GREEN ISLAND — Chuck Miller sees Albany changing.
The clown that once welcomed visitors to Hoffman’s Playland is no more. The giant lights that once guided locals to Bob & Ron’s Fish Fry are long gone. And the chef waving at customers as they approached L-Ken’s Drive-In fast food and ice cream business saw a Verizon Wireless store built at that location.
But these former local hot spots don’t have to be forgotten, as long as Miller is working on his next project.
“I needed to do something to bring back the cool factor in Albany,” Miller said.
Miller, in an effort to do just that, is bringing these locations back in the only way he knows how. The Green Island resident, and a photographer and writer, is using his old photos of the iconic signs to remake them. With some wood, Christmas lights, electro-luminescent lights and determination, Miller has been replicating some of the area’s most memorable street-side displays in an effort to relive what made them so great.
And the signs, he says, are submitted to be up for auction at Historic Albany Foundation’s annual BUILT charitable auction, with money raised going toward preserving Albany’s architecture tecture.
Miller began his sign projects a few years back. Fifteen years ago, he started with photography and wondered how he could enhance his work by highlighting the cool places in the area that seem to “disappear.” He started by recreating the signs for Bob & Ron’s Fish Fry and Olympic Bar on North Pearl Street, moved on to L-Ken’s Drive-In and later set his sights on his most recent piece, the Hoffman’s Playland entrance sign.
The 36 x 30-inch replica sign, smaller than the original sign, brings Miller back to his “great memories” of attending the park when he was younger and bringing his children years back.
“[It was cool] because you had a tiny amusement park in the middle of the Capital Region,” Miller said.
The piece, which he shared with the Albany Reddit community online, consists of strings of Christmas lights, threaded into 80 different holes on a wooden board, representing the arrow and clown visible in the original sign. Miller placed his old photograph on the wooden board, and then drilled out the holes, with 79 representing the arrow’s lights and one for the clown’s nose. He also added the finishing touch of rhinestones.
Miller admits he doesn’t have the finances or space to fully recreate the signs, but he still wants to make sure he can represent them as best as he can.
“It’s my small way of doing this,” Miller said.
And his small contribution is going to raise some money for preserving older buildings in the Albany area. He’s hopeful the Hoffman’s piece will be up for auction on Nov. 2.
But for Miller, he’s just happy to relieve a bit of his childhood.
“It brings back a sense of where we were when we were younger,” Miller said.