We love to collect things. Postcards, menus, matchbooks, brochures, signs, old phone books, accounting ledgers, giant fiberglass statues, motor court receipts... actually just about anything from an old mom and pop business.
Recently, we were excited to find this business card for a restaurant once located in Kalama, Washington called the Chicken Coop Inn. We love the sense of humor in "Capacity 40,000 - 40 at a Time". The Chicken Coop Inn was also once located along Highway 99 - one of our favorite roads to travel. After finding the card, we made plans to see if we could locate any trace of the Coop the next time we were up that way.
Treated to a rare sunny February day (you don't want to waste those in Oregon as it may be June before the next one rolls around) we decided to load up the car and see what we could find. We headed across the river and wound our way along Highway 99 through Vancouver. There are still quite a few working neon signs and vintage businesses from the heyday of Highway 99 in this stretch.
One of our favorite Vancouver signs is the Bi-Lo Food Mart. The sign is maintained nicely and the top portion still spins. We stopped and stocked up on roadtrip refreshments and spent a few minutes staring at the sign. Decades later and a sign with motion still stops us in our tracks.
Sections of Highway 99 now lie under I-5 but we discovered you can still exit onto an old stretch of Highway 99 three miles south of Kalama. The Chicken Coop card mentioned they were located 2 1/2 miles south of town so it was fun to know we were traveling the same stretch of highway as one-time patrons. Unfortunately we didn't locate any signs of the Coop, but when it comes down to it, the card was just another reason to go for a drive:-) We'll keep researching and hopefully come up with some history at some point.
When we hit downtown Kalama we parked the car and took a walk through town. Kalama is a nice little place and features some great vintage signs. One of our favorites is the Burger Bar. It's not often you see three of the four major food groups on a neon sign.
The Columbia Inn still displays an amazing collection of neon signs and the Chinook Room sign makes us long for the days when most restaurants and even bowling alleys had a "named" lounge. I remember eating in restaurants as a kid wondering where all those grownups were disappearing to through the dark lounge doorways. Bonus points for the sign on the side of the building proudly counting Elvis Presley and Jack Benny as former patrons of the Columbia Inn.
After the Columbia Inn we drive over to Longview to see what we could find. Coming into town we spotted one of our all-time favorite things - a giant fiberglass statue! This one seemed to be the perfect find as we had started out looking for the Chicken Coop and felt a giant rooster was a more than suitable discovery. We've been looking to adopt one of these so if anyone runs across one needing a new home let us know. If our neighbors are reading this we promise not to put it on the roof of our house**.
* Special occasions not subject to these terms.
* Special occasions t.b.d.
Once in Longview, the first thing we discovered was that the town was a lot bigger than we expected. The traffic was also pretty heavy so we're looking forward to another visit to cover some of the things we missed this time around.
One of the best neon signs we found was located in a parking lot. The tavern appears to have a different name now so it's nice to see this orphan sign still standing. We really liked the combination of shapes and colors on this one.
We were in awe of the Town House Motel located on Washington Way. Coming across a mom and pop motel like this makes you feel like you're on the road in 1959. Seeing the collection of neon blazing away at the Town House it felt like we had gone back in time and were wrapping up a day on the road at a place we had had circled in our handy motel guide. Each of the signs was working perfectly and made for a great photo stop.
Some of the other great signs we spotted were the Paragon Chinese Restaurant and the Triangle Bowl. If you'd like to see more photos from the trip you can visit our Flickr page here.
Hope everyone had a great February and has a roadtrip or two in the works!
Jeff & Kelly