HISTORY: Cruising the city’s seedier side, Jane Newell is documenting the goofy, gaudy Space Age phenomenon before it’s all torn down.
|What is Googie anyway? Just think of it as a collection of design
motifs that became popular as the Space Age kicked into full gear in
the early 1960s. Would the cartoon Jetsons have used it? If so, it’s
probably Googie. And it can be seen at a variety of locations in
Typical Googie design elements:
Flying saucers (Brookhurst Park playground, 2271 W. Crescent Ave.)
Curved domes (Anaheim Convention Center arena, 800 W. Katella
Boomerangs (Parkside Inn, 1830 S. West St.) Rocket ships (Boysen
Park playground, 951 S. State College Blvd.)
Satellites (Satellite Shopland sign, demolished)
Amoeba shapes. (La Palma Chicken Pie shop planter, 928 N. Euclid
Star bursts (Atop Benkey Pool Center, 2156 S. Harbor Blvd.) Tiki or
Polynesian themes: a simultaneous movement sometimes linked to
Googie (Pitcairn Hotel, Harbor Boulevard, Garden Grove, demolished)
Steel beams with decorative holes (Satellite Mobile Home Park,
Haster Street at Katella Avenue)
Signs with individual letters in geometric shapes (LinBrook Bowl, 201
S. Brookhurst St.)
|Compiled by Marla Jo Fisher
Some Web sites that feature Anaheim Googie: Chris Jepsen’s site has photos and descriptions of many locations, along with
a guide to Orange County googie. “Roadside Peek” has a number of Orange County examples Do you have a photo or
information about any of these Anaheim signs or locations? Jane Newell would like to hear from you. Her number is (714)
765-1850. Little Boy Blue Motel sign (gone) Flamingo Motel and sign (gone) Kona Kai Motel and sign (gone) Sambo’s sign
(gone) Silver Moon Motel (before neon burned out) Skyview Motel (seeking color photo) (gone) Stovall’s Space Age Motel
sign (gone) Tropicana Motel (gone) Walker’s Coffee Shop (gone) Sir Rudimar Motel sign (gone) Kettle Motel and sign (gone)
Chung King Motel (gone)
Not every librarian would be willing to tramp around to trashy, rent-by-the-hour motels, but Jane Newell isn’t your average librarian. She’s a woman on a mission.
And if that means walking past the hookers and drug dealers to ask the desk clerk at a Beach Boulevard motel for old postcards, hey, no problem.
She’ll do it.
Newell, 41, wants to document Anaheim’s Googie architecture before it’s gone forever.
Googie architecture and its goofy style rapidly is disappearing as the Disneyland/Convention Center area undergoes a major makeover.
Newell started with the idea of preserving photos of 20 kitschy signs that were about to be demolished. Now she can’t stop.
“It’s amazing that my car hasn’t been rear-ended, because I keep driving down the street and slamming on the brakes when I see more Googie,” Newell said. “This thing has grown — to be perfectly honest, it has gotten out of hand.”
Because of Newell and fellow fanatics, Anaheim’s many fine examples of Googie architecture, including space satellites, colorful genies and covered wagons, will be preserved, if not in life, at least on film.
Googie’s was a West Hollywood coffee shop that lent its name to the architecture and design motifs of the 1950s and ’60s.
During those years, the Space Age preoccupied popular culture, and its symbols began appearing everywhere — like the rocket jungle gym at Boysen Park, for example, or the Satellite Shopland sign on Katella Avenue.
At the same time, new construction materials like poured concrete and sheet glass made it possible to build a different type of structure — one that fit the car culture of Southern California.
Anaheim, whose population grew tenfold from 1950 to 1960 as its resort area was developed, has achieved a sort of glory among the many fans of Googie architecture.
Newell’s mission to document the sites before they disappear began four years ago, when the city decided to banish all the campy motel signs in the Disneyland resort district in favor of standardized monument signs.
Some residents were concerned that the face lift would mean the end of a style of architecture that was every bit as interesting to them as the turn-of-the-century structures that had once stood in Anaheim and elsewhere before they were demolished to make way for new construction.
Then-Planning Commissioners Julie Mayer and Bob Heninger drove around Anaheim looking for Googie, with the idea that at the very least, someone should take pictures before it was all torn down.
The pair was particularly worried about the fate of the Satellite Shopland sign — in the path of the Santa Ana (I-5) Freeway widening.
“It is a particularly memorable icon to a lot of people,” Mayer said at the time. She died of cancer last year. “It was symbolizing a really important thing — a time in history when we were exploring space.”
And, indeed, the glowing satellite that once revolved over Katella Avenue is now in the back yard of a lighting designer in Pasadena.
“I wish I could find a way to return it to Orange County,” said Dan Sullivan, who rescued the sign from the trash heap the day it was removed. “It is the prize of my collection. Everyone loves it. I’m hoping Universal CityWalk will take it. But I would really like it to go back home.”
As a result of Mayer and Heninger’s efforts, the city agreed to photograph 20 colorful signs before they were torn down — in black and white. The project was started by a city intern, then handed over to Newell.
AND THE LIST GROWS
Newell, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., who holds a master’s degree in archives and museum management, came to Anaheim six years ago to run the Anaheim History Room at the downtown Central Library. She originally intended just to file the 20 photos.
Instead, she began to work with volunteer Googie experts, conducting archival research on the history of the buildings and signs, and finding more Googie all the time.
Now, she’s up to 111 places and counting, doing most of the work at night and on the weekends.
“I recently added liquor stores to my list of Googie places,” said Newell, who admits a particular love for flashing neon signs. “I probably shouldn’t read things anymore, because it gives me ideas.”
Newell photographs the Googie sites with her own cameras.
She uses one to take color pictures, and her old Kodak Instamatic, loaded with black-and-white film, to take archival stills.
She already has had queries about her collection from film location scouts and architecture students.
“What’s made it more enjoyable is knocking on doors and meeting people,” she said. “Sometimes I get really excited and people have to tell me, ‘Calm down, Jane.’ “