L.A. & O.C. Getaway

I took a little weekend jaunt to the L.A. and Orange County areas to shoot some stuff that’s been on my list for a while.  Lots of remodeling, repainting, etc. and some things that I only found out about recently.

Callahan’s Restaurant in Santa Monica opened in 1946 and closed last year.  Here’s my photo from 2013 (note Callahan’s was on the white side of the building on the left):


Thankfully, things have not changed all that much.  Ingo’s Tasty Diner opened in the space last month and the interior still has a similar & only slightly fancier look.  There still the counter & booths.  The exterior is now painted entirely white.  I’m relieved that the terrazzo and Vienna Pastry are still there.  The signs have been scaled-down a bit.  Actually, pretty classy.


I’ve passed this Bill’s Liquor sign in Santa Monica hundreds of times during the day but never stopped for it.  Today, with the sun right on it, I realized it was truly an ancient ripple tin sign.  So, most likely, very late 1920s or 1930s.   Although there are probably a dozen layers of paint on it, you can still see the little vertical grooves [clicking on photos at my posts gives you a larger view]


I shot this sign at night for a blog post last year:

This nifty bank building in Reseda looks like it’s been boarded up for years.  I’m hoping that it will eventually find a tasteful tenant or developer that will preserve this graceful gem.   It was built in 1961 as a Metropolitan Savings & Loan.  By 1974, it was an Allstate Savings & Loan.  After that, I don’t know.  The wavy roof & exposed beams remind me a lot of these Dairy Queen building which seem to have been only built in California:


Another change I was fretting about in North Hollywood that didn’t turn out badly.   The Starlite Room in North Hollywood opened in 1955.  This sign might have been from then — or it might have been added in the 1960s.  This photo was taken in 2013 just before the bar closed:


Later that year, new owners changed the name to the Starlite Cantina & changed the text a bit on the sign.  I wish the “Cantina” font was more vertical like the original — but, hey, can’t complain too much:


I stumbled upon this bizarre scene in Silver Lake.  The abandoned Sunset Pacific Motel and surrounding palm trees got a limewash treatment as an art project.  The building is scheduled to be demolished and the limewash is supposed to wash off when it rains.  But, since it only rains about once a year for 10 minutes in Southern California, I don’t know when those palms will look normal again.  The lime is supposed to be safe for the palms but many people are worried about the birds.  More about this project here:

and here:



This was another little surprise in Los Angeles:  this wonderful streamline apartment complex.  Poking around on-line today, it looks like it was designed by Milton Black and built in 1936.  A two-bedroom goes for about $2700:



This Schwinn sign in Los Angeles is looking very sad these days.  Here’s my photo from 2008:


And now:


Since the store was open, I stopped in to get the scoop.  Safety Cycle is actually in the building next door now so they no longer own the sign.  The fate of this sign will be up to the developer.  That space is empty now but work is going on.  Of course, Safety Cycle would like the sign to stay since it’s advertising for their store.  But if it gets much worse, maybe they won’t want to be associated with it.  The City might even want to see it gone at this point with all the tagging and rust.  I’ll nudge MONA (the Museum of Neon Art) in hopes that the museum might want to get moved to the top of the list in case the owner decides to remove the sign.  This sign was never animated and, as far as I know, was not mass-produced by Schwinn.

This cigar sign is in a back alley at The Grove shopping center.  The panels appear to be old but the neon looks fresh.  I know nothing about its history:


This Norge Ball, beat-up as it is, was also a pleasant surprise to me.  The laundry is long gone and Benny’s Market looks like it’s been there for decades.  Too much time and trouble to remove it from the pole on the roof I suppose.  There are two other Norge Balls in Los Angeles — one as crunched as this one, and one in great shape.  There are only about 60 of them left around the country:



Some good and bad news about the Royal Viking Motel in Los Angeles which closed last year.  It promptly reopened as the Pod Inn and adapted the signs.  This nice neon sign was stripped of the neon channel letters.  The panels were painted a peachy orange and backlit plastic Pod Inn letters were installed on the faces.  Here’s the sign in 2012 — I’ll spare you what’s replaced it:


At least the sign around the corner was left pretty much intact — just the name change.  From 2012:


and today:


Just as I pulled off a freeway exit, I heard a “pap, pap, pap” sound that I knew immediately had to be a tire thing from the frequency during acceleration & deceleration.  Sure enough, a rear tire was impaled by a giant bolt but no loss of air yet.  There was a Pep Boys straight ahead — but a two hour wait.  I found another small tire shop “Loco’s Tires” which patched the tire in 5 minutes.  Not even enough time to find out who “Loco” was.  Passing by the Pep Boys again, I spotted this little sign at Tony’s Shoe Repair which shares a corner of the building:


I’ve seen this one many times from the 710 Freeway and finally got off to shoot it.  Melmac Dinnerware is now highly collectible.  This must have been the factory for all those nifty melamine (plastic) plates & cups:


Spring makes me miss all the magnolias, dogwood, forsythia, tulips, etc. back East.  But we DO have purple jacaranda trees here!


And we also have some not so natural trees.  This faux pine cell tower was in East LA. which made it even more humorous:


Two more signs for this post.  These two are just a couple blocks apart:  This one at Ed’s Welding:


I think Chase Equipment is gone now.  The place seemed to be selling used car parts:


That’s it for now.  I’ll try to get you a post with some of Sunday’s photos later today.


More from this Desert-ish Weekend Trip

I was shocked after such a sunny Saturday to have a hazy, useless grey Sunday morning in Brawley.  I waited and studied the skies a bit — but it didn’t look like it would get better anytime soon.  So, I shot what was there (which wasn’t much) and moved on.  Here’s the White Cross Drugs store which is still in business.  The two sign panels must have been a single projecting sign originally:




Still in Brawley.  No businesses or buildings anywhere near this sign.  I love the bits of neon which still cling to the sign:



Moving on to Indio.  I think this place is still in business:



Done with the desert & onwards towards L.A.  This place is in Corona:


The building itself is pretty quirky.  Was that shingled canopy a later addition?  Was the building



The traffic in L.A. was insane and I cut the day a little short.  Mostly, to deal with a computer glitch that happened that morning.  After a schlepp to and wait at Best Buy, it turned out to be nothing.  Or at least I hope so.  The laptop wouldn’t power up for me after trying about five times.  Something about maybe not holding down the button long enough.  Huh?  I’ve never had to hold down the button — just pushed it since I’ve had this thing for six months.  So, now I’m holding my breath and holding the button down and all seems fine.  Whatever.

I’ll leave you with this gigantic sign from Los Angeles which has it all:  mixed fonts, plastic, neon, bulbs — and just the grooviest arrow.  I also love that inexplicable, random blue piece below the arrow and the rocks at the bottom:



For more photos from this weekend’s trip, don’t forget the stuff over at Flickr:

I’ve penned in another L.A. trip a couple of weeks from now to get more serious with this list.  That desert heat and boring stretches between stuff really wiped me out.  So, I’ll be back with more photos before you know it.  Thanks for tuning in!

dj & the dogs

Desert-ish Weekend Roadtrip

I wanted to make sure I’d have good weather for this little desert trip — but I think I waited a little long.  Although it just turned spring, I think it was over 100 today.  I’m happy to report that Sparkle’s A/C is working very well these days.

I braved the Friday night traffic and hoped with the time change that I could get more shooting in.  But I only got to a few things before that awful “golden hour” set in.  At least I got to see the completed restoration of the Idle Hour in North Hollywood.  Miracles do happen!  After sitting vacant since 1984, the giant barrels are finally back in action.



Here’s a photo I took back in 2008:


And a framed vintage photo from 1941 inside the bar:




The lighting was kinda sucky — but here’s the “rescue dog” in the back patio of the Idle Hour.   This doggie was built in 1994 for the Petersen Automotive Museum.  The museum decided this guy didn’t fit in with all the revamping going on.  Kinda like deciding your dog doesn’t match the new furniture, isn’t it?  Well, at least he’s got a good home now.  This dog is a recreation of the Bulldog Cafe which was built in L.A. around 1928:



Up and at’em early this morning in Burbank since there was mucho driving to do.  At dawn, a great illegal retrieving session with the dogs at some golf course like recreation center since I knew it would be too hot later on for any romping.  Too early for good photos but here are a few anyway.  Samuel’s Florist in Burbank:


And Compton’s Shoe Repairing in Burbank:

I stopped for a quick peek in Glendale at the new sign installed at the future home of MONA (Museum of Neon Art).  A kindly electrician let me in to see the progress of the place.  In an article I read just this week, the museum was due to open “later this year.”  However, this guy said they should be done with construction in a two or three weeks.  This sign is a replica of the one that was installed in Westwood.  It was too far gone to restore.  The neon drips will be sequentially lit like the original.  That’s the replica diver sign poised on the corner of the museum building in the background:



I’ve been to Pasadena countless times but never noticed this guy until today.  The rooftop sign:


and the cool storefront below:



These Farmers Insurance signs are getting very rare.  I think there are only two or three left in the country.   This one is in Redlands:




This incredible sign is in Yucca Valley.  I don’t know what it advertised for originally.  Note the pigeon posing right below the buffalo for scale:



This sign is also from Yucca Valley:



On to Twentynine Palms where there is a sign junkyard in somebody’s backyard.  No hole in the fence — believe me, I looked!


blog10a blog10b


This abandoned gas station & cafe are in Desert Center.   The cynic in me had me thinking that this was used for some recent film or commercial.  Those pumps seem awfully nostalgic:


And this sign with the 3-D effect just had to be modern:



But then, I see this 1940s vintage photo at eBay now & I wonder how vintage this place is — maybe the sign was revamped recently?


On to Blythe.  At first glance, I figured this had to be a former Denny’s.  But, no, the waitress assured me that the Courtesy was built in 1964.  And the building is actually different.  The boomerang roof is actually pretty short and with a different look from the front, it was probably different enough to prevent a lawsuit:


The interior is gloriously intact.  However, the waitress said that the owner will be remodeling it later this year.  Uh oh!  If you’re into vintage coffee shop decor, you might want to hop on the I-10 the first chance you get:

More stuff from Blythe for the remainder of this post:



I’ve never seen such a marvelous arrow tail loop before.  A pity what’s become of the rest of the sign:



I’ll leave you for the night with one more lovely relic:



More shooting tomorrow here in the desert and then on to some L.A. stuff before the long drive home.  I’ll get back to you on Monday or Tuesday with that final post.

In the meantime, more photos from today over at Flickr:


—  Night-night from dj & the dogs in Brawley

Adaptive Reuse & Demolitions (more virtual discoveries)

I’m still banging away at adding maps to my website.   I’m currently working on some building sections before I dive into the abyss of neon signs.  I’ve got some good and bad news from the Car Showrooms section to share with you.  I’m not getting a lot of feedback about these posts but maybe there are one or two of you that are quietly enjoying them.  For the rest of you, hang in there!  I’ll be taking a few roadtrips soon and will get you some pretty neon sign photos.

This wonderful dealership in Grinnell, IA was built around 1930.  Later, it housed a hardware store.  When I took these photos in 2010, the building was occupied by Main Street Furniture & Appliances.


Those spoked wheels with wings are the give-away that this was a car dealership.  However, I have not been able to find out what the original name of the company was or what make of car was sold here:


This Google Street View 2013 photo reveals that the building has a new tenant.  In 2013, McNally’s Foods moved into the building.



These buildings in Carroll, IA were built in 1913 for the Swaney Auto Company.  The building in the middle still bore the red Wittrock Motor Company letters when I took this photo in 2006:

The 2012 Google Street View map reveals a major change.  In 2009, the buildings were adapted for the Santa Maria Vineyard Restaurant & Tasting Room.  The Wittrock Motor Works letters are gone now.  The parking area between the buildings were walled off and is now used as a dining area.  I wish it wasn’t such a fortress now.  Maybe they could have using cast iron fencing or something lower.  But, hey, at least the buildings weren’t leveled and this damage could be undone later.




This building in Chicago wasn’t so lucky.  This Perillo Lincoln Mercury Saab location started life as a Pontiac dealership.  Looks to be late 1940s to me.  I took this photo in 2005.  There was a service bay or two on the right.   Love those big windows to show off the cars:

Well, by 2014, Perillo had moved and the building was replaced with a brand spanking new Mini Cooper dealership.  Sigh.



This building in Chicago was spared.  This Grossinger Cadillac building was built in 1911.  Tower Oldsmobile was located here before Grossinger.  I don’t know what was here originally.  I took these photos in 2009:


Google Street View revealed a transformation.  By 2014, Grossinger had moved to a new location and Plum Market was the building’s new occupant.  The service bays have been glassed up but all the nifty details are still there:



From Galesburg, IL.  When I noticed that the name Lakis Ford Dodge had changed to Yemm Ford, I thought it best to make a call to find out if this “Dodge Dome” was still there.  The name change took place last year.  The woman on the phone told me that the building was being demolished right then!  Crap.  Here’s a couple of photos from my website to show you what you missed:

lakis lakis2

Steve Lakis Dodge was built in 1973 for . These “Dodge Domes” were built elsewhere.  I’ve never figured out how many.  But the only other one that I know of — and now apparently the only survivor — is the one in Marietta, GA.  It was still painted the company colors (white with red trim) when I took this photo of the vacant Marietta Dodge Jeep showroom in 2009:


This showroom was built in the late 1960s.   It sat vacant for years and I figured it would eventually be demolished.  Dealerships are pretty ruthless about constantly upgrading their buildings and signs.  However, thanks to Google Street View, I see that as of 2014, the building was housing Georgia Luxury Cars:



Back to work.  I’m only halfway thru the Showrooms section.  I’ll probably do a similar post soon when I tackle the “Eateries” section.


Random Roadside – More “Virtual” Finds

Hey there — I’ve been banging away at adding maps to my website and I’ve got some more virtual roadtrip discoveries to share with you.

This lighthouse-ish building had been part of the Galley Restaurant in Valdosta, GA.  Maybe “Galley” wasn’t the restaurant’s first name and maybe this is some Islamic or Mideast lookout tower reference that I’m unfamiliar.  Anyway, it looked like it had been empty for a while when I took this photo in 2010:



Well, Google Street View reveals that the building was transformed into the Mongo restaurant by 2012:



Things were looking pretty bleak for this riverboat-shaped building in Clarksdale, MS when I took this photo in 2007:


It was originally built as the Cream Boat ice cream shop.  I think that was in the 1970s.  The building later housed a recording studio and record store.  Restoration started in 2009 but then the project seemed to be abandoned.  Then, lo and behold:  all done in 2013.  This year, it reopened as the Dreamboat:  a ribs & tamale place.  It doesn’t look like there’s anything that I could eat there but you carnivores might want to support them if you’re ever nearby:


Here’s what the building looks like now — photo courtesy of Kelly Ludwig:

Jerry's Dreamboat


I’ve managed to get all the maps added for nearly all the statues of People, Animals & Things at my website.  I just have the Dinosaur section to go.  It’s been a relief to see how many things are still there.  But devastating to find out what’s gone.  Here’s one heartbreaker.  There were three of these fox statues posed on the roofs at Fox Chevrolet dealerships in the Baltimore area.  The name came from the original owner’s name, Lou Fox.  In 2013, the three dealerships became AutoNation Chevrolets with those hideously modern and mass-produced facades.   All three statues were destroyed during the remodeling of the showroom buildings.  Here was the one in Timonium:


And one from Baltimore to show you the scale of these guys:



Some happier news.  In Albuquerque, the spray foam, cowboy statue in front of Aesop’s Gables was repainted in 2014.  The upper torso statue is about 10 feet tall.  I was sure it would just disappear one day.  Here’s what it looked like when I shot him in 2012:


And here’s what he looks like now — from Google Street View:



The past couple of years have been rough for female statues.  In July of last year, the “Big Girl” at the Colonial Family Restaurant in Flint, MI was removed.  The statue was gracefully removed with a crane but no one knows where it went.  The owner of the restaurant said he wanted to “protect it from vandals.”  Which makes no sense since the 13 foot tall statue was installed WAY up in the air on top of the sign and there were never any reports of damage to it.  She had been there since 1978.  The skeptic in me makes me wonder if somebody offered a LOT of money for her:



And now, I’ve just learned, that Fran’s Hamburgers in Austin, TX closed in 2013.  Google Street View shows the building was still vacant in 2014 and the eight foot tall statue is gone.  She was built in 1997.   I can’t find anything on-line about where she went:


If you’d like to see more female statues, I’ve got a couple of pages of them at my site here:
And there are also the Miss Uniroyal statues here:


After I finish with the Dinosaurs, I’ll be moving on to the Mini Golf section.  Then, I’ll start on the Signs section.  That’ll probably keep me busy until next year.  Seriously.  I’m sure I’ll have lots of good & bad news during that part of this project.  When the weather warms up a bit in the desert, I’ll take a couple of weekend trips & post some photos from the road.  But for now, I’m hard at work updating descriptions a bit as I add the maps.


Xmas by the Bay (Day 4 of 4)

OK — I’ve got a nice hefty, final post for you.  Although the days were short on this trip, I had full sun every day.  Just the week before, the Bay Area was drowning in torrential rain.

Let’s start with this plastic wonder from Oakland:



Unfortunately, no sun was shining on the cute shoe repair sign next door.   So, I’ll skip that photo and give you these two window decals:




Lots more goodies from Oakland:



I believe there are more neon martini glasses per square mile in the Bay Area than anywhere else.  A bartender once told me a story that bars could not advertise with the word “bar” (after Prohibition?) and used this glasses as their symbol instead.  I don’t know if there’s any truth to it:



I’ve asked Tod at the American Sign Museum if there’s a name for these wonderful old signs and he doesn’t know of any.   Hence, I’ve just taken to calling them “applied letter signs”:



A small version of SoCal’s giant “alignment bear” signs — see about 1/3 the way down my page here:



This building was built in 1947 for the Connell Motor Company, featuring Oldsmobiles.  At that point, there was just the name “Connell” wrapped around the roof lip.  By the time of my photo from 2008, the brands and neon had multiplied quite a bit:



Alas, all those letters were removed in 2011 when Bay City Chevrolet moved in.  Here’s what the building (now vacant) looks like now:



A detail from one of the many nice Art Deco buildings in Oakland:



Quadruple neon tubing — I don’t think I’ve ever seen that!  At Art’s Crab Shak:



You can still see a few “bullet holes” where the neon was.  This sign was painted blue then.  Sometime after 2009, the sign got this makeover:



The bad news:  Hooper’s Chocolates closed in 2010.  The good news:  the thrift store that’s in the building now is letting this sign stay:



I wish I could find a vintage photo of what the sign on the right looked like.  It seems to be related to the bar:



Steele’s Discount Scuba has been here since 1958:



This bulbous beauty is installed above Williams Liquor:



Finally, we’re moving on from Oakland.  This sign is at the Black & White Liquor store in Berkeley.  Obviously, this was Wilton’s Liquor originally with alternating flashing neon text:



I’m so happy these lights are still there across from UCB (University of California at Berkeley).  That’s Sparkle there behind the pole.  She rolled over to 390,000 miles on this trip:



A couple more shots from Berkeley.   You know you’re old when you remember Carte Blanche credit cards:



The typewriter on this one is a separate hovering panel:



I hope you’ve enjoyed this virtual romp around the Bay.  I still have lots more to shoot up here.  I’ll probably be back in the spring when the days are longer.  In the meantime, I’ve got more than 500 photos from this trip to add to my website.  And then there’s that horrendous map project there that I’ve been plugging away at.  I’ll get you another post soon about some of the discoveries I’ve made, good and bad, while doing that.

Now, don’t forget, there are lots of other glorious photos over at my Flickr account from this trip:
Happy 2015 to all of you!

dj & the dogs


Xmas by the Bay (Day 3 of 4)

I’ve got a couple more shots from San Francisco and then moving on to the East Bay.   I’ll keep this post short and sweet with just a handful of signs:



This one was just repainted.  It was crummy looking in 2013.  The neon had been broken since forever.  While new neon would have been nice, this is far better than a plastic box.  The new detail that I like is the olive painted on the glass on the side of the sign:



From San Leandro:



The rest of the photos in this post are from Oakland:



From the Kay Chesterfield upholstery shop:



A fella working at this place said his father built this artist’s palette sign.  So, it’s always advertised for a body shop:



Classic and classy:



The inscription on the building is also “Fruitvale Medical Building” so the text on this sign is probably original.  I don’t know about the paint color though.  All that peachy beige seems a little too dreamy.  I’m guessing it was originally more contrasting — like classic navy and white:



This wonderful arrow is at Oakland Imported Cars.



One more post to go!

Xmas by the Bay (Day 2 of 4)

Back home now from this Bay Area trip.  I was just too exhausted to post from the road.  I’m another year older now!  I’m going to try to get the three days of posts up today.  Here are some goodies from Friday — which was all about San Francisco:



A cigar shop near Fisherman’s Wharf:



Super tacky — but how could I not include this guy?



Taking photos in San Francisco (or any big city for that matter) can be tricky if you insist on shooting things in the sun.  The shade from neighboring buildings.  The short days of winter make for a very small window of time with overhead sun.  And the path of the sun never gets north enough at the end of the afternoon to light some things.  I had to come back three times for this guy and still got shade on the corner:






I’m glad I got to see this sign one more time before who-knows-what happens with it.  The store has closed and rumor has it that it will be adapted for the next business:  Glaze, a teriyaki restaurant.  The last mention of the plans for the sign I can find on-line is from September:  “McCormick says they want to honor and incorporate it. They have some plans for it, but nothing is finalized yet: “Let’s just say the sign will be recognizable.”  This was another sign that needed sun from the northwest — which just wasn’t happening on this trip:


Technically, whatever happens with this sign won’t be the first time it’s been adapted.  The “All Star” panel is obviously a revision.  And up until around 2006, it had a prettier paint job:

The sign was built around 1951 and originally advertised for Hunt’s Donuts.  There were at least two locations with two of these signs.  Here’s the other one:

That sign is now at Jim Rizzo’s Neon Works:

During remodeling in 2010, this painted sign was uncovered at that location.  I’m happy to see that it’s still there!



OK – enough with the history – back to random signs:





This one really bugs me.  A restaurant is now below the sign.  The solution seems to be to cover the sign with some fake (looks fake to me) ivy & mossy junk so as to not confuse people.  Better than removing the sign.  I guess.  Here’s what it used to look like when Galletti Brothers Shoe Repair was still there:




When Original Joe’s restaurant moved, they brought along their projecting sign (now displayed in two pieces on the side of the building).  They also salvaged these letters and display them in the dining room:



This sign sure seems like a candidate for raised opal glass letters.  But with the beveled edges of the cut-out letters, probably not.  Although it appears to be plastic there now, it was probably backlit flat glass originally:



A break from all the sign candy:



Not in my notes — I think this is from a church in North Beach:



They could have just done the business name in neon — but, no, they went all out here with the channel letters:



There are lots of nice neon signs in Chinatown.  I’ll control myself and include just one:



For you rust lovers out there, I’ve got a few:



The text reads “Veteran’s Cab”:



This sign was purchased at a flea market.  The neon was restored but, thankfully, the patina left alone.   It now hangs above the Blue Plate restaurant:



Speaking of eating, I sampled slices of quiche and Shaker lemon pie at this wonderful place — both superb:



If you want to see more San Francisco signs, you might want to pick up this terrific new book:

Moving on to the other posts now…

Xmas by the Bay (Day 1 of 4)

Four days off and the forecast of sun:  that’s all the encouragement I needed.  Plus Xmas is my birthday and I have a tradition of celebrating by being on the road.  Off to sunny but chilly SanFran.  Temps in the 50s and 40s at night.  That’s about 20 degrees colder than it is in SoCal.  But, yes, I remember those long winters in NYC all too well.  Throwing balls for dogs on 18 degree mornings in the rain in Prospect Park.  Not missing that.

I started the trip in Salinas and then had some other stops in the South Bay (San Jose, Sunnyvale, etc.).  I didn’t get to San Francisco until afternoon.  Shooting days are short since the sun gives out around 4pm.  But I got quite a lot — and blasted have blasted through about 90% of the SF list today (I’m a day behind in blog-posting).  So, let’s get to it.  And a quick reminder:  all the photos open to a bigger photo when they’re clicked upon.

A former Sambo’s in Sunnyvale.  Not the prettiest recycling project — but at least they didn’t try to box up the fun roofline:



A former Orange Julius in Redwood City with a remuddled front.  There would have been a walk-up counter jutting out under that zigzag canopy (now walled up):



The Brentwood Bowl in South San Francisco with its pretty, scripty neon:


In context:



On to San Fran for the duration of this post.  Wonderful plastic sign at the Geneva Steakhouse.  I assume the meat & veggies on the skewer were all hand cut.  What a fun day at the sign shop, no?



This is the “Goodin” side of the Goodin Realty sign.  The other sign reads “Realty” in yellow and red:



The sun wasn’t helping me here — but, hey, it’s just my blog.  The photos don’t have to be perfect, right?  I may go back for this guy again tomorrow:



The 9th Avenue Liquor store:



This sign is impossible to shoot nicely since it’s on the south side of the street and never gets light.  We love you anyway, Norman!



I know most of you are here for the signs, but I’ll subject you to a little of SF’s wondrous Art Deco detailing:


The paint job really adds a lot.  And the sun:



And, although I’m a day late, Merry Xmas everyone from South San Fran!  That’s Santa & his reindeer on top of the See’s Candies factory building.  And, if you haven’t had See’s Candies, you’re really missing out on one of life’s wonders:




If I’m not too zonked, I’ll try to get you another post tomorrow night.  And for more photos from today — don’t forget the Flickr stream:

dj & the dogs

Random Roadside – “Virtual “Finds

I was all set to do a little San Francisco & Bay Area trip for this four-day Thanksgiving weekend.  But then I checked the weather forecast — not good.  Rain and clouds seemed pretty definite.  So, rather than wasting time and money sitting around being miserable instead of shooting, I’m staying home instead.  And I’ll keep on keeping on with the ridiculously humongous website task that I’ve been working on.

I’ve started adding Google Street View map links to the descriptions for each “thing” at my 2400+ pages.  It might take a few years, seriously.  But once this mega project is done, you and I will be able to instantly check to see if something’s been remodeled, repainted, or removed.  It’ll also be handy for you to find out where things are located.  I’ve only gone through a few small sections so far but it’s been gratifying to find out what’s still there — and exciting/depressing to find out changes that have taken place.  Here are some examples of these discoveries.


The Bondurant’s Pharmacy building in Lexington, KY was constructed in 1975 .  It’s one of those rare mimetic buildings — built in the shape of a mortar & pestle.  The store closed in 2011 and roadside folks like us worried about what would happen.  Then, in 2012, Imperial Liquor moved in.  It’s a wonder that the building survived (maybe it’s landmarked in some way?) but I gotta say the new paint job is kinda shocking.  Here’s a photo I took in 2001:


And what it looks like now — photo courtesy of JLK productions:



This 20 foot tall milk bottle was installed on the roof of the Reed Bros. Dairy building in Memphis in the 1940s.  After years and year of neglect, and the impending 2012 demolition of the building, it seemed this wonderful thing would be a goner.  Here’s my photo from 2007:


But miracles do happen.  Instead of being scrapped, it was donated to the Children’s Museum of Memphis.  It was restored and has been installed there.  I can’t find any photos of it in its new home — but here’s the refurbished bottle ready for the install.  Photo courtesy of the Commercial Appeal.



I have three bits of news concerning Frostop Root Beer stands.  Around 2011, the stand in Greenville, MS relocated.  I tracked down the new address and not seeing the giant mug pole sign at Google, I feared the worst (that it was at a landfill someplace).  Here’s my photo from 2007:


But then I came across this photo from tinkerbrad.  What a relief!  It’s been installed in the parking lot at the new location:



A bit of bad Frostop news.  The stand in the Algiers neighborhood in New Orleans, which had been boarded up for many years, was demolished in 2013.  A big empty lot there now at Google Street View.  Here’s my photo from 2010:



The Frostop mug in Valparaiso, IN was a local icon.  After the stand closed, a bank was built on the site in 2005.  Instead of trashing the sign, the bank refurbished it, neon and all, and kept the mug spinning.  They even named the location the “Frostop branch.”   Here’s my photo from 2006:


Well, I don’t know what happened, and I guess the city had no say or interest in it since I can’t find any news articles about the sign.  No “about to be relocated” or “where did it go” stories.  But after a quick call to the bank, I tracked down the sign’s new whereabouts.   Last year, it was sold to the Westpoint Lounge in Westville, IN where its been repainted to resembled a mug of beer.  Such a shame.  Photo from Google Street View:



One more Frostop mug story — this one from Tucson, AZ.  This mug is much smaller than the others described above but the building that’s next to it is clearly the unique Frostop design.  I’m guessing this mug was a replacement.  In any case, when I first saw the mug in 2008, it was dressed up appropriately for the Mexican restaurant that it accompanied:


Then, by my 2012 visit, it had been repainted for Three and a Half Brothers:


By the following year, here it is back as a beer mug — courtesy Google Street View:




The Greyhound station in Tuscaloosa, AL has been on my to-shoot list for many years.   Now, it’s too late.  Here’s a photo from 2007 by M.M.:


And from Google — here’s what the 2013 remodel looks like.  Granted, they did keep the building’s shape and repurposed the sign:



While we’re talking bus stations, the Ann Arbor, MI Greyhound station is undergoing some big changes.  There are lots of on-line articles about it.  But the short story is, they’re demolishing the building but keeping the 1940 facade and sign.  Here are my photos from 2011:



And here’s what was left this summer (don’t worry, the sign’s in storage) — photo courtesy of Ross:


And here’s what the six-story hotel behind it will look like.  Sigh.  OK, yes, at least the facade was saved even if it’s dwarfed and out of place now.  It makes me worry that, if this became a trend, more financially-non-viable small buildings might be “saved” and/or replaced with Disney-fied, false fronts under the guise of being “historically sensitive.”  Anyhow — I’ll spare you a long digression.  Illustration courtesy of MLive:



I was very sad to find out that Cherokee Music in Cumming, GA closed in 2011.  The store had a wonderful collection of giant fiberglass statues.  I don’t know where they went but at least a couple of the Pink Panther statues found a good home at Flack’s Flooring in town.  There were three other baby Pink Panthers, too — whereabouts unknown.   Here are the two big ones at their new home, photo courtesy Marie, Let’s Eat!:



The giant peanut in Pearsall, TX was looking pretty shabby when I last saw it in 2008:


I figured it would just disappear one day.  The giant goober was built in 1973 and I imagined that the locals would be happy to see the eyesore removed.   But, incredibly, thanks to the Texas Peanut Producers Board and the H.E.B. supermarket chain had the thing restored in 2011.  My goodness, they’re even lighting it at night!  Photo courtesy of SMF:



Here’s a wonderful newbie fiberglass sculpture in Mackinaw City, MI.  This place, Wienerlicious, just opened this year.  The hot dog is 60 feet long and is installed on top of a former gas station.  A friend of mine, Mark Comstock, sent me this photo:



This blog post has rambled on uncontrollably — better stop now.  Can you tell that I’m excited to be updating descriptions and making these discoveries?  Adding these maps is not as much fun as a mega-roadtrip, but I’m enjoying it as tedious as it is.

Some other quick stuff.  

For those of you that are really into details, I’ve created a sitemap for my website which is supposed to make the search engines happy (improves rankings and makes things come up higher in the results when you do Google searches).  It was not fun to make and it’s scary and ugly as hell, but some of you might like it as a navigation tool, etc.

Some of you may already know that I write the articles about signs for the SCA (Society for Commercial Archeology) Journals and newsletters (“Road Notes”).  I just turned in an article about mechanical signs (signs with moving parts).  I really only write about signs (for the articles and my website) that still exist rather than signs that are gone.  But in poking around for historic examples, I came across this wondrous sign that was installed in the 1950s in Times Square.  Not a damn thing has been written about it.  Even Tod at the American Sign Museum knows anything about it and couldn’t pull anything from his archives.  Not even my bud Thomas E. Rinaldi, author of New York Neon, has any info.

Nevertheless, I present to you:  the Johnnie Walker sign.  Perhaps the most mesmerizing mechanical sign ever built.  Okay, maybe a tie with Vegas Vic and his two clones. All I know is the “Striding Man” apparently had two iterations:  huge and huger.  The huger was by my estimate about 50 feet tall.  And his gigantic legs and arm moved.   The sign was moved a couple blocks at some point.  And according to one report, there was a similar sign in the 1950s in Miami.  If anyone knows anything else, please contact me.  I’m currently in love with this sign.  Big time.

Check out Johnnie walking in this video at the 6:24 (six minute, twenty four second) mark.  [you can use the scrollbar at the bottom of the video window to get to that point — or you can just sit back & enjoy the whole video]

Here’s Johnnie on the left (click on any photos at my blog for larger versions):



And here’s a still from the video:




I’m hoping there will be better weather at Xmas (my b’day) so I can get up to the Bay Area for some shooting.

Until then — happy holidays!

dj & the roadtrip-ready dogs