Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pann’s - Los Angeles (Inglewood)

Pann's is a diner style restaurant considered an institution in Los Angeles, California, for its history, role in movies, and distinctive architecture. It opened in 1958 by George and Rena Panagopoulos, and is known for its neon sign, googie architecture, and 1950s decor.

It is located at the intersection of La Cienega Boulevard and La Tijera Boulevard in Inglewood, California. Like many diners it serves breakfast all day and night. The restaurant also serves "blue-plate specials," complete meals that vary daily.

Pann's includes an angular edifice and large plate glass windows and has been described as having "the classic coffee shop architecture". It was designed by Armet & Davis, who also designed the Hollywood Bowl and the original Norms Restaurant.

Here is a sample of the “googie” used in the address numbers and the door handle.

Tropical landscaping was included in the design.

The stonework and the space age roof lines almost make the restaurant a meeting of the Flintstones and the Jetsons.

It is also known as "the Frank Lloyd Wright of '50s coffee shops. Even the ventilation system was incorporated into the architectural design.

Pann's was featured in a story in the Los Angeles Times, "Going on a hunt for Googie architecture," which noted the restaurant's tilted roof and sign, tropical plants and exposed stone walls indoors and out, and glass windows wrapping around the restaurant. Pann's celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2008.

However, not all of the past 50's years have been smooth sailing for this futuristic coffee shop. In the early 1990's, the restaurant was in danger of being demolished and rebuilt beyond recognition. At this point, the Los Angeles Conservancy's Modern Committee got involved and worked collaboratively with Pann's second generation owner Jim Poulos towards a plan restoring Pann's to its former glory.

Also recently, Pann’s was featured in a local Los Angeles television show called “Cheap Eats.” Be warned, there are a lot of breakfast meats shown on this video.

For those interested in visiting, Pann’s, it is located on 6710 La Tijera Blvd, Los Angeles, CA‎. (323) 776-3770‎

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Norm’s – Los Angeles (West Hollywood)

Norms Restaurants is a chain of diner-style coffee shops in Southern California. The chain was founded in 1949 by Norman Roybark. The first restaurant was located at Sunset Blvd. at Morningside in Hollywood. Norm's already had nine locations in 1962. There are currently 17 locations in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties.

The first Norms opened on La Cienega Boulevard in 1957 featuring a distinctive angular and brightly colored style that came to be known as Googie architecture. Key characteristics include concrete walls, large glass windows, jutting roof, and a neon marquee. The first Norms restaurant was designed by the architecture firm of Armet & Davis.

Here is a close up on the cool sign.

The interior of Norms Restaurant is still interesting and wisely the sprucing up they have done is with Mid-Century Modern fixtures. Located in a congested area of town, but it has its own free parking, which is a big plus. Many Norms now have given up all traces of the great Googie signs that this place still has.

For those interested in visiting the original Norm’s, it is located on 470 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048. (310) 657-8333

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bob’s Big Boy – Toluca Lake, California

Big Boy is a restaurant chain started in 1936 by Bob Wian, in partnership with Arnold Peterson in Glendale, California. The chain is best known for its trademark chubby boy in red-and-white-checked overalls holding a Big Boy sandwich (double-decker cheeseburger).

The inspiration for Big Boy's name, as well as the model for its mascot, was Richard Woodruff (1936-1986), of Glendale, California. When he was six years old, he walked into the diner Bob's Pantry as Bob Wian was attempting to name his new hamburger. Wian said, "Hello, Big Boy" to Woodruff, and the name stuck.

The Toluca Lake location was built in 1949, and is the oldest remaining Bob's Big Boy in America. It was designed by respected architect Wayne McAllister, incorporating the 1940's transitional design of streamline modern style while anticipating the free-form 50's coffee shop architecture. The towering BOB's sign is an integral part of the building design and its most prominent feature.

Here is a shot of the towering Bob's sign at night. You can see it for several blocks away on Riverside Drive

The restaurant was honored in 1993, receiving the designation as a "State Point of Historical Interest" by the state of California. The current owner (the MacDonald Family) acquired control of the restaurant in 1993 and began to restore it to its past glory.

Here are some close up shots featuring the unique door handles with the “B” script, as well as the "Coffee Shop" sign over the outdoor seating area

For those interested in visiting, the original Bob’s Big Boy, it is located at 4211 W Riverside Dr., Burbank, CA 91505-4146. (818) 843-9334

Friday, July 17, 2009

Small Town 4th of July Parades

Today, my blog is featuring Linda, my wife, as a (guest blogger) describing the 4th of July parade, that we recently saw in Sandpoint, Idaho. Patriotism is alive and well in small town America. Flags decorate shop windows, cars, houses, even people in shirts and pants. As with most 4th of July parades, people bring out the best of the best of their community.

Mayors and city council members ride in old fancy cars. School dance troops and marching bands perform for adoring family and neighbors. Troops and local police and firefighters are honored. Local organizations, groups or clubs get free advertising with fun decorated floats. Political views are expressed with creative floats as well. People bring out their Model-T’s, hotrods, and classic cars, flames and all.

Brett and I were in Sandpoint, Idaho for this year’s 4th of July parade. The sidewalks of downtown were staked out early with sitters in lawn chairs along the curb and there were already people standing behind them against buildings. People had their dogs and even a mini horse on leashes. It was a warm morning and the line at the one Starbucks in town was out the door and then some. We heard one couple passing by waited 20 minutes for their coffee drinks. We happened to go down a side street for a 44 oz soda instead.

Staking out a spot in the shade against a brick building wall, we waited for the parade to start. The sidewalks were crowded but everyone was in a celebratory mood. The parade started around 10:00 a.m. with a small band of local troops carrying flags. Many men stood up and took their hats off and there was a joyful cheer for the troops as they passed by. Then came a Scottish bagpipe marching band, followed by the Mayor and other city representatives.

But there were definitely things that I haven’t seen before in a 4th of July parade before. How many Monster construction equipment, bulldozers and dump trucks, do you see in an urban parade?

Or racing chasing tractors? Or huge logging trucks? Or covered wagons? The gardening club with a wheel barrow with a “Compost Happens” sign that follows after the horses pooping down the street was creative and funny as well as practical.

The high school or middle school marching band was absent, but replaced by the dance troop. The one “marching band” was sitting in a truck (legs dangling off the gate). Bicycle troops promoted an eco-friendly living.

The parade lasted for about a hour and a half which is impressive for a small town, although we heard from relatives that it seemed shorter than usual.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

NHL Hockey in the Sunbelt?

A geography conundrum…. The articles below portray an interesting reason why the NHL should not site hockey franchises in places like Phoenix, Arizona, or in warmer climates in general, as there is just not the fan base. This has been noticed with some of the newer hockey franchises that have sprouted up over the years in the “sunbelt” (i.e. hockey teams in Dallas, Atlanta and Tampa Bay come to mind). Do all of these franchises do very well financially? Dallas may actually be one of the better ones financially. Maybe I’m missing something, or I don’t understand how the power of marketing can trump geography. Does the NHL believe that there have been enough people from regions with colder climates (i.e. Minneapolis, Chicago, Buffalo, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Winnipeg, Montreal, etc.) that have migrated south to warmer regions and will continue to support hockey? Maybe more people have migrated south than actual census numbers show. Maybe less? On the flipside, can the same thing be said for baseball in the northern states with the cooler climates? Any thoughts?

Monday, June 22, 2009

The end of the line for Kodachrome

Kodak has closed one of its oldest and most famous product lines, in the latest sign of the film business fading away against the onslaught of digital photography. Kodak announced Monday that it would cease production of Kodachrome, the line of professional quality film that was first developed in 1935 and became one of the company’s pre-eminent brands, known for stunning colors and sharpness. Kodachrome’s prominence may have peaked in the 1970s when it was immortalized by Paul Simon, who lauded the film’s capacity for bright colors with the lyrics, “Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away”. Kodak’s newer and cheaper films, combined with the rapid transition to digital cameras in the past 10 years, have eaten away at demand for Kodachrome, which requires complicated processing. The film now represents less than 1 per cent of the company’s total sales of still-picture films. Here is a link to the press release from Kodak:

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Interactive Unemployment Map of California

According to a number of sources and economists, it is predicted that California will hit a 12% unemployment rate by the end of the year. The Sacramento Bee Newspaper has prepared an interactive map that allows you scroll over each county to see the respective unemployment rate in that county. On the left hand side of the map, you can choose a month between January of 2008 and February of 2009. Here is a link to the interactive map in the Sacramento Bee:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Say Goodbye to Rest Stops

The state-supported rest stop, an American institution since 1956, is dying off. The rise of roadside retail and shrinking government budgets are to blame, says GOOD Magazine. Closures are spreading across the country, as Louisiana closed 24 of its 34 stops, and Vermont has already closed four this year. This past April, Wisconsin stopped staffing its welcome centers. This article also highlights how rest stops have created and reflected a sense of place wherever they are built; and reflects the local/regional culture or landscape of each State, from teepees in Oklahoma to oil rigs in Texas. Here is a link to the full article:

Sunday, April 5, 2009

National Tartan Day

April 6, 2009, is National Tartan Day, a North American commemoration of Scottish heritage celebrated in Canada and the USA. In the United States it is estimated that there are 6 million people of Scottish descent; whereas in Canada there are 4.7 million people of Scottish descent. Tartan Day is held on April 6, the anniversary of the date on which the Declaration of Arbroath was created in 1320. Here is a link to National Tartan Day

Saturday, March 28, 2009

CSAA Donates 7,000 Maps to Stanford University

Stanford University’s Branner Earth Sciences Library has recently acquired 7,000 old road maps through a generous donation by the California State Automobile Association (CSAA). The recent donation was triggered by the CSAA’s move to new headquarters with less space. Along with the road maps, the CSAA donation includes thousands of linen maps, topographic maps and county tract maps that expose the microscopic details of Northern California’s landscape, even down to housing tracts. Included with the acquisition of this collection are several boxes of etched sheets of scribecoat, a material similar to Mylar that was used by CSAA mapmakers in the 1970’s as part of the photomechanical cartographic process.

Here is a link to an article from Stanford University discussing the details of the collection.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

MSU scholars spearhead Michigan’s first geography/geology textbook in 25 years

For the first time in more than 25-years, college students in the State of Michigan, now have a new textbook about Michigan's geography and geology. The 672-page text is the work of many scholars, led by Randall Schaetzl, a professor of geography and geological sciences at Michigan State University. See the link below for additional details.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Future of San Francisco’s famous Tiki lounge?

The Tonga Room, one of the better known Tiki themed restaurants in the world, faces an uncertain future. Currently the San Francisco Fairmont Hotel, is looking into the idea of converting the hotel into luxury condos, and the Tonga room has not been included in the remodel plans as of yet.

Photo of the Tonga Room, courtesy of Fairmont Hotels

“Tiki culture” or Polynesian themed attractions (remember Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland) can be found in little pockets all over North America. The interest in Tiki culture grew in the 1950’s, when American soldiers were returning home from World War II, as they brought with them stories and souvenirs from the South Pacific. As a result, Polynesian-style restaurants and clubs appeared in the United States and then, to a lesser degree, around the world, inspired by this culture. Although inspired in part by Tiki carvings and mythology, the connection is loose and stylistic.

Here is a recent article and video clip of the Tonga Room. The restaurant featured a floating stage, and rain storms.

For more information on Tiki culture, check out these links.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

California may create Chief Geographic Officer position

The Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the State of California, is mulling the idea of creating a new state level position called the “Chief Geographic Officer.” The purpose of this position would be to coordinate Geographic Information Systems (GIS) activities at the county and local level. Below is a link to the article. Is this a good idea, during a time when the State of California is having budget difficulties?

Friday, January 30, 2009

The "Municipal House of Pancakes"

Since many of my followers enjoy IHOP, I thought I would do another post. Yes, even the “International House of Pancakes,” has been used as a parody on television. Below is a screen clip from the Simpson’s episode “The Twisted World of Marge Simpson” (here is a link to the episode in its entirety: where the “International House of Pancakes,” is portrayed as the “Municipal House of Pancakes.” I first saw this episode a few years ago, and thought the parody was pretty good. With the power of the internet, I was able to track down the episode and get an image. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Vancouver, WA - Railroad Facilities

Below is a low horizon oblique photo of the Burlington Northern rail facility in Vancouver, Washington, taken on July 17, 1982 (click on the picture for a higher resolution image).

The Vancouver, Washington Amtrak station (SP&S heritage) is located inside “a wye," which makes it one of the leading rail-fan locations in the Pacific Northwest. It served trains of the Northern Pacific, Great Northern, Union Pacific and Spokane, Portland & Seattle.

Vancouver is the hub of BNSF operations in the Portland metropolitan area, since the abandonment of Hoyt Street yards in Portland. In 1908, the Northern Pacific bridged the Columbia to allow its trains and those of the new Spokane, Portland & Seattle to reach Portland.

Since 1910, the Northern Pacific main line through Vancouver to Tacoma has also carried the trains of Union Pacific. Over the years, both the Great Northern and Milwaukee Road freights also used the trackage along this route.

The east-west Fallbridge Sub forms the south leg of the wye, with the north-south Seattle main on the west leg. The north leg, the "Middle Lead", passes by the north side of the BNSF Vancouver Yard office.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Howard Johnson's

Howard Johnson, came into the hospitality industry in the 1930’s, and opened his first motor lodge in 1954; however, he came into the industry from the side of a restaurateur with his ice cream stands and restaurants/coffee shops.

At the peak of Howard Johnson’s empire in 1969, he had approximately 500 motels and 1,000 restaurants, as Howard Johnson’s was seen as mid-range (price-wise) motel in terms of place-product-packaging (Jakle, 1996). Howard Johnson was also instrumental in use of architecture (a-frame gate-lodge with cupola, orange roof, etc) of the building and colors as part of the marketing of the product. Horne’s Restaurants (see for pictures due to copyright laws), and International House of Pancakes (IHOP) used the same concept in developing their respective restaurants.

It wasn’t until the mid 1970s until some of the budget chains like Econo-Lodge, Super 8 and Motel 6 became well established (due to the oil embargo and other economic challenges), taking a larger share of the lodging industry from mid-range chains such as Howard Johnson’s and Holiday Inn (to a lesser degree). Also, during this time period, was a change in the marketplace, as the budget conscious traveler was no longer looking for a motel with extra amenities such as coffee shops; as budget motels often offer a free continental breakfast.

Mid-range motels such has Howard Johnson’s and Holiday Inn, also got the squeeze from the other end of the lodging spectrum, in the area of hotels with suites and extended stay facilities (i.e. Homewood Suites, Courtyard by Marriott, etc.), aimed at the longer staying business traveler, offering more amenities geared toward families and business travelers.

As a result of the changes in the lodging industry, and “amenity creep” from the budget motels, new mid-range chains such as Day’s Inn and La Quinta Inns & Suites have come to fill in the void left by Howard Johnson’s, as well as encompassing the suite market. Howard Johnson’s just did not keep up with the changes of the American traveler.

A great website, with pictures of many Howard Johnson's Restaurants and Motor Lodges:

Sunday, January 25, 2009

International House of Pancakes

“International House of Pancakes,” or IHOP, was founded in 1958 by Al and Jerry Lapin. The first restaurant opened on July 7, 1958, in Toluca Lake area of Los Angeles, California.

IHOP borrowed many ideas from Howard Johnson’s Restaurant and Horne’s Restaurant, in terms of place-product-packaging (Jakle, 1996). For an initial investment of $15,000, franchises could buy into a restaurant system symbolized by one of the most readily identifiable building prototypes ever devised for America’s roadsides, a large A-frame structure with turquoise painted roof.

It is a super-sized a-frame structure with a brick chimney, diamond pane windows and the colorized version of a wood shake roof of a typical tract home. The spectacular orange-white-turquoise color scheme is borrowed from Howard Johnson’s. The a-frame buildings were used until 1979 when the last one in that style was built (