Roadside Attractions

Holy Land U.S.A. – Waterbury, Connecticut


The creation of John Baptist Greco, situated on Pine Hill in Waterbury, Connecticut, Holy Land U.S.A. was a place for education of the Bible and the life of Christ. It was not a shrine or a place of worship. It was dedicated in 1958 as “Bethlehem Village” and later became Holy Land U.S.A. The vision of a local Waterbury lawyer named John Greco and built with the help of Waterbury Italian volunteers, Holy Land was a tourist destination for years, sometimes drawing 44,000 visitors per year.

I lived in Connecticut for most of my first 33 years, and when I was young, in the 1970’s, my father brought me to Holy Land U.S.A. I have some VERY vague memories of Holy Land, just mainly just an image of it being on a hill (quite a climb for a youngster!), and the miniature buildings. But the best memory is just being with my father and having him share Bible stories with me as I explored the tiny buildings.

The park was open until 1984, two years prior to John Greco’s death. It had been declining in the years prior to his death, and afterward quickly spiraled downhill, the victim of neglect, weather, and vandals. Despite numerous efforts to raise funds to restore Holy Land, none have been successful. Sadly, Holy Land U.S.A. is currently in a very bad state of disrepair and the area surrounding it is pretty bad. I thought about it recently (now that I live in the Midwest) and realized I had not given Holy Land U.S.A. a second thought at all while I lived there, despite having been by there a thousand times. During a trip back to Connecticut in 2005, I thought I’d go to see it after all these years, and see if I could take some photos.

However, what was really exciting, was when I returned to Indiana – what I was to find in the huge box of slides my mom brought back from Connecticut during her trip about a month before mine. The slides were taken by her uncle, Donald Lucian, back in the 50’s and 60’s, and among them were some photos of Holy Land U.S.A. when it was new, and some during its construction! I hadn’t found ANY photos on the Internet of Holy Land U.S.A. back in its heyday, so I added scans of the slides for your enjoyment…it is nice to see Holy Land U.S.A. depicted as it was new, not as decrepit ruins.

In 2006, I again returned to visit and take more photos. I thought that Holy Land might make a good subject for AMERICAN ROAD Magazine, dedicated to America’s two lane roads and US highways. Thomas Repp, owner / editor, agreed and gave me the go-ahead to proceed with my first feature article. That article was published in AMERICAN ROAD’s Autumn 2008 issue. Click here for a link to the article.

In 2008, the 56-foot tall illuminated Peace Cross was replaced with a new stainless steel cross (perhaps harkening back to the original Cross?). I headed back to Connecticut at the end of August 2008 and visited Holy Land again, and added a photo of the new cross.

UPDATE – AUGUST 2011: Holy Land USA is currently for sale. Click here for a story by Connecticut news station WFSB (with video).

I also have some postcards of Holy Land, courtesy of Ron Guerrera of Mattatuck Antiques & Collectibles in Waterbury. Ron was kind enough to allow me to photograph the postcards (I didn’t bring a scanner with me on the trip!).

Here are a few photos of Holy Land U.S.A. “Now and Then.” For more photos, click the link to my Flickr site at the bottom of this post.

The entrance to Holy Land (postcard)

Holy Land Postcard - Entrance

Holy Land - Entrance

Crèche (postcard)

Postcard of Holy Land U.S.A. - Waterbury, Connecticut

Holy Land U.S.A. - Waterbury, Connecticut

Holy Land U.S.A. - Waterbury, Connecticut

Herod’s Palace (Slide taken by my great-uncle Don)

Herod's Palace - Holy Land U.S.A., Waterbury, Connecticut

Holy Land U.S.A. - Waterbury, Connecticut

Herod's Palace - Holy Land U.S.A., Waterbury, Connecticut

“There came wise men from the East” – in the background, you can see Waterbury and the old Scovill factory. (Slide taken by my great-uncle Don)

Holy Land U.S.A. - Waterbury, Connecticut

In this photo, you cannot see through all the overgrowth.

Holy Land U.S.A. - Waterbury, Connecticut

Replica of Calvary (postcard)

Postcard of Holy Land U.S.A. - Waterbury, Connecticut

Holy Land U.S.A. - Waterbury, Connecticut

The original “Peace Cross” atop Pine Hill – 1958 – 1968 (Slides taken by my great-uncle Don)

Original Peace Cross on Pine Hill (1956) - Waterbury, CT

Original Peace Cross on Pine Hill (1956) - Waterbury, CT

The 2nd Cross, which stood from 1968 – 2008

Cross on Pine Hill - Waterbury, Connecticut

Cross on Pine Hill - Waterbury, Connecticut

The 3rd Cross – 2008

New Cross - Holy Land U.S.A. - Waterbury, Connecticut

For many more photos and postcards of Holy Land U.S.A., click here to visit my Flickr site: Holy Land U.S.A. – Waterbury, Connecticut

Also, here are some links to other sites or photo galleries about Holy Land U.S.A.


Here are a couple of videos from You Tube about Holy Land

February 10, 2010: RV / MH Museum – Elkhart, Indiana


It’s far too cold for us lightweights to camp, but wanting to head out and do something, Pat and I decided to take a trip to the RV Museum up in Elkhart, Indiana.

Loads of cool stuff up there. They have displays featuring the first types of campers of yesterday and how they evolved over the years into the modern trailers and motorhomes of today.

Slideshow of All Photos

For more details about a particular photo, click on it in the slideshow and it will open in my Flickr site.

[flickrslideshow acct_name=”roadtripmemories” id=”72157623305424655″ width=”500″]

Indiana’s basketball mecca…


“While it was invented in Massachusetts, basketball really had its beginning in Indiana, which remains today the center of the sport” — James Naismith, 1936.

Those words ring true more than 70 years later.  Indiana and basketball go hand in hand, like peanut butter & jelly. No other state can lay claim to the rich basketball heritage that Indiana has. From its home grown legends like Tony Hinkle, John Wooden, Oscar Robertson,  George McGinnis, and Larry Bird, to its legendary courts such as Assembly Hall, Mackey Arena, The Wigwam, Chrysler Arena, and a little place called “Hoosier Gym”, to many Hoosiers, basketball has a way of making  all that’s wrong with life right. It’s about legends, stories of legends, and the hallowed grounds where those legends roamed.

In 1985, writer/producer Angelo Pizzo , a Bloomington, Indiana native, set out to capture that feeling on film. He got his inspiration from the 1954 Indiana state high school championship team from Milan High School.  The result was the release in 1986 of  Hoosiers starring Gene Hackman, Dennis Hopper and Barbara Hershey.

Pizzo centered the movie around a fictitious town’s high school basketball team, the Hickory Huskers. Filmed in several areas throughout central Indiana, he found the perfect spot for the Huskers home court. The Knightstown Gym was built in 1922 and served as that high school’s basketball court up until the 1960’s.

Recently I was driving through the area and as luck would have it, the now “Hoosier Gym” was open. The sign on the door showed it closed at 5pm and it was 5:05, but I walked in anyway. Just inside the doorway is a small lobby that has display cases filled with Knightstown memorabilia as well as that from the movie.

When I was signing my name in the guestbook, I could hear someone bouncing a ball just around the corner in the gym. The echo was identical to a scene in the early part of the movie when “Jimmy Chitwood” was in there by himself shooting. As I was heading in, I half expected to see Jimmy in there in his white t-shirt and blue jeans.

However, it was Tom, one of the local caretakers of Hoosier Gym who was getting a few jumpshots in before he locked the doors for the day. Tom was kind enough to show me around, tell me what I didn’t already know about the gym, and showed me the the locker room where one of the scenes was filmed.


I felt like a kid in a candy store. Not only was Hoosiers voted the best sports movie of all time by USA Today and ESPN, it’s probably my favorite movie of all time of any genre. It was approaching 5:30, and I knew I had kept Tom way too long, but he seemed more than happy to oblige. He tossed me a ball and gave me the chance to take a few shots. Just out of the 4 or 5 shots I took, I knew that court would be very good to my rusty jumpshot.

But I’ll be back there for sure. Hoosier Gym is open 7 days a week for walkers, receptions, group events, and guys like me who just want to show up and soak it all in.

The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota


Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota - Darwin, Minnesota

Weird Al inspired this road trip. Really!

After hearing the Weird Al song, “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota” we decided to make our own journey to the Twine Ball.

Slideshow of All Photos

For more details about a particular photo, click on it in the slideshow and it will open in my Flickr site.

The Biggest Ball Of Twine In Minnesota

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Here are the lyrics that gave us inspiration…and a video

Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota

by Weird Al Yankovic

Well, I had two weeks of vacation time coming
After workin’ all year down at Big Roy’s Heating and Plumbing.
So one night, when my family and I were gathered round the dinner table
I said, “Kids… if you could go anywhere in this great big world, now where’d you like to go to?”
They said, “Dad, we wanna see the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota.”
They picked the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota.

So the very next day, we loaded up the car with potato skins and pickled wieners,
Crossword puzzles, Spiderman comics and mama’s homemade rhubarb pie
Pulled out of the driveway, and the neighbors, they all waved goodbye.
And so began our three-day journey.
We picked up a guy holdin’ a sign that said “Twine Ball or Bust.”
He smelled real bad, and he said his name was Bernie.
I put in a Slim Whitman tape, my wife put on a brand new hair net.
Kids were in the back seat jumpin’ up and down, yellin’ “Are we there yet?”
And all of us were joined together in one common thought
As we rolled down the long and winding Interstate in our ’53 DeSoto.
We’re gonna see the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota.
We’re headin’ for the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota.

Oh, we couldn’t wait to get there, so we drove straight through for three whole days and nights.
Of course, we stopped for more pickled wieners now and then.
The scenery was just so pretty, boy, I wish the kids could’ve seen it.
But you can’t see out of the side of the car because the windows are completely covered
with the decals from all the places where we’ve already been.
Like Elvis-a-Rama, the Tupperware Museum,
The Boll Weevil Monument, and Cranberry World,
The Shuffleboard Hall of Fame, Poodle Dog Rock,
And the Mecca of Albino Squirrels.
We’ve been to ghost towns, theme parks, wax museums,
And a place where you can drive through the middle of a tree.
Seen alligator farms and tarantula ranches,
But there’s still one thing we’ve gotta see.

Well, we crossed the state line about 6:39,
And we saw the sign that said, “Twine Ball Exit – fifty miles.”
Oh, the kids were so happy, they started singing “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” for the
27th time that day.
So we pulled off the road at the last chance gas station,
Got a few more pickled weiners and a diet chocolate soda,
On our way to see the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota.
We’re gonna see the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota.

Finally at 7:37 early Wednesday evening, as the sun was setting in the Minnesota sky,
Out in the distance, on the horizon it appeared to me like a vision before my unbelieving eyes.
We parked the car and walked with awe-filled reverence toward that glorious, huge, majestic sphere.
I was just so overwhelmed by its sheer immensity, I had to pop myself a beer.
Yes, on these hallowed grounds, open 10 to 8 on weekdays, in a little shrine under a makeshift pagoda,
There sits the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota.
I tell you, it’s the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota.

Ohhh, what on Earth would make a man decide to do that kind of thing.
Ohhh, windin’ up twenty-one thousand, one hundred forty pounds of string.
What was he tryin’ to prove?
Who was he tryin’ to impress?
Why did he build it? How did he do it?
It’s anybody’s guess.
Where did he get the twine?
What was goin’ through his mind?
Did it just seem like a good idea at the time?

Well, we walked up beside it, and I warned the kids,
“Now you better not touch it, those ropes are there for a reason.”
I said, “Maybe if you’re good, I’ll tie it to the back of our car, and we can take it home.”
But I was only teasin’.
Then we went to the gift shop and stood in line, bought a souvenir miniature ball of twine,
Some window decals, and anything else they’d sell us.
And I bought a couple postcards: “Greetings from the Twine Ball, wish you were here.”
Won’t the folks back home be jealous.
I gave our camera to Bernie, and we stood by the ball,
And we all gathered around and said, “Cheese.”
Then Bernie ran away with my brand new Instamatic,
But at least we’ve got our memories.

So we all just stared at the ball for awhile,
And my eyes got moist, but I said with a smile,
“Kids, this here’s what America’s all about.”
Then I started feelin’ kinda gooey inside,
And I fell on my knees and I cried and cried.
And that’s when those security guards threw us out.
You know, I bet if we unravelled that sucker, it’d roll all the way down to Fargo, North Dakota,
‘Cause it’s the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota.
I’m talkin’ ’bout the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota.

Well, we stayed that night at the Twine Ball Inn.
In the morning we were on our way home again.
But we really didn’t wanna leave, that was perfectly clear.
I said, “Folks, I can tell you’re all sad to go.”
Then I winked my eye and I said, “You know,
I got a funny kinda feeling we’ll be coming back again next year.”
‘Cause I’ve been all around this great big world and I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather go to
Than the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota.
I said the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota.

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