Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A little history to go with our Atomic Tunnel t-shirt

We thought it might be fun to spread some of the history we feature on the Vintage Roadside website here on our blog. To kick things off we present one of our all-time favorite roadside attractions - The "Beautiful" Atomic Tunnel, once located just south of Daytona Beach, Florida.

Home of “Happy” the Walking Fish!

One of the most interesting attractions we’ve run across is The Beautiful Atomic Tunnel. Located 7 miles south of Daytona Beach along U.S. Hwy 1, this one-time nuclear fallout shelter must have been hard to pass by.

W. R. Johnson was an entrepreneur with vision. If the cold war was not going to require the use of his fallout shelter he might as well put it to work attracting the throngs of tourists motoring through his section of the Sunshine State. Starting in the early 1950s as The Atomic Tunnel, then becoming The Tunnel of Fantasy, and lastly The Tropicolor Fantasy (“15 Years in the Making!”), Mr. Johnson had a flair for great copy. Some of the highlights from our collection of Atomic Tunnel memorabilia proudly proclaim the following tourist temptations:

  • Happy the walking fish.
  • Smokey the photogenic monkey.
  • Mac the macaw ready to pose for a “memory shot.”
  • “Man eating piranha imported directly to the Atomic Tunnel from the Amazon”. These fish could “reduce a human being to a skeleton in 3 seconds!”
  • Plants used by witch doctors for rituals.
  • A 16th century Turkish monk's chamber.
  • An orchid room where you could meet a beautiful orchid queen.
  • Rare small mice that dance, walk and spin.

The Atomic Tunnel had everything you could want in a roadside attraction. It’s no wonder Mr. Johnson billed his establishment as “Florida’s Biggest Little Attraction”.

If you would like to see more, including a postcard of the Orchid Room please visit our Atomic Tunnel page located here.

Special thanks to Ken Breslauer for help with our research.

We're always looking for more history to present with each of the businesses we feature so please let us know if you have any memories, stories, souvenirs or photos of these wonderful places.


liquidlou74 said...

I have a atomic tunnel sign "Home of happy the walking fish" it's about 36in x 36in it says 7 1/2 miles south of Daytona on us 1.I got it about 6 yrs ago from a bar I was cleaning out in Clermont fla. Do you think this sign would be worth something to someone.

Vintage Roadside said...

Hi liquidlou74 - Thanks for your comment! We'd love to hear more and talk with you about the sign. If you have time could you email us info(at)vintageroadside.com ?

Jeff & Kelly

KD said...


Yes, the Port Orange Historical Trust is interested in the sign. The Tunnel was located on US 1 in Port Orange, and the Trust is trying to document the history of the Tunnel.

Can you email me a photo of the sign?

Please contact me via email.


Kent Donahue
City of Port Orange