Sunday, December 2, 2007

Kona Motel - Anaheim, CA

Back on the streets of Anaheim, here we find the Kona Motel located at 331 North Brookhurst Avenue. With its island-inspired sign and 'A' frame entrance, the Kona is a proud member of that now-fading fraternity known as the Tiki motel.

The Kona was born sometime in the late 50's, when the exotic feel of genuine Tiki was often invoked by restaurants and motels to add mystery and allure to the dining and lodging experiences of mid-century Americans.

Here's a postcard view of the Kona Motel when the paint was still fresh:

Though time has passed, the Kona remains a local fixture, if only in the hearts of those who call it home. Located near Brookhurst Junior High School and abutting Dad Miller Golf Course at its rear, the Kona maintains its island look as best it can.

And if you're staying by the night or even by the week, the kidney shaped pool is still available for a refreshing swim. You can even hang your trunks out to dry on the convenient clothesline.

For those of you clamoring for a close-up of the sign, here you go. Two concessions to Father Time are evident: the font used in 'MOTEL' is no longer island-ish(?) and I'm almost positive that live flame no longer emits from the torch that rises above the 'Kona' plaque. Still, this is a fine example of the apparently lost art of creative motel signage.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Milt's Coffee Shop

A really good coffee shop can be a godsend while travelling the miles of asphalt that are collectively known as Highway 99. Milt's Coffee Shop in Bakersfield, California is just such a place. Located at 5220 Olive Drive, Milt's has been serving delicious down-home delights since the early 60's.

The back of this mid-sixties postcard invited passers by to "See our collection of State Plates". I'm happy to report that, as of 2007, this collection is still in place.

Well, Milt's has seen a bit remodeling over the years. In fact, the original building has lost it's mid-century stylings altogether. Once inside it's doors, however, one is delighted to find a vintage interior that still sports both booth AND counter service in most of it's original livery.

I recommend the roast beef and mashed potatoes, topped off with a peanut butter milkshake. My whole family recently voted to make a stop at Milt's one of our family traditions when travelling to and from our hometown and the golden magnet that is Southern California...

Oh, but what happened to that wonderful sign you ask? Well, the good news is that the original sign was saved and now presides at the edge of the property, where Highway 99'ers can be properly lured into the cozy confines of good ol' Milt's.

Happy travels to all of you...

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Dad and John Through Time

One of my parents first homes was on Campus Way in Modesto, California. This was near Modesto Junior College where my father (and my brothers and I) would later graduate. My oldest brother John was only a few months old when his picture was snapped, held in the loving arms of our father Ed. The original shot was taken in late 1959. I revisted the old neighborhood in 2003 and found it largely unchanged. I was even able to locate the very place where my mother Karin must have stood when she took the original shot.

One of my goals when I came up with this blog was to present a rear-view mirror to the slowly fading past. As these pictures from yesterday fade and yellow, I believe that their place in time still exists as long as the memory remains in those who once passed them by. Keeping those we love alive after their passing is only possible when we permit ourselves the quiet times when reflection can bring us home.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Tulare Dust

Once "The best cup of coffee on 99", Perry's Coffee Shop on Paige Avenue has seen some 40 years slip past it.

This ad from a 1965 Vacationland magazine served as a heads-up to those who travelled North or South on the 99 in route to Walt's little park in Anaheim:

Next door, the Tulare Inn soldiers on as a forlorn ambassador of a time that was...

Where was once a neatly kept lawn, only dried chaff remains on exhibit:

A refreshing pool now hosts only echoes from the past...

"The Tulare dust, in a farm boy's nose...wondering where the freight train goes.

Standin' in a field by the railroad track, cursin' the strap on my cotton sack.

I can see Mom and Dad with shoulders low, both of them pickin' on a double row.

They do it for a livin', because they must...that's life like it is in the Tulare Dust..."

---Merle Haggard---

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tradewinds Motor Hotel - Fresno, CA

Here's a fun scene from the 60's...elderly folks (and a few young ones) being served by the poolside at "The Tradewinds" in Fresno, California.

"The Tradewinds is centered in the heart of California's vacationland at the Gateway to Yosemite, King's Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. We are a Master Hosts Motor Hotel with 112 delightfully air conditioned rooms overlooking a lovely garden patio and heated swimming pool."

Ahhhh...the good old days...

As of 2007, the Tradewinds was still holding out against Father Time, but things weren't looking up.

When I paid a visit, the only guests appeared to be a busload of German tourists who had recently made their arrival. Sure, they appeared content enough, and the pool was a big hit on this 100 degree afternoon. But signs of decline and decay were everywhere: the vegetation was overgrown, a broken fence gate was left wide open to the street, and the parking lot was deserted.

At that time, The Tradewinds was part of the Best Western chain, an affiliation since terminated. The Tradewinds now faces the future as an independent motel, a tough task in today's nationally-branded lodging market.

My picture was taken from a second story balcony, the same perch used by the postcard artist I believe.

Another sure sign of trouble was the status of the Gaslight Room Steakhouse: CLOSED. This colorful space is now used only for the free breakfast and coffee service. The brick barbecue pit, rustic fittings, and carving stations remain. Wagon wheels and other Western flotsam adorn the neglected walls.

Likewise, the former cocktail lounge was shuttered to the German masses. After their long journey from who knows where, they probably could have used the services of this mid-century watering hole.

At least the sign still stands proudly...

Of additional note, The Tradewinds was once affiliated with the Ray Douglas' Pine Cone chain, with sister restaurants in Merced, Modesto (my home town), San Jose & San Leandro. Pictured below is the former Modesto location.

Note the similar signage and the steakhouse name: Branding Iron. This was the original name used at The Tradewinds also. Why or when the name was changed to the Gaslight Room remains a mystery.

All the Pine Cones are now gone, but the Modesto outpost soldiers on as an Acapulco Mexican Restaurant & Cantina.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Noyo Harbor - Fort Bragg, California

Let's journey now to California's rugged North Coast...

Highway 1 skirts this beautiful area and crosses over the Noyo River Bridge near Fort Bragg.

Back in the 1950's, "Fishing is one of the main industries of the Fort Bragg area, and commercial fisherman, as well as sportsman, find this the most abundant locale in Northern California."

In May of 2007, Noyo Harbor is still a bustling place for those seeking adventure on the choppy seas just beyond the river's mouth. However, the most advertised industry now seems to be whale watching.

Comparing the two shots, it's clear that "new" construction has filled in a few of the gaps, but happily the harbor remains a charming backwater. The bridge was widened recently, and traded it's steel-girder frame for one of reinforced concrete.

This perspective is from the shoulder of the narrow road that winds down to the harbor.

The two story building located on the left side at the rivers edge, is Silver's At The Wharf, a comfortable watering hole where the food is equaled only by the friendly service. If you ever drop anchor in these parts, make sure you pay them a visit. I recommend the Noyo Fish Tacos and Silver's Dungeness Crab Cakes.

You can find them on the web at:

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Motel 6 & Century Bowl

Returning from Anaheim, let's exit Highway 99 and rest for a bit at the Motel 6 in Merced. This chain was started in 1962 and this unit was probably one of the first 50 or so. Unlike a modern Motel 6, this one featured an attached restaurant and bar.

After 40 years, the pool area layout hasn't changed much. This veteran lodge now flies under the Super 8 banner but otherwise looks to be a survivor. The very tall Richfield gas station sign remains but now pushes the Vallero brand.

Just down the road, the long-shuttered Century Bowl awaits it's fate. This classic alley used to be a friendly haunt for those seeking a little ten-pin fun, and for now the great sign continues to call out to passers-by. But the fate of this urban relic appears all but certain. Does Merced really need another Walgreens? Perhaps, but it will be sad to see this old palace torn apart and hauled away...leaving one final 'open frame' on the community scorecard.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Westward Ho 7 Seas Motel

A short walk across the street from the Little Boy Blue, we now find ourself at this identity-challenged, seemingly budget-minded motel. I guess the name would appeal to those with a nautical leaning while drawing in the Old West type at the same time.

Either way, it looks like the same anti-swimming vibe is present. Glassy smooth pool surface, adults fully dressed and little children packed away somewhere. The pool doesn't close until midnight so perhaps they'll be diving in when they get back from the park. Let's hope they took the free shuttle; it would be quite a walk from here.

The WH7S Motel was located at 415 West Katella Avenue, in between the Rip Van Winkle and Samoa motels. Every room featured a complimentary Philco COLOR TV and direct dial telephones.

About thirty years later, I visited the now Super 8 Motel to see what had changed. I'm happy to report that time has been kind to the grounds and pool area. In fact, it looks like this picture could have been taken the morning after the original.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Little Boy Blue Motel --- Anaheim, CA

Here's the Little Boy Blue Motel located at 416 West Katella Avenue, near Disneyland. Among the many amenities available at this modern motel were:

Orthopedic Mattresses
Tubs and Showers in Each Room
Electric Air Conditioning
Heated Pool

Once you've had a chance to enjoy these modern features, It was comforting to know that the LBB was "Around the corner from Disneyland and Melodyland." and "Close to Knott's Berry Farm, (Movieland) Wax Museum, new Angel Stadium and beach areas."

In this postcard it looks like two middle aged couples are enjoying the pool area, but apparently forgot to pack their swimsuits. One might ask: Where are the kids and why isn't anyone in the pool?

Fast-forward 40 years. Once again, No child is present on this Summer afternoon. The colorful waterslides have been removed, and it seems like the adults have checked-out as well. Maybe they spent the day at Knott's Berry Farm?

The Little Boy Blue is one of the few Disneyland-area motels to retain both it's original name and layout. It still shares a pool with the adjacent Riviera (formerly Pyramid) Motel, and the funky diamond-shaped entrance archway continues to stand watch...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Travelers Inn Restaurant

Located on the old alignment of Highway 99 (Union Avenue) six miles South of Bakersfield, The Travelers Inn Restaurant was a welcome rest stop for those who were "on the road" in the 50's.

The Coffee Shop was open 24 hours a day and the dining room was REFRIGERATED. For those who were thirtsy, Cocktails were available from 9 A.M. to 2 A.M.

Les & Helen Rose were the hosts and if you wanted to know what the special was before you made the trip, you could dial FAirview 4-2786.

Many hot and dusty days have passed since Les & Helen held court at the Travelers. As the local demographic has changed, so has the focus of many an old eatery along this forgotten stretch of road. Now known as La Villa, the former coffee shop serves up tasty tacos, tortas and burritos. Carne Asada and Al Pastor are the forvorite fillings and an ice-cold Jarritos Pina or Corona Light goes a long way to slake the local thirst.

The building itself appears to be in original, albeit well-worn condition. Even the cement road surface hasn't been paved since the fifties as the same cracks appear in each picture. As is common for August, the late afternoon temperature hovered around 104.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Fly Casting Pool - La Palma Park Anaheim

Anaheim's other large public space is La Palma Park. Back in 1957, this fly-casting pool gave the locals a place to practice their casting without having to leave town. Not sure how many people used this pond for that purpose but sometime between then and now another use was found for this space; a use that speaks more to the Southern California lifestyle...

That more appropriate use was (of course): PARKING!

Here's the fly-casting pool in June, 2007, sporting a glassy-smooth blacktop surface. Probably not the best spot to practice your casting anymore. Some of the parks' current residents were nearby, wandering what was so interesting about this spot that I needed to take a picture...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Anaheim City Park / Pearson Park

Here's a 1957 postcard featuring the Water Lily Pond in Anaheim City Park. The young lady admiring the lilies is now over fifty years old. She must look quite different today. How about the pond itself?

Here we are in June, 2007. The City Park is now Pearson Park having had it's name changed by city resolution in April, 1960. Other than the name, things are much the same around the old pond. Even the river rock shoreline remains as it was; many of the individual rocks can be identified between the shots.

Stay tuned...We'll visit the former Fly Casting Pool at Anaheim's La Palma Park next time here on WalterWorld.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

World Famous Tagus Ranch

The Tagus Ranch is located 4 miles North of Tulare on Highway 99 in the heart of California's great Central Valley. This dusty locale once featured banquet rooms, a coffee shop, cocktail lounge, gift shop and a deluxe motor hotel. Later on in life it was the home of a live music theater where country and western acts would put on a show for the locals. But that was another time and place...

Today, the Tagus lies abandoned, a state it's been in for over 15 years. For sale banners have come and gone and the gradual deterioration has escalated in recent years. The adjacent motel is hanging on by a thread...a home to long term occupants and those with little means.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Palm Motor Lodge

Located two miles North of Disneyland on Harbor Blvd, the Palm is a survivor indeed. The motel predates the Magic Kingdom but managed to corral it's share of visitors, including Doris Huffman of North English Iowa. She arrived by bus and stayed a week before making her way home via Canada. This was back in August 1961. Today's modern guests are more of the extended-stay, down-on-their-luck types. Here's how she looked on June 20th, 2007:

If you're in the mood for a swim in the heated pool, you'll need a time machine:

And a final sign shot from the street---

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Time For A Quick Cup

Up the road from Anaheim (about 260 miles on Highway 99), let’s stop for a cup of coffee and maybe some steak fries. This is Farnesi’s Restaurant and Coffee Shop in Madera, CA.

It’s large, free standing sign can be seen from quite a ways off. Farnesi’s has been open since the early 60’s, serving quality food and drink to those traveling down California’s golden Central Valley.

Here’s the great sign from a mid-60’s postcard and a picture from the present day. Though largely intact, some of the playfully-fonted mini-signs pertaining to the adjacent motel (which still stands) have gone missing (‘TV’, ‘Phones’, etc.) Oh well, at least the classy cocktail glass remains…

The restaurant building itself looks largely the same, but has been enlarged somewhat over the years:

Next time you’re motoring through Madera, make sure you patronize this fine old relic of the road. After a couple o’ highballs and New York Steak & Eggs, you’ll think its 1966 all over again… (And you’ll probably want to get a room!)

Friday, June 1, 2007

A Schusssing We Shall Go...

Back in Anaheim, we now visit the Alpine Inn. The Alpine was one of the earliest of the motels that sprouted up to surround Disneyland after it’s 1955 opening. It was/is located at 715 Katella Avenue near the now closed South entrance to the old Disneyland parking lot. Each room had it's own phone and free TV, and also featured refrigerated air conditioning. This postcard shot dates from the late fifties based on the cars in the lot.

Here’s the Alpine in 2004. The sign now conforms to the new Anaheim Resort code, but this old motel is definitely still kicking. I’m not sure when the well-themed snowy roof and log siding was added, but one could argue that the Alpine looks better now than when it was new some fifty years ago. I think I’ll dial KEystone 5-2186 and book some rooms for my annual June trip...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Shadow Of Your Smile - Sandpiper Lodge

Now let’s travel about 300 miles north of Anaheim, on good old Highway 99. Here we are in Merced, at the site of that cities newest motel, The Sandpiper. Not sure if the inspiration came from the Burton-Taylor film of the same name or was simply a wistful reference to the beautiful Pacific Ocean which was (and still is) only about 200 miles to the West.

The Sandpiper had rooms for the budget-conscious as well as luxurious suites for those better off. Each room was “…elegantly appointed and magnificently furnished and equipped with individually controlled heat and refrigeration.” There was a “…Bridal Suite, Conference Room, and Background Music”..? Phone RA 3-1034 to reserve your room.

Aahhhh…What a (non) difference 45 years can make. The Sandpiper still stands in most of its original livery, the pool is still heated, the parking lot had some fairly new cars parked in it and business appears to be OK. Only one thing I’m not sure of: do they still have Background Music?

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Bahia Motel - Beach Blvd

Sorry for the long gap between posts. Here we go:

Here’s the last word in luxury and convenience: ---The Bahia Motel---
This exotically-themed motel was located at 821 Beach Boulevard in Anaheim.

With thermostatically controlled heat, pool, kitchen units, adjacent restaurants and recreation room, the Bahia was a great place to stay when visiting Knott’s Berry Farm, Disneyland, Movieland Wax Museum and Marineland of the Pacific.

Things were looking good. Of course, that was in the early 60’s…

Now it’s the early 70’s and the foliage has matured. It’s still the Bahia and business is good.

Now we’re in the early 80’s and New Wave is all the rage. The Bahia is new too; it’s now the Razzmatazz…kinda catchy and ‘hip’ huh?

So 40 Summers have come and gone. Here we are at the now-Covered Wagon Motel in 2005. It looks like they removed most of the Palms and the other greenery. Still want to stay there?

Make sure to call ahead and make reservations!