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Alum Rock Gas Station 

This former gas station on Alum Rock Avenue in San Jose is a classic example of “Googie” or space age roadside architecture.  Look closely and you will see an impressive feat in structural engineering.  As if reaching for the sky, two tilting pylons intersect a large steel canopy which is attached by carefully positioned guy wires.  The design of this gas station originated with the Wilshire Oil Company (acquired by Gulf Oil in 1960).  There are similar structures around the valley as well as in other parts of the country.

Former Gas Station, San Jose, c. 1960

Winchester Shopping Center, San Jose, 1952











For nearly half a century, this grande dame of motel swimmers has held her position.












Winchester Shopping Center Sign 

The Winchester Shopping Center sign, with its big red arrow and vintage '50s script, has stood on the corner of Stevens Creek and Winchester boulevards since 1952.  This great neon beacon predates Valley Fair and has survived countless incarnations of its associated shopping center.  Will someone please turn this sign on!?


City Center Motel Sign, San Jose, c. 1959


City Center Motel Sign

Mariani’s Motel in Santa Clara used to have a neon diving lady on their sign.  GONE.  So did the Park View Motel in San Jose.  GONE.  On the corner of  South 1st and Reed streets in San Jose, however, the neon bathing beauty of the City Center Motel still takes a plunge.  For nearly half a century, this grande dame of motel swimmers has held her position.  Fortunately, folks were kind enough to provide her with her own water supply as they did away with the motel pool some years ago.


Western Motel Sign, Santa Clara, 1959


Western Motel Sign

The Western Motel on El Camino Real in Santa Clara opened in 1948.  The Western sign, essentially a giant neon cactus, came about a decade later – in 1959.  An excellent example of mid-century roadside architecture, better catch it soon as the motel property has been slated for the development of condos and the sign, as I have been told, is going to a private collector.

Babe The Muffler Man

Babe’s Muffler Service has been doing business on the Alameda in San Jose since 1953.  In an effort to attract more customers, Babe “The Muffler Man” was brought onto the scene in the 1960s.  Babe is one of at least a hundred giant muffler men statues situated throughout the United States, but he’s the only one that I know of who carries a hockey stick.  In gratitude for his years of dedication to both sound mufflers and the San Jose Sharks, Babe has been designated a San Jose City Landmark.

Babe the Muffler Man, San Jose, c. 1963