Sunday, November 4, 2012

The KFC Museum

Last week, when I was in Albuquerque, Kristin sent me a text that we needed to get out of town and go on a road trip. I agreed, because it seems like forever since we went somewhere fun. I didn't really have any ideas (Santa's Land, one of my perpetual "We have to go there!" places, has once again closed for the season without a visit from us), so Kristin suggested The Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum, or, as it is known colloquially, the KFC Museum.

"Do you want to go to the KFC Museum?"


Yesterday morning I got up early, got ready to go, and waited for Kristin to come pick me up, and then we were on the road, to a strange and distant land known as Kentucky, our neighbor to the north:

Welcome to Kentucky!

After only two hours in the car, we neared our destination, and Kristin tried to put a damper on my excitement.

"Now, I don't want you to get your hopes up, but it's not that great."

Not that great? How could a museum dedicated to a uniquely American facet of our cuisine, Kentucky Fried Chicken, made with Colonel Sanders' secret recipe of eleven herbs and spices, possibly be "not that great"? People in 105 countries known that "Kentucky" means "chicken" because of Colonel Sanders, and I refused to believe that the museum dedicated to this pioneer of business and Southern culture could possibly be anything less than a shrine.

And, of course, I was right. It is a shrine. A tiny shrine that takes up a small part of a regular, plain old KFC restaurant:

most of the museum

Everything on the right side of the picture, from the "Pure Oil" sign over, is the museum. Everything on the left is a KFC.

I should have listened to Kristin.

Really, my first indication should have been in the parking lot. They don't even have a sign that says "Museum". The sign looks like this:

KFC sign

The building itself looks somewhat historical, and still has a vintage sign:

sanders cafe sign

but you can see right there from the rounded addition that they've added a modern KFC restaurant to the place despite the historical status:

national register of historic places

The state of Kentucky does have a historical sign out front:

kentucky history plaque (1)

kentucky history plaque (2)

but again, this isn't really a museum. It's a KFC with some display cases:

historical diorama

museum case (1)

museum case (2)

museum display

museum case (3)

a somewhat dirty statue of Harland Sanders on a bench that you're supposed to have your picture made with:

harland sanders statue

kristin and the colonel

and a dark, windowless wood-panelled dining room that, I suppose, may or may not be historically accurate but is also a weird mix of styles from different decades:

the dining room

There are a couple of displays in the dining room: a model of the motel rooms that used to be attached to the cafe, a model of Harland Sanders' kitchen that had vintage Borax boxes on the counter but modern faucet hardware in the sink, and a model of Col. Sanders' office:

The colonel's office

I guess if you're hungry and on the way to somewhere else the museum is a good place to stop, but it was almost as disappointing as the National Knife Museum. Arguably, it may even be worse than the National Knife Museum, because that at least had a gift shop and some hideous animatronic animals. This seemed kind of like they couldn't tear the building down because it was on the historical register, so they pulled out a bunch of old KFC stuff, nailed it to the walls, and called it a day.

Kristin and I weren't ready to call it a day, though, and instead decided to press on to Lexington and visit Joseph-Betth Booksellers, which Kristin remembered as a huge independent bookstore with lots of obscure, hard to find titles but which has instead given over more than half of their floorspace to food, clothing, trinkets, toys, home decor, candles, and what is apparently the kind of business model that killed Borders. Still, I did find a book that I didn't know I wanted because I didn't know it existed, and we had a nice late lunch/early dinner at the Bronte Bistro inside the store.

The mini creme brulee is an excellent use of two dollars:

mini creme brulee

On the way home, Kristin had to stop for gas, so we also stopped for a minute at the slightly decrepit fireworks store next to the gas station:

half-lit sign

and marvelled at the collection of weird statues:

pink elephant (1)

pink elephant (2)

and broken down amusement park rides (seriously, they had not one but two rusting inoperative ferris wheels):

broken ferris wheel (1)

broken ferris wheel (2)

broken ferris wheel (3)

broken ferris wheel (4)

on their front lawn.

We didn't buy anything, since neither one of us is allowed to have fireworks in our apartment complexes and both of us are liable to blow off a finger by accident, but it was a nice end to a fun road trip day.

I can only hope that the museum and shrine to Long John Silver or Chef Boyardee is more exciting and befitting of their stature as pillars of American culture.


JMBower said...

That Fireworks sign shot is brilliant. So the State of Kentucky thinks that Colonel Sanders is their most famous citizen?

I think Kit Carson, Jim Bowie, Daniel Boone, David Crockett, George Rogers Clark, Mary Todd Lincoln, et al. may disagree.

scott davidson said...

Nice way to decorate your walls. I have never done that. My effort to beautify the walls in my house was to order big-sized canvas prints from, from images of western art. I use the same angel motifs in all of the rooms painted by different painters, such as this one by very interesting English artist Stanley Spencer,

Marcheline said...

I'm amazed that they were able to keep the mummified head of the Colonel right there in a display case! Then again, taxidermy is one of the top hobbies in KY...

P.S. Nice way to decorate your walls! (WTF scott davidson?)