February 14, 2013
This is a place where you’ll find anything mid-century modern, from radios to clocks; lamps to vacuum cleaners; toolboxes, wristwatches, vintage audio, furniture and appliances. There are old clothes, signs, posters and indeed the occasional car. Mr. Perlman’s giant TV is flanked by equally outsized horn speakers from a dismantled movie theatre, and rare Philco Predicta televisions fill whatever empty spaces can be found.
Mr. Perlman also stocks probably the world’s largest supply of original spare parts for just about anything domestic and old. He is a walking compendium of household esoterica, able to list off each of the models of kitchen stoves made by General Electric in 1962, along with their colours and accessories. He knows everything about vacuum cleaners through the ages, and likely has an example or two of each of them. He is fascinated by refrigerators, pumps, fans and table lamps, rhymes off model numbers of transistor radios made by defunct Japanese companies, and is an expert on tube amplifiers. In short, he is a force, if somewhat overpowered by the results of his collecting mania (like many in the business of collectibles, he’s more adept at acquiring than selling).
The Atomic Warehouse is one man’s dream or folly, depending on how you look at it, and how Mr. Perlman feels on a particular day. If the right offer came along, I suspect he might be willing to sell everything – building and contents – so he could start over. Then again, he loves these bits and pieces….
Harrisburg/Hershey, Pennsylvania. Click image to enlarge
Around the corner from The Atomic Warehouse, the Appalachian Brewing Company on North Cameron Street is a great venue for dinner. It’s located in a three-storey brick and heavy timber structure built around 1915, and is the first brewery in Harrisburg since 1951. Most of their handcrafted ales and lagers are available in draft or bottles, and while waiting at the expansive bar for a meal, you’ll meet some of the regulars, all of whom are keen to talk beer. Interestingly, the building – a former printery – was sold by the City of Harrisburg to the Appalachian Brewing Company’s founders for $1.00, the price reflecting the massive renovations required to bring it to commercial standards. It’s a great example of how entrepreneurs with a vision and a creative local government can revive and transform abandoned industrial areas.
While in Harrisburg, we stayed at the Riverside Comfort Inn (nicely located) for the grand total of $59.00. With a king bed, free parking and wi-fi, you really can’t beat this and I doubt there’s anywhere in Canada that can match such a rate for the quality of room and service provided. Heck, at this price they even throw in a hot breakfast for two!
That rate, by the way, was found using a site called hotelcoupons.com, which turned out to be our ticket to good quality, low-cost accommodations for the duration of our road trip in the US. The technique is to stop into each state’s Welcome Centre, typically located a few miles down the road from the state boundary, pick up a Hotel Coupons booklet for that state, and check the numerous listings for discount accommodation. Participants include the usual US chains including Comfort Inn, Sleep Inn, Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, Best Western and more. Even Expedia, my usual choice for pre-booking, was easily beaten by hotelcoupons.com ($80 versus $59 in this case). However, the Hotel Coupons rate is for walk-in customers, whereas Expedia actually books the room in advance. Our coupons were always honoured, however, even if they were generated on a smartphone.
With such a lot to recommend the Harrisburg/Hershey area, it’s hard to believe that Harrisburg, the state capital, is near bankruptcy. Don’t get me wrong, it looks fine. But it’s a small city (under 50,000 residents) and the changing economic climate along with a couple of natural disasters and, for those who remember, the small matter of a nuclear meltdown in the 1970s (Three Mile Island) have not helped. However, today’s explorer by road would be rewarded by spending a few days exploring this interesting city and its environs.