S.F. Bay Area Trip (Day 4 of 4)

This will be a quickie post since this was a slow roll home and there were only a few pre-determined stops.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t shoot the sunny side of this one in Paso Robles because of that pole directly behind it.  Noted to return in afternoon…


A former TraveLodge sign in Paso Robles.  Here’s a postcard of the same location showing what the sign looked like originally.


A rusty crusty from Paso Robles.  You can see the patched tubing holes indicating that this sign had neon at one time.  It was originally the Trees Motor Lodge and the sign probably a pretty paintjob:


The Paso Robles Inn Coffee Shop roundy-ness continues inside with a round counter:



Let’s take a break from the signs for the giant milk bottle in Templeton which was restored last year.  The bottle originally advertised for the Rossi Dairy along Highway 101.  It is now located at the Templeton Historical Museum Society.  Here’s a photo that I took of it in 2014:


and now:


Last stop for this post — in Santa Cruz.  For those of you familiar with the nicely restored sign at MONA (Museum of Neon Art in Glendale) which came from the Green Frog Market in Bakersfield, this sign will look familiar.  The MONA sign:

And here’s a twin sitting outside a yoga studio.  There were several Green Frog Markets but I didn’t know there were identical signs and that any others had survived before I found out about this one:



I will be back before you know it with lots and lots of posts.  I’ll be on a major roadtrip for the month of June and will be shooting like a maniac in Arizona, New Mexico and (mostly) Texas.

Until then, Happy Trails!

dj & the dogs


S.F. Bay Area (Day 3 of 4)

This is a quickie post since it was a day short on shooting.  The Neon Symposium fell pretty much in the middle of the day and I wanted to allow plenty of time to find parking to have the dogs nearby.  This was my first real foray into public speaking as well other than the presentations I do at work.  I brought lots of facts & photos & was, of course, very organized.  But so as to not screw up and get the most info in, I pretty much read the whole thing.  Maybe I’ll be more relaxed next time.  It went well and I met a ton of very nice people (and I don’t like people!).  The other presentations were all completely fascinating and inspiring as well.  You gotta GO next year!

Anyhow — let’s start with this nice pair in Oakland.  They appear to be recent replicas:




And now on to San Francisco.  Too bad about the protective, plastic box:

For the rusty/crusty fans:

This guy is inside Miller’s East Coast Deli on Polk.  Sorry about the lights:  the sign is on top of shelf & difficult to shoot:

And lastly — I never get to shoot this wonderful plastic sign at the right time of day.  Always tree shadows.  I’m a little worried that it might disappear.  Note the deteriorating, rusting bottom panel which might tear away at some point soon:


One more day & post to go.  Lots of nice photos from today over at my Flickr account:


dj & the dogs



S.F. Bay Area Trip (Day 2 of 4)

I was very sad to see another sign defaced.  This one in Vallejo still had neon until at least last summer.  My photo from 2014:


And now….



These embossed Schwinn signs used to be everywhere — now there are just a few scattered around the country.  The one is in Fremont:

I stopped by Bell Plastics in Hayward to see a few of Bruce’s new acquisitions.  This fiberglass boy with a burger is a mystery to both of us.  I suspect it was a one-off since I’ve never seen one before:



Bruce just got this guy from Moody, AL.  These Pioneer statues were produced by International Fiberglass, the makers of so many recently so-called “Muffler Men.”  More about their Pioneer statues at this page at my website:

You might notice the half globe on the left.  Yep, Bruce has also got an Atlas statue or two now.  He’s got a lot of restoring to do!


This towering sign is also in Hayward.  If you’re curious about the cool building next door, I’ve got info about Caspers Famous Hot Dog locations here:


Moving on to Oakland.  I’ve never been able to catch this sign in full sun.  My last photo from 2015:

And now… Another one destroyed with backlit plastic:

I’m so glad that this florist sign in Oakland is still hanging in there — even though there’s now a coffee shop below it (Black Spring Coffee Company):


And then it was over the bridge to San Francisco for Day 1 of the three-day Neon Symposium.  An incredible gathering of neon sign fans & experts.  If you missed it, mark your calendars for this time next year & get tix early (it sold out this year).  This was the first of, hopefully, many more to come:


I’ll probably be back tomorrow night with Day 3 of this trip.  In the meantime, don’t forget about the some other photos from this trip over at Flickr:

Good night,

dj & the dogs

S.F. Bay Area Trip (day 1 of 4)

A busy weekend of shooting & schmoozing.  The Neon Speaks Festival and Symposium took place Fri, Sat & Sun in San Francisco.  It was simply fantastic.  If you are into neon signs and you didn’t make it, there are plans to do it again next year.  Mark your calendars to check in at the website in maybe March of next year so you can get tix (sold out this year):

I took Thursday off to get up to the Bay Area & grab photos on the way.  The first few hours in the Bakersfield area, the sky was one big cloud — making for crappy photos.  So, these will have to do for now until I can revisit & reshoot.



This one was recently restored but, unfortunately, the panels & neon are covered with plastic protection.



A couple of places on the Bakersfield/Oildale border:



A blasted out sign & what seems to be 1960s-era drive-in:


I don’t know how long the place has been Young’s Drive-in.  The crappy rooftop food signs were added in recent years:


Moving on to Fresno — and sun for the rest of the trip!  This arrow sign is at Jim’s Chinese Restaurant:


A couple more signs from Fresno:


And this modern sign is awfully cute — at Pismo’s Coastal Grill:



In Carmichael — this bowling alley has been demolished.  I don’t know how much longer this sign will be there.  Plastic signs don’t get no respect.


A close-up of the flames:


From Madera —  for you rusty/crusty fans.  From the shape, I’m betting that the “MOTEL” panel was originally painted as logs:


Lots more to come from this four-day weekend trip.  Probably back with another post tomorrow night.

dj & the well-traveled dogs

Very SoCal

I just got back from a little two-day trip to San Diego, the desert, and a little bit from east of L.A.  I would’ve stayed longer but the sky became one big grey cloud and the forecast was for nothing better the following day.  The dogs got to run in city parks, dirty sand, and among Joshua Trees and cactus.  I subsisted on lemon cake, bananas, and lots of coffee.  Oh, and since I was passing through Westmorland — a wonderful date shake.  It was HOT.  I tested Sparkle’s AC  for a few hours and it seemed to work fine. Hoping the best for the big 4-week trip to Texas in June!

Let’s start with San Diego.  The Corvette Diner a bunch of vintage (and not so vintage imposters) displayed inside.  This one is differently vintage.  Although I have my doubts about the neon swirl on the right:


A couple of Chevrolet “OK” signs.



This Dr. Pepper sign might be vintage-ish.  Not sure.  Possibly, the neon added later:


This “5 Cents a Dance” window “skeleton” sign tubing looks vintage to me:


Only partially lit but a classic Rexall sign.  I don’t know where this one was installed originally.  I’ve got five pages of Rexall signs from around the country here:


The restaurant moved to this location in 2009.  At the old place, this muscleman panel (no idea where he came from) was installed on top of the text panel.  The ceilings are not as tall here, so the sign is displayed in two pieces:



I was disappointed to find these game machines blocking the animated bowling sign.  Here’s how it was displayed at the old place:




Back out into the real world (away from the loud 1950s music, screaming kids, etc.)  I went to see this sign at Chito’s Shoe Repair new location (which is  few years old now).  The owner had a semi replica made when the City would not allow the original sign to be moved.  This one has different colored tubing but it was never animated.   The tubing is installed on a piece of plastic which is installed in the window (therefore, the glare – sorry). The neon worked for awhile but no longer.


The  original sign hangs above a coffee shop now.  When it finally came out of storage after restoration, it was lit at night.  But I’m told that it no longer is.


Bye-bye sun.  I shot some things anyway for now.  These two signs are in La Mesa.


There’s another  Baskin-Robbins sign like this one in Hollywood.  I don’t know of any others:



After the San Diego area, I headed over to the deep desert border town of Calexico since I missed shooting a few things the last time I was there.  This sign is probably not all that old but merits blog-inclusion.  I’m guessing 1970s?



In El Centro:  Originally, the Imperial Motel, later Imperial Apartments:




On to San Bernardino for a bit before giving up on the grey and heading home.  One Stop Liquor:


And, next door, a painted over classic Rexall sign (like the one at the Corvette Diner shown above).  From the orange & navy porcelain peeking through at the lower left, I’m betting that this hideous grey paint can be removed and the sign would be as good as new.  Those tube light bars above facing both panels were standard for a lot of these Rexall signs.  I’m sure the neon versions cost more money and this method was also easier/cheaper to maintain:


Lastly — this place is still open.  The wiring is unfortunate, but hey…

I’ll be back in a few weeks with photos from the Bay Area.  I’ll be speaking at this action packed three-day Symposium in San Francisco — details and tickets here:


For more photos from this weekend’s trip (the purtier ones), head over to my Flickr account.

Happy Easter, Happy Spring!

dj & the dogs


MONA Opening: Liquor, Motels & Live Nude Girls

I headed down to Glendale, CA last night for the Grand Opening of the Museum of Neon Art’s new dual exhibit:  “There’s More to Neon Signs Than Liquor, Motels and Live Nude Girls” and “Motel California”.  A stunningly beautiful display as you shall see.  A lot of freshly restored neon signs were on hand — some which have been in storage for many years, others that were only recently taken down.

The Mission Motel sign was built in 1950 and was originally displayed in Oakland, CA; the Anchor sign from 1963 came from the Seaport Marina Hotel in Long Beach, CA; the Dining & Banquet Room sign from the 1950s came from the Bel Air Motel in Fresno, CA:


A close-up of the rapid-fire animated bells on the Mission Motel sign:



One of the stars of the show is this dragon — one of two originally installed in 1957 at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles.  The animation moves along from the tail to the head of this 40 foot long sign.  It took years to restore this beauty:



Here are a couple of quickie videos that I made to show you the animation:

The other dragon is in storage at the Hollywood Heritage museum.  This photo shows what the dragon looked like when it was still installed at the theatre:


Some photos from the “Motel California” part of the exhibit with advertising signs and a Magic Fingers display from Heather David’s collection:



A close-up of the Chief Motel sign (built in the 1950s, originally located in Long Beach):


The Western Motel sign from 1955, originally in Venice, CA; the Seal Beach Motel sign also from 1955, originally in Seal Beach, CA.  A painted lasso border surrounds the Western Motel panel.  The ball on the seal’s nose moves in three-part animation.



Some former motel signs in Anaheim, CA, courtesy of the UC Berkeley photo collection:

Loads of other motels and motel signs appear in Heather David’s new book:


which is available here:



The Tinder Box was built in 1953 and was installed in Santa Monica:


These contemporary signs were based on vintage signs:



The Hofbrau sign was built in the 1950s and was installed in Oakland.  The Tip Top Inn sign is from the 1940s and was installed in San Francisco:


A close-up of the animated, layered neon on the Hofbrau sign:


The Winning Wire sign with ripple tin panels was built in the 1930s.  The original location is unknown:


The cocktail glass is from an unkown bar in the Bay Area.  The sign was built in the 1930s:


The Peepshow signs are set behind a wall, simulating a display window.  They are mostly contemporary replicas.  The nude woman on the left might be vintage (ca. 1980s).


More photos from the Opening of this exhibit over at my Flickr account:

I’m planning on a little Los Angeles area trip next weekend (if the weather is right) and then a San Diego area trip at the end of the month.  So, more photos coming up soon enough.

Also, you might be interested in this big 3-day event taking place in San Francisco (April 20-22).  Yours truly will be one of the speakers at the “Neon Speaks:  Festival & Symposium”.  More info here:


Back with more photos soon,

dj & the dogs





Final Installment of Recent Sign News (Washington to Wyoming)

Here we go:  the final installment with the “discoveries” from my annual, tedious winter project  of reviewing thousands and thousands of Google Street View maps at my website.


This business and sign in Bremerton, WA disappeared sometime between 2015 and 2017:



This sign and motel in Tacoma, WA were demolished last year:



This Sure-Fit pole sign in Tacoma, WA is gone now, too.  The “S” on the sign mounted along the roof is bent over and I’m skeptical that it will be repaired:



The Luepke Florist sign in Vancouver, WA has been through a lot in recent years.  Here is was in 2008:


In 2015:


and here’s what it looks like now:


At least they left some neon but the letters are all backlist plastic now.  The panel with the flower and leaves looks brand new.  Sure, better than nothing but pretty flat looking — no character really.


The Klose-In Motel in Seattle was demolished last year and the sign is gone, too.



The Tungloon Garden restaurant in Spokane, WA was destroyed by a fire in 2010.  A series of used car dealerships opened on the lot but the sign remained unchanged until last year:


Here’s what it looks like now — ooofa:




This sign at Mr. Robert’s Bar & Grill  in Madison, WI was removed last year.  It is now in storage.  The owner didn’t have any good reason to have taken it down.  “Do you want to buy it?” was all I got when I asked.



This sign in Omro, WI had been repainted by 2016.   The letters no longer have this Art Deco flair and the neon was also removed. Here’s the before:


And now…. I can’t tell what they did to that round part of the sign:


The Budget Motel in Superior, WI with its animated gull:


And here’s what the sign has looked like since around 2016 — the neon and gull gone.  Annoying blechy lettering:



The Sloane’s Furniture sign in Milwaukee is still there:


but by 2016, the bottom panels were covered up and the neon was replaced with sloppy LED rope.  The squares were also outlined with LED.  The Google photo is not as clear about the changes as this photo.  Cheese-y, right?




The Bob’s Bait Shop sign in Milwaukee was removed last year.  How sweet it was:



Another Milwaukee loss — removed sometime between 2015 and 2017:


The Magic Dry Cleaners signs in Charleston, WV were removed around 2016:



This sign in Cheyenne, WY was removed by 2017:



This sign in Cheyenne has been repainted by 2017.  Here’s the before:


and now:

Another sign in Cheyenne:


by last year, the neon all replaced with backlit plastic:



And finally, one more from Cheyenne — this sign looked like this up until last year or so:



the sign on the building is still there but I’m doubting that it’s lit:


Here’s the pole sign now:




So, there you have it for this year.  The real question is:  what can we do about losing all of these vintage signs other than cry and complain about it?  Do we just shrug it off and say “you can’t fight progress”?  Do we just accept the fact that since these signs are privately owned, we can’t do anything to save them?

I address some of these thoughts and offer suggestions in the closing of my new book:

There is some movement towards establishing mini sign parks in cities with signs that are currently in storage.  This is great for nostalgic locals and design-loving tourists.  And it keeps the signs in their outdoor natural element where they were meant to be seen.  Also, it seems that many museums and community organizations are beginning to “see the light” about preserving these signs and displaying them.  Many folks are putting together sign surveys for their cities and submitting them to city councils with the hopes that these signs will be recognized and lead to landmarking, city grants for restoration, etc.  I applaud those efforts, LOUDLY.

Keeping these neon signs lit at night is very expensive.  Yes, the owners see people taking photos of their signs and recognize that they are loved by many.  But, as you can see by all of the tragedies that I have posted at my blog here in the past few days, to have visibility at night the ability to go cheap and use plastic letters is becoming all the rage.  What were vintage signs are now debauched, ruined, and I’m betting all the more likely to hit the scrap heap soon.

Sign purists have long criticized collectors for soliciting business owners, working out a deal, and hauling signs off to their man-caves, probably never to be seen again.  I’m beginning to feel this might be a better option than the sign deteriorating to such a degree that it can’t be saved and wind up at the dump in pieces.

Of course, we can all fantasize that these signs will continue hanging in their original locations forever.  However, at this point, we have to come to terms with the reality of rusting signs, strict city ordinances that prohibit relighting neon or taking down signs to restore them properly.  Most cities won’t allow these “grandfathered” signs to be taken down, even for a day, and then reinstalled.  Most cities also have size restrictions:  meaning that if a big vintage sign is taken down, a business owner might only be allowed to install a sign that’s a fraction of the size.  Hence, the desire to rework the vintage sign to put the new business name on it.  This often ends up with a sign being vintage in shape only.

I don’t have any answers.  I have some ideas and I do feel that somehow we need to get more organized, nationally.  They say “all politics is local”.  And while, I get that, and think that fighting for what’s happening in your own community is important, I think our strength and the way we can have the most impact, is to think bigger, and act bigger. None of the signs that I have posted about are from my hometown but I feel the loss all the same — as I’m sure you do.  If we do nothing, the entire country will be nothing but chain stores from coast to coast, Main Streets will be characterless and unhistoric.  When we travel, there will be no regionalism, no fun, no design, nothing to take photos of.  Your thoughts?  Your ideas?

Signing off for now — my next posts will be much more positive — with photos of things that still exist.  Gratefully, there are still LOTS of signs that I didn’t have to write about here that I hope you’ll get a chance to see or just admire on-line.  I’m always adding to my website, making updates, etc.  so I hope you’ll go there to cheer up and see what’s left. More than just signs but I know what my blog-followers are most obsessed with.  Signs are the dessert of roadside architecture, after all.

Happy trails!

dj & the dogs

Still More Recent Sign News (Texas to Vermont)


This sign in Dallas was removed in 2017 just after I took these photos:




There were several of these Texas Liquor signs around town.  I think this one in Dallas is the only one left but at a store that’s been closed since 2016.  So, it could disappear at any time:

This sign in El Paso, TX was removed around 2017:




This sign in Ogden, UT was removed around 2016.  The business had been long gone and the sign was standing alone on a vacant lot:


This gigantic sign in Salt Lake City, UT seemed doomed when the bowling alley closed in 2015.  Yes, the “CLASSIC” letters revolved:


It was deemed too far gone to be adapted but a replica was built by YESCO for the new apartments.  Okay, so it’s plastic and LED but a miracle nevertheless.  The vintage RITZ sign is still there on the right.  I don’t know what will become of that one:




The Joy Garden restaurant in Richmond, VA closed in 2016 and this sign was gone by 2017.  This photo is from 2009.  In 2014, the sign had been repainted and most of the neon removed:



I never got to shoot this Bove’s Cafe sign in Burlington, VT:

At least the Carrara glass tile and Art Deco windows are still there for now:


I’ll have the final post of this series for you tomorrow night with the “W”s and some reflection about all this destruction.

dj & the dogs

More Recent Sign News (Pennsylvania to Tennessee)

Moving on to the “P”s now.


OK, sure, this sign in Erie, PA was already messed with… but there are not a lot of snoozing siesta signs left.  Once as commonplace a motel icon (rest awhile) as the diving women (we have a POOL!) signs.  This motel was demolished in 2016 and the sign was either removed or demolished in 2017.  There must be postcards of this one somewhere but I’ve never found one:

Another sign from Erie, PA…


… the strong man was repainted last year:


Street View images are pretty blurry.  Better photos of the beefcake here:

This embossed plastic sign was located at Pittsburgh Coating & Supply in Lancaster, PA.  By 2017, the store & the sign were gone:

This plastic Philco sign in Philadelphia hung above a vacant storefront for years.  It was removed sometime between 2012 and 2017:



My Rexall signs are organized by state within the five pages here:

Here are two losses in that section.  These freestanding letters in Long Beach, CA were replaced in 2016 with plastic-faced letters:




This sign in Oshkosh, WI was removed sometime between 2011 and 2017:




The neon letters of the Crown Casino sign in Sioux Falls, SD:


have been replaced with backlit plastic:




This sign in East Ridge, TN disappeared at some point between 2014 and 2017:

This one in Kingsport, TN was removed around 2016.  There’s a Walmart there now:

This sign in Memphis, TN disappeared between 2015 and 2017.  The store is gone now, too.  The owner’s had one of the original panels proudly displayed inside.  This was a faithful replica:



I think I have enough steam for one more post tonight. Coming up…


Yet More Recent Signs News (North Dakota to Oregon)


Let’s start with this one in Fargo, ND.  Yes, it’s gone.  The store closed in 2015 and the sign was removed soon after that:


Another one in Fargo, ND.  Still there but almost completely painted over around 2016.  The building now houses the Picked Parrot (bar).  Here’s the “before”:


and the “after”:




This sign was built in 1933.  It was located in Red Bank, NJ when I took this photo in 2007.  In 2009, the store moved to West Long Branch, NJ and the sign was displayed in the window.  By 2017, the store had moved again to Little Silver, NJ.  The sign is back in the window.  It’s so wonderful that a business has held onto this bit of its history:


This sign is located in Riverside, NJ.  The bar closed in 2015.  Last year, the bar was remodeled for a liquor store and the bottom part of the sign was changed (LIQUOR is spelled with neon tubing at least).  I believe the sign is lit and the eagle’s wings are still animated:





The Supersonic Car Wash in Albany, NY…


… was adapted around 2017 with backlit plastic letters and the bulbs were removed:



This sign was located in Buffalo, NY:


Last year, it was transformed into this piece of crap:



This sign in Lake George, NY:


was also disfigured with plastic last year:

This sign in Troy, NY is gone now.  The store closed in 2016 and the sign disappeared soon after that:




These signs in Middletown, OH hung above a vacant store for many years.  They were removed at some point between 2013 and 2017:

This sign in Toledo, OH was gone by 2017:

Another one from Toledo, OH.  This beauty was hung above a vacant space for many years.  It was removed in 2017 and wound up in the hands of the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati, OH.  It will be cleaned up, relit, and displayed:

The Abbott’s Super Duper sign in Columbus, OH is officially gone.  The store closed in 2010 and a vinyl tarp covered the panel below the elephant for years.  The circus elephant which held a sack of groceries was removed between 2015 and 2017:


Another Columbus, OH loss — the Hillcrest Lanes panels were removed around 2017:



This business in Springfield, OR closed sometime between 2015 and 2017 and the sign was removed:

From Portland, OR.  At some point between 2015 and 2017, this store closed and the sign was removed:



And lastly, a bit of good news to soften the blows, the Guild Theatre sign in Portland, OR was restored last year.  Restoration of the theatre itself is ongoing.  Here’s what the sign looked like in 2015:


and now (yes, that’s NEON):



Back to the stove to cook up another batch for you this evening.

dj & the dogs