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.
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.
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.
Happy Independence Day! While you celebrate 242 years of independence with family, friends, barbeque, and fireworks, check out these neat northwest neons!
Pacific Stone Company; Everett, Washington
This has to be one of the coolest signs ever! Located off of old Highway 99 in Everett, this is one of the many signs that dots the former major highway.
While the Pacific Stone Company was founded in 1999, this sign and the building date back to the 1950s. Originally designed and installed for Farmer’s Garden Center, the name on the sign was changed to match the new business’ name.
Cascade Pizza Inn; Bellingham, Washington
This chain has been serving up Greek-style pizza since 1974.
Harvey’s Lounge & Grill; Edmonds, Washington
While some sources claim that Harvey’s Lounge was established in 1910, most seem to agree that Harvey’s (at least at this location) dates back to the 40s or 50s. Located off of Highway 99 in Everett, its building was known as Monroe’s Tavern as early as 1949. Monroe’s was owned by a man named Harvey Robinson, so it is likely that the Lounge rebranded itself sometime in the next decade.
Happy spring! I can’t believe it has been almost four months since the last post! I apologize if I left anybody hanging, and hope to get back to regular updates.
For many living north of Seattle, Highway 2 is the main pathway to summer recreation at places like Leavenworth, Chelan, and Spokane. During the winter, it can also serve as the pathway to skiing at Stevens Pass.
Check out this 1950s postcard of the Skykomish River and Cascade Mountains, taken from the side of Highway 2.
Originating in Everett, Washington, Highway 2 stretches from Puget Sound to Lake Huron to a total of 2,571 miles. In Washington State, it spans Everett to Spokane.
Like many Washington highways, Highway 2 followed the path of old wagon roads, which eventually became the earliest highways. In 1909, the state began maintaining the section of road from Peshastin to Spokane, calling it State Road 7. Eight years later, this section of road was renamed State Road 2. Stevens Pass Highway, connecting Everett to Leavenworth, opened in 1925 and was named State Road 15 six years later.
A section of US Highway 2 spanning from Idaho to Michigan with a few Washington stretches existed as early as 1926, when the United States Highway System was adopted. The route from Peshastin to Spokane was renamed US 10, and the route from Spokane to Newport was named US 195.
In 1937, Washington Primary and Secondary State Highway System was adopted, causing State Road 15, US 10, and US 195 to be rechristened as Primary State Highways (PSH). PSH 15 connected Everett to Peshastin, PSH 2 from Peshastin to Spokane, and PSH 6 from Spokane to the Washington-Idaho state line. In January 1946, the American Association of State Highway Officials vetoed a proposition to extend US 2 from Idaho to Everett. The proposition resurfaced at a meeting in December of the same year and was approved.
Starting in January 1963, the Washington State Highway System began renumbering all state highways. The names Interstate, US Route, and State Route replaced all Primary and Secondary Highways.
Highway 2 as we know it today was a result of decades of re-routing starting in the in hopes of easing traffic, beginning in the late 1960s. Within the past decade, the highway has made plans to reshape and widen the route in hopes of making it safer.
Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have all had a day of rest, family, and delicious food! In case you are still hungry, feast your eyes on this 1950s menu from Busch’s Drive-In!
There is very little information to be found about Busch’s. Located at the intersection of 38th Street and South Tacoma Way, the building was originally a Triple XXX Root Beer. Owned by Frank Kruger, it opened in October 1936 after Kruger’s success with a smaller Triple XXX in Tacoma. Only seven years later, Kruger sold the restaurant to Bill and Thelma Busch who re-branded it, removed the rooftop barrels, and erected a huge neon sign.
Offering both dine-in and carhop service, Busch’s remained in business through at least the 1960s. A popular hangout for local youths, the restaurant sponsored local baseball teams and put floats in local parades.
One of this menu’s previous owners dined at Busch’s September 9, 1950 with Dorothy Nylin, Dave N, and Gil J. Apparently, it was a night to remember! That, and the Clubhouse sandwich!
The menu is quite extensive, especially in the realm of beverages and sundaes. Not only did Busch’s offer coffee, but also Sanka (instant decaf), and Postum (a roasted-grain coffee substitute). Fresh fruit flavors were plentiful, including date milkshakes. With the detailed item descriptions, it wouldn’t be hard to recreate a piece of Busch’s in your own kitchen.
Busch’s still stands today off at 3505 South Tacoma Way. Since 2008, it has operated as a kitchen and bathroom showroom called “Water Concepts.”
What are you waiting for? Go whip up a Pineapple-Orange Delight or Dusty Road Sundae and enjoy the rest of your holiday!
Welcome back to a new month and a new category! I spent last weekend in Chelan, Washington at an event that uniquely celebrates the state’s long love affair with hydroplane racing. For today’s post, I thought I would share the event with you as the first post in a fourth category: Events.
For the last 8 years, the City of Chelan, Kent’s Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum, and many other sponsors have hosted a weekend of vintage cars, boats, and hydroplanes in early October. Dubbed “Mahogany and Merlot“, it’s a chance to check out vintage watercraft and support local wineries.
Saturday was scheduled to be a full day of hydroplane action and classic car and boat shows, but strong winds kept the hydros in the pits. As consolation, access to the pits was open to all at no charge. This allowed us to get up close and personal with all of the hydroplanes in attendance: Unlimited, Limited mid-size, and the smallest Limiteds.
We also stood face-to-face with this interesting old building. Anybody know what it was used for back in its day?
Despite the disappointing weather, the Antique & Classic Boat Society put on a neat display of beautifully-restored boats dating back as far as the 1920s. Spectators could vote for their favorite boat at a nearby table.
Up in the parking lot, a small group of classic cars had parked, including this unique convertible hardtop, the Ford Galaxie Skyliner:
Sunday morning brought beautiful, windless weather and breakfast at a Chelan landmark with a great neon sign.
The Apple Cup Cafe opened the same year as the Chelan hydroplane races it was named for. For more information on the Apple Cup races, please visit my post here.
Down at the lake, most of the historic boats had already departed and the first of the Unlimited hydros were going into the water. Several wouldn’t start. Many coughed and sputtered. Some had to be towed back from the far end of the course, but eventually all Unlimiteds in attendance made at least one lap. The following hydroplanes made an appearance:
Miss Wahoo made her debut in 1956 and took second place in the first Apple Cup race. She won several races in the late 50s and took fifth place in the final Apple Cup before rolling over during the 1960 Seafair Trophy Race. Bill Boeing, the boat’s owner, had Miss Wahoo repaired, but retired her at the end of the year. In 1963, she was sold and won her first three races under the new name of Miss Exide. She was sold once more, renamed Miss Budweiser, and destroyed in a 1966 collision.
Miss Wahoo was built from the same plans as Miss Thriftway, Shanty-I, and Miss Spokane. The Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum in Kent used the original plans to build a Miss Thriftway replica. When Bill Boeing’s son saw it, he lamented that Miss Wahoo no longer existed. The museum responded by building this life-sized replica, who debuted at the Seafair Chevrolet Cup alongside U-787 Salute to Seafair.
This pepperoni-powered hydro started out as 1960 Miss Lumberville from Detroit, Michigan. She has been restored and repainted to look like the 1975 Oh Boy Oberto, the first hydroplane Oberto sponsored. This particular hydro starred in the 2005 film Madison.
Ole Bardahl, owner of Bardahl Manufacturing Co., sponsored the U-4 hydroplane in 1957. He loved it so much, that he commissioned his own hydroplane, built the following year. Dubbed “The Green Dragon”, Miss Bardahl made her debut at the Apple Cup with Chelan native Norm Evans at the wheel and took first place. She won several more races, encouraging Bardahl to upgrade her engine. An accident and unlucky year in 1959 was not enough to stop Miss Bardahl from coming back for one more successful year. Bardahl replaced her with a new model in 1962.
Breathless III never actually existed, but is rather a work-in progress by Mitch Evans, the son of famed hydroplane racer Norm Evans. The end goal is to re-create the 1954 splendor of “Birch & Blue, 22”, the original Breathless.
This Pay n’ Pak hydroplane has been lauded as one of the most successful hydroplanes in the history of hydroplane racing. It was the first sccessful hydroplane of the “pickle-fork” design, which was the trailblazer for the look of modern hydroplanes. Known as the “Winged Wonder”, it was the first hydroplane to use aluminum honeycomb building materials and a horizontal stabilizer.
After three very successful years, it raced as Atlas Van Lines for one year, again as Pay n’ Pak, and then as Miss Madison. In all, the 1973 Pay n’ Pak raced for 14 years before retirement. It spent some time in a warehouse before its sale to the Hydroplane and Raceboat museum, who restored it.
Although posters for the event advertised hydroplane races, there were no actual races. Rather, the historic hydros took out passengers for paid rides. The Limited hydroplanes simulated a race, and two outboard racing boats from the 1910s jetted around the course.
If you love vintage hydroplanes, mark your calendars for next October! You’ll be glad you did.
Maybe I should have titled this post “Hurry Summer.”
Although people living in the Pacific Northwest may feel like we skipped over spring this year, today is the official first day of summer! I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than with an early 50s postcard of a southern Washington beach!
This picture appears to be taken someplace south of the city of Long Beach, maybe at the beach located at the end of Jetty Road, near Peacock Spit. As the caption states, it shows the estuary at the end of the Columbia River from the Washington side.
Peacock Spit was named after the USS Peacock, which crashed there during a storm in 1841 while trying to enter the Columbia River.
Here’s to a summer we can spend out on the beach with our woodies, horses, and picnic baskets!
Although the air may feel brisk and many areas of the country are still getting snow, Spring has officially arrived, and soon will the leaves and the flowers.
Over the next few months, events like the Tulip Festival, Daffodil Parade, and Apple Blossom Festival will celebrate the coming of spring, flowers, and warmth. And Wenatchee and its environs may start looking something like this:
While I love the touristy nature of this 1950s postcard, it’s a memento of the times before the Space Needle and before the wineries when apples and apple tourism were a big deal in Washington state.
Apples first came to what is now Washington in 1826, before the organization of either the Washington or Oregon Territories. By 1889, the year of Washington’s statehood, commercial orchards were planted near rivers and advanced irrigation systems. Apple production continued to increase, and by the end of WWI Washington’s apple industry was booming. However, high production and transport costs as well as cheap (yet lower quality) apples from competitors drove the need for some sort of advertising campaign.
In 1926, Pacific Northwest Boxed Fruit formed to promote Washington apples in major markets around the country. Two years later the Washington Boxed Apple Bureau, but funding was voluntary and uncertain and by 1934, its future looked dim.
March 17th marked the 80th birthday of the Washington Apple Commission, the day Governor Clarence Martin signed into law the Washington State Apple Advertising Commission in hopes of helping an industry that had been hurt by the Depression. Over the next several decades, the commission researched better growing, storing, and shipping methods and developed a strong advertising campaign.
During the 1950s, advertisements praised apples for their nutrition and dental benefits, calling the apple “nature’s toothbrush”, and in 1961 Washington Apples released its first trademarked logo. In tandem with the unveiling of the logo, apple ambassadors traveled across the country to promote Washington State Apples. Throughout the 1960s and beyond, print, radio, and TV ads promoted Washington apples throughout the country. In the 1970s, Washington apples were available worldwide for the first time.
Currently, Washington is the #1 producer of apples in the United States, producing 64% of the nation’s supply.
My uncle remembers seeing a Washington Apples TV ad as a child. He thought they looked so good that he told my grandma, “We should get some of those Washington State Apples!”
Grandma pointed to the orchard outside and said, “What do you think those are?”
If you have 30 minutes to spare, check out this Washington Apples educational film, Appleland, from 1954. Happy spring!
Merry Christmas! I hope you all have been having a wonderful holiday! As my gift to you, I present you with this 1960s view of Christmas Island.
In September 1941, Olympia resident Leonard Huber started working on a lighted Christmas display in hopes of winning a contest. The contest was later cancelled, but Huber completed the display at his Eastside Hill home and lit it up Sunday, December 21st, only two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Over 5,000 people came by his house at the corner of Fairview Street and 11th Avenue that Sunday, and even more came through Monday morning. According to Huber, many people fell to their knees at the Nativity display complete with angels, shepherds, wisemen, and a church.
For the war years, the display remained dark, but it returned in December 1946, attracting more than 10,000 visitors in its first week before a fire caused by an overheated stove destroyed most of the display. Huber rebuilt it, and 1947 brought more than 45,000 visitors. Olympia’s one on-duty police officer took it upon himself to direct the holiday display traffic.
For the next three years, Huber relied on outside sources for funding the popular display, and the local police were proactive in safely routing the traffic generated. However, by 1950 neighbors and city leaders had enough and the display was moved to Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park. Throughout the 1950s, “Huber’s Sacred Scenes” would be displayed at the Duwamish Drive-In Theatre and at a North Seattle cemetery.
But in 1959, Huber’s display made a grand return to its hometown as the new Christmas Island. Funded by local businesses and assembled by the Army Corps of Engineers, Christmas island was a near-300-foot barge boasting a one-ton, 16-foot stainless steel cross in addition to a nativity scene and nearly 20,000 lights.
Christmas Island floated on Capitol Lake for only three years before burning down while in storage. Local organizations raised money to replace the display, but without the Army’s support, 1964’s Christmas Island was located on a solitary dock.
Christmas Island eventually returned to its floating state and lit up Capitol Lake every Christmas season until 1982 (with the exception of a stint in Boston Harbor in the mid-1970s).
In the 1980s, Huber was involved in an ownership lawsuit with the Island’s support organization and Christmas Island was moved to a stormwater pond behind the South Sound Mall Sears until the mid-90s. For the next few years, the Huber family displayed portions of the Island at Huber’s Gasthaus, an special event space.
The Olympia Metro Church displayed Christmas Island from 1998-2008, when the display was again put into storage.
In 2012, the Maytown Assembly of God brought Christmas Island out of storage and displayed most of it on church grounds. The church, located at 2920 Tierney St SW in Olympia, continues to host the display every year.
Drop by and see it if you have the chance! Merry Christmas!
What is that strange concrete structure perched on the south end of Seattle’s Green Lake? It’s a staircase, it’s a set of bleachers…It’s the Aqua Theatre!
Or, at least, what’s left of the Aqua Theatre.
Now just a shell of its former self, its hard to envision what the theatre looked like in its glory days. Today, it’s a popular spot for joggers, and the perfect bench for anybody wanting to rest a while and look out over Green Lake, but at its peak, it had the capacity to seat 5,582 people.
Built in a mere 67 days for the first-ever Seafair (1950), the 5,200-seat Aqua Theatre would become one of Seattle’s most popular outdoor performance venues. At a total cost of $247,000 (about $2,477,741.49 today), the Aqua Theatre was by no means a budget building, but for the next two decades its seats would often be filled to capacity for concerts, plays, and other performances.
Opening day for the Aqua Theatre was August 11, 1950 for what an advertisement described as a “flashy, splashy water spectacle”– The first-ever performance of The Aqua Follies–and it sold out. 5,200 people came to see a night of ballet, comedy, singing, dancing, and high-diving.
Aqua Follies performances (also called “Swim Musicals”) enjoyed immense success throughout the 1950s, as did other forms of entertainment. The Summer Opera Company produced “Music Under the Stars”, concert versions of operettas accompanied by ballet. Full-length plays and musicals including “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, “Oklahoma!”, and “The King and I” were also performed at the Aqua Theatre to the music of a floating orchestra.
To accommodate the popularity of the shows, 382 additional seats were added in 1960. Two years later, the World’s Fair brought visitors from around the globe to Seattle and the Aqua Theatre for an array of events from musicals to a jazz festival to performances by Bob Hope. The Aqua Follies performed for 21 nights, rather than the usual 13. But along with the visitors and the success, the World’s Fair also brought new, indoor performing spaces, such as the Coliseum (now Key Arena) that were fresh, comfortable, and out of the rain.
The Aqua Follies performed their last show in 1964, and the theatre began its descent into disuse and disrepair. It remained a venue for concerts, often catered toward the younger crowd. On August 8, 1966, The Northwest Battle of the Bands Championship was held at the theatre. For as little as $2 (about $15 today), a person could see Don & the Goodtimes, Merrilee & the Turnabouts, The Sonics, George Washington & the Cherrybombs, The Bumps, The Live Five, Jack Horner & the Famous Plums, Dusty Springfield, Sam Sham & the Pharaohs, and vote for a winner!
On May 11, 1969, the Aqua Theatre hosted Three Dog Night with opening acts Spring, Jaime Brockett, Translove Airlines, and Led Zeppelin. The theatre and surrounding areas was packed. Those who didn’t have tickets perched in trees, sat atop the concessions stand, sprawled out on nearby lawns, huddled on a nearby dock (causing it to sink slightly), and crowded the stage in canoes and rubber rafts. Some even swam in the stage’s pool!
Later that summer, city inspectors discovered that the structure was damaged and the facility was condemned. The Aqua Theatre’s last performance was on August 20, 1969, featuring the Grateful Dead.
The following year, the diving towers were removed and the demolition slowly progressed until 1979 when most of the seating was demolished and a new shell house was built.
I visited the Aqua Theatre in October 2010 (I sure wish I was there August 8, 1966, instead!) It has a wonderful history board hanging on the back side, filled with information and historical pictures. The theatre itself is quite a sight to see! I’m not sure why large chunks were cut out of the structure (structural soundness, perhaps?), but the remains account for about 3 out of 7 original seating sections.
It was fun to look out at the lake and envision where the stage once was.
For further information, and great historical images and memorabilia, I encourage you to check out these links on Historylink.org: