Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Vintage Roadside pitches in to help save the Crown Motel sign

We here at Vintage Roadside have an undeniable passion for classic signs and their preservation - and an undeniable weakness for neon! We're continually impressed by the individual artistry, imagination, and talent that went into creating these singular works of art intended to catch the traveler's eye and imagination.

When we received word from our friends at the Mid-Century Modern League in Portland, Oregon that the Crown Motel, a classic 1959 motel located on Interstate Avenue, was going to be razed, our first question was, "What about the sign?"

The Crown Motel sign is a wonderful example of the golden age of sign making. Oftentimes, business owners didn't pick a sign ready-made out of a catalog, but had one created specifically to represent the business...and in some cases, the owner's very particular brand of whimsy.

The Crown Motel sign certainly ranks up there with the best, combining a giant sword lit with flashing bulbs, a crown outlined with green neon, and a 33' tower with backlit plastic letters.

Through the efforts of numerous groups and individuals, a solution was reached this March that enabled the Crown Motel's impressive sign to be preserved. The first phase (removal) has now been successfully completed and the sign is currently in the capable hands of Ramsey Signs - a local company that's been taking care of Portland's sign needs since 1911. The next step is to finalize a new location and begin restoration.

The Crown is safely lowered to the trailer. (Above)

A worker preps the large section for removal. (Above)

Three cranes were required to safely lift the central section of the sign. (Above)

The large section has now been removed from the lot. (Above)

Slowly lowering the sign. (Above)

Recently these classic signs have begun to receive the attention they deserve. However, like many of the landmarks of the American roadside, we are losing these wonderful icons on a daily basis. If you know of a sign in danger of being removed, destroyed, or that needs a new home in order to survive, let us know. We're always happy to offer thoughts and ideas!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A side of history to go with our Tik Tok Drive In t-shirt

The Tik Tok Drive In, once located at the corner of Sandy & Burnside in Portland is still regarded as a true Portland classic. Below is a short history of this wonderful establishment. All text and images can also be found at Vintage Roadside located here.

“Time to Eat”

The Tik Tok Drive In, Portland Oregon’s first drive-in restaurant, was located at the bustling intersection of East Burnside, Sandy, & 12th. Opened in 1938 by Sherman Marriott and Horace Williams, the Tik Tok remains a fond memory to the generations of Portlanders who enjoyed hanging out here with friends and family over a hamburger and a frosted root beer.

When it opened in 1938, Tik Tok's architecture illustrated some of the best features of Streamline Moderne. Large banks of windows surrounded the buliding while porthole windows beside the door added a jaunty touch. A dramatic roof pylon topping the building allowed the neon “Tik Tok” sign to be seen from a great distance. The curved shape of he building also gave the Tik Tok increased parking capacity, something the teenagers who flocked there took full advantage of!

The Tik Tok, along with Yaw’s and The Speck, were the places to be on a Friday night in Portland. Another favorite activity of the Tik Tok clientele was watching the parking lot across the street at Scotty’s to see just who else might be out and about.

A selection of items from Tik Tok's late 1930s menu illustrates the delicious variety of food on offer:

  • Special Thick Creamy Malted Milk............................ .20
  • Golden Orange Whip.................................................... .15
  • Special Hamburger with Cheese................................. .20
  • Ham Waffle, with Butter and Syrup........................... .35
  • Tik Tok's DeLuxe French Fried Potatoes.................. .10

Those in the mood for a sandwich could choose between hot melted cheese and bacon grilled in butter for .35, Swiss cheese on rye for .15, or go full out and enjoy a roast young turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce, dressing, mashed potatoes, and gravy for .35. Those looking for a light meal could pick up a toasted bun for .05 and hot soup made daily for .15.

Over the next 19 years, one of the few changes to Tik Tok's architecture was a fantastic addition to its neon signage. The simple neon letters on the pylon spelling out “Tik Tok” were removed. In their place, a giant coffee cup was added to the base of the pylon with neon “steam” working its way up the spire. A new slogan was also added in neon: “Time to Eat”. This animated marvel is still remembered with awe.

The Tik Tok was open 24 hours a day from 1938 to 1957 when Mr. Marriott and Mr. Williams sold the business to the Harris brothers. The Tik Tok served customers for another 14 years before the neon was turned off for the last time in 1971.

If you'd like to see more please visit our Tik Tok page located here.

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.

Friday, March 7, 2008

A dash of history behind our Hacienda Motel t-shirt

We thought we'd wrap up the week by sharing some of the history behind our Hacienda Motel and Dining Room t-shirt (which was located in Norfolk, Virginia). All text and images can also be found at Vintage Roadside located here.

“The last word in comfort and convenience" - the motto of the Hacienda Motel and Dining Room in Norfolk, Virginia entices us to this day.

The Hacienda was ideally situated just 15 minutes from downtown Norfolk and 15 minutes from Virginia Beach on Military Highway, more famously known as Ocean Highway. Running from New York City to Jacksonville, Florida, Ocean Highway was conceptualized in the 1930s as a beautiful, leisurely drive for tourists exploring the beaches along the east coast of the US. From its inception, Ocean Highway has remained the most popular route for tourists traveling south from New York City seeking fun in the sun.

Built in the style of the great motor courts of the Southwest, the Hacienda was a classic example of tourist court architecture popular in the 1940s and 1950s. Serving a dual purpose, the Hacienda's dramatic two storey Mission style facade drew the attention of passing motorists and shielded its cottages from highway traffic. Arriving guests entered the spacious inner court by one of two striking arched entries in the grand façade.

Along with a wonderful location, W. H. Walker, owner of the Hacienda, offered his guests the finest amenities:

  • A choice of 1, 2, or 3 room cottages
  • Simmons all-metal furniture
  • Beautyrest mattresses with box springs
  • FM Radio
  • Radiant heat and cross ventilation
  • Air conditioning
  • Private tile baths
  • Pure circulating ice water
The once rural site of the Hacienda Motel is now occupied by The Gallery at Military Circle.

If you'd like to see more, including two wonderful images please visit our Hacienda Motel page located here.

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.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Vintage Roadside can't wait for Velveteria to blow our minds!

There are few things better than a roadside attraction. We've veered hours off course to see fiberglass dinosaurs, drive-through trees, mystery spots and just about every type of museum you can imagine. However, we count ourselves lucky to have one of the world's greatest museums right here in Portland. We're referring to the amazing Velveteria - the Museum of Velvet Paintings. On March 8th, Velveteria will once again welcome guests to their new location at 2448 E Burnside. Bigger, better and blacklighted.

After Carl and Caren opened Velveteria in late 2005, they continued to build the preeminent collection of this art form. With over 1000 paintings now in their collection you can be assured that their rotating installations will always have something for everybody. Looking for a velvet Mr. T? They've got it. A velvet Yoda? Yep. A velvet Jack Lord? Oh yeah. While some of the paintings might fall under the "expected" category (clowns and Elvis) what we hope you take away is just how good many of these paintings are. We were simply stunned by the work of Burke Tyree.

We definitely recommend you make plans to visit the museum when it reopens March 8th. For a mere $5.00 you'll get the chance to meet two people who love what they do and are kind enough to share it with the rest of us.

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.