Imagine the flap if they tried to build the Huey's sign today: "Well, it's a giant alcoholic beverage, and it's lit up at night so we can attract drivers." The very words COCKTAIL LOUNGE would give some the vapors.
This may be why we love Retro: They had no qualms about life's simple pleasures. The Coen brothers' current film project, "A Serious Man" -- set in a cozy 1960s Minnesota burb -- will need images like these, leftovers from the era when adults did not feel compelled to shield a child's eye from a magic sign with a moving martini.
Could the Coens film the movie 10 years from now? Doubtful. Our supply of postwar retro is sad, and shrinking. Eventually, it all curdled into wretched '70s style, with heavy roofs and ugly colors -- and then it turned into the diluted pseudo-classical facades of big-box stores and lifestyle centers. Someone will make a retro movie about that, but we'll leave it to your kids.
The Convention Grill was retro when today's retro was modern. With its smooth prewar Moderne exteriors and angular interior details, it’s more John Garfield than James Dean or Fonzie.
Signs on stilts catch the driver's eye before he gets near Huey's Saloon; neon makes the drink fizz. The building isn’t special, but the sign is pure Rat Pack. You suspect smoking wasn't just permitted, but mandatory.
Pearson's Edina Restaurant
Retro isn't always boomerang-patterned turquoise Formica. Sometimes it's the shiny brown booths and fussy-classy decor of a place like Pearson's Edina Restaurant. This was where you took Grandma for a special day. One of the few places that still has a counter and lutefisk.
Flameburger! A fat chef, fire, big meat: Say no more.
Cottage View Drive-In
Cottage View Drive-In, in Cottage Grove, MN.
Lariat Lanes served the postwar first-tier suburbanite market; it's a dull brick box outside, a tribute to the golden age of league bowling inside.
Golden Valley Shopping Center
The Golden Valley Shopping Center sign (Olson Memorial Hwy. & Winnetka Av. N.) points to the decline of great signage: simpler shapes and duller fonts. The backlit sign killed neon, but it still spells PROMISE in a twilit suburban sky.