Thursday, October 19, 2017

Who was the Houston in Houston Street?

1912 county plat map detail. East end of Houston St. in orange. (Color added).
Houston Street – once a notable thoroughfare through northern Orange County – was named for the pioneer Houston family, and probably more specifically for citrus rancher Joseph David Houston.

Built sometime between 1913 and 1925, Houston Street ran parallel to (and a bit south of) Orangethorpe Ave. Its western end was on the county line at Carmenita Rd. From there, it extended west to Hansen St. in the Buena Park/La Palma area. The road stopped at that point, but picked up again farther east at Manchester Ave. (the state highway) and continued eastward to its terminus at Euclid Ave. on today’s Fullerton/Anaheim border.

Joseph was born to William and Louise Houston in Centrailia, Illinois, around 1861. It appears that his family moved back and forth between Illinois and Kansas throughout his early years. In 1883, he married Eva Kennedy in Crawford, Kansas.  They had many children, including Rose, Cora, Minnie, Mamie, Eva and William. The family moved to Shiloh, Kansas and lived there for some years before following Joseph’s brother, Samuel S. Houston west to Fullerton in 1902.

Joseph came to own several parcels of land, including twenty acres near what became the southwest corner of Euclid and Houston Street, (about where the 91 Freeway crosses Euclid Ave. today,) and 450 acres in Riverside County. He served on the founding board of directors of the Fullerton Cooperative Orange Association, which was created in 1932. J.D. Houston died in Orange County on July 19, 1941 and is buried at Loma Vista Cemetery in Fullerton.
Photo from by Lesa Pfrommer
What remains of the family’s namesake road is now a string of unconnected segments of Houston Ave. in Fullerton and La Palma and Houston Street in Buena Park. These scattered pieces extend as far west as Harbor Blvd and as far east as Moody Street.

(I did this research at the request of my friends Ron and Elfriede Mac Iver, who are the City of La Palma's local historians. Unfortunately, I've misplaced their email address, so I'm sharing with everyone here.)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Santa Ana's Pacific Electric Railway Station, 1927

Alert reader and historian Rob Richardson sent the photo above and the accompanying article, "New Station Opened by the Pacific Electric Railway," from a 1927 issue of Electric Railway Journal. The last day of Pacific Electric service in Santa Ana was July 2, 1950. Santa Ana's P.E. station, at 426 E. Fourth St. was demolished in Spring of 1985 and is now the site of a Northgate Market. The 1927 article reads,...

"With fitting ceremonies, participated in by civic organizations and officials of the system, the Pacific Electric Railway, Los Angeles, Cal., opened a handsome freight and passenger station at Santa Ana, Cal. on June 18 [1927]. Exclusive of the land, it represents and expenditure of approximately $40,000. Of Spanish architecture, the new structure occupies a ground space of 70x250 ft.
"The waiting room is located in the front of the building, providing easy access to all trains; the office is in the middle, and the freight warehouse in the rear. The layout is so arranged as to provide a space in the rear between the station and the adjoining building, which provides ample room for vehicles using the freight loading platform. There is also an entrance from the rear platform to the main office that permits business to be transacted without the necessity of patrons making the customary trip from the warehouse, around the building, to the front entrance.
"Aside from the Pacific Electric station, the building will be occupied by the American Railway Express Company and a light refreshment parlor."

Freight warehouse behind the station, 1927. (Photo from Santa Ana Register)
Although the 1927 station is long gone, the older Pacific Electric Substation No 14, which generated electricity for the line, still stands at 802 E. 5th, Santa Ana, 1907.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

How Googie got its name

In discussing this exaggerated Modern form of architecture, people often ask where the name "Googie" came from. It came from a Los Angeles Coffee Shop called "Googie's" (next door to the famous Schwab's Pharmacy) which was designed by the great Modernist architect John Lautner. Architecture critic Douglas Haskell disliked the style intensely and wrote a cutting tounge-in-cheek article about it in the February 1952 issue of House and Home magazine. The name stuck, first as a perjorative, but later as simply a non-judgemental descriptor. For purposes of historical documentation, here is that article...

By Douglas Haskell
House and Home, Feb. 1952

“We call it Googie architecture,” said Professor Thrugg, “named after a remarkable restaurant in Los Angeles called Googie’s.

That’s one you should see. (Photo, above) It starts off on the level like any other building. But suddenly it breaks for the sky. The bright red roof of cellular steel decking suddenly tilts upward as if swung on a hinge, and the while building goes up with it like a rocket ramp. But there is another building next door. So the flight stops as suddenly as it began.

“It seems to symbolize life today,” sighed the Professor, “skyward aspiration blocked by Schwab’s Pharmacy.

“My Los Angeles companion saw it differently,” continued the Prof. “He said, ‘looks funny, but I guess the guy has the right to do it that way if it attracts attention to his business.’”

“Is it a commercial motive?” asked a student, getting out his notes. “Do you mean that Googie architecture is like Mother Goose -- night clubs and gas stations shaped like Cinderella slippers or old-ladies-who-lived-in-the-shoe or stucco pumpkins?”

“No,” replied the Prof., “this resemblance is superficial. Googie is mostly houses. And Googie goes deeper. You underestimate the seriousness of Googie. Think of it! – Googie is produced by architects, not by ambitious mechanics, and some of these architects starve for it. After all, they are working in Hollywood, and Hollywood has let them know what it expects from them.
I refer you to that great popular classic, The Fountainhead. You may recall that every building the mythical hero Roarke created struck his audience on the head like a thunderclap. Each was Original. Each was a Revelation. None resembled any building ever done before.

“So the Googie architect knows that somehow he has to surpass everybody if he can – and that includes Frank Lloyd Wright.

“You can see why Googie architecture then becomes Modern Architecture Uninhibited.”

“Do you mean then," asked the student, “that Googie is an art in which anything and everything goes?”

“So long as it is modern,” came back the Prof. “Googie can have string windows – but never 16-light colonial sash. It can have inverted triangle roofs but never a cornice. It may be decked out in what my Googie friends call ‘vertical or horizontal louvers’ but never in green shutters. The first rule of Googie is, ‘It can’t be orgiastic if it’s not organic.’”

“Does it have canons of form?”

“It does indeed. The first is that although it must look organic it must be abstract. If a house looks like mushrooms, they must be abstract mushrooms. If it looks like a bird, this must be a geometric bird. (Nothing so naïve as Mother Goose!) It’s better yet if the house has more than one theme: like an abstract mushroom surmounted by an abstract bird.

Paraphrasing Oscar Wilde, the Googie architect declares, ‘When the public can’t make it out, the artist is in harmony with himself.’”

“Does it have principles of construction?”

“Yes, Googie has set modern construction free. You may have noted for some time the trend in modern architecture to make light of gravity, to get playful with it. Googie goes farther: it ignores gravity altogether.
“In Googie whenever possible the building must hang from the sky. Where nature and engineering can’t accomplish this, art must help.

“You note, for example, that a good Googie architect has no fear of starting a heavy stone wall directly over a glass-filled void. Taking his cue from store front designers, he laughs at anybody whom this might make uncomfortable. He knows that nothing need appear to rest on anything else, least of all on the earth; in Googie architecture both the glass and the stone are conceived to float. It is strictly an architecture up in the air.

“Another Googie tenet is that just as three architectural themes mixed together are better than one, so two or three structural systems mixed together add to the interest of the occasion.”

“What about materials?”

“Ah, yes. You may have noted how they have multiplied in modern architecture. First only three materials were considered truly modern: steel, concrete and glass – especially glass. Now look at them all! Redwood and asbestos cement and glass block and plastics and plywood and more and more and more and more orchard stone! Need I expand the list? But Googie as I have said treats all issues with generous abandon. ‘Why throw the coal into the furnace?’ it asks. ‘Why not into the wall? Why not build with string? Why not use anything?…”

“What about equipment?” quickly interrupted the student.

“Same freedom. To the inventions of the modern engineer, Googie adds all of Popular Mechanics. Walls that are hinged and  roll out on casters, doors that disappear into the ground, overhead lights that cook the hamburger…”

“Stop! Wait!” cried the despairing student. “Just where in the name of Apollo can all this uninhibited incoherence lead?”

“Ah, well you might ask,” meditated Thrugg, stroking his chin. “Well you might ask. Modern architecture has set building free. For every one good way of building that there used to be, there are now three new ones, with more coming around the corner.
"Almost anything can be done and is being done – so what is there for young fellows trying to live up to The Fountainhead to do except create this spicy Googie goulash? Even so, they have brought modern architecture down from the mountains and set ordinary clients, ordinary people, free.”

“Is that good – having the people free?”

“No and yes. No, because the people have neither the education nor leaders to guide them. Caught between numbskull appraisers of the FHA on one side and Googie geniuses on the other, how can they know their way? There are no responsible critics in the middle!

“But again, yes, it is good, and for two reasons. One is that sometimes fantastically good ideas result from uninhibited experiment. The other is that Googie accustoms the people to expect strangeness, and make them the readier for those strange things yet to come which will truly make good sense.” Thrugg paused.

“Let me tell you a story. One hundred years ago in Spain was born a strange genius, Antoni Gaudi. He built cathedral towers that resembled weird plants and shocked everybody. Gaudi and his friends were interested in reproducing the more superficial appearance of nature – the beautiful lines of waves, the ever sensitive contours of leaves.

But Gaudi got people accustomed to looking away from the immediate past and toward nature. Soon a more deeply searching generation came. Beneath the changing leaves of plants they discerned the ever constant and ever geometric law of each plant’s growth; and beneath the changing waves the ever constant operations of dynamics. When their buildings were reading, applying these new principles, Gaudi’s fantastic strangeness had helped prepare the ground for this sensible strangeness.

“So something better than accidental discoveries might come even from Googie. It’s too bad our taste is so horrible; but it’s pretty good to have men free….”

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Googie Architecture: An Introduction

Bob's Big Boy, Harbor Blvd., Garden Grove. (Currently endangered)
(The following introduction to Googie was first posted on my Googie Architecture Online / SpaceAgeCity website way back in 1998. I know a good deal more about the subject than I did two decades ago, but much of the article still holds up well. - C.J.)  

Googie architecture was born of the post-WWII car-culture and thrived in the 1950s and 1960s. Bold angles, colorful signs, plate glass, sweeping cantilevered roofs and pop-culture imagery captured the attention of  drivers on adjacent streets. Bowling alleys looked like Tomorrowland. Coffee shops looked like something in a Jetsons cartoon.

For decades, many "serious" architects decried Googie as frivolous or crass. But today we recognize how perfectly its form followed its function.

Even as the best historic examples are bulldozed, architects are rediscovering the importance and utility of Googie and are adopting it for their own designs.

Cars with jet-like tailfins zoomed past giant tiki gods, rockets and flying saucers on their way to Disneyland. In some ways, the Space Age, or Googie, architecture and design surrounding the park blurred the line between the Magic Kingdom and the real world.
Beach-Lin Car Wash, 126 S. Beach Blvd., Anaheim
The Space Age Inn, Satellite Shopland and the ultra-modern Bob's Big Boy restaurant were like extensions of the promise of Disney's Tomorrowland. Likewise, a giant Tiki with glowing eyes standing before the Pitcairn Motel was nearly as intriguing to young visitors as the restless natives hiding in the jungles of Adventureland.

 These are some of the more exotic examples of Googie, a style of architecture that thrived in the 1950s and early 1960s. It began as commercial architecture designed to make the most of strip shopping centers and other roadside locations. It fit the needs of the new California "car culture" and the dreams of the even newer space age.

Googie began in Southern California, and although it spread (in numerous forms) across the nation, its heart always remained in its birthplace. Los Angeles and Orange County, California remain some of the best places to see what remains of the style.

Googie has also been known as Populuxe, Doo-Wop, Coffee Shop Modern, Jet Age, Space Age and Chinese Modern. In some cases it has been grouped with its cousin, Tiki architecture. It is also sometimes identified as part of a larger overall movement of space-age industrial design. Googie often seems like a joint design by the Jetsons and the Flintstones.
Eden Roc Motel, Anaheim (Now remodeled)

Alan Hess, the author of Googie: Fifties Coffeeshop Architecture, traces Googie back to three Coffee Dan's restaurants designed by renown Modernist architect John Lautner in the early forties.

"He selected the vaults and glass walls and trusses and angles of his buildings to fit the original, often unusual, concepts of space he favored," writes Hess.

Lautner originated the style that would be refined and reinterpreted by many others. Unintentionally, he also gave the style a name when, in 1949, he designed Googie's coffee shop at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights in Los Angeles.

Professor Douglas Haskell of Yale was driving through Los Angeles when he and architectural photographer Julius Shulman came upon Googie's. "Stop the car!" Haskell yelled. "This is Googie architecture." Haskell openly mocked the style in a 1952 article in House and Home magazine, and the name "Googie architecture" stuck. Unfortunately, the term was used as a slur in "serious" architectural circles.
Linbrook Bowling Center sign, Brookhurst Ave., Anaheim

Googie, with its extremes, metaphorical qualities and humor has always been hard to categorize. This may have been partly why "serious architects" had trouble taking it seriously while the masses seemed to love it.

Googie architecture and design was art that told a story. The story had many variations, but its general plot was always something like this:

Man left his caves and grass huts and through hard work and ingenuity has built an amazing modern world. Tomorrow he will conquer any remaining problems and colonize the rest of the galaxy. However, for all his achievements and modern science man will never lose touch with the natural world and his noble roots.

The themes of history and primitive man were expressed in buildings and decor that reflected the Old West, the South Seas and even caves. (The interest in South Pacific motifs was partially a result of World War II servicemen returning from tours of duty in that region.)

Man's continuing link to nature was expressed in a number of ways, including the common use of rock and fake rock (flagcrete) walls, lush landscaping, indoor gardens, and vast plate glass windows that broke down traditional barriers between inside and outside. In the world of Googie, it's not uncommon to see UFO-shaped buildings with one rock wall, three glass walls and palm trees growing straight up through a cutout shape in an overhanging roof.
Earl's Coffee Shop, Tustin Ave., Orange

Various designers and architects represented the theme of man's utopian future in many ways. Like obscenity, Googie is hard to define, but we know it when we see it. Some of the more common elements include the following:

Upswept Roofs -- This was especially common in the prototypical Googie buildings: coffee shops. An upswept roof allowed larger glass windows up front. Sometimes these roofs also incorporated the boomerang shape. Either way, it made many buildings look as though they were about to take off and fly. Variations on this style included the parabolic roofs of early Bob's Big Boy restaurants, designed by Armet and Davis.

Large Domes -- Often made of concrete, this was an exotic new shape for buildings made possible by advances in construction technology. It evoked the environment-controlled space stations and extraterrestrial cities that appeared on the covers of science fiction books and magazines. Some domes were reminiscent of flying saucers. Examples include the Anaheim Convention Center, the Cinerama Dome, and even the glass top of the 1956 prototype Pontiac Firebird.

Large Sheet Glass Windows -- These served several purposes. First, a tall glass front made the building itself a living billboard to drivers on the streets outside. This was a major consideration now that car travel was a key element of commerce. Also, the vast windows brought the outside in and made a sunnier brighter atmosphere for those inside. Often, the use of sheet glass with thin but sturdy steel support structures made roofs appear to float.

Boomerang Shapes -- This shape appeared in nearly every corner of the design world in the 1950s, and architecture was no exception. It appeared in archways, roadside signs, pools (often called kidney-shaped), and tile mosaics. Outside architecture, the shape was echoed in butterfly chairs, Formica patterns, corporate logos and textile prints. The origins of the boomerang as a symbol of the jet- and space-age is a little hazy, but it may be related to the "flying wing" aircraft, the expressionist art of Paul Klee and Joan Miro?, or simply the idea of an arrow shape pointing the way to progress.

Amoebae Shapes -- Sister of the boomerang, amoeboid shapes were amorphous blobs that appeared in many places, including roadside signs. Some suggest that these blobs were the predecessors of the boomerang. Some have also speculated that this design element came from World War II air defense camouflage patterns.

Atomic Models -- This design element appeared in everything from sculpture and roadsigns to dinnerware patterns and household appliances. The interlocking rings of the atomic model were a symbol of man's scientific ingenuity and represented the unlimited power that would make our future utopia possible. It also doubled as an (inaccurate) model of the solar system.

Starbursts -- An even more ubiquitous design element than the atomic model, the starburst took many forms. Just as the atomic model was shorthand for the "innerspace" scientists were exploring, starbursts were symbolic of the outer space being explored by astronauts. It also implied clean and shining surfaces.

Exposed steel beams -- These were usually more about appearance than function, but could serve both purposes. Painted steel I-beams often had geometric holes cut in them which served the dual purpose of making them lighter and enhancing their visual similarity to rocket gantries.

Flying Saucer Shapes -- Again, this motif was taken from the movies and covers of science fiction books and magazines. The Space Needle in Seattle, Wash. is an excellent example.
Selman Chevrolet, Orange (Building demolished)

Although Googie buildings were often quite different from one another, Douglas Haskell noted that the style had certain rules:
  1. It can look organic, but it must be abstract. "If it looks like a bird, it must be a geometric bird. It's better yet if the house had more than one theme: like an abstract mushroom surmounted by an abstract bird."
  2. Ignore gravity altogether. "Whenever possible, the building must hang from the sky."
  3. Multiple structural elements. Inclusion is the rule, rather than minimalism.
New materials, including sheet glass, glass blocks, asbestos, plywood and plastic gave the architect a whole new palette to work with. Other innovations allowed steel and cement to be used in new ways. Suddenly, architects had more elbowroom for their dreams. A room made of plastic could look like a log cabin, a space ship, or almost anything.
Denny's Restaurant, San Clemente

Googie was about the past, the present and the future -- But mostly the future. It was part of the popular culture, which reinforced a unified vision of a utopian future built on mankind's hard work and ingenuity.

Like most art forms that told a story or inspired us with optimism, Googie went out of fashion in the mid-1960s. It died when the story of our grand future died in the hearts of many Americans.

Ray Bradbury's story, The Toynbee Convector, is parable of man's need for a unified dream of a better future. The hero of the story says:

"I was raised in a time, in the sixties, seventies, and eighties, when people had stopped believing in themselves. I saw that disbelief, the reason that no longer gave itself reasons to survive, and was moved, depressed and angered by it . . . . Everywhere was professional despair, intellectual ennui, political cynicism . . . . The impossibility of change was the vogue. . . . Bombarded by dark chaff and no bright seed, what sort of harvest was there for man in the latter part of the incredible twentieth century? Forgotten was the moon, forgotten the red landscapes of Mars, the great eye of Jupiter, the stunning rings of Saturn.

"....Life has always been lying to ourselves . . . . to gently lie and prove the lie true to weave dreams and put brains and ideas and flesh and the truly real beneath the dreams. Everything, finally, is a promise. What seems a lie is a ramshackle need, wishing to be born."

Gas station, Beach Blvd., Stanton
Why did we stop believing our own promises? For indeed, the death of our dreams and optimism also marked the death of Googie and the space age. Certainly, this is a topic that's been flogged to death over the past forty-some years, but a few of the popular answers follow:
  • The assassination of President Kennedy sparked a national loss of innocence.
  • The Vietnam War changed our nation's view of itself.
  • The Johnson Administration's decision to focus on "Great Society" programs rather than America's great "rendezvous with destiny."
  • Baby boomers -- the children of the can-do World War II generation -- hit their late teens and rebelled against their parents' values.
  • As the Space Program progressed, Americans became more sophisticated about space travel and "futuristic" technologies. Their view of the "Space Age" was de-romanticized.
Whatever the reasons, no new Googie was built. However, the existing buildings have served their communities well ever since, as bowling alleys, churches, professional centers, coffee shops, motels, car washes, etc. Even those who grew up in the 1970s and 80s are likely to have fond memories of burgers and milkshakes in space-age restaurants, bowling in themed bowling alleys or seeing an aging depiction of the future in Disney's Tomorrowland.

Today, the familiar boomerang arches, tapered columns, cantilevers, parabolas and curved domes are being bulldozed at an alarming rate. These buildings stand at an unfortunate juncture: Not new enough to look modern, yet not old enough to be considered historically significant. As the best examples of the genre disappear, we are loosing not only part of our history, but also the last reminders of our shared dream of a shining future in a better world.
Drive-In Church by Richard Neutra, Garden Grove (Recently restored)

Friday, June 30, 2017

Zippy the Pinhead in Orange County

One of the wonderful things my old Googie Architecture Online website brought me was a connection to the great surreal comic strip, Zippy the Pinhead. The strip is, as the Baltimore Sun put it, "nuanced, full of pop-cultural references, non-sequiturs and social satire; a real comic for grown-ups." Anyway, I was thrilled in 2000 when artist Bill Griffith began using my Googie and other Roadside photos as settings for Zippy and his friends. Here are some examples of Zippy's adventures through my Orange County and Southern California imagery. (Sorry these are so small, but they seemed like big scans when I made them, at the turn of the century! We all had monitors about 8 pixels wide back then.)
5/5/00  The Parasol, 12241 Seal Beach Blvd., Seal Beach. Since this ran, the Parasol was threatened with demolition, saved by Adriene Biondo and her L.A. Conservancy friends, turned into a Mel's Diner, closed again, and reopened as a Panera Bread restaurant. The amazing interior you see here is gone, but at least the building still stands. 
5/9/00  La Habra 300 Bowl, 370 E. Whittier Blvd, La Habra. This place reads like three separate Googie buildings all squeezed together. Definitely worth a visit. For sports fans, this is also the home of the first 900 game ever bowled.
5/10/00  Lake Park playground, Huntington Beach. I grew up playing in the parks of H.B., including this one, so these concrete (yet abstract) play structures brought back a lot of happy memories.
6/00  The first two frames show us what was, in 1999, the Ron's World shop on Avenida del Mar in San Clemente. Originally this place was a beauty salon, with the roof shaped like an artists palette (presumably with two giant paint brushes sticking through the "thumb hole." The second two panels depict Johnie's Coffee Shop (originally Romeo's Times Square) on Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles. Johnie's is now closed but still stands as a popular set for Hollywood location shoots. My favorite scene of Johnie's is probably Walter Sobchek raising a ruckus at the counter in The Big Lebowski.
5/12/00  American Landscape Supply, Goldenwest Ave., Huntington Beach. I miss this place. The giant chicken was one of the least strange things about American Landscape Supply. Hidden in the warehouse and among the trees were parts of Chinese restaurants facades (think dragons), taxidermied lions, a giant cappuccino machine shaped like a row of Easter Island moai, the city's old central lifeguard tower, logo characters from the roofs of various businesses, and more, and more, and more...
5/15/00  La Habra 300 Bowl. Bert and Bob are recurring characters that are always chatting over cups of coffee at the counter of a diner or coffee shop. Today, they're in La Habra!
5/16/00  King Taco, 1795 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach. This former Norm's location still had the Armet & Davis architecture in place, but a taco place had moved in and armed security guards gave you a clue about what had happened to the neighborhood in the decades since the middle-class coffee shop was built.
5/19/00  Linbrook Bowl, 201 Brookhurst St., Anaheim. Happily, the Linbrook is still marching along. It's a great place to bowl, the historic sign and other features are maintained, and the coffee shop (last time I checked) serves far, far better food than you'd ever have reason to expect at a bowling center.
5/21/00  (Former) home of Pete and Portia Seanoa, Slater Ave. Huntington Beach. You can read more about the Seanoas and this location on my Tiki Lagoon blog. These Tikis once stood at Lion Country Safari in Irvine.
5/28/00  Pacific Car Wash, 12050 Beach Blvd., Stanton.  Not as striking an example of Googie as the Beach-Lin Car Wash up the street, but the tapered support beams with lighteners are still a classic Googie touch.
6/11/00  Jack's Coffee Shop, 13221 Whittier Blvd., Whittier. Jack's opened during the Great Depression, but was updated and modernized during the golden age of Googie. Of the exterior portions of the mid-century remodel, it seems only the sign and the back/side wall remain today. Inside, the lunch counter area is still largely intact. It was still open for business the last time I drove past.
6/14/00  Hope International University, Nutwood Ave., Fullerton. Designed as a shopping and entertainment center for the new Orange County State College (now California State University, Fullerton), this entire complex was later purchased by Pacific Christian College which eventually changed its name to Hope International University.
6/19/00  Hope International University. More views of the same Space Age place.
7/2/00  Jack's Coffee Shop again. This time, both interior and exterior views. It is truly one of the great works of art along Whittier Blvd., along with the Googie bowling alleys (already name-checked in this post), the old Home Savings building, the car wash by the railroad tracks, and the hidden treasure that is Oceanic Arts.
7/11/00  Friendly Hills Bowl, Whittier; La Habra 300 Bowl, La Habra. Another great DeRosa, Daly & Powers bowling center design. It was recently "adaptively reused" by a couple other businesses and the exterior was largely saved, which is wonderful news. The sign was saved, but was shortened and otherwise altered dramatically, which is too bad. Still, it beats the alternatives.
8/22/00  The first frame depicts the Baskin & Robbins ice cream shop on La Palma Ave., in Anaheim. I believe the second frame was sent to me by my friend Greg Ottinger and depicts a Googie roof in the Phoenix, Arizona area. And in the last panel, a view of Java Lanes on Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach.
 9/26/00  The first frame (if you'll pardon the expression) is the Linbrook Bowl again, followed by an view of the terrazzo door handle at Norm's/King Taco. The third frame shows a sample of the waitress-made, chicken-related wall art at Anaheim's late, lamented La Palma Chicken Pie Shop. No retro-fied diner can compete with the total-1950s-immersion one received while dining at the LPCPS. Sadly, it closed for good shortly after owner Otto Hasselbarth died in 2015.
9/27/00  Satellite Shopland, Katella Ave., Anaheim. When I went to photograph this sign, the bulldozers were literally parked next to it and the concrete all around was already jackhammered up. A guy who ran a sign shop later pulled the "sputnik" out of a dumpster and restored it. But then THEY didn't know what to do with the thing. Ultimately it was snapped up by the eagle-eyed Tod Swormstedt of the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati. This Anaheim icon has now been fully restored and is on display in Ohio.
10/10/00  Java Lanes, 3800 East Pacific Coast Hwy., Long Beach. Lord, but that sign was a work of art. The building was pretty outstanding too. Both are long gone now, replaced by boring things.
10/11/00  Java Lanes again. Pat B. DeRosa really outdid himself (which is saying something!) with this cantilevered entryway. One of DeRosa's great achievements was taking sweeping modernist forms normally created in concrete and creating affordable plywood versions for his clients. He used creativity to bring the big architectural ideas of the day to the masses.
10/25/00  Frame one shows us Lyndy's Motel, on Beach Blvd., in Anaheim, which was recently demolished. Frame two is probably the back side of the coffee shop at the La Habra 300 Bowl again. Frame three was inspired by the Firestone Tires on Euclid Ave. in Garden Grove. Frame four depicts the Westminster Memorial Park Chapel, in front of the cemetery on Beach Blvd. in Westminster.

Thanks for joining me on this little trip down memory lane. Are we having fun yet?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Googie Architecture Online goes offline

A few days ago, the website I created in 1998, Googie Architecture Online, went kaput. (Remnants can be found via the Wayback Machine.) Life has been crazy lately, and by the time I realized I'd failed to send my new credit card number, it was too late. I'm sort of sad about that, but the site had really overstayed its welcome by many years anyway. It had served its purpose, and then some, and whatever content still has value will see the light of day in other forms. (I'll be putting some choice bits on this blog in the coming days and months.) In any case, people who want to know more about Googie architecture these days can just hop on Amazon and buy either or both of Alan Hess' definitive books on the subject: Googie: Coffee Shop Architecture and Googie Redux.
In the 1990s, when I created the site, the "World Wide Web" was in its relative infancy. I wanted to teach myself to build a website, and do so using a topic that wasn't otherwise addressed online yet. I'd just read Alan's first book and was truly inspired -- Inspired enough, in fact, that I was already driving around Orange County, taking photos of what little Googie architecture remained. (It turned out much of it was in the process of being bulldozed at that time.) And of course, I was jotting notes about the places as I photographed them.

So the new website neatly knitted together my loves of photography, writing, historical research, and Space Age architecture. But I expected little to come of it.

Months later, I read an article in the Orange County Register about a librarian at the Anaheim Public Library, Jane Newell, who was ALSO documenting local Googie buildings, even as the City's new "good taste" edicts felled them rapidly.

Who was this woman, I wondered? Why was she doing this great thing? We should work TOGETHER!

I called her and she turned out to be enthusiastic and smart and right on the same page with me about Googie's importance to Orange County. She was photographing sites, collecting related ephemera like postcards and matchbooks, and gathering other historical information however she could. We made plans for a lunch meeting at the former Bob's Big Boy (then Coco's) on Harbor Blvd. at Chapman Ave.

The first thing I asked Jane was, "How did you find out about Googie, and what made you think to tackle this project?"

"Well," she said, "I came across this website, you see..."
It was the first moment I fully appreciated the impact one local historian's efforts can make. Without Googie Architecture Online, Jane, Alan, and Phil Brigandi (who also saw my website and later remembered the Googie panel discussion Jane and I did with Daniel Paul at CSUF) I would not have doubled-down on local history and made it my life's work. Nor would I have met so many of the good people I know, admire and love today.

So it's with some sadness that Googie Archiecture Online rides off into the sunset. But it was looking pretty long in the tooth, and Lord knows there are other, more compelling sources of information to be had these days. And like I said,... My interest in Googie will continue to pop up in other work I do.

Last year, I called together a large roomful of people, including my hero Alan Hess, to discuss creating a county-wide historical preservation group, to protect historic buildings and sites not just in one area or of one architectural type, but of all historically or architecturally significant stripes. The kid who put together Googie Architecture Online would have been terrified to call, let alone run, that meeting. But one led directly to the other.

Thanks for everything, Googie Architecture Online.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Holy contributing to the deliquency of minors!

Thanks to my pal Jim Washburn for this 1960s photo of Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward?) hanging around with Orange County high school kids. One girl is holding up a sign reading "Brea-Olinda" and a boy in the back is holding up a sign that reads "Rancho Alamitos High."

Anyone know what this was all about? Jim has no idea. So far, my only clue comes from a Feb. 13, 1966 Los Angeles Times article by Vi Ehinger, entitled, "Batman Transforms Image of Teen-agers." It reads,...

"Orange County teen-agers have gone 'batty.'

"And for once it has the approval of parents and school officials alike.

"Heretofore socially unacceptable words are being replaced by terse phrases such as 'gleeps' and friends are being brought home and introduced to mother as 'my Robin.'

"Responsible for the current teen-age trend is the Batman TV series -- an admittedly corny show that has captured the imagination of many a teen-ager and changed his way of life.

"The 'in' group at Brea-Olinda High School holds Batman parties.

"The first one, given by Krista Campbell, was attended by five persons. Last week's, hosted by Carl Sweet, boasted an attendance of 32.

"Refreshments at these social highlights include such goodies as 'bat saucers' (round cookies) and 'Holy Interruptions' (cokes or hot chocolate.)

"Students at McPherson Junior High School in Orange are circulating a petition to keep the teachers from assigning homework on the night Batman shows are on.

"The sports car set at the beach area now make 'bat-turns' and the school teacher is plagued with the raised hand and the request to go to the 'bat-room.'

"However, this teen-age nonsense is cheered by the parents and the school officials who claim Batman's and Robin's clean images are far more welcome than the long-haired rebel character."

Really? Gleeps? "My Robin?" "Bat saucers?" In this era when Marvel movies dominate the box office, one almost forgets that superhero comic book stuff was once the domain of TOTAL NERDS.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

The O.C. Answer Man has left the building

"Holy Jim" Smith by Blair Thornley
I've been the "O.C. Answer Man," featured on the final page of each issue of Orange Coast Magazine for quite a while now. I started doing the monthly column in Dec. 2011 and have run the gamut of strange local historical facts and other curious O.C. topics (at least 195 in all). But the magazine's new owners have drastically cut the budget for freelancers, and I'm among the many caught in the RIF. This month's issue will probably be my last.

I have zero complaints. It's been a fun six years, I've enjoyed working with great folks like Marty Smith, Alan Gibbons and Jim Walters, and I've been lucky enough to have my work illustrated by talented artists Blair Thornley and Devon Bowman. My thanks to all of them.

Also, thanks to all my O.C. history friends like Phil Brigandi and Stephanie George, who sometimes fed me "Q"s for the "Q&A" and who helped point me to useful resources. Thanks to the late Jim Sleeper, whose inspiring almanacs showed me that even short historical blurbs could convey something worthwhile. And thanks to Mom, who was always happy to receive and comment on drafts when I thought an article wasn't quite working. (Everyone needs a retired teacher in their family.)

"Ask the O.C. Answer Man" was a great way to share O.C.'s stories with the world, but it's hardly the only way. As a local historian, I'm always at work on other projects (like my current exhibit at Chapman University, my monthly column in the County employees' newsletter, my article in the last O.C. Historical Society journal, etc, etc.), and undoubtedly still more opportunities will present themselves. Even though I'll miss Orange Coast, there will always be more useful historical work that needs doing.

In fact, you may see a bit more posting going on here at the O.C. History Roundup, now that I'm not saving so much material for paying customers.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Tiki In Orange County

I'm curating an exhibit at Chapman University called "Tiki In Orange County," which through August 25, 2017. The big kick-off event/reception/program is March 4th, and I hope to see you there! (Bring your friends and family, but please click through and RSVP so we know how many little paper umbrellas we're gonna need.)

Quoth the promotional blurb,...
Chris Jepsen, Guest Curator, presents Tiki in Orange County, on display in the Frank Mt. Pleasant Library of Special Collections and Archives. From architecture, décor and music to literature, theme parks and backyard luaus, the South Seas was a wildly popular theme throughout mid-twentieth century America. Artifacts, photographs, documents and music, offer a look at the origins of Tiki in the South Pacific, its interpretation in mid-century Orange County (and Southern California), and how both have inspired today’s Tiki revival.

Opening Reception: Saturday, March 4, 2017, 4:30 - 6:30 p.m.

Location: Special Collections and Archives, 4th Floor

Exhibit hours are Monday through Friday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Visitor parking is available with purchase of a temporary permit. For parking fees, maps & directions, visit:
Thanks not only to my gracious aforementioned hosts at Chapman, but also to the amazing folks who loaned, installed, or helped me create parts of this exhibit, including Stephanie George, Carlota Haider, Kevin Kidney, Jody Daily, Ben and Vicki Bassham, Bob Van Oosting and Leroy Schmaltz of Oceanic Arts, Scott Schell, Dylan Almendral, Sven Kirsten, Jason Schultz, Scott Eskridge, Gail Griswold, Eric Callero, Laurie Gates Cussalli, David Eppen, Patrick Jenkins, the Orange County Archives, the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society, the American Heritage Musuem, and Jane Newell and Patricia Grimm of the Anaheim Heritage Center. It's an honor to know these people, I greatly appreciate their help, and I apologize in advance if I've forgotten anyone.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

It's Talk Like A Grizzled Prospector Day!

Illustration from Harper's Monthly, Vol. 21, 1860
Well sir, I reckon it's Talk Like A Grizzled Prospector Day again! A hunnert an' sixty nine years ago, some feller at Sutter’s Mill found GOLD, thereby settin’ off the whole dagnabbed Californee Gold Rush! All ye gotta do t’ celebrate this historical day appropriate-like is to talk like a consarned grizzled prospector, dadgummit!