Thursday, February 26, 2009

Vintage Roadside takes to Highway 99 in search of the Chicken Coop Inn

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
Vintage Roadside

Monday, February 16, 2009

A little history to go with our Stirrup Room T-shirt

We're thrilled to announce the release of our newest Vintage Roadside t-shirt - the Stirrup Room! Once located in downtown Portland, the Stirrup Room was known as one of the city's swankier cocktail lounges.

Below you'll find a bit of the history we've put together for the Stirrup Room, as well as a look at the graphic we use on our shirt.

Known for its Western decor, chuck wagon menu, and generously poured cocktails, the Stirrup Room was a hip 1950s era dining spot in downtown Portland, Oregon's magnificent Multnomah Hotel.

Twice named by Holiday magazine, a popular travel publication of the time, as one of the 75 outstanding restaurants in the United States, the Stirrup Room was by all reports one of the top places to see and be seen in Portland from 1955 to the early 1960s. We were lucky to find a reference to the Stirrup Room in Potter on America, a hilarious book written in 1955 by Stephen Potter, a British humorist traveling on a lecture tour across the US.

Unearthing a vintage menu at the Seattle Public Library with the help of Carol, our new favorite librarian, we tracked down another interesting bit of trivia.

The Stirrup Room's name refers to the term "stirrup-cup" or parting drink which "comes from the custom in olden days of having a last drink with a guest as he mounted his horse."

To read much more of the history and see additional images please visit our website here.

Jeff & Kelly
Vintage Roadside

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Vintage Roadside Visits: The Sou'Wester

Last week we were up on Washington's Long Beach Peninsula, in town as part of the planning for Jake the Alligator Man's Birthday Party on August 8th, 2009. (We'll have much more on this later, but in the meantime, think carnival sideshow married to rockabilly with a splash of burlesque...)

After the meeting, we had some time to explore before heading home and followed up on a couple of recommendations that we check out the Sou'Wester Lodge. Variously described as funky, eccentric, odd, and wonderful, we were hooked at the mention that there were vintage travel trailers on the property.

Thinking that we would do a quick swing by the property, we drove down to Seaview, knocked on the door of the Lodge, and ended up staying almost three hours visiting with the owner, Len Atkins - hands down one of the most interesting people we've ever met. Unfortunately, his wife Miriam was under the weather, but we look forward to meeting her next time.

Located on three acres with only trees and dunes between it and the ocean, the Lodge itself was once the summer home of Portland, Oregon businessman and politician Henry Corbett. Weathered by 117 years of coast rain and wind, the Sou'Wester remains impressive in its scale and interior woodwork. Within the Lodge, there are a number of small suites for rent on the 2nd and 3rd floors. Our favorite was probably the Picasso suite, decorated with art prints and postcard reproductions of Picasso's work and having a feeling of the artist's garret.

Art note: in the Lodge's main room, you'll find original art by Bill Cumming, founder of the Northwest School art movement, and Catherine Murphy, noted contempory realist painter. Both artists have spent time at the Sou'Wester and are counted among Len and Miriam's friends.

After a tour of the Lodge, Len was kind enough to show us around the grounds...and one of the most impressive collections of vintage travel trailers we've come across. Although the collection started almost by accident, Len has amassed Spartans, Airstreams, and the Pacemaker, the first trailer we've ever seen with an upstairs AND a downstairs. Although not easy to keep a travel trailer watertight and mildew-free at the coast, the trailers were well-loved but tidy and decorated with the same funky eye to art as the main Lodge. The price of a night in one of the trailers ranges from around $88 - $140 depending on the particular trailer and season.

Jumping back to the story of Len and Miriam, we learned some interesting facts during the course of our conversation with Len: they are originally from South Africa, spent a number of years in the 1950s teaching on a kibbutz in Israel, moved to Chicago in the late 1960s, and, tiring of city life after 15 years, set off on a quest for tranquility in a travel trailer of their own. Landing in Seaview, WA, Len and Miriam realized they were home and bought the Sou'Wester in 1981, two days after seeing the property for the first time. Nothing like a little adventure to keep one young!

If you happen to be near Seaview on Saturday, February 14th, the Sou'Wester is hosting a talk by noted naturalist and author Jim Stapleton, an event that fits right in with Len and Miriam's decades long tradition of gathering people together to share ideas, music, and art.

With its funky decor, very basic amenities, and rough-around-the-edges appearance, a night at the Sou'Wester might not be for everyone (something Len was careful to make clear). What we can say is that there is definitely something about the place and the proprietor that rings true - an authentic roadside stop run by authentic people on a quest for life experiences beyond the 9-to-5. We're looking forward to returning!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Vintage Roadside at Crafty Wonderland this Sunday

Hello all,

Just a quick note to let you know we'll be rolling out the Vintage Roadside "Sideshow of Style" this weekend at Crafty Wonderland. We'll be at the Doug Fir Lounge on Sunday from 11:00 am - 4:00 pm.

If you're in the Portland area stop by our booth and say hello! We promise it will soon be warm enough to wear one of our t-shirts!

Crafty Wonderland
Doug Fir Lounge
830 E Burnside
Portland, OR

Have a great weekend!

Jeff & Kelly
Vintage Roadside

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Vintage Roadside is happy to welcome two new retailers!

Happy February everyone!

We're excited to announce you can now find a selection of our Vintage Roadside t-shirts at two new locations.

For those of you in the fair state of Idaho we'd like to introduce you to Back From the Past Vintage located in Idaho Falls. Back From the Past is a vintage-themed business located inside the Trackside Antique Mall. Back From the Past carries a selection of vintage items from the 1940s - 1970s and will also be at several local events this Spring and Summer. You can find upcoming events listed at their MySpace page below.

  • What: Vintage Roadside t-shirts at Back From the Past Vintage
  • Where: Trackside Antique Mall. Booth #432. 310 Poulson St., Idaho Falls, ID
  • Contact Info: (208) 523-9111 and on MySpace here.

For our friends here in Portland we're excited to have a selection of our shirts now available at Frock Boutique. Frock carries a wonderful variety of handmade goods created by local mom and pop designers as well as a selection of great vintage items. (If you'd like to read a few reviews about Frock you can find their Yelp entries here.) We're thrilled to be working with a shop that works hard to support other local businesses!

  • What: Vintage Roadside t-shirts at Frock Boutique.
  • Where: Frock Boutique. 1439 NE Alberta St., Portland, OR
  • Contact Info: (503) 595-0379 and at their website here.

If you have a chance, stop by and check out the Vintage Roadside selection along with all the other great items!

Jeff & Kelly
Vintage Roadside