Northwest Neon XIV

I know it feels like fall has already settled into the region, but today is really, truly, officially the last day of summer. Being the last day of summer means it is also the last installation in the Northwest Neon series. Thank you everybody who stopped by to read and liked the neon posts! After today, it will be business as usual here on the blog, featuring postcards, souvenirs, locations, and anything else pertaining to local history!

And with that, let’s get to the last of this summer’s neons!


Johnny’s at Fife; Fife, Washington

While it may not be the most interesting sign, Johnny’s at Fife has been a local favorite since 1968! Johnny’s at Fife opened as a companion to Johnny’s Dock, the iconic Tacoma restaurant that opened in 1953.

Johnny’s Dock was opened by John E. Meaker a year after he sold all of his businesses and retired. Starting as a meat cutter in 1915, Meaker went on to own a butcher shop and several restaurants across the state. Johnny’s Dock was built on Pier 3 on the Tacoma tideflats and enjoyed much success until it was destroyed in a fire on December 24, 1961. Johnny’s rebuilt and continued to operate until 1977, when the Port of Tacoma reclaimed the land for a new container terminal. At that time, Johnny’s Dock relocated to its present location on D Street.

Perhaps what Johnny’s is most famous for is its line of salad dressings, seasonings, and other sauces, launched in 1956. Many of you probably have a container of Johnny’s Seasoning Salt in your kitchen right now!



IOOF (Independent Order of Odd Fellows); Wenatchee, Washington

The IOOF fraternity was founded in Baltimore, Maryland by Thomas Wildey in 1819. It is sometimes referred to as the Triple Link Fraternity in reference to its triple link symbol, which symbolizes the IOOF motto of “Friendship, Love, and Truth.” These links are visible on this Wenatchee IOOF neon, probably dating from the 1940s or 1950s.

While I can’t find anything about the history of the Odd Fellows in Wenatchee, this IOOF Hall is well-known locally for being the site of many punk rock concerts. In more recent times, it has housed Jazzercise and martial arts classes.



Gas for Less; Wenatchee, Washington

I’m going to end the series with this lovely, but puzzling, neon-and-light bulb combination sign. Located on Wenatchee Avenue, it sits just inside of a fence surrounding an old restored gas station (Chuck’s Thrifty Gas) and other restored signs and other roadside ephemera. The purpose of this gas station is unclear, and I can only guess that it is somebody’s collection, which they kindly share with anybody who walks by.

Regardless of its purpose or originality to Washington, this sign likely dates from the 1940s.




Northwest Neon XIII

I spent last weekend in Wenatchee, and let me tell you, it was a neon wonderland! I can still see some of the signs I was not able to stop and photograph, but for today, let’s look at some of the ones I did capture on my trip!



Timberline Motel; Peshastin, Washington

This sign is in remarkably good shape! The motel itself has been closed since 2010 or 2011, but this sign still points to the cinder block cottages that once made up the Timberline Motel. This neon probably dates to the 1950s.



Bruce Hotel; Wenatchee, Washington

Located just down the street from the historic Liberty Theatre is this sad-looking neon. There is not much information to be found on the Bruce Hotel’s history. It was once a posh hotel, but by the early 1990s, it was in disrepair and attracting the wrong kinds of guests. The Women’s Resource Center of North Central Washington purchased the hotel in 1993 and has used it for transitional housing ever since. This art deco neon likely dates to the 1940s.



KPQ Radio; Wenatchee, Washington

What would a Wenatchee post be without some apples? KPQ first hit the airwaves on May 2, 1928, but its history goes back a little further.

Radio entrepreneur Louis Wasmer was granted a license in 1927 for a radio station called KGCL, based out of Seattle. Before its first broadcast, he sold the station to a sporting goods store which changed the call letters to KPQ. The station was then sold a second time, to Bellinghamite Rogan Jones who brought it to Wenatchee.

Jones sold KPQ to Jim Wallace, Sr. in 1945. Wallace ran the station for many years, passing it down to his sons. John and Jim Wallace, Jr.  filed for bankruptcy in 2006 and sold the station to Cherry Creek Media. Cherry Creek moved KPQ from its longtime home at 32 N Mission Street to its current location on Wenatchee Avenue. At that time, this iconic 1950s neon was restored and placed on its new home.




Northwest Neon XII

Another week has passed already, which means it’s time for more neons! I will be off to gather more pictures this weekend, but until then, enjoy these choices from the collection! A special thanks to my dad for helping gather some shots, some of which you will see today!



Poodle Dog Restaurant; Fife, Washington

In 1933, Mac Manza and Jim Zarelli opened a small diner behind a barber shop and named it Poodle Dog after San Francisco’s famous Ritz Poodle Dog. Thanks to Jim and Mac’s work schedules of alternating 12-hour shifts, the diner was open 24/7. Their hard work allowed them to continue expanding both the Poodle’s building and the menu.

Encouraged by the diner’s popularity, Mac and Jim opened the Century Ballroom behind the Poodle Dog. The ballroom attracted big-name musicians (Louis Armstrong, and the Glenn Miller Orchestra, to name a few) and huge crowds who would dine at the Dog after performances.

The restaurant was renovated in 1949, expanding the size and modernizing the look. A neon sign similar to the one above introduced the “good food” tagline. The restaurant underwent another renovation in 1967, once again expanding the square footage. Very similar to the 1949 sign, the one pictured above probably hails from the 1967 renovation.



Rainbow Cafe; Auburn, Washington

The Rainbow Cafe has been part of downtown Auburn for 89 years! Supposedly, it is the longest running restaurant in the state with the same name. Now located at 112 E Main Street, the cafe was formerly found at 130 E Main. New owners took over the cafe in 2011 and restored this neon, which probably dates to the 1960s.



Harbor Lights; Tacoma, Washington

While not technically a neon, I still think this sign is deserving of attention! When Yugoslavian immigrant Anton Barcott opened Harbor Lights in January 1959, the Tacoma waterfront was still a hub of industry. Ruston Way was still home to shipyards, lumber mills, and the ASARCO smelter. The Barcott Family sold the popular seafood restaurant to Anthony’s Restaurants in 2000. Despite a renovation, the exterior still looks delightfully 1959.



Northwest Neon XI

Week 11 of nonstop neons and the last week of August! With Labor Day just around the corner and an increasing number of clouds, it may be hard to believe that it’s still summer, but there are many more weeks to come.

And many more neons!


Nelson’s Jewelry; Auburn, Washington

This family-owned jeweler has served Auburn since 1944. This sign likely dates from when the storefront was updated, probably in the 1950s.



Waits’ Motel; Everett, Washington

Located just one block off of Highway 99 is the 24-unit Waits’ Motel. Stanley P. Waits opened the motel in 1957, expanding it to its current size the following year. Wait’s Motel was the eighth Everett motel built by Mr. and Mrs. Waits between 1948 and 1957. The Waits were originally from Ellensburg, where they ran a motel before relocating to Everett.

By sometime in the 1960s, the motel was under the ownership of Les and Lois Knudson. A postcard from this time boasts of the rooms’ newness, individual heat, and free T.V.

The motel originally had a neon sign, which was replaced with a back-lit plastic sign in the late 60s or early 70s. This sign matches back-lit section of the sign above. The top neon may be from the 1950s.



Spud Fish & Chips; Green Lake (Seattle) Washington

I unfortunately don’t have a better, more current image of the sign from this popular Green Lake eatery. This fantastic mid-century fish shack was sadly slated for demolition last year in favor of apartments. The restaurant, designed by Edward Cushman, failed to achieve historical landmark status. It was built in 1959 and moved to its last location in 1967.

The history of Spud Fish & Chips goes back to 1935, when English-born brothers Jack and Frank Alger opened the first Spud in a garage on Alki Avenue. Roy Buckley, the first cook at Ivar’s Fish Bar, had originally worked at Spud, where he learned the ins and outs of good fish and chips.

After World War II, the Alki Spud was given a new building and satellite locations opened up in Green Lake and Kirkland.


Northwest Neon X

Can you believe it is already the tenth week of summer? And another week means another post and three more neon signs! Today, we will reach a grand total of thirty signs, and there are still many, many, many more waiting to be discovered…

I also want to say thanks to my friend, Spencer, for photographing a few signs for me on his recent vacation, one of which will appear today.



Roberts Motors Oldsmobile; Auburn, Washington

Yes, it’s true that the last Oldsmobile rolled off the production line in 2004 and Roberts Motors sold its last car years ago, but we still have this sign to remind us of days when cars were tougher and Auburn was known as the “Little Detroit of the West.”

This sign hails from the 1950s, when the newest Olds were equipped with wildly popular V-8 “Rocket” engines. Around the same time, dealerships were popping up all around Auburn Way North, building Auburn’s reputation as the place to buy a car. Advertisements deemed Auburn the Little Detroit of the West.

The origins of Roberts Motors are unclear. It began as an Oldsmobile dealership and ended as a used car dealership. For many years the sign was well-maintained and still lit up at night, but now it is sadly deteriorating.



Wild Life Cafe; Grand Coulee, Washington

It only makes sense that the home to the Columbia River’s largest hydroelectric dam should have at least one cool neon sign. This sign, from the 1950s or 1960s, is for the now-defunct Wild Life Cafe, which was a feature of the DeLuxe Motor Hotel. This location has been Jack’s Bar & Grill for the last 10 years, but this parking sign remains. Dig those neon antlers!



Welcome Everett Inn; Everett, Washington

While this current building is less than 30 years old,  my guess is that another motel once stood at this site, and this sign may have belonged to it. Between the 1930s and 1960, the northern part of the property was home to a gas station/grocery store, which served as a real estate office and later a travel agency from 1969 to 1988 after a several-year vacancy. Three buildings on the southern end of the property were houses built in 1939.

All of these buildings were demolished in 1988, making way for the Welcome Everett Inn. In 2015, three very old steel underground storage tanks were removed from the site as part of an environmental cleanup effort.

I’m not sure where this sign originally stood, but like many neon signs, it appears to be from the 1950s or 60s.

Northwest Neon IX

Can you believe we have already looked at the stories of 24 neon signs across Washington State? Stay tuned, as there are still many more to come!


Kent Bowl; Kent, Washington

Kent Bowl has been a meeting place for friends, dates, and leagues since 1958! Like most bowling alleys, Kent Bowl has a small cafe inside. It looks like it may have once served cocktails, too! While the inside has been renovated, the outside still looks like 1956 in the very best way. On August 19, it will celebrate its 60th anniversary with 50s prices, or 30 cent shoe rentals and 30 cent games.



Noble Palace II; Everett, Washington

Located off of Broadway Avenue in Everett is Noble Palace II, a Chinese restaurant. Like so many of these signs, there is very little information about the restaurant or its past. I think it’s safe to say that both date back to the 1960s, a time when restaurants serving anything other than American foods were viewed as interesting and exotic.


Viking Restaurant; Stanwood, Washington

We took a look at another sign from this 1960s restaurant two weeks ago. The restaurant has been closed for some time, but it is still a great place to see some Nordic 60s neon!

Northwest Neon VII

It may be the last day of the week, but never fear, the weekly neons have arrived! I just returned from a short vacation to Indiana. While it may not sound like a vaction spot to many, I have to say it was amazing walking through a town founded in 1808 that still retained many of its original buildings! For any lovers of U.S. history, southern Indiana is actually a great spot.

But now that I am back on Tokul soil, it’s time to shift the focus back to Washington’s history… And it’s way-cool neons!


Ivar’s Fish Bar; Seattle, Washington

Some of you may remember the main Ivar’s sign featured in the second installment of this series. This nautical neon also comes from the waterfront Fish Bar in downtown Seattle, hanging proudly above the outdoor eating area, which is popular with resident humans and seagulls.



Blue Moon Tavern; Everett, Washington

Not to be confused with the famous U-District bar in Seattle, the history of this tavern is much harder to come by. The Blue Moon opened on Colby Street sometime in the 1940s. It moved to its present location in 1960.



Viking Restaurant; Stanwood, Washington

Located in a great 1960s Viking-ship-shaped strip mall, this restaurant probably opened sometime in the 60s. It passed through the hands of several owners in the past decade or so before closing in 2015. As far as I can tell, the restaurant has been vacant since then, but it still has all of its neat original neon signs.



Northwest Neon VI

Who else is ready to see some more way-cool northwest neons? Today we’re going to look at three signs from the same northern city: Bellingham.


Pho 99; Bellingham, Washington

Located just down the hill from the southern end of Western Washington University is Pho 99. There is very little information to be found online about this building and its past tenants. I think it’s safe to say the building and the neon date from the 1960s, and the shape of the sign suggests that it was originally an ethnic restaurant.



A New Leaf Florist; Bellingham, Washington

The story of A New Leaf begins in 1980 when owner Trish Manley opened JQ’s Flowers on Railroad Avenue in downtown Bellingham. The shop occupied two different spots on Holly Street before finally moving to it’s current location on Cornwall Ave. Although the sign has clearly had a recent paint job, its shape suggests that it’s from the 1940s or 1950s.



Horseshoe Cafe; Bellingham, Washington

It may no longer be a neon, but it used to be. This sign was installed in the 1950s and has undergone just a few changes since. The Horseshoe Cafe is Washington’s oldest continually-run restaurant (although it did close for a brief time in 2015 for remodeling). It has been serving up grub to businessmen, tourists, and college students alike since 1886–before Washington achieved statehood.

Northwest Neon V

Welcome back for the next installment of Northwest Neons! It’s hard to believe that time is well on its way to August, but there are still plenty more neat neons to come!


Dari-De-Lite; Mount Vernon, Washington

Yes, this sign is no longer a neon, but let’s appreciate it for what it was. Dari-De-Lite opened next to a Shell gas station sometime around 1950. Though all of the neon is gone from both the sign and the building, they look just about the same now as they did 68 years ago. Unfortunately, the sign is in miserable shape, but it surely still lures hungry passersby in with promises of soft serve.



Sav-Mart; Wenatchee, Washington

Sav-Mart has been known for its selection, its customer service, and I would guess it’s signage since 1962. Located off Wenatchee Ave, it is a family-owned appliance business that has somehow been able to compete against big-box retailers. Both the building and its signs still scream 1962 in a very cool way.


SavMart 2

Sav-Mart; Wenatchee, Washington

You may be thinking that this isn’t a neon, but before you make that assessment, look way at the top at the atomic spike. That part of the sign happens to be a neon, and a very special neon at that.

This space-age wonder is a Neo-Lectra, one of about 100 jack-shaped neons designed by Oklahoman Jim Henry in the 1960s. Although produced near Tulsa, there are a few samples of these signs remaining across the U.S.

While it may look small, the atomic structure is actually near 13 feet across. Neo-Lectras sold for about $1,000 a piece, which is roughly equivalent to $8,344 today.


Northwest Neon IV & Happy Birthday!

Today, there is a lot to celebrate! Not only has summer finally arrived in Western Washington, and not only is it the next installment in Northwest Neon, but yesterday was The Northwest Past’s third birthday!

Thank you to everybody who has taken the time to read, like, and comment over the past three years! With the terrible twos out of the way (and few, irregular posts) I hope year three is a great one!


Aloha Motel; Bellingham, Washington

In the glory days of Highway 99, before all sections of I-5 were complete, Samish Way served as part of a motel-lined north-south arterial through Bellingham. Coming a little late in the game, but offering many modern amenities, the Aloha Motel opened in the very early 1960s.

Sadly, in recent years, the motel became the site of methamphetamine and murder. The city voted to condemn the building in 2014, and it was torn down the following year. Controversies and permit problems have kept the lot empty, but its tropical neon lives on.



Totem Family Dining; Everett, Washington

Also located off of Highway 99 (at the intersection of Rucker Ave and 44th), Totem Family Dining has been serving great food for over 60 years. Built in 1950 as a drive-in, Totem was a hot hang-out for local teenagers. Long-time owners, Bliss and Joyce Settergren, turned the drive-in into a dine-in.

For almost seven decades, a huge cedar story pole stood at this same intersection, giving the restaurant its name. The totem pole, carved in the 1923 by the talented William Shelton, was removed in 1996 after rot was discovered. The damaged totem pole was returned to the Tulalip people, who hope to restore and someday display it.



Hillside Motel; Conway, Washington

Like the other two neons seen today, the Hillside Motel was another by-product of Highway 99. The motel’s roots go back to the early 1940s, when a gas station/grocery store began renting out rooms to travelers. A motel and restaurant were built in 1946.

Sometime in the 1950s, old barracks from Whidbey Island were brought to the site for use as additional motel rooms. Hillside began offering monthly rates in the 1960s. The prettier side of the sign, facing I-5, claims that the motel would be “back in 2010,” but it doesn’t seem like the motel was ever revived. A fire ravaged part of the vacant motel in November 2014.

Galen and Debora Johnson of Hillside Enterprises LLC applied for a permit that would allow them to build a new, three-story motel on the site. Their permit request was denied.