NYT. The Archway is intended as a monument to the Westward Expansion. It sits near the site of Fort Kearny and the intersection of three major westward trails (Oregon, Mormon, and California).

The Archway actually crosses I-80, and weighs 1,500 tons. How much did it cost to build? The NYT isn’t clear on that, but we’ll come back to it in a minute.

A New York consulting firm that predicted more than a million visitors annually did so under the presumption that gas prices would not eclipse $2 a gallon, that there would be no recession, that the exhibit would change over time and that a highway exit would be built right next to the Archway.

Buried in there is a further assumption that families still vacation by car, which makes it easier to stop at places like the Archway. But I’ve touched on that before, and there’s no reason to belabor the point.

Especially since I bet you can guess what happened next.

Thirteen years later, the Archway is flat broke.
Attendance peaked the first year at nearly 250,000 and has been falling ever since. Last year, fewer than 50,000 visitors strolled through the turnstiles. And although a bankruptcy judge recently approved a plan to relieve the Archway of its final $20 million in debt, its future remains uncertain. Archway officials say the museum could survive through the end of the year, but would need hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars for long-term security. And that will come only with the approval of the Kearney City Council and county board members — several of whom are skeptical.

Among other things, that new highway exit took twelve years to build.

By the time it became apparent that the number of projected visits (and ticket revenue) was vastly overestimated, the Archway was already underwater, nearly $60 million in debt from the construction and start-up costs. That money had come from a bond sold by the city, and backed by the foundation.

$60 million in debt, folks. But don’t worry: “Through bankruptcy proceedings, that debt has been lifted.” And now the folks behind the Archway plan to ask the city and county governments to cough up $200,000 a year (each, so $400,000 total) for the next three years.

If the Archway were to become the destination that its creators had hoped for, it would help rural communities by attracting customers to hotels, restaurants and other businesses, said Roger Jasnoch, the director of the Kearney Visitors Bureau and an Archway board member.

And again, we come back around to the same point I made earlier. I have nothing against Nebraska; one of these days, I hope that I can visit the SAC Museum. But I’m odd. I’m not sure that most families do driving vacations these days, and the Archway just doesn’t strike me as compelling enough a destination for people to fly into Lincoln or Omaha and drive halfway across the state.

A Bob Clampett cartoon!

Saturday, June 15th, 2013


(Onion Creek Mosasaur, Texas Memorial Museum, Austin, Texas.)

Rabbit season!

Friday, June 14th, 2013



Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

There, wolf! There, castle!


(Dire wolf, Texas Memorial Museum, Austin, Texas.)

It’s a bird! It’s a plane!

Monday, June 10th, 2013

Actually, it’s a big sort of bird-like object. And DARPA apparently used it as the basis for a model aircraft back in the mid-1980s.


(Quetzalcoatalus northropi, Texas Memorial Museum, Austin, Texas.)


Saturday, June 8th, 2013


Texas Memorial Museum, Austin, Texas.

Random notes: January 30, 2013.

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Gun control works! Just ask Chicago!

And yet Chicago, a city with no civilian gun ranges and bans on both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, finds itself laboring to stem a flood of gun violence that contributed to more than 500 homicides last year and at least 40 killings already in 2013, including a fatal shooting of a 15-year-old girl on Tuesday.


Chicago officials say Illinois has no requirement, comparable to Chicago’s, that gun owners immediately report their lost or stolen weapons to deter straw buyers.

Uh, that’s not what a “straw buyer” is, Monica Davey. (Nor does Davey mention that “straw purchases” are also a violation of Federal law, though rarely prosecuted according to the WP. One wonders how much of a deterrent Chicago’s law is to people who are already violating federal law.)

(Likewise, purchasing guns in other states, bringing them across state lines, and selling them on the Chicago streets violates multiple existing federal laws. Davey ignores that fact as well.)

Edited to add: Just saw this, and found it appropriate.


And I said, “What about ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’?”
He said, “I can’t afford a million dollars,
and as I recall, you’ve got plenty of money.”
And I said, “Well, that’s one thing we have not.”

The Bell trial picked up again yesterday. Rebecca Valdez, the former city clerk who wasn’t actually the city clerk at first, is still on the stand.

Rebecca Valdez said that when she began working for the city, she learned the key to survival: Do whatever City Manager Robert Rizzo asked.
Valdez testified Tuesday that she was directed to sign unfamiliar documents, hand out incorrect salary information in response to a public records request from a resident and obtain signatures for doctored salary contracts.

The defense is attacking her credibility, “seeking to show that record-keeping in Bell was in disarray. Valdez testified that she signed minutes for meetings she didn’t attend, was appointed to the job in name only and sometimes made mistakes marking the times that meetings began and ended.

And what’s this about her being the city clerk but not being the city clerk?

In 2004, then-City Clerk Theresa Diaz moved out of town, making her ineligible to hold the elected office. Valdez was given her title, but continued her job as an account clerk. Diaz continued to act as the record-keeper for the city, but Valdez testified that she was told to sign documents as the city clerk.

Also interesting:

The city clerk also testified that Victor Bello, one of the defendants, was banned from City Hall toward the end of his tenure, except to attend council meetings.
If Bello showed up, she was to tell the police chief and her supervisor. Twice a week, Valdez took Bello’s mail to his home, accompanied by code enforcement officers, she testified. Bello resigned from the council in 2008 but retained his six-figure salary after Rizzo named him assistant to the food bank coordinator.

Not “food bank coordinator”, but “assistant to the food bank coordinator”, and pulling in at least $100,000 a year. How do I get this job?

Ah, the Texas Highway Patrol Museum. You do remember the Texas Highway Patrol Museum, don’t you? Shut down by the Attorney General last year? Assets, including the building, being sold off?

Well, about that…

Lawyers for the Texas attorney general’s office said Monday that a “cloud of procedural impropriety” is casting a shadow over the pending sale of the former Texas Highway Patrol Museum, and they recommended that the building be put back on the market.

The “procedural impropriety” seems to be that the high bidder says her bid was ignored. Also, the real estate broker would make a larger commission if the other bidder got the property. There’s some technical aspects that make it unclear which bid is best; that’s why the AG recommended that the building be listed again.

(Hattip on this to Grits for Breakfast. If Ms. Wong winds up getting the building, and we’re all still here, I want to do a road trip to Rosario’s Café y Cantina.)

Hey, hey, LBJ.

Friday, December 28th, 2012

Lyndon Johnson’s birth certificate is on display at his presidential library. Insert your own Barack Obama joke here.

Igor, the President speaks!

Friday, December 28th, 2012

He’s tanned. He’s rested. He’s ready.

He’s the newly redone animatronic LBJ from the (also recently remodeled) LBJ Presidential Library.

And if you think he looks just a little overly tan, well, you’re not the only one.

21-50 to headquarters!

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Have you ever heard of the Texas Highway Patrol Association?

Did you know they had a museum in San Antonio? I did not. I might have gone down to see the museum, had I known it was there. But in retrospect, I’m kind of glad I didn’t make the trip: here are some photos of the museum from the Texas DPS website.

As you might have guessed from that link and the associated commentary (which I personally think is very unusual for Texas DPS), the THPA was one of those charities that does telemarketing calls, collects your money, and does very little to benefit anyone but the company that makes the calls.

In particular, the organization apparently promised to pay a $10,000 “death benefit” to families of troopers killed in the line of duty. The organization never paid, the families sued, and…

As part of a 39-page agreement, property belonging to the Texas Highway Patrol Association in Austin and a museum it operates in San Antonio will be liquidated…

Interestingly, the museum was founded by a former state legislator from Waco, Lane Denton. (Waco is also the home of the Texas Rangers Museum, which is actually well worth the drive from Austin to visit.)

In 1995, Denton was found guilty of theft and misapplying money belonging to a different organization, the Texas Department of Public Safety Officers Association, and sentenced to six years of probation.


The lawsuit said state investigators found that few survivors received any financial assistance and that money from a scholarship fund went to children of board members. The suit also said officials used up to $10,000 in donations a day to buy tickets to amusement parks and movie theaters and to pay for airfare across the United States.

(Subject line hattip. I loved that show when I was a kid. No, I’m not that old: one of the local UHF stations showed syndicated reruns.)

Edited to add: In case you were wondering, here’s a Google Maps street view of the THPA headquarters. Note that this isn’t the large building on North Lamar, across from Texas DPS and right next to Dan’s Hamburgers, but another building.