Tag Archives: Palms Krystal Bar

Harvest Days

22 Nov

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Back in the mid-1960’s it was apparent technology was rapidly changing rural life, there was no going back.  From sugar beets to dairy farms, soy beans to corn, Michigan’s Thumb region was largely agricultural. A group of people saw the need to preserve the past, to provide an understanding of our heritage, to present the origin and evolution of farming and rural living; in 1966 the St. Clair County Farm Museum opened about 15 miles west of Port Huron in Goodells MI. We are here for Harvest Days a 3-day event full of demonstrations of how life ‘used to be’. You can watch huge logs transformed into boards on the Port Huron Sawmill, see steam-powered threshing of wheat, listen to steam traction engines run, visit barns filled with antiques and local memorabilia and walk row after row of restored tractors. There’s something very sweet about the simplicity of those days gone by.

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From the parking lot we have a pleasant view of the property and buildings, barns are painted white with a stone base. We start at the horse barn, no there aren’t any horses here but, they do have plows, old seed advertisements and a wagon, look at the sleigh hanging in the rafters. We find animals in the next barn; a trio of horses in varying patterns of brown and white, all very friendly, a few goats and  roaming chickens. Over in the silo a ladder grips the side, I feel dizzy when I crank my neck to look all the way to the top. Buggies are posed in a row, there’s a single-seat buggy that would be pulled by one horse and a couple of larger ones. The 1903 Studebaker hearse came from a funeral home in Port Huron, all black with glass sides, it definitely looks like something out of an old (spooky) movie. Along the wall is a series of dairy equipment and cream separators, some of them were made nearby.

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The area we are in now is more of a local museum, one exhibit is filled with basic antique household items like a rocking chair, clocks, thermometers, tools and lanterns. Area business banners act as cornice boards for displays; Yale Dry Goods, Fort Gratiot Stove and Furnace, Marysville Millinery, Richmond Glass and Pottery. Around the corner the Algonac Home and Appliance Store has a really cool display of old-fashioned washing machines, wringers and vacuum cleaners, rustic is a word that comes to mind… A poster from Detroit Stove Works on Jefferson claims it is the largest stove plant in the world! Of course, it is these foundries that paved the way for the automobile industry in Detroit.The table in the dining room is set and waiting for the guests to arrive, shelves on each side of the buffet hold the china, plates balance on the dish rail, candles grace the table. Home entertainment was provided by the television, here we have an Admiral model, and of course there has always been music. Album covers hang on the wall; you can waltz with Guy Lombardo, Polka with your partner or relax with a little Lawrence Welk. Do you remember any of them?

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Outside is where the action is. Steam engines, tractors, saws and whistles create a cacophony in the air. Before us antique tractors are lined up like soldiers by brand and color; it’s a lot to take in. We’re certainly not tractor experts, they’re a lot of fun to look at in their bright colors and era-reflective designs; placards identify models and years.  First in line is a Massey Harris Challenger model from 1936, green with red spoke wheels, it’s pretty snazzy. Next to it is another Massey Harris, this one in red from 1955, I like the yellow wheels. Look at the graphics on this model, it’s a “Super” Twin-Power 101. The green Oliver 77 has a yellow-painted grill that looks Art Deco. Here’s a name I recognize, Farmall, this one’s a 1939 F-20. Ford made tractors from 1917-1964 under the name Fordson and Ford. This one is a beauty in red and white, although I must admit, white seems an unlikely color for a tractor–just sayin’. A big ol’ Minneapolis-Moline G90 machine in rusty yellow is for sale, interested?

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The red paint on the Port Huron Engine and Thresher Co. machine has nearly faded to pink, the lettering is pretty fancy. Over by the sawmill a bright orange Allis-Chalmers looks ready to go to work. We look on as logs are sawn into flat boards. Bales of hay fill the chute of the New Holland. Probably the most popular name in tractors is John Deere, there’s no shortage of them here; they’re easy to spot in their signature green. A Turbo tractor? Why not? Here’s a red International version. The Ford display has tractors in red with white and their signature blue. The ‘Ford Oval’ tool box is cool, as is the tractor pedal-car on top of the banner. So many brands, Case, Row Crop, Cub Cadet, Massey Ferguson, Agri-King.

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Walking the grounds we see tractors from the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, most are restored, some are for sale, some look like they just left the field in time to make it for the show. We can’t forget the riding mowers…  The Sears Suburban has an 8-speed, the olive-green Sears Twin is so 1970’s, how about the ultra-cool Ford 120 in powder blue and white. Riding mowers and tractors from the 1960’s and 70’s took their cue from automobiles; great badges, lettering, racing stripes. Some of the mowers have been restored, others are in their original condition. By the look on Kris’s face a vintage mower may be in our future. 

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An announcement is made telling us the Horse Pulling competition is about to begin, having never seen it before our curiosity is piqued, let’s take a look. This is boat or sled pulling meaning it is a friction pull where the runners or flat bottom it has on the ground create friction with the ground it’s running against, they are pulling dead weight, in this case, concrete. A group of men lead their team of horses onto the track, the horses are all keyed up, anxious to get to work. It takes more than one try to connect the horses to the boat. As soon as the start is signaled thick-legged horses bear down, the back half of their body lowers toward the ground, I subconsciously tighten my legs, clench my hands into fists as I watch. It’s over in an instant. Today’s winners pulled 10,000 lbs.

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Walking back to the car we decide to visit the Historical Village in Goodells County Park. All of the buildings in the village have been donated and moved to the park from different parts of the county. The church is post and beam construction from 1860, it was completely dismantled, moved and reassembled here in 2011, it’s quite plain but very lovely, the is the first time I have seen white-painted pews. The Mudge Log Cabin was built in Wales Township by Isaac Mudge during the Civil War (1863), his great, great, great-grandson donated it. The contents reflect the pioneer lifestyle of rural life during that time, note the spinning wheel. The Murphy Ryan Farmhouse built in 1872 came to the park in 1998. The furnishings are all period correct; there’s a stove to warm yourself by, a piano, a pitcher and bowl for washing yourself, looks like they had everything they needed. The Schoolhouse is from 1855, all of the contents were left in place when it was moved from Yale to Goodells. The desks don’t look too comfortable, apparently blackboards have been around forever. The CC Peck and Co building was the local bank in downtown Goodells, built in 1908 it has been restored to its original appearance and is now leased by the Wales Historical Society.

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Walking through history has given us an appetite, we have just the fix. Palms Krystal Bar in Port Huron has been serving Chicken In The Rough since 1936. Chicken In The Rough was one of the first fast-food franchises in the US, by 1950 they had 250 franchised outlets across the country and around the world; today only 2 are left, this one and one in Ontario Canada. No menu is necessary, as a matter of fact when the waitress approaches she just asks, the usual? Yes. The fried chicken dinner is outstanding; large meaty pieces served in a basket of fresh-cut shoestring fries, a side of slaw and a roll with butter, DELICIOUS. Not much has changed at Palms Krystal Bar, from the aluminum entry door to the fabulous interior; pink neon, glass block, original bar and stools, very Art Deco. As Kris likes to say: Everything cool has already been done.

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Huron Lady II, Palms Krystal Bar, The Atrium Cafe

22 Jul

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When the temperatures rise above 85 I can almost hear Lake Huron calling. We are lucky to live close enough that we can simply take a ride along the water beginning at Lake St Clair and ending in Port Huron. Nothing beats the heat like being on the water! Sunday was a gorgeous Summer day, the sky was blue and the sun was blazing. With all the windows out of the Jeep, a generous coating of sunscreen, and the company of friends in their convertible, we were off. As soon as we got near the lake you could feel the temperature drop, it is a beautiful ride skimming Lake St Clair and then the St Clair River. We had made reservations on the Huron Lady II for the 1:00 river cruise. Our timing was perfect; we parked at Desmond Landing, checked in and were able to board the boat right away. We snagged some great seats on the top deck under the canopy.

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Lake Huron is the second largest of the Great Lakes and the third largest fresh water lake on Earth. The average depth is 195 ft and the maximum depth is 750 ft, Wow! By freeway Port Huron is only about an hour from Detroit,but take the scenic route if you have the time. The Huron Lady takes you on a two hour ride; Covered outdoor seating is  available on the top deck and air conditioned seating in the cabin. There are restrooms, cold drinks and snacks, everything you need. We began our journey traveling down river; sunlight glittered off the water, the narration calling out points of interest. A steady stream of boaters passed and waved to passengers, freighters carried their loads both north and south, using the space between them we made our turn north to the big lake.  Lovely homes line the US shoreline, historic or newly built all  take advantage of their waterside locations. As we approached the Blue Water Bridge things got more lively, traffic overhead was bumper to bumper going both ways on the bridge, people lined the boardwalk on each side of the river. As soon as we flowed into Lake Huron the water seemed to go on forever, sailboats dotted the view making it quite a sight!  Out into the lake a ways and then it was time to turn back, alas our voyage came to an end. You should definitely go for a ride sometime this summer, it’s well worth the trip.

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It was now 3pm and the four of us were starved, if you are looking for good food and a unique atmosphere the  Palms Krystal Bar fits the bill. Located on Pine Grove Ave just outside of downtown Port Huron they are best known for serving “Chicken in the Rough”. This is an old-time chain from 1936 that served fried chicken, shoestring potatoes, a roll and a bucket of honey, all without the luxury of silverware. It actually feels like 1936 when you walk inside, a mixture of kitsch and Art Deco all backlit with a pink glow. Waitresses are super friendly, the fried chicken; finger- licking- good, you have to try it! The menu offers a large selection; everything from salads and burgers to fish (get the Chicken) and home made desserts. Portions are nice-sized and prices fair, the place is so cool I’d come just to sit and enjoy the atmosphere.

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Our friends had to be heading home, but we were in no hurry. We had passed a little place on Military street a few times and thought it was time to see what it was all about. The Atrium Cafe and Ice Cream Parlor has been open nearly two years now, the outside is unassuming brown brick, street side parking is easy and free, there is nothing from the street that hints to what you will find inside. The truth is we were looking for a simple ice cream cone, we stepped inside and immediately knew this was no ordinary ice cream parlor. The entire interior is finished with items salvaged from homes, buildings and even a church from days gone by. The wainscoting is actually vintage doors turned sideways, rows of theater seats are used as booths in the atrium. Everywhere you look is another amazing find.  They have a full menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and of course ice cream! We were just going to get a cone “to go”, but they encouraged us to come in and have a seat, take a look around and enjoy our treat right there, I’m so glad we did. Somehow we went from a cone to a Turtle Sundae……Creamy butter pecan ice cream covered in Sanders hot fudge and hot caramel, whipped cream, nuts, and the traditional cherry on top. It was soooo good, the only challenge being you had to eat steadily to keep the butter pecan from melting, really, not a problem.  This is just another gem waiting to be discovered in Port Huron.

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