Read ’em & Weep (Part 1)

I’ve made a lot of progress in my winter website updating.  I’ve scrutinized all of the most recent Google Street View maps for all of the sections to find out what’s been demolished, repainted, restored, etc.  I’ll share some of the updates in the next few blog posts.   I’ll warn you though, most of the news is sad.  But maybe that will be a motivator to get out there and shoot what you can while it’s still around or fight to keep what survives.

All of the photos in these posts were taken by me unless indicated.  So, please don’t lift them for Pinterest, other blogs, or whatever.  Instead, go to my website so you can find more photos of the places along with their histories.  My white keyword search box at the top left of any page makes it super easy to find anything specific or search by city if you’re planning an upcoming trip.  If you are new around here, this is my blog.  My website is way bigger and very organized:
RoadsideArchitecture.com

Let’s start with some mid-century modern building losses.

The Ken Wilson Chevrolet dealership building in Vestal, NY is no more.  It was built in 1964 and featured a phenomenal hyperbolic paraboloid roof (aka “saddle roof”).  It went vacant around 2010 and we all held our breath hoping some cool restaurant or hipster store would move in.  But the wrecking ball had its way in 2016.  My photo from 2010:

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The jumbo geodesic dome in Warwick, RI was built in 1962 to shelter airport equipment and vehicles.  It was taken apart in 2016 with the hope that it will be reassembled one day.  I’m doubtful.  My photo from 2010:

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The Firestone tire store in Mountain View, CA was built in 1963 and demolished last year.  The store had closed around 2010 and sat vacant after that.  My photo below is from 2014 after the big red and white bowtie pole sign and freestanding rooftop Firestone letters had been removed.

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The good news is that there’s still a scalloped roof like this at the Firestone in Costa Mesa, CA.  I believe it’s the only one left.  The neon letters are now backlit plastic but hey…  My photo from 2013:

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The mcm Firestone in Denver, CO is also still there:

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The St. Louis, MO location with same design (red & white tile, neon letters, & sawtooth canopy) still survives.  If you’re interested in Firestone, Goodyear, and other tire stores from around the country, I’ve got hundreds of them from all eras at my website here:
http://www.roadarch.com/tires/main.html

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Let’s talk theatres for a moment.  One tragic loss was the Strand Theatre on the boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ.  It was built in 1938 and featured this ultra cool round marquee and ticket booth.  In 1989, it was divided into five screens and became the Strand 5.  It closed in 2013 and sat vacant until last year when it was “remodeled” for a pizza place (second photo below courtesy of Google Street View):

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OK — let’s move on to some signs.

Zubler’s Indian Craft Shop in Houghton Lake, MI was one of those fun, touristy, non-PC gift shops with mini teepees and Indian war dance performances.  I’m assuming it had been there since the 1950s or so.  The store closed in 2016 and the totem poles, Indian statues, and this sweet sign are gone now:

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A couple of Texas losses.   This orphaned sign in Mission, TX is gone now.  Any building which could have been a bus station was missing for at least a decade.  This sign stood guard over a parking lot when this photo was taken in 2011:

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The neon cockroach sign in Austin, TX at Robert’s Termite & Pest disappeared last year.  It was built in 1996 by Evan Voyles (retro neon sign designer for The Neon Jungle).  So, I’m hoping he has it now:

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A few Ohio losses.  The Colonial Lanes in Canton, OH closed last year and, shortly after that, this sign disappeared.  In 2001, the sign still had neon and secondary panels:
http://www.roadarch.com/p/colbowl.jpg

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The Louie’s Liquors sign in Lima, OH disappeared last year, too:

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The Young & Bertke Air Systems sign in Cincinnati, OH is gone.  The original sign was built in 1926 and it was rebuilt a few times. Youbert’s mechanical arms and legs moved — as shown in this mini video:

The company moved in 2013 and had promised Tod at the American Sign Museum in town that the sign would eventually be donated.  However, the sign disappeared in 2016 and not even Tod knows what happened to it.  I suspect it was destroyed.

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Barringer’s Tavern in Indianapolis, IN closed last year and this lovely sign was swiftly removed.  I’m hoping that the owner or a collector has it:

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The Culver Ice Arena in Culver City, CA opened in 1962.  This sign was erected then:

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The place closed in 2014.  Last year, the sign was adapted for the new tenant, a Harbor Freight store.  The top panel was replicated and the snowflake beneath it and some other building details were spared.  From Google Street View:

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As for the skater that was perched on the roof of the ice rink, her location is unknown.  She is supposedly in storage.  The statue was originally installed at an Ice Capades office in Hollywood:

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Let’s end this post on a positive note.  The Hugo Liquors store in Hugo, CO opened in 1954 with this sign.  This photo is from 2012.  The sign was painstakingly restored last year.

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If you are into more positive sign news, I have been writing the quarterly column (Sign Snippets) for the Society for Commercial Archeology‘s Roadnotes newsletter since 2009.  I usually feature three or four signs that have been restored.  I also have a sidebar with each column that covers all the recent losses, restorations, adaptations, etc. around the country.  For more about the organization and how to join, here’s a link:

https://sca-roadside.org/about-sca/

If you just want a sampling before splurging on a membership, you can pick up a copy or two back issues of the twice-yearly Journal here:

https://sca-roadside.org/shop/sca-products/publications/?orderby=date

 

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I’m working on another blog post about signs and just might have that ready later tonight.

Take care,

dj & the dogs

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Happy New Year!

Pardon the diversion from neon signs & all that.  The big news:  there’s a new addition to the family.  Fixie passed away about a year ago and a few months later, I began my quest at Petfinder.com to find a young Jack Russell Terrier.  It was quite an ordeal being rejected by various shelters & Russell Rescue groups for not having a fenced yard or for living out of state, etc.  In frustration, I even hooked up with a reputable breeder which is completely against all my ethics.  She had puppies on the way and I really had a dilemma on my hands.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I wandered over to the Rat Terrier listings at Petfinder and DANG! there she was.  I was looking for a bold, ball-crazy, water-crazy, monster of a JRT and she is anything but that.  She’s delicate, attentive, sweet.  In other words, perfect!  Well, sort of — the barking, biting, and housebreaking need some work but she’s only five months old, so, we’ll get there.  Here’s the photo from Petfinder that I fell for.  Although she looks almost Border Collie in color/proportions, she’s all of eight pounds and probably won’t get much bigger:

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Just in time for my birthday (turned the big Six-O on Xmas) and I can’t think of a better gift.  I emailed the shelter on Thursday and adopted her on Saturday.  It was a killer drive (12 hours roundtrip) but I did make a few stops.  One stop was to shoot the replacement sign at Gillman’s Frosties in Oakdale, CA.  The sign was blown off the roof earlier this year.  Here’s what it looked like in 2014:

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And now — I kinda liked the earlier version better but I like the sesame seed bun & lettuce on this one:

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In context:

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The shelter was in Jamestown and while I waited for the place to open, I shot this neat ghost sign downtown:

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The following weekend, I took a little daytrip down to L.A.  The new kid was pretty fearful of cars — both being in them and cars whizzing by on the street.  But after one manic day, she had a big turnaround.  Here’s Griz & puppa Dilly in the back seat — looking pretty cozy (sorry for the blur — this was an over-the-shoulder, in traffic shot).  Yes – she’s ready for the big summer trip already!

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Here are a few roadside photos before the onslaught of doggie photos.  Two from Malibu.  Even thought this is a modern KFC bucket, it’s still fun to see one repurposed:

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This one is pretty hidden — far back from the road and foliage in the way.  Still such a cutie:

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A nice plastic sign in Venice:

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I uploaded some other L.A. photos to my Flickr account. I added those & others to my website.  Moving on to more doggie photos taken at the beach this morning — starting with one of the new girl:

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Dilly’s “stay” is not solid enough for long distance shots yet but here’s the master class of stays.  There are two of these smiley faces at one of our fave local beaches (Seaside Wilderness State Park).

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And with that — I wish you all the best for 2018!

dj
sputnik, gremlin, griswold & dilly

P.S. More blog posts coming soon since I’ve been hard at work with the annual combing of my entire website for updates.  I’ve got some partially written posts with the good news/ bad news about what’s been removed, demolished, remodeled, restored.

SoCal Thanksgiving Trip (Days 2&3)

I’ve decided to lump these two days of shooting together since they were fairly low volume.  There were lots of miles between things plus an early drive home on Saturday.

Let’s start off in San Bernardino with this beauty:

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From Lake Elsinore:

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The recently repainted Chappy’s Liquor sign in Garden Grove:

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I’ve been wondering what would happen with the Lyndy’s Motel sign in Anaheim since the motel and coffee shop were leveled to build a big car wash.  The car wash is still under construction but the signs are visible through the tarped chain link.  As promised, there’s a new pole sign styled after the Lyndy’s sign and another similar but much smaller one on the southbound approach.  Here’s the original Lyndy’s sign:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/traderlucas/14263024357/

And the new sign — backlit plastic letters (boo hiss) but at least there’s a little neon & the arrow & star resemble the what-was:

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Here’s a heartbreaker.  This lovely neon sign in Buena Park…

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…was desecrated a few months ago:

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This place in Whittier is so sweet.  But, sadly, long closed.

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The wood siding, the little bench near the entrance, the freestanding letters on the front of the building…. reflecting a completely different time.  Now the cars whizz by and chain box stores are all around.

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From Long Beach.  I think this place has been around since the 1950s so this sign is probably legit (vintage).  And it looks nice at night:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/dcnelson0381/9193723001/

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These signs in San Pedro were repainted recently.  My photo from 2013:

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and their current look — yes, I think the block letters were better than this script but at least they left the neon alone:

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From Redondo Beach — swoopy mid-century roof-line & neon:

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From Los Angeles.  I have no idea what business this bell was associated with originally but it’s damned cute.  There’s a church there now:

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And lastly — from Huntington Park.  This sign is at the Modern Mini Mart & Liquor:

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For more photos from this weekend’s trip, head on over to Flickr:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/agilitynut/

More blog-posting soon since I’m in the middle of my winter website updating.  Checking out all those maps in my descriptions for changes (demos, repaints, etc.).  I’ll be sharing the bad news/good news with you real soon.

Happy trails,

dj & the dogs

SoCal Thanksgiving (pt 1 of 3)

With a four-day holiday weekend (and no family members other than the canine variety to encumber me), off to the L.A. area, Orange County, and beyond for three days.

Let’s start off in Panorama City with this sign which I think is enhanced by the rust:

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I thought I’d stop in at Tommy Gelinas’ (Valley Relics Museum) storage place in North Hollywood to see if I could get a peek at one of his latest acquisitions.  I didn’t expect a soul to be there since it was Thanksgiving but I got lucky and a kind woman showed me around.  There it was!  I hadn’t seen the thing since the 1970s.  The hot dog stand originally stood in Hollywood but went into storage in 2005.  Tommy will eventually restore it.  Here’s the scoop:
http://www.laobserved.com/archive/2017/06/tail_o_the_pup_hot_dog_he.php

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He’s also got a couple of shish-kebab-ed burgers.  I don’t know where they came from:

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And an Arby’s hat sign:

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And not one but TWO Helms Bakeries trucks.  Tommy’s sure got a lot of projects!  You bought your bread (and later doughnuts) directly from their trucks since they didn’t sell their stuff in grocery stores.  Here’s what one of these trucks looks like restored:
https://cinemavehicles.com/images/F142555473.jpg

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There were some other goodies there but let’s move back out to the streets.  The top panel of the Kopper Keg Liquors sign in L.A. is obviously adapted but it’s still great:

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I went to inspect the tragedy in Glendora.  Sure enough, the neon is gone and some cheap LED rope tubing had replaced it.  How could they!!!!

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I can only imagine how horrible it looks at night.  For comparison, here’s a photo I took of the sign in 2013:
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And more sorta bad news:  Coates Cyclery in Pomona closed earlier this year and there was talk that the sign would be removed — my photo from a few years ago:
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Turns out that the sign was adapted for the new tenant:

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Back to the rusty/crusty stuff.  The Cask & Keg Liquor store in Pomona.  Missing most of its neon & painted over a bit but still lots of style:

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Last stop of the day was way out in the middle of nowhere in Lake Los Angeles to check out the Four Aces Movie Set (http://4-aces.com/).  I’m assuming that the motel signs were brought here from somewhere else:

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I don’t know if this sign was originally built for a Four Aces Motel.  I suspect it’s just a mix of old and new pieces:

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The diner is very movie set-ish inside and out — surely built on-site to look oldish.

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with a classic, vintage bulb arrow:

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That’s it for tonight.  I’ll try to get Day 2 up tomorrow.

Happy trails,

dj & the still recuperating dogs

3 Days in the Desert (Day 3)

A bunch of Nevada photos to finish off this trio of posts.  Here are several signs from Ely (as I found out, pronounced “Eee-lie”:

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The Liberty Club (bar).  I like the protective sheet metal on top.  Way better than the plexiglass covers but I’m sure less effective:

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A former Richfield station that was restored as such a few years ago.  Apparently abandoned again as the weeds are growing up through the cement cracks:

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A pretty combo (plastic & neon) sign:

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Moving on to Boulder City.  The sign previously advertised for Harry’s Cafe:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/54177448@N00/214878804/

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Another one from Boulder City (Sparkle says “hi” on the left — she turned over 444,444 miles on this trip):

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“Bliss Dance” was built in 2010 for the Burning Man Festival.  It was installed on Treasure Island in San Francisco from 2011-2015.  It was moved here to downtown Las Vegas last year.  The steel mesh statue is lit at night:
http://blackrockarts.org/projects/civic-arts/bliss-dance

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Trader Bill’s was originally a Western theme gift shop in Las Vegas.  Here’s my photo from 2006:

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The sign was reworked a couple of months ago for a White Castle.  I’m not a fan of the change.  The neon has been replaced with backlit plastic letters.  Too bad this one could not have gone to The Neon Museum instead:
https://vitalvegas.com/fremont-street-white-castle-trader-bills-sign/

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On a more positive note — is this sign which was built in 2015 by YESCO.  This animated sign is 30 feet tall and lit at night.  This video shows the manufacturing of the sign:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vyr9wuluJA

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That’s it for now.  I’m planning a little L.A. area trip for Thanksgiving weekend.  And there will be small trips here and there until the big summer trip in June-ish (Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, etc.).

More photos from this trip over at Flickr:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/agilitynut/

And I’ll be adding a lot more to my website over the next couple of weeks:
http://www.roadarch.com/roadside.html

In case you missed it, my book on vintage signs is out and can be purchased from this English distributor.  It won’t be available until April in bookstores, Amazon, etc.  And it you buy via this link, it’s cheaper (a steal at $13.76 with no tax or shipping) and you’ll have it in a week:
https://www.bookdepository.com/Vintage-Signs-of-Americ-Debr-Jane-Seltzer/9781445669489?ref=grid-view

Happy Trails,

dj & the dogs

 

3 Days in the Desert (Day 2)

Moving on to Nevada.  This sign is located at Clark’s Liquor in Hawthorne.  I don’t believe there’s any special name for these signs.  But I just call them “sequin signs”.  They are very reflective and the little “sequins” blow around in the wind.  I’m sure they were very common at one time but there are very few left in the country now:

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Some more signs in Hawthorne:

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The pigeons perched on top give some scale to this one:

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This sign in Tonopah has really faded.  It was much more fun when it had some color:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrphilmy/22056157226/

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One of the more vibrant signs at the Clown Motel:

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These cards & dice are at the Tonopah Liquor Company (a bar):

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About an hour north of Tonopah, this happened.  This tire looked completely fine in the morning.  I always do a walk-around inspection on trips (and even at home).  Plenty of tread.  I was doing about 80, smelled rubber and eased off the road.  The tire was completely shredded like a lawnmower attack.   In the middle of nowhere but, luckily, there was cell phone service and it wasn’t hot.  But it took more than an hour for the AAA tow truck to come.  The only tire shop in town was closed on Saturdays. But the guy came in for me and I was back on the road.  I lost about 3 1/2 hours of driving/shooting time.

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Onward to Eureka.  Those that are familiar with the Owl Club Casino will be happy to see that the old sign is still on display, sort of.  There’s a bright but boring plastic sign outside now but these pieces of the old sign are inside the bar.  Here’s what the sign looked like when it was still outside:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/owlsplace/2058877610/

Inside, the owl no longer has any neon:

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The two text panels were split up and are displayed on different walls:

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I’ll get Day 3 up tomorrow night.  In the meantime, more photos from this trip are over at Flickr here:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/agilitynut/

dj & the dogs

3 Days in the Desert

I took a little roadtrip this past weekend to a little remote strip in California.  There were also many stops in other cities in Nevada that have also been on my list for a long time.  Lots of driving (about 2,000 miles) and breathing in sandy & smokey dust.  The dogs got a lot of running & sniffing in big vast nothingness.  Not so much shooting but still some great stuff.  Let’s get to it.

From Rosamond, CA:

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Another from Rosamond:

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From Kernville — where you can see the smoke in the background from nearby, raging forest fires:

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Detail of the diver & trees:

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From the Walker Pass Lodge in Onyx.  This looks to be a modern creation:

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From the Olancha RV & Motel in Olancha, CA.  Apparently, rent-able canvas teepees:

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From Grant, CA.  Looks like a former market:

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Two signs from the Pines Cafe in Independence, CA.  You can just barely make out the pine tree in the first photo:

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From Bishop, CA:

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From Lee Vining, CA:

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That’s it for the Friday sampling.  More photos from the same day of the “nicer” stuff over at my Flickr account here:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/agilitynut/

More California stuff & then moving on to Nevada in the next post which I’ll throw together later tonight or tomorrow.

Happy trails,

dj & the dogs

Bay Area Trip: Day 3 of 3

I started the day in Auburn — waiting for the clouds to pass.  Note the pins near the “swiss cheese hole” on the sign on the left:

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and this wonderful topiary pin:

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On to Sacramento.  This bulbed beauty is at The Distillery:

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The Gem Auto Wash sign has been missing for awhile.  It used to be a pole sign by the road.  Then, it was replaced with a plastic box sign.  This panel reappeared on the building a few months ago.  It looks to me like this is a replica panel because the shapes don’t quite match up and the “GEM” is not as slanted.  But close enough!  And it’s lit at night.  It don’t know if it has the same colors as it used to:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/rickele/8590855113/

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Moving on to my final stop of the day.  It was already late afternoon and I should have already been on the highway home (about a six hour drive) but…

There was an open house at Bruce Kennedy’s Bell Plastics shop where he has a big collection of giant fiberglass statues.  I’ve been to the shop many times but some of the statues had been restored and there were a few new additions.

This nice Pep Boys sign is in Bruce’s office:

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This Chief Tawonka statue was produced for the Cigarettes R Cheaper chain.  I have a few others at my website here:
http://www.roadarch.com/giants/indians.html#Tawonka

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Below:  a 14 foot tall and a 21 foot tall statue side-by-side.  The guy on the right is a Mortimer Snerd statue (that’s what International Fiberglass marketed them as).  Most people refer to these guys as either Alfred E. Neuman statues or Half-Wit statues.  This statue was previously in Flint, Michigan and was just restored here in Hayward.  More about these statues at my website here:
http://www.roadarch.com/giants/ifsnerds.html

The Fireman statue on the left was recently produced for Bruce by Mark Cline.  He has produced a number of these statues using a mold that he made from International Fiberglass’ 14 foot tall Giants to which Cline made his own modifications.  Usually, these Cline statues hold ice cream cones.  Some of them and the original 14 footers appear at my website here:
http://www.roadarch.com/giants/if14men.html

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This freshly restored Paul Bunyan statue was originally installed at Dooley’s Hardware in Long Beach, CA:

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More about Bruce’s statues at the bottom of this page:
http://www.roadarch.com/giants/ifbunyans4.html

His latest International Fiberglass statue came from a tire shop in Mount Vernon, IL. Bruce got this Miss Uniroyal statue a couple of years ago and the restoration was finished about a week ago.  More about these statues at my website here:
http://www.roadarch.com/giants/ifuni.html

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These statues came dressed in a bikini but were also sold with a blouse and skirt for a more modest look.  Her freshly painted secondary outfit is in shrink wrap in Bruce’s shop for now:

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I still have a long list of stuff to shoot in the Oakland area so I’ll probably take another trip up north again in a month or so.  For now, it’s back to work on adding the Texas stuff to my website — and then I’ve got about 300 more photos from this trip.

Happy trails,

dj & the dogs

Bay Area Trip: Day 2 of 3

Moving on to San Francisco where there were loads of signs on my list.  Many of them were reshoots due to city canyons and shade problems in the past.  But many of them were reshoots due to good news — restorations!  For example, the Tia Margarita sign has been repainted:

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The Perramont Hotel sign will have to be reshot another day due to both shade and tree problems.  But, oh those raised letters… And you never know — there might not be another time.  So many signs disappear without warning.

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Although it’s a modern building (built in 2008), I still like it.  A giant concrete sculpture.  The Congregation Beth Shalom Synagogue:

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I don’t know how paint peels like this.  Or what inspired the owner to go with a dull color.  Cheap tan paint over nice red porcelain panels.  One sturdy and stubborn sign! (note the crunch that must have been the result of a whack from a passing truck)

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The Elite Cafe sign caught fire during maintenance in February.  The red disk at the top is gone now.  But what’s interesting is the revealed “Grill” text.  It appears this sign was originally built in 1932 for the Lincoln Grill:
http://newfillmore.com/2011/07/11/the-elite-aging-gracefully/

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This sign was installed in 2013 when Palmer’s Tavern opened.  I don’t know if the sign was repurposed from another place & business or it’s just a modern vintage-looking new creation:

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Just one tubing hole to prove that this sign had neon originally:

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If it’s not the on the wrong side of the street to get sun, or there’s an overgrown tree… then there’s a *&$#@ pole sign or telephone pole that gets in the way:

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Some signs blessed by the sun in Chinatown:

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The Li-Po sign is just about to be restored!
https://sf.eater.com/2017/8/29/16217428/neon-sf-shines-li-po-lounge-chinatown-signs

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The Great Star Theatre’s neon was restored last year by John Law:
https://sfneonbook.tumblr.com/post/144357431368/restored-by-the-infamous-john-law-the-great-star

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Two more signs for this post — this rusty, crusty wonder is at The New Rex Hotel:

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and a fun modern sign of a fisherman reeling in a pizza.  And, of course, I love the little terrier which will most likely get a slice:

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One more post to go!

dj & the pizza-loving dogs

Bay Area Trip – Day 1 of 3

Although I’m still working hard adding the photos from June to my website (Arizona and New Mexico done; 3 more long days of Texas to go), I decided to take a break and took a little trip north to the San Francisco area.

Here’s a beauty from Gilroy:

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From Morgan Hill:

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From Santa Cruz — the very faded and crunched Plymouth Court sign:

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Yes, this one’s in San Jose — a radiator shop sign; lit at night and protected by day with plastic covers:

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At Ace Loan in San Jose:

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Shoot it while you can folks — this place is also in San Jose:

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The Charles Motel is soon to be no more.  Check out the cute hideaway motel court car hideaways, tile roof & stucco:

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Soon to look something like this faux modern building — no sign of the sign in the illustration:

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In Palo Alto — these Norge panel signs are even rarer than the Norge Balls.  I’ve been doing a lot of research about the Norge Village chain & signs.  If you’d like to see more or just gawk at the Norge Balls, here’s the page:
http://www.roadarch.com/signs/norge.html

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Last place for this post — Emerald City Liquors in Redwood City:

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Enormous slanty roof, open grid canopy over the door and a baby pylon sticking out of the roof:

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Two more posts coming up later tonight.

dj & the well-traveled dogs