signage from a bygone era
August 18, 2008 3:59 PM   Subscribe

Society In Decline Project: Intrastate Commerce
posted by Dave Faris (15 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I used to live down the street from the Doggie Diner by the San Francisco Zoo. It really was a cultural landmark for that portion of the city. It didn't matter where someone in San Francisco lived, as long as I began my directions by saying "start at the Doggie Diner" they'd be able to find my house without any difficulty. Everyone knew that place.

It was almost enough to make living down the street from the zoo worth it. Almost. God damned howler monkeys greeting the sun at 5 AM every morning.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 4:12 PM on August 18, 2008

I suddenly want a fast car, a chili size and a strong drink. Aw, who am I kidding with the "suddenly?"
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:31 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wait, this is a Zippy the Pinhead post, no?

I am totally into these signs. Awesomeness at it's best and something I've wanted to do. Glad someone with more energy and focus than I is doing it.
posted by Eekacat at 4:41 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

You can keep your fast car and strong drink, IRFH. I won't be satisfied until we have a fair society and there is Salmon For All.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:41 PM on August 18, 2008

I'll go out of my way to drive past the Daffodil Motel sign.
posted by milkrate at 4:45 PM on August 18, 2008

Decline? The City just refurbed the doggie diner head in 2001 when the poll failed. New paint job and poll, now a protected landmark. A shiny beacon of hope pointing to our glorious future filled with waitresses with jetpacks serving us laser-cooked hot dogs in our hovercrafts.

My friend John Law owns the other remaining 3, which they used as a mold to fix the busted one.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 4:57 PM on August 18, 2008

I was glad to see Kitty's Cleaners, at a corner of Newbridge and Willow.
posted by the Real Dan at 6:31 PM on August 18, 2008

Nice collection of signage!
posted by rmmcclay at 6:57 PM on August 18, 2008

Aww, yeah, you gotta love old signs like these. They're the greatest! Nice photoset, nice find.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:14 PM on August 18, 2008

Wonderful. Thanks for posting.
posted by Miko at 8:26 PM on August 18, 2008

Though I am convinced that our social fabric is coming apart somewhat, it's worth pointing out that the abandonment of many of these signs does not necessarily signify a "society in decline." What they do signify is a society that built the Interstate Highway System from scratch, diverting the vast majority of through traffic away from almost every establishment constructed before the 1950s. As the highways were usually constructed away from city centers, the businesses located there that depended on that traffic for their custom, the motels and diners on Main Street, suddenly lost their customer base. As the local population was never really sufficient to support such ventures, most of them folded.

You can certainly argue that these quaint, individualized places had something that contemporary chains lack (though the economies of scale that the chains could bring to bear has enabled them to offer amenities that the local motels never could), but you really can't underestimate the impact that location alone has had on these businesses. Even without the growth of national chains, many of these businesses may well have closed anyways, simply because the owners couldn't afford to relocate.
posted by valkyryn at 5:38 AM on August 19, 2008 [3 favorites]

Quite true valkyryn. And, to add in my own perennial rant about "society in decline", if blacks, gays, and women getting ever closer to getting full rights is a decline, I say let's decline. The "bygone era" was not really a very nice time at all.

Still, nifty signs, and while I don't feel any nostalgia at all, I do regret the rise of the chains and the death of local business both for reasons of local flavor (everywhere on the highway looks pretty much exactly like everywhere else), but also because of the impact on the economy. Big chains with one tiny group of ultimate owners means ever more concentration of money, and that ain't a good thing.
posted by sotonohito at 8:40 AM on August 19, 2008

I grew up reading Zippy the Pinhead in the Boston globe. Puzzling stuff to an 8-year old, let me tell you. This is the first time I've ever seen an actual photo of the doggy diner head. It all makes sense now. Good lord, where have you been all my life?
posted by es_de_bah at 9:39 AM on August 19, 2008

From the first few rows: Ghallager's liquors, Rio Motel, The Alley, and Smitty's are all still open (in Oakland) as far as I know. How bygone are we talking about?
posted by telstar at 5:59 PM on August 20, 2008

How bygone are we talking about?

Fading is probably a better word than bygone.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:39 AM on August 21, 2008

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