Al Bell’s Flying A Station

Al Bell’s Flying A Station

During World War II, Allen P. Bell was transferred to the Air Base in Kingman, Arizona to work his tour of duty as an aircraft mechanic. On his 21st birthday, he stepped off the train, walked down old Route 66 a bit, and observed the desolation. “What is this God-forsaken place?” he asked himself. He made his mind up right then and there that once discharged from the Air Corps., he wouldn't return. Operating a service station—much less living there—was the farthest thought from his mind. Nevertheless, the two-lane twist of concrete designated…continue reading →
Bob Wian’s Big Boy Burger

Bob Wian’s Big Boy Burger

Robert Wian learned the restaurant business the hard way. When his father’s furniture business faltered during the early thirties, he took a job washing dishes at the White Log Tavern to help out. Although fresh from high-school, it didn't take long for him to become the manager. His experience was soon rolled over into a better job at the Rite Spot, a Glendale eatery favored by Angelinos. There, he learned all the rules of the eating-out game—realizing he had a growing desire to become his own boss. When two elderly ladies considered selling…continue reading →
Fable of the Golden Arches

Fable of the Golden Arches

Richard and Maurice McDonald were planning to franchise their successful burger system in 1952. To stand above the visual noise created by miles of drive-ins, motels, car washes, bowling alleys, service stations, and coffee-shops—they decided a new structural style was needed. Without a unique design, nationwide recognition for their walk-up stand was an impossibility. With this simple aim at the forefront, professional architects in Southern California were approached. A few interesting concepts were drafted for the brothers’ review—but unfortunately ... met with immediate rejection. Later described by Richard McDonald as “squatty looking boxes,”…continue reading →
Hamburger Architecture

Hamburger Architecture

Hamburgers made their debut on the food scene as irregular lumps of chopped beef, hand shaped according to the improvisational jazz of lunch counter short order. During the early years, long before the cookie-cutter aesthetics of the Big Mac came into vogue, concerns over circular uniformity and ingredients were minimal. When fry by the seat of your pants legends Charlie Nagreen and Frank Menches formed ground round for the griddle, personal artistry ensured that every burger was a unique one. Irregularly molded perimeters of meat—with one piece more or less hanging out at one…continue reading →
Crazy Water in Mineral Wells

Crazy Water in Mineral Wells

Today, the remnants of a once booming mineral water business can still be seen in the town of Mineral Wells, Texas. Originally built as a seven-story luxury resort, the Crazy Hotel is now a retirement home; the Milling Sanitarium a VFW hall, and the towering Baker Hotel—once the playground of screen stars, crooners, and oilmen—sits abandoned, a silent reminder of the times when the healing waters flowed. When James Lynch arrived on this site in 1877, there was little indication that this area would one day become a magnet for visitors. Although the…continue reading →