Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Creative Customs Chop Shop Annual Christmas Party 2013

Looking over the three carbs of Bill's "bug eyed Sprite" to his yellow Studebaker.

Most Friday nights you will probably find "Wild" Bill Bierman in one of two places. 1.A hotel parking lot drinking beer with his pals so he can pilot one of his gnarly, high powered, drag cars down the strip the next day, or 2. Spending time with is wife and two daughters. Let's be real here, this is the mid-west and there isn't exactly much racing going on in December. Once a year Bill throws a Christmas party at his north St. Louis auto body and custom shop, Creative Customs Chop Shop.

A good indication of the type of event this is can be had when you first find out that it is billed as the "XXX-mas party". It's safe to say that it's a little more wild than your neighbors credit union employee brunch. The party has come a long way since I first showed up sometime around five to seven years ago. No longer does the bathroom house a separate room full of dirty magazines, adult entertainment video tapes, and a Sponge Bob Square Pants T.V. (with built in VCR). Nowadays you'll find a nicely finished collision shop complete with TWO restrooms. Bill and his crew have even turned some storage space into a pretty cool little kitchen. If you aren't too distracted by the many amazing custom cars sitting around, you might notice plenty of cool signs, art, and auto memorabilia adorning the walls.

Bierman's Christmas party is equal parts open house, crazy shenanigans, and charity event. You see, every year he collects non-perishable food items for local charities. This year attendees could gain access to the party and lots of free barbecue by donating a few canned goods and five dollars, or a straight ten dollar donation. All of the food was donated to St. Vincent De Paul food pantry to help feed the less fortunate. The cash donations, collected by Bill's daughter Bethany, were donated to St. Jude's Hospital in the name of Clare Blase.

As far as I am concerned this is a must attend for any car guy in the greater St. Louis area. No matter how many times I go, It will always be thrilling to hear Bill fire up his blown Henry J in the cold St. Louis night. You can find Joey's coverage of the December 6th party over at The Jalopy Journal.
Brian Fox's "King Chassis" sign glowing over Bill's "Pink Freak" custom.
Bill's "T-Bag" and "Pink Freak"
The "Pink Freak"
Vintage Bicycle
I believe Bill said this is from an old float in the famous Soulard Mardi-Gras Parade
Tom won a bucket of goodies in the raffle!
Bills current personal project.

Drivers side front fender of Bill's "Suicide King" race car
Bill Bierman himself! Always having a good time!
Tom and Joey being Mississippi pirates in Bill's boat
Adam, Aaron, and Jason pose with much excitement
Doesn't everyone have a dragster hanging from the ceiling?
Joey tries on one of Bill's brain buckets
No big deal, just eating our free barbecue next to a giant engine and a vintage pinball machine

Vintage sled hanging out in the corner
Boaring Joey
Bill's recently finished Willys. If you are interested this bad boy might be for sale. Photo by Joey

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Shadowbox-ing and the Kramer shelf

My "Kramer Shelf"
The "Kramer shelf". That is what did it for me. That is what got me obsessed with mid-century shadow boxes.

Sometime around 2009, I was looking at some pictures of a Facebook friend's swanky '60's house and saw this ridiculously cool shadow box. He called it the "Kramer shelf". I knew he must be referring to Cosmo Kramer from Seinfeld but I never recalled seeing that in the show. I was surprised that I couldn't remember seeing it since I had watched Seinfeld pretty much every day for five years. Well, after that I started paying closer attention and sure enough, there it was. It pops up in a couple different episodes. Jerry's wacky neighbor uses it to display "Macaroni Midler", "Fusilli Jerry", and "Ravioli George".

Screen shot from "Seinfeld". I can't remember what episode this is from but I know it makes an appearance in the episode where Kramer turns his apartment into the Merv Griffin set. 

From that point on, shadow boxes really started to jump out at me on craigslist, at estate sales, and at thrift stores. I accumulated three of them before I finally found myself a Kramer shelf on craigslist (first picture in the post). I went to look at it and the guy selling it turned out to be a fellow hot rodder and mid-century modern furniture collector. I spent a good bit of time touring his house, checking out his furniture collection, and looking at his custom cars. We struck up a deal and I finally went home with my very own Kramer shelf. It definitely needs some work but I am happy to have one.

Detail of my Kramer shelf.

More detail.

One of the mirrors from one of the little planter things on it.
I think most, if not all, of my shadow boxes were made by Illinois Moulding Co.

My affinity for MCM shadow boxes doesn't stop at the really wild ones. I still have three of the four that I have ever bought. I sold one to a friend of mine. My good friends Dustin and Tara, who are also crazy about vintage stuff, were kind enough to send me some pictures of their collection of shadow boxes. Do you have any cool MCM shadow boxes? Let us know! Show us pictures!

Found this one on craigslist. It was at the 99 cent sock store on S. Jefferson Ave. in south city St. Louis, MO. I sanded it down and repainted it.

I found this one for a very reasonable price at an antique mall in Quincy, IL

This was my first shadow box. I found it on craigslist in Edwardsville, IL. I sold it to my pal John.

One of Dustin and Tara's.

Another of Dustin and Tara's

And another from Dustin and Tara

Same one as above.

I think Dustin said that this is one they recently sold. Looks great in its new home.

I spotted this one in an antique mall in Michigan when I was visiting Dustin and Tara in 2012. I guess the "Kramer" version is a little easier to come by up north.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Putting a little Mid-century in your Day

One of the most appealing aspects of an atomic-age obsession is the constant discovery of little things. A matchbook here, a clock there, and everything in between. Sure, my home is adorned with mid-century accouterments, but what am I to do once I step out of the Belvedere and into the real world? Easy. I just walk over to my well-worn oak table and scoop up my daily essentials.

No. 1 - Field Notes - 2013

“Is that notebook from the 1960s?” the city editor said as I drew the battered yellow book from my front pocket. I looked at him and smiled.
That’s the appeal of Field Notes. They’re painfully classic — exactly how an everyday pocket notebook should be. Exclusively using Futura bold typeface — a la Wes Anderson, Vampire Weekend et al. — these 24 double sided pages can be lined, graph or polar bear-in-a-snowstorm blank. For some strange reason, I tend to use the graph motif for all my journalism work. Throwing my Field Notes into my back pocket has become second nature, and they follow me wherever I go. Taking notes with pen and paper trumps finger and LCD screen every time in my book, however small that book may be.

Field Notes brand is based out of Chicago, and they are available in packs of three. Some are basic, some are waterproof, some are colorful and some aren’t. But all notebooks are $9.95 for a three pack. And let me tell you this, as a person who uses these every day, it takes a long time to fill one of these little books. When they are finally filled out, they make for great mementos, ultimately giving you a chance to look back on a chapter of your life.

Still interested? Check ‘em out at Fieldnotesbrand.com

No. 2 – GG-W-113 Watch – 1969  

I picked up this lightweight, “throwaway-style” watch back in August, realizing that I needed a timepiece other than my iPhone 4. After discussing watches with some of my colleagues, I scoured the Internet and came across this gem. It’s a full manual wind with a metal backing and plastic face. The font — Futura. Although it’s not waterproof, this nylon-banded timepiece holds up well for being manufactured in July 1969. I do not, however, recommend jumping through windows wearing this watch, because that sort of sporadic movement can scratch the face (both yours and that of the watch.)
Lucky for me, my GG-W-113 came from New Jersey at a pretty fair price, ticking and ready to be worn. If you’re into this sort of timepiece, shop around before pulling the trigger. You’ll be happy you did.

No. 3 – Fendall Glasses, c. late 1950s

Usually I’m a big advocate of my Tortoise Ray-Ban Wayfarers — but everyone knows their story. So here’s a little something different. I bought these things new and in original plastic packaging. Because they’re actually safety glasses, they’re heavy plastic with metal sides and shatterproof. But with their horn-rimmed design and great stamping detail, they’re one of my favorite pairs of glasses. And due to their rugged design, they’re DOT legal for motorcycling.
I dug this particular pair out of a toolbox at an estate sale somewhere in the Detroit suburbs, but they’re available multiple places online.

So there you have it, my daily mid-century accouterments. Like I say, with this hobby, the fun is in the details. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving: Meet Carl

Hello everyone. We hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving (if you celebrate that sort of thing). We sure did because we here at AAA have so much to be thankful for. We are always thankful for the people we meet through our appreciation of vintage madness. Every stranger can be a potential friend and as much as we love spectacularly aged objects we believe that the real winners are the people who die with the most friends.

I'd like to take a moment to introduce you to Carl. Yes, he is technically a "thing" but you will probably be catching glimpses of our little buddy in the future. I found him sitting on a shelf at Goodwill in Fairview Heights, IL some time last year. He seemed pretty lonely but he still had quite the smirk on his face. He is awful quiet about his past but that is okay. We love him just the same.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Vintage Motorcycle Parking Only

St. Louis beer and an American pastime. Can you guess what I am talking about? You are so smart! You knew I was referring to Schlafly beer and motorcycling, didn't you? Okay, the title and lead photo probably gave it away. If it wasn't for that you may have thought I was talking about one particular brewery that's proud of its clydesdales (and rightfully so), and a certain St. Louis sports team that's represented by a little red bird. Well folks, there is more to this city than that. Keep on reading and I'll tell you about Vintage Bike Night St. Louis!

You can find Schlafly Bottleworks nestled into a great spot right off of Manchester Rd. in Maplewood, MO. It is a fairly sizable building as far as restaurants go, because the dining portion is just an added bonus to the brewing that goes on here. This just so happens to be the scene for Kick-It Vintage's monthly bike night. Through out the summer, on the first Monday of the month, you can find hundreds of vintage motorcycle enthusiasts hanging out and sipping on what might arguably be the new "king" of Stl brews. Okay, maybe only the very proud locals would call it that, but it's definitely a much loved bevo in the area. You won't find any A-B products here, no sir! You can most definitely get some very good beer that was made on location, and some tasty food if you are hungry. I am more of a whiskey guy myself, but I recommend the Schlafly Pale Ale and the Pumpkin Ale. Enough of about the beverages, lets get to the bikes.

As I mentioned above, this was the place to be on the first Monday of month from March through November. The turn out of vintage bikes was always good. I saw different, unusual, and fantastic bikes every time I was able to make it. I am fairly new to the motorcycle hobby and I didn't realize how healthy the vintage bike scene is around here. The cool thing about Kick-It Vintage Bike Night is that there is always a good representation of vintage cycles across the board. People ride in on everything; dirty knucklehead choppers, sleek Yamaha cafes, stock Beemers, restored scooters, british race bikes and everything in between. The parking lot gets packed pretty full with vintage motorcycles. They always show up no matter if the skies are cloudy and the wind is putting a strong chill in the air, or if it's a humid ninety-eight and your shoes feel like they are about to melt. You can bet there will be plenty of antiquated machines rolling in. There is even a smaller section roped off for the folks who bring their not-so-old bikes.

It is so exciting to see people coming and going, all evening, on bikes that most of them work on their self. It's even great to see the same bikes each month because quite a few of them are works in progress and you are able to witness them progress over the summer. I can't say as to what Kick-It Vintage has planned for 2014's VBN but you can keep up by joining the facebook group and liking the page. Heck they even have a full blown website! I sure as hell hope to see it back next year, and if it is I hope to meet some new people and gawk at more vintage bikes. If you're in the area, you better not miss it.