From the November 21, 1996 Anaheim Bulletin
By Brady MacDonald
Say goodbye to Googie.
You may have never known the 1950’s and ’60’s architectural design by name, but you probably recognize its distinctive style.
Now Anaheim is about to lose its Googie-ness.
“It’s a great shame because Anaheim was one of the great centers of Googie architecture and ’50’s style,” said Alan Hess, author of “Googie:
Fifties Coffee Shop Architecture.”
“It happens with all architectural styles. When all but a handful of examples are left, people start to pay attention,” Hess said.
The Googie style motels, bowling alleys and street signs that defined the city’s look of Anaheim – particularly in the Disneyland area – have
been slowly disappearing since the fad began to fade in the 1970s.
With stricter city design standards taking effect – part of an ambitious face lift of the resort area – work crews have started systematically
removing old Googie signs and replacing them with monument markers.
After Disneyland opened in 1955, Katella Avenue became a hodgepodge of visual clutter and mixed themes – from the Caravan Inn’s
galloping camel and the Magic Lamp’s genie emerging from a lantern to the tiki totem pole at the Samoa Motel and snow covered eaves
of the Alpine Lodge.
Mixed in among the roadside architecture lie pockets of Googie gold – from the spinning Satellite Shopland sign to the domed arena of the
Anaheim Convention Center.
The Eden Roc and Kona Kai motels on West Street have a new owner, new looks and new names. Gone are the Googie signs, replaced by
city issued monument signs proclaiming a more staid moniker: Parkside Inn & Suites.
The only sign of Googier days: a swooping boomerang forming the overhand at the front entrance.
Googie preservationist Mike Tucker decries the loss of such architecturally distinct beacons and facades.
“Give it another year and I don’t think there’ll be any Googie left in Anaheim,” said Tucker, who maintains a Googie web page on his Historic
Anaheim Internet site.
“I like Googie architecture because it’s so funky and dated,” said Tucker, 43, of Anaheim. “When I was a little kid, it was space age to me. We
were going to the moon and Googie pretty much evoked that. And now, unfortunately, it’s pretty much disappearing.”
Googie guru John English believes the roadside architecture and neon signs found around Disneyland are coming back in style.
“People will call it tacky kitsch, but they love it still the same,” said English, who offers a Googie tour of Orange County that focuses
primarily on Anaheim. “The question is, ‘What can be done.'”
English has set up the Electric Sign Preservation Group – with its sights set on saving threatened signs and preserving them in a museum
setting.
“It’s depressing because we’ve already lost the Eden Roc and Kona Kai,” said English, 33, of Los Angeles. “There needs to be an effort to
salvage these signs. They’re Southern California landmarks.”
About 40 property owners in the resort area are in line for the city funded sign switchover, said Mary McCloskey, a deputy city planning
director who is overseeing the resort makeover.
A Planning Commission subcommittee recommended in February that some signs – such as the Satellite Shopland and Eden Roc Motel – be
displayed at Anaheim Plaza or as part of the proposed Sportstown development.
But McCloskey said the city has no plan to preserve any of the nostalgic signs. Officials have, however, photographed all the Googie
architecture in Anaheim and stored the photographs and histories in the
Anaheim History Room of the Main Library.
“Basically all the property owners so far have wanted the signs removed and destroyed,” McCloskey said. “It’s up to the property owner
whether to save the sign or not. If a group would like to purchase a sign it would be up to the property owner.
The Googie style dotted the landscape.
It could be found at car washes, auto dealerships, bowling alleys, motels, coffee shops and even the Theme Building at Los Angeles
International Airport.
It was the indigenous architecture of Southern California.
Today, the look serves as a time capsule of the 1950’s – a wonderfully silly result of America’s emerging car culture colliding with the Sputnik
era.
Googie takes its name from a long defunct Sunset Strip coffee shop that since has been replaced by a Virgin Megastore.
The style is heavily influenced by the excesses of Las Vegas and Miami Beach of the 1930s and ’40s.
The original Googie’s Coffee Shop was next door to Schwab’s Drugstore – where legend has it future movie stars were discovered. The West
Hollywood coffee shop served as an intellectual hangout for struggling unknowns from the nearly Actor’s Studio.
A product of the atomic age, Googie capitalized on America’s insatiable optimism about the future – a time when downsizing hadn’t been
conceived.
The best known features of Googie architecture are the boomerang and outer space shades of blue, green and orange that characterized
1950’s diners and bowling alleys.
Googie’s goal: eye-catching eccentricity that caused motorists to take notice.
Googie defined a modernistic roadside architecture – popular with cheap, highway drive-ins.
Through time, Googie has become a catchall for everything hip and trendy from the post war era – from Tupperware parties and 1957 Chevy
tail fins to car washes and thrift shop clothes.
But the root of the ’50s coffee shop style is architectural – with an emphasis on defying gravity.
There are several classic Googie building elements: giant, look-at-me neon signs, diagonal lines, boomerang curves, starburst sparkles,
bubbling circles, out of whack squares, undulating canopies, zig zag roofs, amoeba shaped cutouts and sloping glass walls.
The visual message was one of spontaneity and optimism.
Even the name of the now legendary coffee shops that featured the look were fanatically funky: Biffs, Ships, Pann’s, Chip’s and of course –
Googie’s.
The term was coined in 1952 by House and Home Magazine editor Douglas Haskell – and it soon swept through architectural schools.
There were four basic tenets of Googie; design themes should be combined in an abstract way, buildings should appear to defy gravity,
structural systems should be combined and visible, new building materials like plastic, cement and glass should be utilized.
Googie peaked between 1954 and 1964.
The Googie craze, however, was temporary. By the mid 1960s, it was over.