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.
Welcome back for the next installment of Northwest Neons! If you missed part one, you can catch up on that here. I also want to say thank you to my friend, Keegan, for helping me gather snapshots of neon signs throughout the state. Some of his pictures will appear today and in the weeks to come.
Ivar’s Fish Bar; Seattle, Washington
Ivar’s is probably Washington’s best-known eatery chain. Its roots date back to 1938 when Seattle local, Ivar Haglund, opened the first Seattle aquarium on Pier 54. Children and adults alike flocked to Pier 54 to view local animals such as Patsy the Seal, Barney the Barnacle, and Oscar and Olivia the Octopuses. Outside, Haglund sat on a stool with his guitar and sang songs about the aquarium’s inhabitants.
Before long, Haglund and West Seattleite Roy Buckley opened a fish and chips counter across from the seal cage. Its wild success angered the neighboring Steve’s Restaurant, causing the counter to close after only a year. In 1946, Haglund opened his Acres of Clams Restaurant and accompanying Fish Bar, which remain in business today.
Skagit Valley Family YMCA; Mount Vernon, Washington
The Skagit Valley Family YMCA has served Mount Vernon and its environs for over 100 years. Its white brick building has stood on Fulton Street since 1941.
This sign, sporting the logo the Y used between 1897 and 1967, probably dates to the 40s or 50s. Several years ago, it was removed from the building and placed into storage.
Naches Tavern; Greenwater, Washington
On the way to Mount Rainier in the tiny town of Greenwater sits the Naches Tavern. Origins of the tavern go back to 1919, but the sign likely dates from the 1950s. The name, likely derived from the nearby Naches Pass, has been associated with the tavern since at least the 1920s. The original 1919 building burned down sometime after 1926, and the current one replaced it.
Today is the first day of summer, which also means it is the official start of the summer 2018 series here on The Northwest Past! In 2016 we explored historic motels around the state, and although 2017 saw a hiatus from a summer theme, I’m happy to announce the theme for this summer is… Northwest Neons!
Over the next several weeks, we will explore historical signs around the state and the histories of the places they advertise. So buckle your seat belts and get ready for the first installment in Northwest Neons!
Apple Cup Cafe; Chelan, Washington
Some of you probably recognize this sign from a few months back on the blog when I attended the Mahogany and Merlot event in Chelan. Named in honor of the hydroplane races hosted on Lake Chelan from 1957-1960, The Apple Cup Cafe has been serving locals and tourists alike for 61 years.
Cocoanut Grove; Bellingham, Washington
Perched off of Marine View Drive in northern Bellingham, the unique spelling of this bar’s name suggests it, or at least its sign, has been around since the 1940s or 50s. In addition to food and drinks, the Cocoanut Grove offered live entertainment and dancing as well. The Grove was also the location of a September 1980 meeting of Veronica Lynn Compton, a protegee of strangler Kenneth Bianchi, and victim Kim Breed.
The bar was noted in a June 28, 1953 journal entry of poet Gary Snyder as he described a trip to Gooseberry Point: “We went back by the same road, and by the outskirts of Bellingham Jack pointed out a ratty looking place called Coconut Grove where he said he had spent time drinking with a ‘rough crowd.’”
Rainier Beer; Seattle, Washington
Yes, I know a reproduction sign has been placed atop the old Rainier Brewery in Georgetown, but this one is the original, now on display at Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI).
Rainier Beer was launched in 1893 by the son of a German immigrant who had run a successful brewery in Wisconsin. 11 years later, Rainier’s producer, the Seattle Brewing and Malting Company, was the largest brewery West of the Mississippi. By 1912, it was the sixth-largest brewery in the world.
Although the brewery’s success was hampered by Prohibition, both it and the Rainier name were purchased in the mid-1930s by Canadian brewer Fritz Sick and his son, Emil. New management brought life back into the company, whose success allowed the Sicks to purchase the Seattle Indians, a local baseball team, and rename them in honor of the beer.
The iconic revolving neon “R” was installed atop the brewery sometime in the 1950s. It greeted millions of people passing through Seattle until 2000, when Rainier beer ceased production. For several years a Tully’s Coffee “T” stood in the same location, but in 2013, a replica Rainier R was constructed and placed atop the old brewery.
Once more, it has been way too long since I have made a post! I just got back from a vacation to Florida, and have been starting to gather materials for this upcoming summer’s theme. I hope to amass enough to post more regularly this summer!
Since it has also been way too long since I have posted a non-paper artifact on here, check out this 1940s letter from Auburn High School!
This letter and its pins were included in a lot of Auburn High School memorabilia I bought off of eBay a couple of years back. The seller stated that all of the items in the lot came from a scrapbook they picked up at an estate sale.
Some of the other items in the lot suggest that the owner of this scrapbook graduated in 1950, the year the new high school was built. It’s likely that the school she attended this year was neither the second Auburn High School, nor the third from 1950. Built in 1910, the original high school was severely damaged by an earthquake in 1949, although it was used on occasion as “the annex”at least through the 1960s.
From 1949 to 1951, Auburn Junior High School served as a combined junior and senior high school. This is likely the school the creator of the scrapbook attended this combined school her senior year.
Attached to the green and white letter–Auburn High School’s present-day colors–are three pins: Auburn Hi-School, Homecoming 1949, and an FHA Pin.
I’m not sure if the pin means to spell “high school” similarly to some versions of “highway” or if it sought to serve as a greeting as well, but this pin seems to belong in the vein of general school spirit.
This homecoming pin certainly would not have looked out of place at the 1949 Homecoming football game! It’s possible this pin could have been sold as a fundraiser for the homecoming dance, or it could have simply been a fun piece of school spirit.
The final pin is a difficult-to-photograph relic from the Auburn High School chapter of the Future Homemakers of America (FHA), a national home economics club founded in 1945. Now known as the Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), it aims to help junior and senior high school girls (and boys since the 1970s) experience personal growth and develop life skills through community service and other projects.
The 1950 Auburn High School that replaced this student’s school was demolished in 2014. Interestingly, a new brick school was built on the same location as the 1910 school.
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.
I can’t believe how quickly the time has flown since the last post! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!
Exactly one week ago, the seasons officially changed over to winter and the weather has definitely been living up to the season! With the recent snow, winter weather warnings, and plain coldness, who else is ready for summer?
In just a matter of months, we’ll once again be able to don our t-shirts and wander through places like Riverside State Park, shown here in this early 1960s postcard.
The Bowl and Pitcher are basalt formations rising from the Spokane River. Located in Spokane’s Riverside State Park, the hike to see them is a mere 2.1 miles roundtrip. The area surrounding the bowl and pitcher was given to the state in 1933 for use as a park. The park was developed from 1933-1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Also included in the park is a one of Spokane County’s oldest cabins, built in 1810.
Back in the 1960s, somebody used this card as scratch paper for University Realty. Anybody know what area the SK prefix (752) came from and what it stood for?
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.
While the air is starting to hold faint traces of autumn, it’s still summer! We have one more week to enjoy barbeques, sandals, and vacations! It’s not too late to go out and find something like this:
This 1950s/early 60s postcard shows a lovely apple orchard with mountains and the Columbia River in the background. The photo was clearly taken from the side of a road, likely a highway. Maybe Alternate Highway 97 through Wenatchee, Entiat, and Chelan?
The back of the card acknowledges Washington’s bustling apple industry.