Having lived in Southern California for most of my life I have a soft spot for the car culture that is woven into the strands of the area's DNA. I had a classic fire engine red 1965 Mustang that was totaled in an accident years ago and I still mourn the loss. When I discovered this Mi-Lady Hair Net package in an online auction recently, I knew I had to have it; the little roadster is irresistible.
The automobile has had a profound effect on L.A.. While these days we have a tendency to focus on the negative impact of cars on the city--traffic, traffic, and more traffic--during the 1920s and 1930s, cars inspired a trend in architecture that would have made what Alice saw down the rabbit hole seem mundane.
Programmatic, mimetic, and novelty are terms that describe the whimsical style of architecture that was at its peak during the 1920s and 1930s. Structures were built to resemble the products or services they offered, the buildings were designed specifically to attract the attention of people as they passed by in their automobiles.
Even though the 1920s era auto depicted on the Mi-Lady envelope is a European model with right hand drive, I envision the couple tooling around Los Angeles in it. They could be newlyweds on a daylong excursion of dining and shopping in various novelty buildings.
Let’s tag along:
The pair begins their day by grabbing a cup o’ Joe and a pastry in a building shaped like a giant coffee pot. Later in the morning they find themselves craving freshly squeezed orange juice, so they pull into a café shaped like, what else, a giant orange!
The newlyweds long to find a sweet California bungalow to call home; so they are ecstatic when the salesmen at the Sphinx Realty Company, located in a replica of the Egyptian icon, help them track down their dream house.
After making a down payment on a cozy cottage, the couple decides to purchase a piano—just the thing for evening sing-a-longs with family and friends. With a colossal piano marking the entrance to the showroom, the California Piano Supply Company is the ideal place to shop for a baby grand.
Following bowls of chili at The Tamale in East L.A., the couple fire up their little sports car and speed off into the warm Los Angeles night.
Photographs courtesy the Los Angeles Public Library
Joan Renner is an L.A.-based writer, lecturer, and social historian with an expert knowledge of vintage beauty products. She blogs at The Clutch once a week and writes about cosmetics and beauty history at her Web site, Vintage Powder Room.