Where’s the Love?

Now you see it. Now you don’t.

Many are bemoaning that Silverlake just lost its iconic Happy Foot/Sad Foot sign at the corner of Sunset & Benton Way. A sad-foot day for sure, but icons have been disappearing from the LA landscape forever. Just ask Ralph Story, or you could if he was here anymore…

Unfortunately, this perpetual change is part of the fabric of Los Angeles. We have seen first hand just how much character our city has lost over the past 30 years and the change is only accelerating.

For example, the perhaps much less beloved Sofa Love sign on the side of the catty-cornered Silverlake Furniture was quietly painted over a few years ago without any hoopla. The spot is now currently occupied by Big & Tiny, an office space start up for working moms. But the honor of the Sofa Love loss goes to PETA, who refashioned and painted the old building obliterating other iconic signage that once greeted us as we left the 101 freeway and headed home.

On your next drive-by, if you squint really hard maybe you can imagine the lost hand painted iconography on the wall.

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Yard Birds

We are watching the birds but who are the birds watching?

Sunflowers and birdseed draw a bevy of birds to the yard. The cast of flighty characters in our socal garden mainly consists of finches, scrub jays, mockingbirds and doves. Though now and again other feathered friends pop by to sing for their supper, providing infinite porchside entertainment…

Just Whipped Up

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Otherwise ordinary notes just may appear more beautiful when taken in our latest handmade Upcycled Mini Journal.  At the turn of a page, original photography of urban beauty salons will keep your prose stylin’.

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Just knocked out a new Bowling Mini Journal. Each one of our handmade upcycled pocket notebooks is a bit different, and that’s a good thing! This one has plenty retro bowling alley pix ready to inspire at the turn of a page.

¡Adios Pastrami Burrito!

Kosher Burrito blog

The Kosher Burrito once stood on 1st Street between Los Angeles City Hall and Little Tokyo. (Yep, that’s the New Otani in the background.) I snapped this shot with my old 2 1/4 Spartus in the 90’s before it was gone for good in 2002.

Picture a simple lunch counter/ burger stand with a few stools that offered up a cross between Mexican and deli food such as the famed Kosher Burrito which was filled with pastrami, mustard, chili, pickles and onions. Word has it they had pretty good burgers too.

All in the backdrop of Little Tokyo. Only in Los Angeles. Just archive it in the ever expanding file of terrific things that aren’t here anymore.

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We are still left with a few “Mexicatessens” around town– joints that serve Mexican food and hamburger style grub. While amusing and promising in name, the reality is a far cry from the Kosher Burrito.

AMF – From Bowling Balls to Bicycles?

StampBowlWheels4 copySpent part of the weekend tuning up an old yellow bicycle given to me over a decade ago. It was a thrift score, a 5-speed Roadmaster cruiser named Nimble.

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It was as cute as a button. When I first got it, I strapped a camera mount on it and used it as my photo excursion touring vehicle.

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Turns out, it wasn’t so nimble. Over time, I couldn’t ignore the clumsy proportions of the frame and the oversized seat which made for an awkward uncomfortable ride. So it ended up taking a back seat to more user friendly cruisers on hand. Alas, the Nimble sat neglected out on the roof I used to call home, braving the Southern California elements.

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Last weekend, I decided to get the little feller into working order again. It looked pretty sad– dusty and rusty with two flat tires. While cleaning her up, I noticed the familiar AMF branding on the bicycle frame. AMF? Of bowling alley fame?

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Yep! Brooklyn based American Machine and Foundry dabbled in a bit of everything. AMF got its start in 1900 by making equipment for the tobacco industry. By the 1940’s, it had diversified into all sorts of automatic manufacturing gear– from mechanical bread packagers to necktie stitchers to pretzel twisting machines.

It seems either a head scratcher or a logical progression that in the 40’s AMF would introduce the first automatic bowling pin setting machine. (Remember, humans used to do that job.) The so called Pinspotter was a hit! Because of it, AMF both helped create and profited from a countrywide “bowling boom”. This is why AMF would come to be synonymous with bowling. Lanes, balls, pins, and bowling alley operations would follow.

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In the 50’s AMF got into the bicycle racket. (Later, they also got into the tennis racket racket, but that’s another story.) The AMF Wheel Goods Division produced Roadmaster bicycles in a super automated factory in Little Rock, Arkansas. Thanks to the baby boom, they sold a lot of bicycles and soon moved operations to a bigger new factory in Illinois.

It’s there that AMF Wheel Goods started going downhill fast along with the quality of their bicycle line. It’s said that some bicycle shops even declined repairing Roadmasters, cause there’s no polishing a turd I guess.

The Roadmaster Nimble I have dates back to the 1970s and that’s just about when things started to go wheely bad over at AMF Wheel Goods. So it seems like I have a lemon on my hands. But that’s okay. Like a Cutter, I’ll pedal through the rough patches and make lemonade.

 

 

Century Records Update– The Hits Keep Coming

Maybe our quest for Century Records wasn’t all for naught. A reader, Audrey wrote in to tell us that her dad, Sam Rice, was a recording tech there. Her memories begin to flush out the black and white sketch on the back of the record and what went on within.

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“I remember visiting the factory only a few times. I think I remember the processing room, but very dimly. I remember the smell of the records being made. I remember the red blue and gold records, I think. I mostly remember desert-like landscaping, the crunch of rocks instead of glass, and a water dispenser with cold water in the waiting room.”

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She even shared a peek of some of her pop’s Century Records paperwork– recording schedules and contracts. Looks like you could get a school record in the works for six bucks per unit back in ’65. Of course, this includes some whistles and bells like “special editing, anti static vinyl, and custom album cover”.  Wonder if color vinyl was extra?

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Turns out Audrey’s dad was a big of a big shot over at Century, at least in 1965 when he got a gold medal for a top 10 record.

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Unfortunately, her father has passed, but his name lives on– showing up on many of the Century Records in those thrift store bins.

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So we continue to scour those thrift shops while keeping our ears out for more Century Records stories… If you have any, drop us a line.

Disappearing Lanes

 

Bowl Header2 copyIt was a good Sunday when Dad packed us up in the station wagon for a trip to the local bowling alley.  The space aged geometric letters stretching into the sky were a sign of good times ahead.

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Trading in the old sneakers for a pair of groovy colored funny smelling shoes was treat enough. Then there was picking out the perfect ball and the nick name for the score sheet. Yeah, scoring was done with pencil, paper, and brain back then.

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Then it was time to sit back and chill out on the cool chairs til it was your chance to bowl.

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It wasn’t rock and bowl, or black light bowl, it was just plain bowling and it was plain fun. I remember there being lots of alleys back then and the lanes were usually packed.

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For the last few decades, old bowling alleys have been slowly disappearing from the Southern California landscape. Lately,  I read news of the likely closure of Burbank’s Pickwick Bowl.

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Will it be the next to join the bowling alley graveyard? The Covina Bowl had its last stand earlier this year and the Friendly Hills Bowl was hit by the bulldozer before that.

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They are in the good growing company of the iconic bowling centers that have gone before them. The Hollywood Star Lanes, Picwood Bowl, Panorama Bowl, La Mirada Bowl and many more classic mid mod architectural gems have been crushed for the vast and valuable real estate they occupy.

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All we have left is the memories of spares, strikes, and turkeys bowled within them.

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If you’re lucky enough to have a vintage bowling alley in your neighborhood, best go for a bowl before it becomes extinct.

Godliness is Next to Mufflers

Kinda tough to take to the streets these days without stepping into some roadside sanctimony. Take or leave the big messy bag of religion and take a second to appreciate the hand painted art on exhibit in everyday locales. Admission is free to the public. See Jesus lording over automobile shops where he protects and warranties everything from crankshafts and transmissions to windshields.  And watch him preside over liquor store parking lots and back alleys, bringing hope to those with no bathrooms & no place to shoot up.

Amble along with us through the pious city streets and righteous country roads across the USA. Don’t be a-feared of the blood and apocalyptic messages. And just remember the choice is yours. Wherever you end up, send us a postcard.

Kelbo’s Resurfaces Thru The Scratches

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Digging through old negatives the other day, I came across a batch of scratchy, poorly preserved color negatives of Kelbo’s Restaurant. In the early 1980’s I moved into  a bungalow behind Kelbo’s in West Los Angeles. At that time, Kelbo’s was one of the last great post war tiki-style Polynesian restaurants left  in Los Angeles or perhaps the world. I recall seeing another Kelbo’s on Fairfax, across from Farmer’s Market, but that joint was demolished  a few days later, before I could snap a shot of it.

I had a sense that Kelbo’s wasn’t long for this world. There were never many folks inside drinking or eating  whereas the S.F. Saloon, LA’s first fern bar just a block away, was always hopping.

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Through the haze of time and booze, this is what I recall of the inside of Kelbo’s: thatched booths wrapped in bambo with a dramatic back lite plastic cocktail menu at the far end displaying Kelbo’s signature tiki-inspired rum drinks in wondrous colors of green, purple, fiery red & blue; tropical fish tanks on the backside of the bar; bartenders dressed like modern day Trader Joe’s employees; greasy sugary ribs that people loved; a round dance floor in the back with spinning disco ball and a circle  on the ceiling resembling the edge of a half coconut.

Luckily I snapped some shots of the outside, otherwise I would have never recalled the odd murals were painted on the doors & stucco. A few years later, Kelbo’s was sold, stripped of its soul and turned into Fantasy Island, a strip club which is how the building continues to function today.  I imagine the strippers  dancing beneath that coconut shell, working on the same floor once inhabited by spry seniors cutting a rug. I’m certain the fish tanks & glowing menus are long buried deep in a landfill.

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These murals were on the parking lot side of the building. They are painted in a film negative black & white look that some have found oddly racist looking.

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A few of the doors, one a black & white negative of the other.

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Who were the artists who created the murals? Not sure about the guys from Genius Inc but Carolyn Dulay is a graphic artist proud of her work at Kelbo’s.

muralartists-copyNotice the integration of the restaurant’s electric panel into the tropical look.

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The last stop on this tour is the junk shack in the back. Nothing of value inside folks so keep it moving!

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Explore more Kelbo’s history and photos at Old Los Angeles Restaurants and  Tiki Central. Huli pau!