Sunday, May 9, 2010

From the Archives: 1950's Diners

(Originally posted on March 10, 2009)

In the 1950s, people thought that the future would be full of odd angles, flying saucers, boomerangs, and things shaped like parabolas. This futuristic style, which was particularly popular for diners, motels, car washes, and bowling alleys, originated in Southern California and is called "Googie." Although many of the old Googie buildings have been destroyed, Los Angeles still has hundreds of Googie-style roadside signs and buildings.

Rae's, on Pico Boulevard and 29th Street in Santa Monica:
I got a cheeseburger and soda at Rae's and then took this interior photo on my way out:

Johnie's on Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard is a classic Googie diner designed in 1955 by Helen Fong of Arnet & Davis, the premiere L.A. coffee shop and diner architects of the 1950s. Johnie's stopped operating as an active diner in 2000 and its original 1950s interior is now used exclusively for movie and television filming. Billboards, SUVs, construction, and street lights conspired to try ruin my photo:
A view of the back entrance:
The old sign for Johnie's Diner is now used for the 99 Cent Store parking lot:

Norms is still an active diner chain serving gross food to people all over the Southland. The original Norms is on La Cienega Boulevard and Melrose Avenue and was also designed by Helen Fong of Arnet & Davis in 1957:

Johnnies Pastrami is on Sepulveda Boulevard and Washington Place in Culver City:
A crown dots the "i" on the beautiful Johnnies sign. I have no idea what "French Dip" means:

The Mission Family Restaurant and Coffee Shop in Pomona:
Here is a typical Googie bowling sign across the street from Santa Monica High School on Pico Boulevard and 3rd Street:

Another bowling alley sign on Crenshaw Boulevard in Torrance:

The popular Culver City Ice Rink, also on Sepulveda Boulevard, has a beautiful sign and skating lady out front:

The Half Moon, the Astro, and Deano's are a string of cheap motels on Sepulveda Boulevard in Culver City:

If you like this type of classic mid-century L.A. design, you might also like my posts on Randy's Donuts, architect Welton Becket, the Union 96 gas station, and the Chemosphere House.


  1. I love all of these pictures of signs, and I especially like the picture of the inside of that diner. I had no idea about Googie style. I think a french dip is a kind of roast beef sandwich that's served warm and with beef juices to dip it into. I had one when I was younger and I was not impressed.

  2. these photos are awesome. i wish the future really did look like that!

  3. juicy beef! in it's own special 'AU JU', french dip is my favorite. but reading about it in this context is kinda freaky.

    i really appreciate these images. i've been living here for 34 years and didn't realize how many of these signs are around the west la area. this blog is helping me open my eyes to my surrounding a bit more!

  4. Thanks for your comments - I'm so glad you like the pictures! When I moved to LA, the amazing signs here were one of the very first things I noticed.

  5. born in 1954 my life growing up sothern california was right out of american graffiti it was the best time in american history. no wories cheep cars and gas no insurance drive in movies great rock no aids free college 15 cent hamburgers and crusing on warm summer nights. what a dream!

  6. FYI: The French Dip sandwich was INVENTED IN LA!

  7. I love this! Are there any other original 1950's diners left in L.A.?