Friday, December 11, 2015

Jamestown, New York: Murals of Lucille Ball

Lucille Ball became a little bigger than life in her career, but not this big.

Jamestown has honored its native daughter with five murals scattered around downtown. They are all done by local artist Gary Peters, and add a nice touch of public art to the area.

The one shown here is the best one. It's a tribute to one of the most famous episodes of "I Love Lucy," in which she becomes a commercial hostess for a health product. The catch is that the serum contains alcohol, and the more takes Lucy does, the more intoxicated she gets. Vitameatavegamin gets pretty mangled along the way.

There are murals of the candy-wrapping episode, one with Lucy and Desi, a replica of the Lucy stamp placed on the wall of the post office, and one across the river from downtown with Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel driving to California.

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Jamestown, New York: Lucille Ball's Burial Place

It's rather easy to pay your respects to Lucille Ball during a visit to Jamestown.

The television star died in 1989, and her ashes had been in California. But the family eventually decided that she should be back in her native Jamestown with her original family, and so Lucy's remains were moved across the country.

The cemetery is located north of downtown and just off Route 60. The main entrance is at 907 Lakeview Ave. Drive in the main gate, and look for the faded hearts on the road. (Note to maintenance crew: Time to redo those hearts.) The family grave is fairly close to the entrance, and you can see it from the road if you look down a path.

We'll always love Lucy.

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Celoron, New York: Lucille Ball's Childhood Home

You have to admire the residents of this house at 59 Lucy Lane in Celoron, NY, located just west of Jamestown near Chautauqua Lake.

One of the legendary figures in television, Lucille Ball, grew up in this structure. She wasn't born here - that was relatively nearby at 69 Stewart Ave. in Jamestown. But this was the family homestead.

The house has moved along to other owners over the years. The current ones don't have tours for you to set foot in Lucy's old room or anything, so don't knock on the front door. But they do show their respect for the previous owner. If you look carefully, you'll see that the garage is decorated to look like one of Lucy's polka-dot dresses from the television show, "I Love Lucy."

Genius can turn up just about anywhere, including Celoron.

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Jamestown, New York: National Comedy Center

You could argue that this is a replica of one of the most famous kitchens in America in the 1950s.

It's a recreation of the kitchen from the television program, "I Love Lucy," which has been shown every day in some part of the world for almost 60 years.

The set is part of the National Comedy Center, which has become a major tourist attraction in Jamestown.  Lucille Ball was born there, and in the last several years the town has embraced the connection.

The Comedy Center has two parts to it. There's the Lucy Desi Museum, which has a variety of items connected to Lucy and show co-star Desi Arnaz. The family donated several personal items, including clothes, letters and scripts.

Right next door is the Desilu Studios, which has replicas of three of the sets from the show. The other two are the living room in New York City, and the hotel room from California. It all comes back pretty quickly when you see it. Ball's Emmy awards are there (six in all), plus other displays about the program. I have no idea why the two parts of the center weren't connected into one big museum when it was built. But you pay for them both at once, walk through one, and then head outside for a short walk to the other entrance. Naturally, there are souvenir stores in both places.You can rent a device to hear Lucy Arnaz, Ms. Ball's daughter, describe the contents of the museum.

It takes about 90 minutes to go through it all, even if you don't stop at some of the videos, and it's certainly a loving tribute.

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Jamestown, New York: The Robert H. Jackson Center

The Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown, New York, is unique. It's the only place in the country that honors the memory of a Supreme Court Justice in such a way.

The Center is located in downtown Jamestown. It's an old mansion, built by the Kent family in 1859-60, that has been updated for use in this way. The main part of the building has offices and meeting rooms. A room looking out of the front of the building quite well done. Then there's a room named after Ulysses S. Grant, who visited Jamestown once. The room, pictured here, is great for meetings or small functions. It does feel like an old, nice mansion.

An area that used to be the barn once upon a time has been converted in meeting areas. There's a fine theater that seats 200 people, and can be used for movies, speeches, etc. Down below it is a room that seats perhaps 120 for banquets, etc.

Jackson had an interesting life, which is remembered here. He was a good lawyer once upon a time when he had the chance to become friends with Franklin Roosevelt. Obviously, FDR had a high opinion of Jackson's talents. Eventually, Jackson was named Solicitor General, Attorney General, and Supreme Court Justice - all within a few years. When President Harry Truman needed someone to conduct the war trials of several Nazi leaders after World War II, he picked Jackson - who by all accounts did a superb job. Jackson went back to the Court when that job was done, and was putting together am excellent body of work when he died in his early 60s in 1954 - right after being part of the famous Brown vs. Board of Education decision that ended legal segregation.

There are interesting items sprinkled around the building. For example, one hallway has the framed autographs of every Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Two books on Jackson were sent to current Justices, with the request that one be autographed and returned for display. They all did so, some with interesting notes. Posters about some of those tried in Nuremberg line the walls of the banquet room. It's a rather chilling story.  Jackson's desk in Nuremberg was pulled out of storage by the military, and his chair from his Supreme Court days is also there.

One last note - a docent usually is around to give tours. The staff couldn't have been more friendly to visitors.

It obviously helps to have an interest in history to go to a place like this, but this really is an appropriate tribute to one of Jamestown's native sons.

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

New Orleans, Louisiana: World War II Museum

It's tough to know what picture to use when writing about the World War II Museum in New Orleans. I opted to go with this one from the US Freedom Pavilion, in which a few airplanes hang from the high ceiling to greet visitors in the lobby. There are four viewing levels, and I believe this was taken from the fourth. It's pretty impressive to be so close to a WW2 aircraft.

In fact, the entire museum is impressive. A D-Day Museum first came to the area, as an important boat that was very useful to Allied forces was built here. Then came the idea, apparently, to pay tribute to the entire war effort. Visitors enter the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion, where they briefly board a Union Pacific Train Car for the start of the journey.

Then it is on to the Solomon Victory Theater Complex. A 40-minute film, hosted by Tom Hanks, reviews the history of the War. The screen is huge, objects come into view from the darkness, and seats vibrate. The movie is educational too, although some of the veterans we saw during our visit certainly could recite the story.

The Campaigns of Courage building has a nice recap of the European theater, with all sorts of artifacts, videos and replicas. You could spend quite a while there if you so choose. The day we were there, the Pacific theater floor was said to be "under construction." I can't say I know if this is a short-term or long term project as of October 2015, but it was disappointing to miss out on all that.

The Freedom Pavilion offers a look at the aviation side of the war; give Boeing credit for being the title sponsor. A movie on the submarine experience is also available. Visitors return to the Solomon Complex for food and the gift shop.

I'm not sure I'd rate this as one of the world's great museums without the Pacific portion being open. But it still is quite a complex and worth the price of admission. It will even keep the kids entertained while they learn some history along the way.

Here's a discussion from two guys that know something about the place:

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New Orleans, Louisiana: St. Louis Cathedral

No matter what your religious preferences, an old church - especially when it's big and especially old - is always worth a look. Such is the case of the St. Louis Cathedral, located right off of Jackson Square in New Orleans.

A church has been on this particular piece of land for almost 300 years, and the cornerstone of the new church was laid in 1789 - when Washington was sworn in as President. That makes it one of the oldest cathedrals in the United States.

Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II both paid a visit to the place. Katrina did do some damage, mostly by opening a hole in the roof. That caused some water damage to the magnificent organ. The musical instrument was shipped off to the factor for extensive repair, and now is back in service.

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New Orleans, Louisiana: Jackson Square

I read somewhere on this trip that there was little doubt that Andrew Jackson was the most popular President in Louisiana. After all, they did name a square after him in the middle of downtown New Orleans.

The area used to be called "Place d'Armes," but was renamed after Jackson's victory over the British in the War of 1812. History majors might remember that the battle was fought after the peace treaty was signed; global communications have improved in speed since then.

The Square is surrounded by several historic buildings, and the French Quarter's most popular areas are nearby.

A walk through the area is always fun. During our visit, we were greeted by Dixieland music from a band that must have had 12 members. Many artists also were enjoying a warm autumn day, painting away in the sun.

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New Orleans, Louisiana: Monument to the Immigrants

America has had some serious discussions lately about immigrants, and how to handle the situation of those who are here and those who want to come here.

Anyone who does make it on to American soil, though, will be happy to know that there's something of a welcome waiting in New Orleans. It comes in the form of a marble statue along the Mississippi River.

The Monument to the Immigrants features a muse soaring above a family who apparently just come to our shores, offering protection, etc. There's no ideal side for viewing this, as muse is overseeing the river and the family is looking the other way toward the French Quarter and a new home. But you get the idea.

The Italian American Marching Club put this up in 1995. It was created by Franco Alessandrini of New Orleans.

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New Orleans, Louisiana: Natchez

It wouldn't be the Mississippi River if there wasn't a steamboat on it. Mark Twain would be proud to see that the Natchez is still steaming around the mighty river.

The boat offers a variety of cruises during the course of a week and of a year. There are two-hour journeys at day time exploring the river, night cruises and Sunday brunch cruises. There's even some jazz played on every ride. It's available for private parties and weddings.

This is the ninth boat to carry this name and has been around in about 40 years. This is only one of two steam-powered sternwheelers on the Mississippi. 

Entry point is near Jackson Square. If you take the brunch cruise, it will set you back $40.50, although you can skip the meal and save about $10 if you just want to watch the world go by on the boat.

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