Giant milk cans, flower baskets, barrels, cameras, pianos, accordions, coffee cups and coffee pots. And, of course, a large shoe or two.
The roadside architecture of Southern California in the early and mid-20th century was a riot of unusual buildings designed to call attention to themselves as motorists whizzed by.
Humongous human figures, enormous owls, ostriches, elephants, toads, rabbits, cows, chickens, dogs, even stockinged female legs.
The academic name for these cartoonish structures is “programmatic architecture,” and Jim Heimann, a cultural anthropologist, has collected scores of (mostly bygone) examples into his book California Crazy: American Pop Architecture (Taschen, 2017).
Colossal donuts, hamburgers, hot dogs, pickles, pumpkins, lemons and oranges (of course) and just about anything else under the California sun.
Los Angeles had “an optimistic attitude that anything was possible,” Heiman explains in the book’s introduction. “A climate was created that served as a perfect incubator for the outrageous and amazing.”
Fanciful roadside igloos, teepees, windmills, boats, airplanes, castles and sphinxes. The infamous pagodas of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre seem mundane by comparison.
A handful survive: an enormous donut remains a Inglewood landmark. But pretty much all that’s left of these unique buildings are the photos in Heimann’s book, memories of a bygone California.