Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Norge Balls

Once upon a time, there was a chain of Norge laundromats sprawling all across the nation, each festooned with a futuristic planet-lookin' polka-dotted plastic ball. Almost all Norges are gone now, though a few businesses that subsequently moved into these locations happily retained the ball.

As far as researchers can determine, there are four Norge Balls extant in Florida - two in Largo, one in Maitland, and one at Star Deli in St. Petersburg. There was a fifth in Miami, but it's apparently no more. The Florida specimens are all of the less-common striped variety, while the majority of Norge Balls look rather like the wrapper on an old package of Wonder Bread. There are also rare variants such as a black striped one, and some later owners took to repainting theirs to look like a globe. (And no, World Liquors is not one of these.)

The aging signs are very fragile, and it's a miracle that any Norge balls have survived after over a half century of abuse from the elements and from careless humans. Like those glorious geeks who obsess over Muffler Men and displaced Goofy Golf statues, there exists a subculture of archivists who fetishize the aesthetic glory of Norge Balls.

Who could blame them? Who can say they aren't beautiful?

I like to think that somewhere, deep in the wilds of Florida, there may yet be, in some isolated strip mall south of nowhere - perhaps at a remote abandoned swamp gas station deep in the Everglades - a Norge ball as yet undiscovered by the Norgeballers of our generation.

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