Retro Living: Blasts from the Past - Page 7

15 retrolicious ways to break through the time warp and relive the mid-century today

Look carefully, though, and you may be able to find such a place, seemingly suspended in time. Consider the Southern California town of Claremont, which hides just off busy Interstate 10 in the Pomona Valley, amidst other 'cities' made up of big-box centers.

vintage claremont

Here you'll find tree-lined streets of independently owned shops and small restaurants. It's a college town, which provides intellectual and financial sustenance—but a surprising lack of trash or rowdy behavior.

Adding to the '50s feel is the abundance of mid-century modern banks, churches, and storefronts, many decorated with mosaics, paintings, and sculptures created by the modern artists who made the town an important regional art center, including Millard Sheets, Susan Hertel, John Edward Svenson, and Harrison McIntosh.

Even a recent redevelopment that added a new downtown hasn't hurt the old downtown. If anything, it helped—which suggests that the future is not always at war with the past.

Photos: John Eng (Covina Bowl), Tom Fox/SWA Group (Kaiser Roof Garden), Charles Phoenix (Jell-O, dressing alike), Jeff Spirer (roller derby), Ben Noey, Jr. (Randy's Donuts), Chris Carter (Tonga Room), David Kelly (Tonga tiki), Big Sandy (Big Sandy), Bound_4_Freedom (necking at the drive-in), Chris Bruno (Big Dipper), Scott Beale (pinball), WallpaperWeb (wigwam)


Meet Our Tour Guides to the Mid-Century

adrienne biondo

Charles Phoenix is Southern California's favorite retro raconteur. His latest book is 'Americana the Beautiful: Mid-Century Culture in Kodachrome.' For info about his books and performances, visit

adrienne biondo

Adriene Biondo is a Los Angeles preservationist and co-author (with John Eng) of the book 'Southern California Eats,' a lively look at the region's diners and roadside eateries.

heather david

Heather David is a Bay Area preservationist and the author of the profusely illustrated 'Mid-Century by the Bay,' which reveals what life was like during the 1950s and '60s in the Bay Area.

big sandy

Big Sandy, lead singer of Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys, performs regularly on several continents. His latest album is 'Turntable Matinee.'


Gretchen Steinberg blogs about Sacramento mid-century modern at She helped organize that city's first mid-century modern tour, in June 2010.


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