Thursday, January 13, 2011

Aging Googie and other matters

Architecturally, "Googie" is the term for structures and signs that are distinctive due to their '50s look, featuring sharp angles, stars, arrows, and anything that connotes "space age". Think of the recently restored Munger Moss Motel sign, with which most of you are familiar, and you've got the idea.

Although most signs of this genre are long gone, some are still standing in good shape and in working order. Others are still standing but fading, dying, rusting, broken or at best, repurposed.

This morning I went seeking Googie signs on or very near Route 66 alignments in Tulsa, specifically those which have seen better days. There are still a few standing, and although all that I've photographed here have definitely seen better days, one can catch a glimpse of their googie past in their shape and design. I was rather moved by this self-imposed assignment, because seeking out this signage easily threw me back to memories of my childhood travels, when these brightly lighted neon wonders were a highlight of the roadside. Today, they are mostly sad.

It's interesting that the arrow seems to be the main feature of most Googie signs. Although most neon is long gone and rust has taken over most, one can still see shards of light bulbs, flashes of paint, and of course the shapes remain. Those that have been repurposed generally have been done by simply repainting a new logo over an old. Here are a few I found. You should be able to click them to enlarge.This sign, on 11th St., is still in good order and I've often wondered if it's always been a used car dealership or whether it has been repurposed. Anyone know?

A definite Sign of the Times. See how the word "RADIO" has been painted over to say "VCR".

Here's one that has no paint remaining, and yet almost all the bulbs on the arrow are still intact.

This was a Piggly Wiggly Market until just a few years ago. I hope anyone who leases the building will consider keeping the sign.

Whoever repurposed this sign has left the arrow but painted over the message. Unfortunately, the day-glo '60s repainting is in direct contrast to the Googie arrow.

It's amazing how many old Googie signs on 11th St. or Admiral are now owned by used car dealers. At least they use them instead of tearing them down.

Another one in decent shape, but painted over.


I treated myself to an amazing breakfast this morning at a place called The Wild Fork in Utica Square in Tulsa, four blocks off Route 66. It's definitely NOT a greasy spoon diner, my usual choice, but instead it's one of the few upscale restaurants in town that serve an early breakfast. Here's what I tried to eat, and managed to get through half of it. Taquitos with cheesy grits and fresh fruit. The taquitos themselves were loaded with huge chunks of sausage, cheese, jalapenos, onion, and sour cream. (I hope my dietitian isn't reading this!)


Two more observations from this morning's outing:

Remember the heap of bowling balls on Admiral which were gathered there as a monument to world peace? Thoughts from a Route 66 Business Owner: Who Knew? It appears that someone or something has knocked part of the fence over and made off with most of the balls, but now there's a truck parked there which is a wonderful throwback to the Peace and Love '60s. I like this and I love the devotion with which the constructor of this "monument" perseveres in his quest for peace. Good for him! (There's even a Googie arrow on his sign!)

Finally, hiding behind another building and hard to find unless you're really looking for it is the remains of an old motel at 5318 E.11th St. (Route 66). Clearly it was once a motel, but I feel that most of it has been torn down, leaving two double units now known as the 11th St. Inn -- Weekly Sleeping Rooms. Definitely NOT recommended for travelers, but interesting nonetheless.


Trevor Hilton said...

I've learned something new. I never new there was a word for usch signs.

I heard that there is an Art Deco Tour for downtown Tulsa that I would love to take some time. I think it would be good if Tulsa promoted it's beautiful art deco architecture. The downtown bus station is a nice example.

Ron McCoy said...

Trevor, there are also tours of the "terra cotta city" under the streets downtown via the Tulsa Tunnels. This is a system of secret underground tunnels which were built to connect many of Tulsa's early deco skyscrapers and became became a "millionaires highway" protecting the wealthy and elite from danger.

Beth said...

You know I love me some Googie!

Wow, you've got some great ones surviving. There are a few still here in South Bend, but they're vanishing rapidly. There are more to be seen on the back roads up to Chicago, through Gary, etc. It always delights me to see a well-preserved sign. Heck, I love seeing an old, rusted one, where you can still see the shapes. But knowing that someone loves such a sign enough to preserve it makes me even happier.

Lulu said...

Hey Laurel,
Thanks for posting this photo ops,

Trevor Hilton said...


I didn't know about that in Tulsa. There's an underground part of OKC, too. It's called The Concourse. There's been talk of developing it, like Bricktown. I hope it does.