From The Twilight Zone to Peace, Love, n’ Rock n’ Roll

Forum Theater

On July 5th 2018, my good friend Paul and I had the opportunity to visit Binghamton, New York. The true purpose of the visit was to attend “The Rod Serling Memorial Foundation’s” – SerlingFest 2018. For many who are not familiar with his name, Rod Serling grew up in the City of Binghamton, New York and was best known as creator of the original Twilight Zone television series. Paul has a deep love for everything Twilight Zone, so it is fitting that he attends these conferences. It’s a terrific opportunity to visit with many of his friends, his Twilight Zone peers, share ideas, and partake in all the events for the weekend. Paul had planned the trip in advance and invited me along. He thought it would be a great opportunity for me to capture and document some of the Binghamton’s landscape and architecture and also enjoy some of the events as well.
I was indeed able to enjoy a bit of the conference myself and met a number of great people along the way. Most of them loved sharing their knowledge and passion for this amazing writer and the series that he created and loved. As an added treat, we had the pleasure of meeting Anne Serling (Rod’s daughter), who attended and was signing her recent book, “As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling”.

During our visit, I was able to spend quite a bit of time in the town, photographing and visiting its surrounding areas. During one of our lunch breaks Paul and I took a ride to a local park in Binghamton. He informed me that this park was believed to have been the inspiration for one of the Twilight Zone episodes, “Walking Distance”. Rod drew from his childhood memories while growing up in town and visiting this park, its gazebo and a carousel very similar to the one’s present in his episode. [If you watch the episode then visit the park, its gazebo, and its carousel, you can’t help but conclude that this truly was the place that inspired Rod to write the episode]. We spent some time in the gazebo and then over to the carousel for a ride. The “Ross Park Carousel” was built by the Allan Herschell Company and contains its original Wurlitzer Military Band Organ. Its approximately 100 years old! I was amazed – that you can still find a carousel ride that is FREE! Yup, right there in Binghamton!

We left the park and headed downtown. As we walked through the town streets, I was captivated by the architecture. The architecture of many of these landmark buildings was amazing. During our walk, I thought to myself, how ironic it was that quite a number of Twilight Zone episodes dealt with ‘traveling back in time’. It seemed fitting, as the architecture here really transported you back. The building details, artwork, and colors were amazing. Many of the buildings and homes, even though they have been renovated or re-purposed, still maintained a ‘retro’ look and gave you a feeling of a time long since passed.

Later that afternoon as we continued to explore on the outskirts of downtown, Paul and I stumbled upon an abandoned railroad depot: Binghamton’s Lackawanna Station (DL&W Railroad Station terminal). After doing some research I found out the station was built in 1900. The station remained active until the 1960’s. After shutting down, it seemed to be lucky enough to avoid being demolished during the ongoing urban renewal that occurred in Binghamton over the years. Fortunately, even though the depot has suffered from the elements, acts of vandalism, and years of neglect, it seemed to survive and remain somewhat intact.

You could tell it was a vintage depot simply by viewing its exterior. However, although abandoned, there was still a lot of rail activity on the tracks behind the building. We observed numerous rail cars loaded with items passing by the depot. I began to photograph around the exterior of the building. Peering through some of the windows I could see that the terminal was in the process of some renovation, particularly the right side. However, the interior-left still maintained a lot of the vintage structure. With that, Paul entered the renovated office space area and spoke with one of the tenants asking her if it would be possible to view the older portions interior to photograph it. The tenant was very receptive. However, she stated that she could not offer us permission but as luck would have it, she informed us that the owner was close by. She phoned him and he was extremely gracious in allowing us entry to photograph. As a matter of fact, after some time in the building Mark joined us; introduced himself and offered us a quick tour of the interior. He explained, since he purchased it, approximately half of the structure has been renovated as office space. The remaining terminal portion is yet-to-be-renovated, but he would like to keep it as original as possible. He continued to explain how he would like to maintain as much of the ambiance as possible. Listening to Mark speak, I immediately became aware that he was a true admirer of the craftsmanship of yesteryear and had a real passion for keeping this type of history alive. I could see his mission was a heartfelt one. As we continued our discussion, he understood my purpose in wanting to photograph the station and capture these moments. I shared how I’ve always enjoyed the photojournalistic side of photography, documenting, photographing, and preserving the past. I explained how much I enjoy sharing “the story” of these historic venues with others through my photos…and preserving their history.

We listened to Mark as he guided us on our trip back in time. He highlighted many of the interesting and unique features of the building. With regards to the outside rear of the building where customers would exit to board the train, he spoke about the steel structures which held up the canopy. He found it hard to believe that these steel structures embedded in the brick could still remain after all these years. Mark then escorted us to the ticket booth. Obviously, this was where visitors could obtain information and purchase their rail tickets. The original opaque glass windows were still intact and the windows were functional. As we walked around the corner of the windows, we entered the sales office of the ticket booth. We were amazed at how well preserved this office was. Directly below the ticket windows were all the original counters and counter drawers that were used at that time. We took the liberty to push-pull the draws and they were fully functional. Our assumptions were that these drawers held the various destination tickets being offered, brochures, and possibly even money. Along the walls of the office, several windows to the outside appeared to be original. There was some beautiful wood work that rose half way up the walls from the floor and that was original as well. We walked outside the office around the wall to the front. That brought us to the customer-facing side of the ticket windows. We observed the floor below them was the original floor. Mark pointed out there was a “worn spot”. (Something that Mark told us will remain after his refurbishment-to really highlight to people the age of the building). Presumably, this worn spot was created by all of the visitors walking up to, standing, and shuffling at the window to purchase their tickets or obtain information. We couldn’t be sure if all of the light fixtures were original fixtures to the building, some may have been replaced over time. We did conclude that several of them were original. However, even ‘if’ they weren’t original to the building, you could see that they were vintage fixtures nonetheless-and probably installed many years ago as replacements. On the same side as the ticket window, there was a gorgeous “postal station”. After photographing this, Paul and I spent some time examining it. I could not believe what great condition the structure was in! You could see virtually all the mail slots were still intact. A real piece of the depot’s history. Mark showed us several pieces of rail track, how heavy duty it was and that his intention is to re-purpose these somewhere in the structure for people leaning on the counter to use as a foot rest. Unfortunately, Mark did have to leave at this point but was nice enough to let me continue to photograph as long as I wanted. I continued to do so, capturing various portions of the building. An office safe-door, additional wall-mirrored partitions, the entrance doors and windows where patrons would enter and leave – all which helped highlight the true character of the building. I did return later that evening to capture a photo of the depot at night.

Paul and I departed Binghamton early Sunday morning to return to Rhode Island. We did take a little bit of a scenic drive home which led to a stop at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, Bethel, New York. Bethel Woods is the museum site and location where in August 15th 1969 (to August 18, 1969), the original Woodstock concert was held. Currently they have a beautiful walk-through museum which brings you back to the era of conflict, peace, love and rock n’ roll. They also have a beautiful concert theater, where every summer they offer outdoor concerts by well know performer’s. As we were exiting the grounds, we turned onto the main road where we stumbled upon a farm. We could clearly see the name “YASGUR” in large letters across the main building. We later found out that Max Yasgur was the original owner, and he was the one that provided the grounds for the original Woodstock concert. Max later sold most of the farm land after Woodstock. We were thrilled to stumble upon this, as this piece of land is the last remaining remnant of the original farm. (Later the land was re-purchased to build the museum venue). Many of you might remember the song “Woodstock” written by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. The line from the song makes the reference to the farm. One line reads; “Said, I’m going down to Yasgur’s Farm, gonna’ join in a rock and roll band, got to get back to the land and set my soul free”. As you can see CSNY were clearly making reference to the original and historic property venue. Below are some photos of the museum and grounds. Visiting Bethel Woods was a fitting ending to our trip, and was a great way to conclude our nostalgic, back-in-time weekend.

Please visit the following link for additional information regarding Bethel Woods, it’s museum, and the future events along with the list of upcoming concerts.

https://www.bethelwoodscenter.org/

Comments

  1. Interesting visit, interesting places, good times! Some of the downtown buildings have very similar counterparts in Providence, it must be a period thing. And, the wear on the floor is a way museums and galleries sometimes use to determine the popularity of items in a show. You sure had a great time.

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