Disappearing Neon

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Last Saturday the usual suspects met at our standard ride jump-off point in Riverside, a Chevron gas (fueling) station before heading toward Corona. We rarely ride to a city. They are not what we usually think of as good riding country. But Tim Devantier recently discovered a restaurant, a place that had served excellent hashbrowns on two occasions, and it seemed like a good chance that they’d be of the same quality again.

2-5-2013  005 WP“Discover”, of course, means to take the cover off something that was already there. That was the case with the Silver Dollar Pancake House. Tim has lived in the City of Corona for seventeen years and he said that he’d probably driven past the restaurant hundreds of times without paying any attention to it.

We rode to the Silver Dollar and despite the crowding, were given a smallish table quickly. We all ordered breakfasts with hashbrowns included. They were among the best I’d ever had and the rest of the breakfast was very good and plentiful. It was a popular place for a number of reasons. I suspect that a more detailed, comprehensive report on those particular breakfast potatoes will soon appear on the Hashbrown Diaries blog.

2-5-2013  006 WPOne of the things I noticed about the business was the circular architecture at the front of the building, which was built during the 1930s. The exterior of the building was somewhat faded and the sign was very sun-weathered. It has obviously been quite some time since the street side sign on a metal pole has been repainted. Though there is no sound business reason to do it, since there is a steady flow of customers due to the quality of food and service, it could use a fresh coat of paint.

Due to the unique circular architecture of the restaurant, our table conversation turned to Modernist architecture, Case Study houses in Southern California, and the photography of Julius Schulman. As it was revealed, Mike Harmon’s daughter was able to get a Schulman print autographed before he died. There are many examples of modernist architecture in the Palm Springs/Palm Desert area, and we talked about them, but the discussion didn’t turn toward a desert ride idea. That idea may have to sit in the oven for a while before it manifests itself as a fully baked destination.

2-5-2013  003 WPAs we walked out to the motorcycles after paying our bills, I took a couple frames of the building’s exterior and sign. I had carried the small, handy Nikon FG into the restaurant. It was loaded with black and white film, a roll of the Kentmere 100 I bulk loaded during the year-end holidays. I shot the remainder of that roll of film as we rode up the canyon roads to Lake Elsinore, then over the coastal mountains and back on Ortega Highway.

Back home in the afternoon, I developed the roll of 35mm, anxious to see the results because it was the second roll through the camera that replaced the FG with the bad shutter. When I pulled the film off the reel and held it up to the light, a habit common to all film photographers because it is the “reveal” moment, it was something of a letdown. The first three frames seemed to be fine, then the frame spacing went to hell. The rest of the frames were overlapped in a random manner, which wasn’t an effect I had intended. What a letdown. Was the replacement FG at fault, was it a problem with my bulk loaded film, or had I simply loaded it poorly?

Deciding to eliminate my question about the bulk loaded film first, I carefully loaded a roll of Kodak Gold 100, a film that has been discontinued by Big Yellow, damnit. My film cooler now has only one roll of it left. I took the camera to Corona the next day to shoot old box and neon signs on 6th street, the main street through the city.

2-5-2013  012 WPI like to look at the old box and neon signs. There is something special about them, particularly the neon signs, which were omnipresent when I was a child, but are fast disappearing now. I expected that I would see quite a few of the neon examples on 6th street, but I covered nearly 2 miles of the street and only turned up the two box signs and two neon signs shown here.

To my way of thinking, it is too bad that the use of neon is fading away. The only place that I know of that is still making neon signage is the company used by American Restoration for sign repairs in Las Vegas, Nevada, and that knowledge is quite indirect. 

I took the roll of color film to the only 1-Hour lab I trust, Costco, and returned for it the next day. The fame spacing was perfect on that roll, so I’ve eliminated the probability that the problem was the replacement FG camera (Whew!). Now I have to prove whether it was my bulk loaded film, the camera operator, or a combination of the two that caused the scrambled frame spacing…