Orange County Goodies

Sunday was devoted to Orange County and some L.A. area stops.  I got the dogs to the fantastic beach in Huntington Beach first thing for legal off-leash romping.  I don’t mind getting up at 5:30am on the weekend for the ones I love.  Maybe just a little.  The coastal fog was still lingering in the morning as evidenced by this sign in Costa Mesa.  This sign has mysterious origins since it appeared in the parking lot sometime after 2011.  There is no “Midway Market” here — just an assortment of businesses like the Waffleholic Cafe which was awfully tempting.  The other side of the sign is flat with painted letters rather than the raised, applied type like those on the side shown here.  There are holes on each letter where the neon would have been:


Just down the block at New York Hardware is this sign strapped to a fence.  Another super oldie with opal glass letters.  Notice how the metal was perforated with little strips to connect those internal bits (the P, A, R, D) to the panel.  Google Street View shows the sign has been there since at least 2008.  And the company’s website shows at least two other neon hardware signs inside — as well as a nifty sputnik light fixture:

I’m waiting to hear back from the owner about his collection and what he knows about this sign.  I’ll update this description if I find out anything:


Back to Huntington Beach where it hadn’t gotten any sunnier yet.  I’m a fan of this building even though it was built in 1985.  Okay, so it is sort of a Disney interpretation of Streamline Moderne but I still like it.  It originally housed the Bubbles Balboa Club restaurant.  It was a sunny day when I shot this in 2008.  The building was housing Bubbles Art Gallery then:


By 2013, the building was boarded up and vulnerable looking.  Then, last year, it was put to use as Maverick’s Gastropub.  Sorry to see the tile, block glass, and porthole windows on the doors are gone.  But better than a new CVS drug store or something, right?


From Orange.  Some real pretty shapes going on here.  At first I thought that the “Angel” might be a reference to Angel Stadium in Anaheim which is visible just north of here.  But I think this motel preceded the baseball stadium and the text doesn’t look like it’s been adapted:


Moving on to Zip’s Liquor from Anaheim — and a mystery sign right behind it:


The countless times I’ve been to Long Beach and I never noticed Don’s.  That mottled, faded paint really gives this sign character.  If this was repainted all pretty, it would ruin it, no?


One of the high points of the day was my visit to Back in the Day Classics in Carson:

The place has a big parking filled with incredible restored cars — but that’s really not my thing.  I had actually hit the brakes a couple of years ago to shoot a Flintstones car.  But I never knew about the treasures inside the building.  There’s all sorts of candy machines, bicycles, toys, etc.  All sorts of Americana… and loads of neon signs.

My visit was actually prompted by an email that they sent to me a few weeks ago asking for info about “Harbie” (Harbor gas station) statues.  Piecing together the clues, it sounds like the statues came from Camperland in Garden Grove.  There were five statues there.  Just two of them were on display until they disappeared around 2011.  Three of the statues had already been sold before Back in the Day got these two.  At some point, they had been repainted.  More examples & info about these statues at my page here:

Both statues were perched in the rafters so I couldn’t get a straight shot:


Before I found the Harbies, I was blown away by this incredible nine foot tall Pep Boys statue.  It can be yours for $27,000.   The paint was completely faded away after sitting in a backyard in Lakewood for 10 years.  This page shows what the statue looked like before Back to the Classics had it restored:{50E86F25-2F70-4833-B5AA-292888AF2602}


But I know, you want to see the signs.  First, I must thank Brianna who gave me the royal tour.  Just 20 years old and she really knows her stuff.  Whatever they’re paying her is not enough!

I took loads of photos here and I’m only posting a few.  Inventory is constantly changing so some of these might be gone by next month with new beauties replacing them.  This Hotpoint Appliance sign is selling for $3,600:


The Navajo Lodge sign is going for $4,750:


The sign on top is modern and selling for a mere $435.  The bottom sign has got to be vintage.  I don’t see it listed at their website:


The Mordica Motors sign is cool.  But the Western Union sign is way cooler, in my opinion, because of its age and rarity.  This sign was lit with internal bulbs.  The steel panels are perforated with translucent opal glass plates behind each letter.  The Mordica sign is selling for $4,250.  I don’t know the price of the Western Union sign (not listed at the website):


I don’t know what location this Boy’s Big Boy came from — but it’s “real” (not a reproduction).  The sign is 92 inches in diameter and going for $25,000:


The Sundries sign is listed at $1,050.  The Lincoln sign is going for $15,200:


The Kaiser sign is listed at $8,500.


This Pure Oil gas station sign is a doozie.  The zigzag rings flash separately and each letter lit sequentially. The price is $12,850:


This fancy Pennzoil sign is selling for $6,295.  I don’t see the two signs below it listed at the website:


There are lots of clocks for sale.  This old octagon was one of my favorites.  It’s going for $2,700:


This sign has really nice hand painting.  This sign came from the Los Angeles area.  It was installed on top of the main text sign and revolved.  The neon was added by Back to the Classics during the sign’s restoration.  Although I’m not a fan of adding neon to signs that didn’t have it originally, I’ll admit it’s a nice touch here and probably really improves its marketability.   The asking price is $4,995:


Here’s a close-up of the tacos, unlit:


I hope you enjoyed the sampling of photos from this weekend.  I’ll be taking a break from my hellish map project (just Mid-Century Buildings & Signs sections to go) to add these approximately 200 photos to the site.

The dogs and I will be back on the road soon for the Memorial Day three-day weekend.  We’ll be up in the S.F. Bay area then.

Oh — and don’t forget, a couple dozen other photos from this weekend over at Flickr:

Take care,


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6 thoughts on “Orange County Goodies

  1. According to imagery from, the Angel Motel has been around since at least 1952. I’m guessing it was named after Los Angeles.
    When I was in the Bay Area, I found an interesting abandoned building in Oakland that must have been a restaurant. I searched your website to check what it was, but it wasn’t there. Eventually, I found out that it was once Biff’s Coffee Shop, and that it was built in 1963 be Standard Oil. You might want to stop there when you visit.
    Here’s what it used to look like:
    And here’s what it looks like now:
    I definitely thought one of the best things about the Bay Area are the signs. Even though some parts are somewhat seedy, that just means more signs have been kept intact.

    • Yes, it crossed my mind that “Angel” could refer to “the City of Angels” (Los Angeles) — but it’s pretty far away from L.A. and in a different county.

      I’ve been to the former Biff — the building was too skeevy to shoot and include at my website.

      I’ve covered the signs in S.F. pretty well already — 4 pages of them at my site starting here:

      By “seedy” I suppose you mean the Tenderloin area which is where many of my faves are. Downtown L.A. is very much like that with the oldest signs and low income housing. Although things seem to be changing there in the past few years. More restaurants & chains moving in, theatres being restored, etc.

      I haven’t put my list together yet for the Memorial Day Weekend trip. I know there is some stuff in SF that I want to shoot but, as I recall, I ran out of time in the middle of the Oakland stuff the last time I was up there. So, I think it will mostly be East Bay stuff.

      The best signs (and buildings) are generally in the poorest parts of towns/cities — often literally on the “other side of the tracks” since things haven’t been churned into new business after new business and remodeled or scrapped.

      • Yep, I was talking about the Tenderloin. Biff’s is definitely in a bad state, but it would be good to include for reference. I also saw Shimizu in the Piedmont part of Oakland on Street View, which looks like a former old-style KFC. I don’t remember seeing anything but Biff’s that wasn’t on your website that was of that much interest.

      • I usually try to include things at my website that still have some aesthetic merit rather than remodeled into dreck. My goal is to document things worthy of preservation. Biff’s is just so ugly to look at. I’ll let other “nostalgia” sites document that one.

        Yes, Shimizu looks like a former KFC. I can’t begin to document all of those. So I just shoot a few here and there. Same for Taco Bells & some other chains. I just pick random buildings as examples based on interesting or artistic re-uses. There may come a day when these things get rarer and rarer and I’ll start documenting all the ones that are left.

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