A Diner Shaped Like an Oil Can? It Happened in Montebello | KCET
A Diner Shaped Like an Oil Can? It Happened in Montebello
There are greasy spoons, and then there was The Oil Can. Located on Whittier Boulevard in Montebello, this tiny diner mimicked the shape of the cans once used to lubricate machinery, complete with a giant handle and a spout that towered above the building's domed roof.
Its oil can shape may have been unique among restaurants, but this eccentric building does fall squarely within an architectural tradition inspired by Southern California's embrace of the automobile in the 1920s: programmatic or mimetic architecture. Built along major automobile routes, these eye-catching structures attracting passing motorists with their unusual forms. In essence, the buildings acted as their own signage. Some resembled food items (Randy's Donuts), others pieces of clothing (the Brown Derby), and some everyday items like an oil can.
Montebello's Whittier Boulevard was home to several examples of programmatic architecture in the 1920s and '30s, but as the bus-driving historians of Esotouric note, none was as fitting as The Oil Can. The discovery of an underground oil field in 1917 had brought fortune to the town and transformed its once graceful hills ("Montebello" is Italian for "beautiful mountain") into a forest of wooden derricks.
Little is known about The Oil Can apart from the details gleaned from these photographs, taken in 1928 by the Dick Whittington Photography Studio and recently digitized by the USC Libraries as part of an NEH-funded project. It apparently served several locally produced refreshments, including Whittier Ice Cream ("not just as good -- but better") and Eastside Beer (most likely 0.5% ABV "near beer," due to Prohibition). The Los Angeles Times made no mention of the restaurant or its proprietors, but the envelope that protected these 5x7-inch nitrate negatives mentions a Mrs. Rosenfield -- perhaps the woman responsible for this amusing object from the Southland's architectural past.
L.A. as Subject is an association of more than 230 libraries, museums, official archives, cultural institutions, and private collectors. Hosted by the USC Libraries, L.A. as Subject is dedicated to preserving and telling the sometimes-hidden stories and histories of the Los Angeles region..
“We get it all the time — people come up to us and say, ‘We didn't know that Black people live in Santa Monica,” Carolyne Edwards said. “And there was a huge population there.”
On the Shoulders of Giants: The Lineage and Growth of California’s Intergenerational, Multiracial Youth Movement
The early and ongoing commitments of movement elders helped set the stage for young social movement leaders addressing many of the pressing issues facing our nation today.
It's time to vote! Get fired up to hit the polls, ballot drop boxes and voting centers Nov. 3 with this hilarious PSA from Culture Clash.
Young people have a pivotal role in some of today's biggest issues. See how their voices have helped shaped movements around the world.