Day 9: Oklahoma

With only about three hours sleep, I managed to get a full day’s shooting in, motivated by the great sunshine. A good thing, too, as my weather-luck would run out half-way through Florida.

Let’s start with a couple of signs. This one in Konowa — an ice cream stand at a gas station:

From Wewoka. Evidently, the arrow got crunched a little by a truck?

This pretty little thing in Seminole:

The cafe/bus station building that goes with the sign:

From Pauls Valley — my guess, due to the location of this sign, is that it was located elsewhere and then moved here to the production plant:

In Ardmore: a recycled Mr. Burger building and two signs:

A vitrolite (structural glass) facade in Ardmore (not enough sun to show how truly nice it was). I hope it survives with the next tenant:

and just three doors away this fun mid-century wonder:

How about a couple of former gas stations? This one in Pauls Valley:

and this former Phillips 66 (now a pot store) in McAlester:

And let’s end with this sign. I’m crazy about C-152 Lectras and would probably drive 10 hours out of my way to shoot one. There are very few left though so that’s not a problem. These bulb signs are stationary but, when the sequential flashing bulbs on the arms are working (rare!), they are hypnotizing. Info and the survivors at my website here:

This one is in Marietta:

I’ll be back with more Oklahoma in a few days.

Happy trails,
dj & the dogs

Day 8: Vehicle Swap

Day 8 looked like it was gonna be great: sun from the get-go and finally entering Florida. But then Sparkle’s intermittent misfiring was getting worse and yet still no code on the dash. I headed for the nearest Firestone which is usually my go-to on the road since the work is guaranteed. I scored with a great mechanic and, well, I’ll spare you the details but it was time for a new engine. Um, that would be some other garage, probably $5000+, and at least 5 days of sitting around. That’s no way to spend a vacation. It was time to pull the plug. Just the previous day, Sparkle had passed the 500,000 mile mark. It was like she waiting to get us to that point and then she’d had enough. So, here’s a little tribute post. Here’s the last photo at that mid-century modern Firestone. I got her in 2006 with 108,000 miles for $8,000. Such a deal! Every dent had a story. The bumper was a little out-of-whack since I was rear-ended about five times:

She took us to 48 states multiple times — all those beaches you can drive on — this one in Grover Beach, California:

Sparkle on da beach

in Ponce Inlet, Florida:

my crew

The kids loved her as much as I did. The countless night we spent in her belly, the millions of adventures in those 14 years, in all kinds of weather:

waiting for the magic word

Moving from New York City to California in 2012:

the big move

Taking the ferry to Washington Island, Wisconsin:

Sparkle Takes the Ferry

From inside a Futuro in Texas:

Futuro and Sparkle

So, anyway. It was a tough decision but the only rationale one was to part ways. I found a local Chevy dealership and “went big”. They haven’t made Astro vans since 2005. So, it had been at the back of my mind that, when the time came, I’d upgrade to an Express van. There were a bunch to choose from but only one that made sense or didn’t have some major problem. I had wanted white, in Sparkle’s honor, but silver was what it was. Meet Gator! 2019 with only 30,000 miles. With taxes & surcharges & an add-on extensive warranty, about $27,000. I’ll be paying installments for about 5 years but I’m hoping for some relatively trouble-free years. She’s about six feet longer so I’m still adjusting to parking and U-turns. Storage space galore.

The door on the side is great and light as a feather. Most Express vans have the multiple panel side doors not the big slider:

So much for the first day in Florida! I had to start working my way back to Oklahoma to pick up a “passenger” (new doggie) in a few days. So, I just hit the interstate and drove all night. We’d be back for Florida in a few days.

Stay tuned – next post coming up in a few minutes.

dj & the dogs

Day 7: Gulf States: LA, AL, & MS

I wrapped up Louisiana and headed briskly towards the Florida Panhandle with grand ambitions. The weather was sunny and Sparkle was running great… little did I know…. (suspense for the next post).

I had a number of stops to finish up in New Orleans. Most of it to get things at just the right time of day. I believe this Franking Printing sign is a replica. There is neon on only one side since the sign is located on a one-way street.

A detail of the recently restored McMain School entrance:

A detail from the Gus Mayer store:

The Greyhound sign at the Union Passenger Terminal:

The Piccadilly Lounge and Half Shell:

Moving on to Mississippi. In Bay St. Louis, this former Cities Service gas station was remodeled as a house with some additions to the left and back:

This is a former mid-century modern library in Gulfport, MS:

Also in Gulfport — although I’ve been there a half dozen times, I never noticed this building with the orange diamonds — unique to Burger Chef:

One more from Gulfport – a former paint store:

Moving on to Mobile, AL – the lesser sign above the canopy at Kelly’s Cleaners:

A Mr. Peanut scale inside the former Planters Peanut Shoppe in Mobile (long since known as the A&M Peanut Shoppe now):

Let’s end this post with a random, giant paper clip in Spanish Fort, AL:

I hope you enjoyed this sampling from Day 7. One week of five weeks down! Back maybe next weekend with another post.

Happy trails,
dj & the dogs

Day 6: Moving on to Louisiana

I’ve spent a lot of time in Louisiana in the past few years, and years before that, but I still find out about new things to shoot and have things that need reshooting. I still didn’t have enough time on this trip to get everything with two pressing engagements (a “passenger” to pick up in Oklahoma and getting my butt to Florida to focus on my list for that state). Another time for the rest of the Louisiana list.

Let’s start out in Crowley. Unfortunately the Rice Theatre sign has been “upgraded” from neon to backlit plastic letters and cheapo LED tubing. The paint on the building could really use some help:

In Baton Rouge — a rare McDonald’s sign. Not as old as the neon Speedee arch signs but, hey.

Another photo from Baton Rouge — an abandoned Cadillac dealership sign:

From Lake Charles: this adapted and adopted sign. My photo from 2018 when the building had been gone for at least ten years and the sign stood night to a concrete slab lot. Already “BURGER” was covering something up – maybe “STEAK”?

Last year, the sign was moved downtown where for a new music venue — and the little “MUSIC” panel was attached – my photo from July:

However, just a month later, Hurricane Laura destroyed the sign and the building (note bricks on the ground). The KSL NewsRadio website shows the photo below. The business’ website says they will rebuild. Maybe they will replicate the panels — maybe the one against the building is okay?

Moving on to New Orleans. This guy points the way to Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gra World:

This sign is much hidden in the trees:

Minus the neon and at least one change in pastors (updated like most church signs):

No sun but I tried. Crazy external wiring:

Pretty sure this is a replica sign. Still fun and carnival-like:

Let’s end with this faded beauty in Metairie. In my imagination, the bulbs either flashed or were lit in sequence:

Back next weekend with more.

Happy trails,

dj & the dogs

Day 5: Another Day in Texas

I really did get a lot of Texas stops in on this trip. Just as well since FL, GA & AL were pretty much a bust with rain and clouds just a few days later.

Let’s start with Waco. A nice rusty, crusty furniture store sign. The building has been converted into lofts but the left the sign alone:

The Waco Printing sign was probably built in the 1950s. My photo below is from 2011:

In 2018, the sign’s neon was removed and the panel was covered up with a “for rent” sign. And then, this transformation took place earlier this year. I hope someone saved the porcelain panels and that they weren’t just painted over. Maybe they are still safe underneath? Those chintzy bulbs strung around the outside are an embarrassment:

This sign in Waco at Kim’s Drive-in is from 1963 — my photo from 2011:

New owners restored the sign in 2014. I wish they’d kept the original corrugated plastic “Hamburgers” panel but at least the Malt cup is still there and the overall sign looks great:

Moving on to Houston. Up until last year, the lettering on the neon sign was “Adolpf Hoepfl”. My photo from 2018 of the 1946-ish projecting sign:

And from this summer’s trip, a new slightly mismatched panel for “Liberty Hoepfl”. The rebranding was based on the decision to turn their waiting room into a little “Texas Liberty” museum and patriotic space:

I’m glad they didn’t mess with the pole sign which is probably from the 1960s:

Also in Houston, here’s a Twistee Treat. There are very few of these in Texas and most are the modern variety like this. One clue that it’s a modern one is the thin little stuck-on counters below the windows. The counters on the vintage buildings are part of the fiberglass body. More about these buildings at my website starting with this page:

Turning to Baytown, the Brunson Theatre closed in the mid-1980s and was gutted before being sold to the City. There were plans to convert the building into a performing arts center. My photo from 2011:

In 2019, the original neon blade sign with porcelain enamel panels shown above was replaced with this thing. Backlit plastic letters and dinky little bulbs. But at least the font style is the same. The readerboards replaced with digital display board. Very unfortunate and jarring next to the nice (thank god intact) Art Deco relief panels. The performing arts center didn’t happen. The building is used as a visitors center and business space. Well, maybe but unlikely, 20-40 years from now a PAC will happen and a better sign can be built.

This vintage photo from shows that there WAS a sputnik-thing on top of the sign but it looks like the circles were more ribbon-y than round like they are now:

Last stop for this post is in Hearne. This still operating drug store has intact signs, apparently from the 1960s:

The earlier 1950s-ish sign hangs over the back entrance:

Moving on to Louisiana in the next post which will probably be next weekend.

Happy trails,

dj & the dogs

Day 4: More Texas

This day was spent mostly in the Dallas area. After this post, there will be one more full day in Texas before we skedaddle off to Louisiana.

Let’s start with this sign topper at the Plaza Theatre in Garland. The sign was restored a few years ago. I’m assuming that the neon on top used to flash sequentially around ball. It’s unlikely that it does any more since most cities forbid any movement (except for hideous graphic display boards, for some crazy reason):

Moving on… the rest of this post is from Dallas:

Love the Mondian-esque sign, right? But also note the swirly, crazy tile on the building:

This was originally a parking sign. When the parking garage was demolished, this chunk of the sign was saved and installed in the new park that replaced it.

Surely, the top panel must be a crappy replacement but the bottom panel is still nice:

Lots to admire here:

And one pretty one to end this post — still in operation:

Be back with another post in about a week. I have lots of stuff from this day to add to the website in the meantime. I also uploaded some different photos from this day over at Flickr just a few minutes ago if you are hungry for more:

Happy trails,

dj & the dogs

Day 3: More Texas

Most of the day was spent in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I started the day in Cisco with just enough light to get this one. Ripple tin panels — no idea what the bottom panel is covering up but I’m glad they left alone the upper part:

This one in Fort Worth. The top doesn’t look right — gaps and doesn’t match the color of the panel below. It must have been adapted at some point, right? The cute bulb arrow must have been added later, for emphasis:

Also in Fort Worth, the building is a nice subtle Art Deco and, more importantly, the business is still open. It’s debatable if this sign should be restored – patina-lovers would say definitely not!

Another one in Fort Worth — awesome but I wish I had a wee bit more sun. I waited, believe me….

This rooftop sign in McKinney was taken at the end of the day where I had to shoot directly into the sun and then Photoshop the heck out of the photo to make it decent-ish. This sign is brand new in a vintage style.

This shoe sign in Denton has had some unfortunate changes since my 2011 photo:

And from August — the neon outline is gone, replaced with little LED crap around the edge of the sign. The nice, human-painted script replaced with dull block letters. And the paint — well, either paint the whole damned shoe or leave it alone if you can’t match the color!

I’m a huge fan of the All Storage giant boxes. The one below in Fort Worth is the one that started them all. It was built in 2014:

There are now at least three other locations with giant boxes: two in Fort Worth and one in Plano. This one is in FW:

That’s a wrap — back with Day 4 probably this weekend.

Happy trails,
dj & the dogs

Day 2: Western TX

I got some Texas stops in as we headed ever eastward towards Florida. But the weather was pretty crappy (clouds) and there was some giant accident on I-20 in the middle of nowhere that had us at a standstill for hours. There will be a lot more Texas later in the trip since I had a detour to pick up a “passenger” in Oklahoma.

I’ll have to return to Sweetwater sometime to get this Masonic sign in the sun. What about those wires? I even PhotoShopped a few out:

A ratty looking (but still wonderful) former Whataburger a-frame in Abilene. I’ve got loads more at my website here:

Abilene also has a former Burger Chef which I shot but it’s not worth sharing here (it will go to the website) because it’s pretty much unrecognizable. But what makes this location special is the sign — pretty ugly & painted over:

but it still has that chef piece on top – very, very rare – but I don’t know if there’s enough paint left on either side to ever be restored:

The sun was out in El Paso so I’ll add a couple photos from there. There are still many Arby’s hat signs out there but will be rare enough soon. The chain’s plastic signs are just so hideous, aren’t they? If you’d like to see a long list of the surviving hats (and ever rarer, covered wagon buildings), I’ve got a bunch here:

The smaller American Furniture sign on the side of the building:

Fashion Cleaners in Midland has two signs — wish the sun was out to do them justice:

These magnificent mushroom canopies in Midland were built for Gool Office Machines. The lot has housed numerous used car dealerships since then.

This surprise discovery was tucked inside the Hotel Wooten parking garage in downtown Abilene. Turns out, it only went by this name for a short while. According to Wikipedia: “For several years, the Wooten was rechristened ‘The Abilene Towers Apartments.’ It became notorious for the chunks of masonry and debris that would often rain down on unsuspecting pedestrians below as it crumbled beneath the west Texas sun.”

If you look at the blue part of the panel, you can make out ghost letters for “HOTEL.” If you stare long enough at the red part, you can sort of make out or imagine “WOOTEN.” The sign is now mounted on a wall but it was obviously a projecting sign originally:

Let’s end this post on with a sunny shot — this one in Sierra Blanca. You can see that wonderful ripple tin (lighter than steel’ the crimping strengthens it and holds paint better):

I’m off to add photos to my website — back next weekend-ish with another post. If you are new to my blog, I also add different photos to Flickr simultaneously when I’m working on these posts:

Happy trails,
dj & the dogs

Summer Trip: Day 1 in Arizona

Here we go!!! I am back from my 35-day trip to Florida and ready to start banging away on all the photos. I’ve got about 4,000 photos to add to my website, despite the rain and other setbacks. Here at the blog, I’ll be posting a little sampling of photos for each day. At the same time, I’m posting some different photos over at Flickr:

I’ll be adding each day’s batch (about 100 photos) to my website as I go. So, this whole process will take many, many months. I hope you enjoy tagging along.

The first stop on this mega-trip was in Buckeye to see Hobo Joe who took about three years to restore and, boy, did they do a terrific job. For more about this guy and what he looked like before this, see my website here:

I finally found out where the Hoop Dancer sign in Tucson was located & got some photos of him. The panels are ripple tin and in great shape. Heather David’s got a nice vintage postcard for context:

I stopped by the Ignite Sign Art Museum to see what’s new. This one was recently restored. Jude dug through multiple layers of paint with different wording to discover the original name. An amazing project!

Here’s the Grant-Stone sign before it was removed in 2014. It’s safely stored at the museum until, maybe, another location can be found for it.

Here’s a nice oldie at the museum with painted metal panels. For whatever reason, there were very, very few porcelain enamel signs built in Tucson:

And here’s a nice backlit opal letter. I’m crazy about those and have a couple of pages at my website about them with lots of examples:

Let’s go back to the streets for one more from Tucson — from the long-closed Wee-Went-Wong’s (surely, that can’t be the original name, right?):

More to come in a week or so, after I get Day 1’s photos up at my website.

Happy trails,

dj & the dogs

San Diego Mini Trip

I snuck out from the COVID stay-at-home order for a little Los Angeles area daytrip last weekend and a San Diego area daytrip this past weekend.  It was great to get outta the house for a bit and take some pictures!  Still, yes, wearing mask and social distancing front of mind.  The dogs were happy to smell new smells, run in new places, and bark their heads off.  I also just missed getting stuck in traffic with all the protesters and rioting.

I’ve already got both days’ photos loaded up at my website but I’ll share a few photos here as well.

Let’s start with Harbor Liquors in Oceanside with it’s little lighthouse sign addition.  There’s also a nice rocky facade and a curvy roofline:

In National City, this one missing its neon and a cover-up panel (maybe “Homemade” under that?)

Crappy sun early in the day in San Diego — another one goes on my “reshoot” list.

This one is strung from one side of the street to the other in the Kensington neighborhood of San Diego.  It’s actually replica sign from 2010 of the 1953 original.

“The Spirit of Imperial Beach” (yes, in Imperial Beach):

This giant lion statue was being restored and the sun was all wrong when I was there.  Installed at the San Diego Zoo in 2018.  But something was up with the patina.  And maybe they were bored with everything shut-down from COVID.  This statue has a huge concrete substructure which give it that gravity-defying pose:



This sign borrows the design from the incredible Jimmy Wong’s Golden Dragon sign in town.  It was the Chinatown Bar & Grill but it’s now the Brooklyn Bar & Grill.  The sign went up around 2018:

Also San Diego — some gravity-defying neon tubing below:

OK — that’s enough for now.  If you’re hungry for more, I have other photos from this little trip over at Instagram and Flickr, and, of course,  my website scattered throughout various sections.

I’m going to sneak off on a little Northern CA trip soon.  But as for my month-long vacation to The South, that’ll just have to wait awhile until the danger has passed.  Hopefully, not until next year!

Hang in there folks — we’ll get through all this.

Debra Jane & the dogs