Nickodell, Just Another Faded Memory

I still remember Nickodell, nestled between KHJ Channel 9 and Paramount Studios on Melrose almost as if it were a part of the studio complex. I was lucky enough to go there (way past its heyday) in the 80’s to grab an ice cream at the counter on a trip to the Paramount lot. I still remember snapping a shot of the mighty neon sign atop the building. Traveling up Melrose nowadays, I can almost still see it through the fog of history.

A faded memory, restored by trusty Kodachrome.

In 1936, restauranteur Nick Slavich took over the joint originally called the Melrose Grotto, and made it his own, at some point re-dubbing it Nickodell, a mash-up his and his wife’s names. (He owned another Nickodell a bit north on Argyle, but that’s another story.) It was an eatery (and boozery), largely popular with studio types, dishing out old school American fare like steaks, baked potatoes, and beloved Caesar salads.

Nickodell closed in November of ’93 and was subsequently demolished by Paramount in ’94 to make way for a few more spots in their parking lot, leaving us only with a few matchbooks and fond memories.

Gotta Light?

Forever Food House

The Food House is a faded memory. Chalk it up to another place I never stepped inside. The generically named market heralded by bold deco letters was a standout on Sunset Boulevard until it was gone. Did The Food House ever really exist? Thankfully, sometimes a photograph is more reliable than memory.

Food House Market, then and now

In 1936, the Silverlake structure was built on Sunset between Edgecliff and Maltman in the Childs Heights Tract by Virgil Investment Co. The property operated as a market for over 60 years. It seems Food House Markets may have been a short lived chain in the LA area, having at least one other location on West Adams Street.

It’s unclear exactly when Food House came into the picture, but in 1940 a sign tower was constructed that would display their eye-catching vertical signage. (That tower still exists today, bearing the “99¢ Only Store” sign.) From the looks of it, Food House had great deals on all of the basic food groups: vodka, wine, and refried beans.

A one-stop shop?

In November 1960, the Silverlake Food House made LA Times headlines when a dynamic duo of masked bandits attempted a crackpot overnight heist. Using the cover of nightfall, the pair breached the grocery store via the roof. While hard at work safe-cracking, the thieves helped themselves to some late night hors d’oeuvres and beer courtesy of the Food House. Turns out, that was the extent of their robbery as the looting was interrupted by the morning market manager and the cash was left behind in the scuffle.

In 1960, the LA Times reported a bungled burglary at the Food House Market

Ultimately, like so many Los Angeles markets, the Food House shuttered. At some point in the late 90’s the signage came off the building and the letters sat on the roof for a while. Then in 1999, a 99¢ Store took over and the rest is history… for now.

The Last Days of Han’s Repair

Today is the last day to get a key made at Han’s Shoe Repair. Better pick up those shoes, vacuums, and sewing machines too!

Echo Park will lose another chunk of personality with the closing of Han’s Shoe Repair. Sandwiched between the corner liquor store and Lolita’s Beauty Salon on Berkeley Avenue at Glendale Boulevard, Mr. Han has been in this spot since the 70’s repairing shoes, sewing machines and vacuums and making keys to boot.

Rear view.

Han’s Repair is one of those places that feels its age. Going inside is like entering a time machine— old sewing machines stacked knee deep, vintage vacuums lined up awaiting pickup, a smattering of typewriters, trees of vacuum bags, and loads of hoses hanging overhead. Behind the counter, shelves brim with bits and bobs and piles of parcels and parts from the past.

On Han’s penultimate day of business, a couple patrons stop by to pick up their shoes lamenting the closure. Han appreciates the loyal customers. But after 46 years, he has debilitating back pain requiring rest, so he’s calling it quits. Han’s Repair is closing today.

Open, but not for long.

Han hoped to retire at 90 years of age, but didn’t quite make it. He will walk away and leave the storefront and its contents behind.

We salute you Mr. Han! Thanks for adding much needed service and charm to our neighborhood for so many years. We will miss you.

Han, the man behind the magic.

Where’s the Beef?

So you’re driving along and suddenly notice the city has lost a tooth. Where things once stood– a block is suddenly vacant, a lot is suddenly empty, a sign has disappeared.

Only the bird knows…

You scratch your head and and rack your brain trying to remember what was there before. And then if you are lucky enough, you remember it was a spot that added color and life to the city. Then you kick yourself for never buying a burrito, a burger, or a shrimp there. And another kick for never getting a proper photo of the joint before it died, before it gentrified.

Tom’s backside. No Booze + No Loitering!

This was Tom’s Burgers. Its mighty sign and distinctive green tiled building anchored the corner of Sunset and Silverlake ever since I was a mere passenger in the back of the wood paneled Country Squire station wagon.  

Yeah, Tom’s didn’t get rave reviews but its presence was a fixture in my LA geography. A few years back, the sign went blank and Tom’s was gone. I regretted never stopping in or to take a shot or two of Tom’s. Eh, why bother? It’ll always be there. I’ll drive-thru next time.  Until there wasn’t a next time.

Now every time I pass the modern pizza joint that replaced it, I try to envision Tom’s. Through my spotty memory and a few random area snapshots I re-imagined the sign for better or worse.

The moral of the story? Go there. Experience the place. At least take a picture of it today. Because it could be gone tomorrow.

Sofa Love Loss

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.

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.

Bukowski Drank Here, or Did He?

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“I started drinking before you people were born. I’ll be drinking after I bury you.”- Charles Bukowski

Chances are it’d be hard to figure all the joints Bukowski bellied up to. His domain was Hollywood and Western for a chunk of his life when he was boozing/ writing poetry and prose by day and sticking mail at the post office by night. There’s a neat video of him reminiscing about his old neighborhood here.

That hood has changed a lot since those days with arrival of the Metro Red Line and scads of soul-less structures filled with fast food and big box stores which knocked out whole city blocks of mom and pop shops. It used to have equal parts grit and personality… lots of bars, liquor stores, and street life.

Though Bukowski was long gone (moved to San Pedro in the late 70’s) the area still had flavor in the 80’s and 90’s when we captured these pix. This dive was on Western– perhaps he tipped a few back here before getting 86’d. Notice the sex shop next door.

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The Study is wedged between a hotel and a liquor store that Bukowski recalls, so maybe he did some “studying” here as well. This spot became a gay bar in the ’90’s and has now been erased from the landscape all together. I remember it having a pot belly fire pit inside, providing refuge from the cruel LA weather I guess.

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Buk is said to have ventured west on Hollywood Blvd. to the Frolic Room, which keeps pouring ’em strong to this day.

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Big Ed’s was a classic Culver City watering hole, popular among actors, gamblers, & hustlers in ’40s & ‘50s. It seems a stretch to think Bukowski would have been a regular here as it falls so far outside of his home turf.

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It had its last last call in the late ‘80s. Just before shuttering, it was transformed into The Golden Horn bar, the setting of the cult movie, “Barfly”, the only screenplay penned by Bukowski. If you squint, you may be able to imagine the Golden Horn neon atop the Big Ed’s. Bukowski had a cameo as a bar patron towards the end of the movie, so maybe just maybe he did drink here after all…

Sometime after the movie was made Big Ed’s was razed, but not before being mysteriously burned, which is when this shot was snapped. Wouldn’t you know it became a parking lot. Now that’s poetry.

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Find more photography of old Los Angeles dive bars here.

Endless Entertainment

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This was my bowling alley.  A few blocks east on Pico, at Westwood and Pico, The Picwood Bowl.  I could walk there and I did.  Endless entertainment because it was open 24 hours.  Damn!  Three levels of steps & chairs down to the main floor where the balls were tossed.  A sunken cocktail lounge with trophies and forgotten odes to alcohol behind display glass.  Always felt a bit weird sitting on a bar stool in that sunken bar – tall on the chair but short to the rest of the world up on level ground bowling.

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But one day the lanes were stripped of their wood and the building flattened for one gigantic ugly hell of a shopping mall.  Some post modern monstrosity. Designed by an architect raised on junk food & profit margins.  Yes, the family who owned the lanes sold out.  I hope the hell they made a lot of money because they made a lot of folks pretty damn unhappy when the sold out.

Across the street the Apple Pan still flips out burgers and pies, some of the best in Los Angeles.

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