Monday, September 2, 2013

Red's and Orange Pastels

     “ A fellow will remember a lot of things you wouldn't think he'd remember.
–actor Everett Sloane as Bernstien in Citizen Kane

     Bruce Crowther checked in a few weeks ago, he’s living in Idaho and unfortunately can't make it to the reunion. I first met Bruce, I think, in kindergarden. He lived on 20th St. between Paul Swanson and Janis Riffle. Bruce is a redhead, like his dad, the “Red” of Red’s Ranch Market. His father had a heart attack and passed away, as I recall, while were still in grade school. 

     Red’s Ranch market was just south of the corner of Bolsa and Harbor Blvd. a big, barn-like building. Bruce once showed me a tarantula that one of his brothers had captured at the market. The arachnid was in mayonnaise jar that had air holes punched in the top with an ice pick. Bruce opened the jar and let the tarantula crawl along his arm, I thought that was really cool. Especially after I saw James Bond let a tarantula crawl across him in “Dr. No”.

   I went online and found this photo of the market. The picture was taken the year after we graduated, during the Great Flood of 1969. The Crowthers had sold Red's by then. The new owners changed the “RED’S” in the sign to “FOOD” and saved money because they didn’t have to replace all the letters. (They would have saved more had the new owner been named Ned.)

     I recognized the figure in the upper right, above the VW Bus and power lines, it was a sailor in a crow’s nest. He’s looking up Harbor Blvd. above a Seafood Restaurant named “Secret Harbor”. This match book cover from Secret Harbor recently sold on e-Bay. In this age of cookie cutter, hypoallergenic architecture it’s bit of a time warp when you realize how much the look of buildings has changed. Most restaurants back then were independently owned and operated and they had their own interesting quirks. Today chain restaurants have taken over and they all look the same, a Chili’s in my town looks like a Chili’s in your town. 

     At the far right of the black and white photo is a sign of things to come: golden arches.

     This is “one of the old Stanley Meston designed McDonald's restaurants." McDonald’s is currently in a multi-year refurbishing and redesign project, they’re morphing into a Starbuck’s look. The Meston design had the original illuminated plastic Golden Arches, where the arches traveled a full 180 degrees from the ground, through the roof and back through the roof in front. McDonald’s was not yet a restaurant, it was still a hamburger stand.

     Meston also designed for Jack-In-The-Box, this one reminds me of the one on 17th Street, where late one night I was riding shot gun. Brooks Smith attempted to flirt with the girl at the drive-in microphone by ordering a sheepherder's sandwich, “That’s two slices of bread and a little bit of ewe”.

    The attempt was unsuccessful.  

    Meston built up the sides of the buildings and used them for billboards, with an appetizing palette of orange pastels. I like the pledge, “Insured Quality Hamburgers”. How do you insure a hamburger?

     Meston was of the “googie” school of architecture, a mid-century modern, futuristic style that was popular along the Las Vegas Strip: big swooping lines, lots of neon, and bright colors. The mid-century modern look has been enjoying a small revival of late, at least on Mad Men, in Ikea showrooms and in Palm Springs. But the futuristic/space-age/googie variant peaked about the time, 45 years ago, when we graduated. It never became the architecture of the future, but I still think it looks way cool.

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