Day 19: More Florida (Leesburg to Clearwater)

Some rain, some clouds, some sun. Lots of fun stuff!

Let’s start with this special guy in Winter Garden. A miniaturized RV on top of a vacuum form sign. Includes doorknobs, skirting, and what looks like functioning doors!

This sign in Clermont started out, in probably the 1960s, advertising for the Crest Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge. It read “Crest” on the top panel and “Restaurant” on the lower panel sans cocktail glasses. The crest panel was black with its text panel in yellow; the restaurant & cocktail panels were red. Later, the lower panels were painted light blue. Around 2009, the text was reworked, glasses added, and the panels were painted green. I think the neon may still be lit:

I was relieved to see the half-dino from the ~1970s (never finished) was still there in Brooksville — more about this guy and other Florida dinosaurs at my website here:

This incredible statue display in Gotha is in a residential area: zebras, lions, elephants, a hand with a finger pointing upward, Roman soldiers, and horses. More about this place at my website here:

This giant pencil was installed in Mount Dora in 1980. More pens & pencils at my website here:

Orbit was getting bigger and looking slightly more manly at this point. He’s about nine weeks old in this photo (currently about four months). His feet are still ridiculously big and will probably stay that way.

Built as the Tahitian Motor Lodge in Holiday around 1969. Now the Holiday Hotel & Resort. The roofs are somewhat similar to the A&W “pagoda” (aka “pilgrim hat”) roofs developed in 1965 by Trachte:

Scattered around the property are incredible carved tiki-style statues — more photos at my website here:

Let’s wrap up this post with this beauty at the Showcase of Citrus in Clermont. Eat-it-All ice cream cones have been around since at least the 1960s, maybe the 1950s. From the weathering & sides of the can, I think this sign is from that era but it might have been built much later & painted with the brand:

A four-day weekend at home so you will be hearing again from me soon enough.

Happy Thanksgiving & Happy Trails,
dj & the dogs

Day 18: Florida (Gainesville to Leesburg)

Some sun, some clouds, some rain… but a productive day, nevertheless. Full steam on Florida shooting at this point in the trip.

This one is in Reddick (yes, the sign is really leaning):

In Citra:

Another Citra sign:

A nice hand-painted & maintained welcome sign – would have been glorious in sun:

Yes, Silver Springs:

From Ocala:

Two entrances, two signs for Uncle Roy’s — also in Ocala — shot just after a torrential downpour:

At a former Heilig-Meyers furniture store in Ocala. Scottish characters still appear on some signs, used as a symbol/stereotype of frugality:

This Lorito’s sign in Ocala has been through a lot. It looked pretty nice in my 2009 photo:

Just a few months later, it was knocked over by a driver and badly damaged. The sign was repaired and neon fixed. Instead of painting, they used vinyl overlays on the panels. They changed the font of “Italian Kitchen”, not for the better. But hey. Around 2017, I think they painted over the vinyl because it was getting pretty faded. So, here’s how it looked in September:

Let’s close with a couple more signs from Ocala. Apparently, they were both produced by the same sign company — maybe the motels were even owned by the same person? They both had the same style backlit smiling sun panels. Here was the Sun Plaza which I shot in 2009:

Unfortunately, in 2015, the owner decided his initials were nicer than the sun:

Apparently, the original sign looked like this in the 1950s:

The surviving sun sign in Ocala – don’t it make you smile?:

That’s a wrap for now. More next weekend…

And don’t forget, there are still lots of other photos being posted simultaneously over at my Flickr account here:

Happy trails,
dj & the dogs

Days 15, 16 & 17: Alabama & Florida

These three days were rough — clouds and rain every day, just about all day long. I would check the weather on my phone to see if there was any better area to shoot but pretty much all of AL, GA & FL was the same situation. So, I would sit & wait, grow impatient & shoot some things that were less important, move on and, once in awhile, the sun would come out. I finally gave up on Alabama but I’d get some later in the trip. So, this post will focus on Florida.

Here we are in Marianna. These signs are safely around the back entrance since the pharmacy has a different name now:

This odd-building is in Tallahassee:

A modern sign in Tallahassee inspired by the Welcome to Las Vegas sign:

This Uncle Sam is located at the Tallahassee Automobile Museum. I confirmed this week that this is the very same statue that I shot in Clarksville, TN in 2007:

In Salem (of course) – note the rainbow which lasted a few minutes. Recently repainted – GoogleStreetView from 2018 shows the sign completely faded to white:

The Ship House (never a real ship) in Horseshoe Beach. Built in 1978 — right on the water:

A former Gulf gas station in Gainesville. It’s housed a series of restaurants in recent years:

The Krispy Kreme in Gainesville from 1968:

Evidently, this beauty in Cross City which I shot in 2009:

… was painted over last year (or, more likely, those are new plastic panels) and backlit plastic letters were added to both signs (three if you count the little vacancy sign). Heartbreaking. It’s hard to be glass-half-full about the surviving shape. Yeah, coulda been a rectangular plastic box but…

I think this one was repainted earlier this year. And I guess they gave up on the neon and put some really cheap LED rope in the channel letters. It must look like a real wreck of a scribble at night (if it’s still even lit!):

Let’s end on a more positive note. This cutie Humpty-Dumpty statue is part of a hospital billboard (“We’ll Put You Back Together Again”) in Tallahassee.

Back next weekend with more.

Happy trails,
dj & the dogs

Days 13 & 14: Alabama and a little Georgia and Florida

If you’re wondering what happened to Day 11 and 12 (last post was Day 10), let’s just say there was a little rain. A lot of rain and grumpy sitting around. These two days were not much better — mostly cloudy and gray. So, I lumped them together for this post to give you some colorful moments.

I shot a couple of Dowdle Gas signs — you’ll how dreary my situation was. Anyway, among my passions is signs with depictions of flames. The article that I wrote about them for the SCA Journal (Society for Commercial Archeology) is at the printers but I also have a page here with lots of other signs:

This one is in York, AL:

This one in Meridian, MS is shorter but wider and I’m guessing that it’s older:

These two appliance privilege signs are on a vacant hardware store building in Eutaw, AL:

From Tuscaloosa, AL where I waited around half a day for the sun before giving up:

These two are on the facade of Charlie Joseph’s restaurant in LaGrange, GA. I love the detail and steam coming off of the meat on each of these. These single-sided plastic signs were mass-produced but I have only seen a couple of others still on display:

Let’s talk about what happened to this Greyhound Bus station in Tuscaloosa, AL. Here’s this snippet from Google Street View from 2013 when the building was already vacant and apparently that pink chalk or tape on the right was an indication of what was to come:

Shortly after that, it became a Dunkin’ Donuts – my photo from this summer’s trip:

Here are a couple of other signs in Tuscaloosa:

This top hat is at the Burch & Hatfield Tuxedo shop:

On the very outskirts of Tuskegee, AL – the long-abandoned, former Torch Cafe which shared the Standard Oil gas station building in the background:

In Brewton, AL:

This giant Pepsi can recycling machine is in Atmore, AL:

This Piggly Wiggly supermarket statue was installed in 2019 at the Milton, FL store:

And last one for this post, the tile mosaic at the entrance to the former Greyhound station in Pensacola, FL:

I’ll be back with more in a week or so.

Happy trails,
dj & the dogs

Day 10: More Oklahoma

There will be more Oklahoma at the end of this 30-something day trip. I was in the Oklahoma City area on this day waiting to pickup the new kid in the middle of the day. Here he is — six weeks old. Orbit’s first minute on grass and he really didn’t know what to do or what that stuff was. A few days later, he was running in it like a champ. As of writing this post, the boy is 3 months old and doing great. His nose has gotten way bigger and he’s pretty muscled up from all the exercise he’s getting.

This pole sign is installed at a former Dairy Queen in Anadarko. The curl at the top is unique to DQ. Around 2013, the stand became Dairy Freeze and the DQ lips logo in the middle of the ice cream and the curl outline were painted over. The building is just a boring box now:

This one is in Chickasha:

For the rest of this post, I’ll feature just some of the signs at the Muscle Car Ranch in Chickasha:

After picking up Orbit in Konawa, I wrapped up some nearby stops, leaving OKC for later on in this trip. I hit the highway and drove thru the night to Meridian, MS. Another post in a few days.

Happy trails,
dj & the dogs

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