The bizarre, complex history of America’s ‘most racist roadside attraction’


South of the Border, Dillon, South Carolina

From Daily Kos: If you Google “the most racist roadside attraction,” all your results will come back with “South of the Border, South Carolina.” Anyone who travels down I-95 crossing the border into the Carolinas will recognize the neon-illuminated giant Sombrero tower. At 200 feet tall, it’s a tacky Space Needle that suddenly appears on the horizon out of nowhere, yet you knew it was coming because you saw a ton of billboards for this attraction counting down your arrival. Several of the billboards feature a caricature of a Mexican bandito named Pedro, and if you were offended by the mascot, just wait until you arrive.

South of the Border is a massive complex that features restaurants, gas stations, a motel, a zoo, a small amusement park, and countless cheap stores to sell merchandise. It opened in 1950, back when roadside attractions were in their heyday and cultural sensitivity was not a concern. In fact, ethnicity was sadly often treated as a theme for these attractions, especially when it came to Native Americans. South of the Border, however, ran with a Mexican motif that sadly didn’t stop with the décor but instead leaned heavily into using “brown-face.”

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Aficionado wants Soo Line sign to glow again


Ashland resident Tom Tardiff is raising money to restore the SOO Line sign that once hung on the railroad depot in downtown Ashland. (Contributed photo)

From the Ashland Daily Press: When Tom Tardiff walks into Ashland’s SOO Line Depot, he instantly recalls the scent of hot oil and clanging of railroad engines from the days that his dad worked there as an engineer.

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Reddit user discovers completely unchanged 1990s Target cafe: ‘Looks so much better’


Courtesy of Reddit

From Yahoo!: A Redditor was shocked to stumble upon a nostalgic slice of the 1990s — and now, people around the world are begging Target to bring back these kitschy cafes.

User u/galaxy-m81 gained over 61,000 upvotes and nearly 2,000 comments when they posted a photo of the untouched, completely intact cafe to Reddit.

Now, much like the young couple who made a shocking discovery in the attic while renovating their 108-year-old house, this Redditor’s stunning find has people yearning for the past.

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New book on Blue Benn Diner serves up slice of Vermont life


From Vermont Business Magazine: For generations, diner-loving foodies have flocked to the Blue Benn in southwestern Vermont where they can sit at the counter worn down by countless customers, sip on a bottomless cup of coffee, and wisecrack with the waitresses. Even today, despite a change of ownership, the Blue Benn remains a town haunt, prized almost as much for the free-flowing conversations as the mouth-watering food.

Now a richly illustrated new book captures the essence of this Bennington landmark. Sonny’s Blue Benn: Feeding the Soul of a Vermont Town documents the history of this legendary diner and the family that created it. But the book also celebrates the diner’s status as a community hangout, a place that over the years gave townspeople a chance to forge connections with their neighbors no matter what side of the political or economic divide they found themselves.

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Take Your Fries and Leave: Why fast food is racing to ditch the dining room


The Chipotle Digital Kitchen in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, opened in December. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.

From Slate: Five hours into a long drive through New England last week, I needed coffee. I pulled up to a Dunkin’ in Gorham, New Hampshire, parked, and got out of the car. Mistake. In the donut-scented interior, I learned that this Dunkin’ wasn’t taking orders in the store—only at the drive-thru and via the app. Reluctantly, I downloaded Dunkin’, selected a large cold brew, tapped in my credit card number, and watched in silence as two workers prepared and placed the coffee on the largely obsolete counter.

Seven days later, I got an email—“Are Your Cravings Calling?”—that left me unsure if I’d signed up for DD or AA. I was part of the Dunkin’ digital universe now, which is right where the company, owned by Atlanta-based Inspire Brands, wants me. Certainly more than in the actual store. Last August, Dunkin’ opened its first “digital” location on Beacon Street in Boston. There are no cashiers, replaced by touchscreens and mobile ordering, and no seats or tables.

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Hong Kong neon fades into history


The main road in Hong Kong’s Mong Kok district is ablaze with neon and other signs in this 1999 photo. The city’s shift away from neon lighting has changed the character of the streets — some say for the worse. (Photo by Keith Macgregor)

From Nikkei Asia: HONG KONG — After nearly three decades, the warm glow of the green and red Hop Hing Hotpot neon sign dimmed into the evening darkness one final time before the 4-meter board was carefully dismantled by several skilled laborers, meeting the same fate as dozens of other Hong Kong neon signs.

With the illuminating signpost gone, the street looked unremarkable to Yuen Siu-yam, the owner of the Hop Hing Hotpot restaurant.

“There were so many signs back then, it was very beautiful at night,” the 73-year-old third-generation business owner told Nikkei Asia, pointing to the end of the street. “People were drawn to the neon and the street was filled with diners and locals.”

It is a similar story on many neighborhood lanes, and Yuen said the removals have “stripped the city of character.”

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