From ancient petroglyphs to modern jumbotrons, man has felt compelled to leave a sign of his passing upon the landscape. While I usually focus heavily on neon, I also love ghost signs, graffiti and just about any other artistic mark that humans leave upon their environment, especially where it concerns commerce.
Here are a few more from our trip through Arizona and New Mexico.
Try as I might, I just can’t get away from those damn banjos!!
It is actually “Barn” Again, (In a barn) next to the Burger Boy
Just great vintage neon
I don’t think this development ever really got off the ground- (alongside an abandoned stretch of old Route 66)
**** note the strange little box in the right hand corner***
Left over from an old windmill- wish I could have brought it home
Let’s get Fluffy right over!!
This is some great graffiti on an abandoned water tank
I think this about says it all
Category Archives: Neon
NEON of the AMERICAN SOUTHWEST
Howdy Friends! Long time no see, you might say! Yes, I have been on a bit of a hiatus for the past year,as my life has experienced many changes, but I am happy to say, all for the best. So I hope to get back in the groove and continue to post images that strike my fancy, or elicit an emotional response, or make a statement, or just plain look beautiful or interesting. As the title of this blog states, this is about that vanishing bit of Americana that I love so well, the neon landscape of this wacky and grand country of ours. So for my return to blogging, I present this bit of dreamscape from a recent trip to Arizona and New Mexico, a brief roadtrip down the “Mother road”, Route 66, and a bit of the vanishing commercial artistry of the local neon signage.
We stayed here at the Monterey, clean, friendly, and a bit of time travel back to 1976!
The late, lamented Aztec Motel- now gone, with only this iconic neon remaining
I’m getting a message from Sputnik here!
The Dog House, in Albuquerque, New Mexico- great place for a hot dog & milk shake! Look for the sign of the happy, wagging tail!
The El Don- some of the best neon we saw, but the motel has been sadly neglected
“AIR CONDITIONED by REFRIGERATION!” What could be better?
On our recent visit in a southerly direction, through Winchester, Harrisonburg and Staunton, Virginia, we happened upon various reminders of these town’s genteel and charming pasts. While the usual strip malls, big box stores and detestable chain eateries were very much in evidence, churning out their oh, so regimented and reliably bland totems to mass consumerism, we also encountered the quaint and polite charm of a by-gone era, along with the reminders of the individual American spirit that is so often overlooked today.
The Scales of Justice, Harrisonburg, VA.
The DIXIE Theater, Staunton, VA.
Home after a hard day’s work, Winchester, VA.
George’s, Harrisonburg, VA.
Cleaning up in Winchester, VA.
The skies the limit in Staunton, VA.
When a car dealership really meant something, in Harrisonburg, VA.
Now this is a home worth coming home to!
THE COLO MOTEL
Out along the Lincoln Highway, about a half an hour’s drive from Ames, is the little crossroads community of Colo, Iowa. On our recent cross country odyssey, in route to Bozeman, Montana, we had the good fortune to stop in at the Colo Motel and Niland’s Cafe. A lovingly restored gas station, bus stop, motor court and Cafe, this oasis stands as a beacon among the corn fields and silos, within earshot of the cross country freights that sing their lonesome songs late into the night. The owners and workers here are friendly, outgoing and treat you with all the care and love that is normally reserved for long lost family. If you’re ever driving across Iowa, pull in, have a milkshake and give yourself a rest before hitting the highway again. You’ll be glad you did!
HOSPITALITY – SAN FRANCISCO STYLE
This beautiful city has long been known for its fine dining and proximity to some of the finest vineyards in the world. The gorgeous hotels, bed & breakfasts and luxury accommodations make any Michelin reviewer sit up and take notice. On my recent visit, I set out every morning to walk this fair city, and discover for myself, from street level, the many joys that the City by the Bay had to offer in the way of potent comestibles and comfortable lodging. ….and away we go! From the Castro to the Haight, North Beach to the Tenderloin, a gentle walk on the wild side of SF.
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MIX & MATCH
THE ROAD TO MEMPHIS
Once again, the intrepid traveler and neon explorer has loaded up the trusty Retromobile and set a southwesterly course through Kentucky and on to Tennessee before making my yearly pilgrimage to Princeton and Penningtonfest! As planned, it was a long drive, but one teeming with roadside treasures and surprises galore. My trusty and loyal crew and I were rewarded with new adventures and plenty of bizarre and interesting bits of vanishing small town Americana. …and, of course, plenty of neon, lost commercial ephemera from bygone eras and interesting architecture that the 21st Century has bid a not so fond farewell to in favor of a landscape of homogenized conformity.
What would a trip to Memphis be without a stop to Graceland. Sorry, no published pictures allowed! Elvis, Elvis!
Historic Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis- Beautiful!
Some cool neon in Memphis
I just LOVED this house- Was formerly a Doctor’s office, now up for sale, but too far from anything to make it practical
Old small town movie theaters
Several generations of wildly diverse roadside architecture in the South
Who knew that rural Tennessee was home to such great Deco design?
NEW JERSEY-THE GARDEN STATE
It was a gray and dreary day as The Diner Hunter and I set out for an impromptu road trip to the Garden State. Although many folks associate New Jersey with refineries, turnpikes and the likes of someone named Snooki, we chose to view a different version of the Jersey shore, although our journey did ultimately lead us to Seaside Heights, to see the roller coaster and surrounding damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy. Once off the highway, New Jersey is home to a huge diversity of small towns, scrub pine forests and cranberry bogs. Along the way we saw our usual roadside collection of abandoned buildings, darkened neon and diners. Jersey is the repository of hundreds of diners of every shape and style and we barely made a dent in the list.
After breakfast, Wildwood was one of our first stops. A piece of beachfront history suspended in time, every manner of so called “DooWop” motel and retro signage exists here, and their amusement park’s roller coaster rose out of the morning mist like a vision from a bygone era, a hole in the old space/time continuum.
If you love vintage style neon, this is THE place to be-
More retro neon in Wildwood – I need a shower, now!
The Caribbean ( design art from the Library of Congress)
This part of New Jersey is also home to re-purposed Muffler Men & all manner of strange creatures from the Land of the Giants- must be all those chemical mutations
The most beloved giant of all is Lucy, The Elephant who has made her home in Margate, New Jersey since 1881.
American Roadside architecture at its zaniest- Even the municipal offices are cool
Pennsylvania seems to be the state that my wanderlust feels compelled to visit, so for the second time in a week, I’ve laced up my traveling shoes, cranked up the old jalopy, and headed west to the Keystone State and a new adventure out along America’s highways and byways. This was a leisurely journey, with no real destination or objective in mind, so my beautiful traveling companion and I settled for the scenic area around Lancaster county, home to a substantial community of Amish and Mennonite families, as well as Jennie’s Diner, in Ronk’s PA.
Jennie’s is THE place to go if you have a hearty appetite and appreciate friendly service and delicious food.
Although only a minute from strip malls and an amusement park & putt-putt golf, you’ll see the old ways practiced directly across the street from this busy diner.
Another few minutes down the road and you’ll run into the Strasburg Railroad, and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, always fun for young and old alike!
And darn, wouldn’t you know it ( because, after all, this is a blog about neon & diners & roadside stuff) we luckily happened upon some great old neon and motel signage along Rt. 30, The Lincoln Highway
This is Amish country, and, as anywhere around the world, kids will always be, well, you know…..kids! The Amish are private people, and generally avoid photographs, so this was taken from a discreet and respectful distance.
On a sunny spring day like this, all the other cultural rituals play out as well, and this wedding party in downtown Lancaster seems to be having a great time clowning around prior to the big event.Beauties every one!
The many styles of architecture in Lancaster County
Of course, no roadtrip would be complete without ending the day as it started…..at a great diner.
SIGNS OVER AMERICA
The late Lady Bird Johnson was never big on the art of the roadside sign. In fact, she devoted a considerable amount of time and effort to rid America of the pox of neon signs, billboards and other bits of the art of commerce along our Nation’s highways and byways. Ultimately, we are better for it, and I applaud her efforts. Today, of course, we are smothered by the crushing weight of electronic advertising, and the simple regional attempts at exterior self-promotion lay rusting on their own walls, forgotten reminders of a less sophisticated time. Ah, but plenty of examples still remain, in small towns and cities across our great country, and I am always on the lookout, along with my fellow commercial archaeologists! Here’s a quick romp in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.