Food has been a hot topic this summer at the Los Angeles Public Library as we’ve explored our city’s long culinary history through the Library’s menu collection with “To Live and Dine in L.A.” In an effort to beat the heat this week, we thought it would be fun to take a culinary detour through some of Los Angeles’ vintage ice cream parlors. An ever popular institution of L.A., many of these “cool” spots seem more likely conceived for a movie set than reality. What does it say about our fantastical city that built ice cream shops in the shape of a woman, an owl, an igloo, and an ice cream cone? Take a look below at these images that are part of the Los Angeles Public Library’s Photo Collection, which houses over 3 million archival photos emphasizing local and state history.
“The igloo ice cream parlor”
Exterior view of The Igloo, an igloo-shaped ice cream parlor, located at 4302 W. Pico St. The igloo is attached to a huge “ice berg,” on top of which sits a stranded ship. Two polar bear flank the entrance. Photo dated: August 12, 1927.
“Employees and customers at Currie’s Ice Cream Parlor” by Lucille Stewart
Interior view of the Currie’s Ice Cream parlor located at 7125 S. Main Street in Los Angeles, where a few customers are seated at the counter. Employees from left to right are: Connie Taylor, Ann Whitting, Helen Pierce, manager Josephine Keogh, Charlene Smith, and Melva Dent. Photo dated: 1946.
“New Flavor, Surfer’s Gremmie Nut” from Valley Times Collection
Photograph article dated July 15, 1964 partially reads, “The only ice cream flavor ever invented to star in a motion picture is now on sale at the 18 Valley 31-Flavor shops. It’s ‘Surfer’s Gremmie Nut,’ concocted specifically for ‘For Those Who Think Young’ which started citywide yesterday. In the usual order, that’s Claudia Martin, ol’ Deano’s daughter playing her first featured role, James Darren as a millionaire campus playboy, Pamela Tiffin who is the picture’s very pretty, very female, female star. In the young, fun movie, considerable action centers around an ice cream eating contest, and the Valley firm of Baskins-Robbins [sic] gleefully furnished precise blueprints for a complete store plus all equipment.”
“Wil Wrights Ice Cream Parlor” by George Brich
Customers at Wil Wrights Ice Cream Parlor, located on the corner of Ventura and Van Nuys boulevards in Sherman Oaks. Photo circa 1960.
“Welcome Sight” from the Valley Times Collection
Photograph caption dated April 13, 1957 reads, “The recent opening of the new Dairy Queen store at 11334 Moorpark, North Hollywood, was an occasion worth celebrating throughout the neighborhood. The store is one of 3,000 across the nation. Manager Fred Koch announces that the store will be open seven days a week from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m.” Photograph included in the exhibit: “From Hula Hoops to Hanoi: L.A. Concerns, 1954-1965.”
“Ice cream parlor” part of “Shades of L.A.: African American Community”
Ad for the Westside Malt Shop published in the 1947 Westside Yearbook and Business Directory. Includes photo of storefront. Shades of L.A. is an archive of photographs representing the contemporary and historic diversity of families in Los Angeles. Images were chosen from family albums and include daily life, social organizations, work, personal and holiday celebrations, and migration and immigration activities.
“The Cornucopia ice cream stand” from the Security Pacific National Bank Collection
The Cornucopia ice cream stand, located at 1934 San Fernando Blvd, is in the shape of a huge upside-down ice cream cone. It shows two small windows on both sides and a doorway at the front, all with awnings. A sign on the right of the cone reads: “Bonded quality ice cream. Open 11 AM to 10 PM. Malted milk candies”. The ‘speckling’ on the photo is from a bad nitrate negative. Photo dated: April 19, 1928.
“Ice cream parlor in the shape of a woman” by Ralph Morris
Small ice cream parlor in the shape of a female figure with a large hoop skirt. Two ice cream cones flank the entrance. Location is Foothill Drive, presumably in Los Angeles. Photo date is: April 22, 1928. This collection includes approximately 40,000 photographs by commercial photographer Ralph Morris, who worked in the Los Angeles area from 1939-1981. His advertising and industrial clients included department stores, restaurants, the automobile and petroleum industries as well as business executives. Also included is the Luckhaus Studio collection of architecture, fashion, the movie industry, sports and street scenes, images which Morris obtained in 1939.
“Hoot Owl Cafe” from the Security Pacific National Bank Collection
Hoot Owl Cafe is in the shape of an owl. The head rotated; the eyes, made from Buick headlamps, blinked; the sign: Hoot hoot, I scream, used elements of a theater marquee. For over 50 years, Tillie Hattrup ran this L.A.-area refreshment spot designed and built by her husband, Roy in 1926-27. It was demolished in 1979.
“The Freezer Ice Cream Parlor” from the Security Pacific National Bank Collection
The Freezer, an ice cream parlor in the shape of an ice cream maker complete with a giant crank, located at W. Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles.
Browse the full Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection here.