Lollipop Motel sign, Wildwood, New Jersey (2006)
Earlier in this space we reviewed some of the work of photographer Carol Highsmith. Highsmith donated her life’s work of more than 100,000 images, royalty-free, to the Library of Congress, which established a rare, one-person archive. Here are a few more selected views from the collection.
66 Drive-In Theatre, Route 66, Carthage, Missouri  (2009)
Randy’s Donuts; Inglewood, California (2005)
Century 10 Theater Downtown; Ventura, California (1998)
Imaginative roadside sign for the Wyoming Motel and Cafe; Cheyenne, Wyoming (2015)
Riders enjoy (or endure) a spin on the Big Dipper roller-coaster at Camden Park; Huntington, West Virginia (2015)
Clown-motif liquor-store sign in North Hollywood; Los Angeles, California (2013)
Tony’s Burger; Los Angeles, California (2005)
Saint Anthony Catholic Church; Long Beach, California (2005)
Tail-o-the-Pup; Los Angeles, California  (2005)
A freight train approaches the tiny Converse County, Wyoming, town of Bill. (2015)
Mesa Drive-in Theater, established 1951 in Blende [Pueblo], Colorado (2015)
All photos copyright Carol M. Highsmith‘s America Project, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
With the new Stephen King movie “It” due out in a few days the “Circus Liquors” clown sign is especially timely! Great pics!
Excellent finds! Thanks for sharing!
This is marked “continued.” Were there previous posts?
I love these pictures — at first glance, I assumed they were mostly vintage shots, but then I noticed the years. They’re all relatively recent. Amazing that these have all survived… they’re the curbside classics of the commercial architecture world.
The fact that these have survived makes for some interesting juxtapositions. Like the tanning salon ad and the help sign that appears to be depicting a computer screen, not to mention the CVPI. If it weren’t for those and the names of the movies one would easily believe it was from the 50s.
The Tony’s Burger is also interesting because while the name says Burger and the building is definitely a survivor, it appears they feature Mexican food and will make you a burger if they have to.
I love that shot of Tony’s burgers in LA. The story of LA on one picture: classic American Hamburgers, served alongside huevos rancheros! That Circus liquor sign is just disturbing. Look at the facial expression of that clown.
I love these pictures! I now remember the earlier post. Great stuff.
When I first saw “Big Dipper”, I thought it might have been from Geauga Lake in Aurora, Ohio. I’m so sad that park is gone.
Whenever I drive to the Bay Area I pass the Milk Farm sign in Dixon, CA. Although the restaurant has been closed since 1986 and the building has long since been demolished, the sign was left standing because the locals consider it to be such an important landmark.
This sign stood on Pacific Coast Highway in Redondo Beach, CA for over 50 years. The problem was that there is no longer a restaurant 3 blocks away. Tourists were confused and eventually it came down, much to the annoyance of preservationists.
I too pass this place. When I was draft age, army leased Greyhound bus’s took us from Chico to the induction physicals in San Francisco. The bus’s always stopped at the Milk Farm for a break. It was a nice place. Sitting behind the driver, I had no idea Greyhounds could travel so fast. According to the speedo, we were nudging 100 mph much of the way with the huge tires squaling around gentle curves. (the drivers were army personel, not Greyhound) I had seen Continental Trailways bus’s on the open road at and over 100 mph on their huge wide whitewalls and chrome rims. It didn’t take long to get to SF. My first induction physical was after a four ton truck had rear ended me. Doctors weren’t sure I’d walk again. For the physical I was still on canes. They listed me 1Y, only taken in a declared war (Vietnam was never declared) Second trip to SF a year later I was down to one cane, still declared 1Y. Then President Nixon changed the rules. If you were 1Y two years in a row, you became a permanent 4F. On the trip back home, two pretty girls in a 57-62 300SL roadster started playing leapfrog with this bus full of horny teenage men. Pass then slow, the Greyhound driver would pass them, then they passed again and so on. until the bus was in the lead and someone yelled “If you stop, driver gets first choice!” Smoke erupted from the bus tires as we stopped. The girls stopped back aways, looked at each other, spun a fast U-turn and disappeared
Fun seeing signs I drive by every so often! Los Angeles County is pretty good at preserving landmark signs, even when the building has been demolished. That can be a tad annoying when you’re looking for someplace cool to eat and you find the diner is now a dry-cleaner’s, but hanging onto history is important.
One exception they make here is that a distinctive shape with only a painted face (or two if it’s 3-D) can be painted over. There’s a crown-shaped two-sided sign up the street from me that had its crown details and store name painted over completely in white, and the name of the new business lettered on. Not that attractive …
“That can be a tad annoying when you’re looking for someplace cool to eat and you find the diner is now a dry-cleaner’s”
Yeah, I often wonder how many out of town travelers exit I-80 after passing the Milk Farm sign expecting there to be an actual restaurant there. When I first moved to the area I certainly had no idea the restaurant wasn’t there anymore.
I just read about the Randy’s Donuts building the other day. The donut is made of reinforced concrete and supported by two steel posts. The building was then built around and under the donut giving the appearance that it is sitting on the roof.
This is a fine collection. Here’s an ad from 1959 or slightly later for Coca-Cola served at a Drive-In restaurant. The youngsters are in a1959 or 1960 GM convertible from the windshield that we can see.
I had to do a double take on this Coca Cola ad. That couple could pass for Cindy Williams and Ron Howard.
I keep saying it — the 1959-60 GM windshield was the most dramatic ever produced, peak wraparound if you will.
Think the ’59 Mercury was most dramatic. the upper part was near identical to GM, but the bottom dove into the cowl area. It must have been difficult to make.
I love the details in that ad that evoke a different era: the car, the matching hat and skirt on the server, the formally dressed diners at a drive-in, the elaborate and individually composed sandwiches (one on toasted bread!), the real plates and glass (including salt and pepper shakers). Imagine the kitchen staff spearing toothpicked olives into the sandwiches, a lost art. Great stuff – thanks for posting.
Tony’s Burgers was closed up for years and years, I drive past it almost daily and was very happy when it re opened instead of being torn down .
There are lots of the Randy’s Donuts buildings still around So. Cal. only a few are still Randy’s .
Circus Liquors in in No. Ho. maybe Burbank and is often in both movies and the local news as robberies/shootings occur there regularly .
Lots of interesting Commercial structures here, most of the really odd ones get torn down sad to say .
If you haven’t seen it, check out the new “Official” music video for Elton John’s ‘Tiny Dancer’. It’s shot all over So Cal and is an homage to the car culture of California and its tie-in with the song (which is one that I’ve long considered a perfect driving accompaniment, and is obviously viewed as such by the producer too, as the video seems to chronical a “Day in the Life” tableau perfectly). Circus Liquors is prominently featured as well.
I love the unique old signs and buildings of earlier eras and these are wonderful photos of them. But some of them make you wonder. Like the pairing of liquor and a scary clown.
A cinema-auto connection: LA’s Randy’s Donut signage was effectively used in 1988’s science fiction farce, “Earth Girls Are Easy” with the tasty addition of a ’50 Ford Woody.
The Carthage, MO drive in is interesting because it’s one of the few survivors that still have the original “Academy” screen ratio of either 1.33:1 or 1.37:1 with the wide screen added on later. Many drive-ins, when a wide screen was added or constructed for 2.35:1 CinemaScope, Panavision or other wide-screen formats, many operators didn’t go the full width perhaps to save a few bucks.
The old Airway Drive-In in St. Ann, MO even had a slightly curved screen, but not quite 2.35:1, nor was the curve deep enough to accommodate the actual arc of the projector. No one really noticed, but it was a very cool drive-in, and the Majorette marquee still stands.
The Los Angeles area has many remnants of Googie-type architecture from that long-ago era. I wish the style would make a comeback, but many municipalities forbid it, and in my community of West Chester, OH, Wal-Mart and even White Castle had to conform to a classier(?) style to better fit the community.
Haha, the Circus Liquor store is within two blocks of a couple of bars my friends and I frequent. The Tail-o-the-Pup is no longer standing unfortunately, having been removed around 2005.
In Seattle, currently still in business, the long time landmark, Elephant Car Wash–the classic pink elephant.
Think this was the sign we saw driving around Seattle during the WPC meet a few weeks ago, I collect Elephants and owls, have one brass elephant designed to mount on the front hood of a car It measures 20 inches high and about the same with ears spread, vision could be compromised
One of my favorite “big signs” is this one that graces Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, NC, just west of the NC State University campus, the locally-famous yellow bulldozer. The building was until the early 00’s a heavy equipment sales and service shop, and the bulldozer their sign (with a slightly more detailed paint job and wearing “Dresser” logos). The next tenant repainted it with less detail, but kept it otherwise intact despite having nothing to do with heavy equipment. Hard to get an exact idea of scale from this photo, but it’s huge, easily bigger than a car.
Sadly, the building has been bought by a developer and is slated for demolition, but community opposition to the sign’s disappearance has resulted in a written agreement to integrate the sign into the facade of the replacement building, with proper lighting so it can be seen at night. Hopefully the yellow bulldozer will be a feature on Hillsborough street for another 60+ years.