When California Craziness Was in Flower, Even Architecture Went to Pot


One of the intriguing aspects of life in L.A. is the recycling of landmarks (see photos). A doughnut stand in Bellflower that switches to another circular product. An ice cream stand in Montebello that becomes a clothing shop. (I’m reminded of how my father used to say when I was a sloppy kid that I didn’t eat ice cream so much as wear it.)

Then there was the Hollywood Flower Pot of the 1930s. The flower shop was demolished, but not before it had another brief life.

In his entertaining new book “California Crazy and Beyond,” a study of wacky roadside architecture, author Jim Heimann reveals that he tracked down the big planter’s address through someone who had been inside it.


His informant’s family, “having moved to Hollywood during the Depression, found the Hollywood Flower Pot converted to a one-room residence,” Heimann writes. And, he adds, they “promptly moved in.”

Beats living in a shoe, I guess.

Piquant loss: Which brings us to Pickle Bill’s, a defunct West L.A. eatery. Some years after it closed, my sister Marilyn Stein was in nearby Kelbo’s Barbecue when the bartender confided to her that the Tiki war god at the entrance was the pickle that once graced the roof of Pickle Bill’s. A closer inspection revealed that the war god did indeed have an unusually large number of dimples.

But Kelbo’s shut down a few years later and the briny war god disappeared. I’ve been looking for it ever since. Let me know if you’ve seen it, even if it’s been reduced to a symbol for a toothpick shop.

California craziness (cont.): Some other vanished 1930s-era curiosities in Heimann’s book:

* The Big Freezer, a Glendale ice cream shop shaped like its name, had a counter inside but “no plumbing, tables or toilets (employees were encouraged to use neighboring businesses for their needs).”

* The Hangman’s Tree, a San Fernando Valley eatery whose sign was a mannequin hanging from a gallows, advertised “Warm beer and lousy food.” (If your sentence had been commuted you could dine in the Jail Cafe in Hollywood, a gloomy, stone-walled fortress with a guard tower over the entrance.)

* The Toed Inn, a Kermit-shaped eatery in West L.A., had to be built on higher ground “after a devastating flood in 1938 that flushed the original Toed toward the ocean.”


miscelLAny: On the subject of celebrity intersections, Randall Portillo of La Puente submitted this combination for the fashion-minded: PIERRE Road/CARDIN Street in the city of Walnut.

Steve Harvey can be reached at (800) LA-TIMES, ext. 77083, by fax at (213) 237-4712, by mail at Metro, L.A. Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles 90012 and by e-mail at