Dr. Patrick’s Postcard Roadside

Eddie Bohn’s Pig ’n’ Whistle

“Pig and Whistle” is an old English phrase that meant to fall upon hard times or ruin.

It’s a phrase that seemed to lend itself to be used as a pub name, especially when a “pig” was an earthen vessel that could contain liquor, and a “peg” was a unit of volume to measure liquor, and a piggin was a mug for liquor, possibly waissel, a yuletide drink that might make you whistle. But none of that was the inspiration for Eddie Bohn’s Denver motel-restaurant. He lifted the name from the California roadside restaurant chain he knew from his Jack Dempsey sparring days.

Back in Denver, Eddie Bohn became a Colorado State Senator and ran the Pig‘n Whistle until his death in 1990. By then, West Colfax Avenue, like all the old motel strips in the age of the Interstates, had fallen on its own hard times. The entire motel complex was leveled in 1991 except for the neon sign which still stands on the corner of Colfax & Wolff next to a marijuana dispensary.

The first roadside one-stop on Denver, Colorado’s West Colfax Avenue motel strip was Eddie Bohn’s Pig‘n Whistle Village opened at Wolff Street in 1924. Young Eddie was a successful local boxer who went to California to become Jack Dempsey’s sparring partner, returning to operate, promote and expand the Pig‘n Whistle as a sports celebrity motel mecca. Colfax Avenue was the way through Denver for two transcontinental highways, U.S. 40 and U.S. 6, in the age before the Interstates, and West Colfax came to have the greatest concentration of motel choices.

The first Pig‘n Whistles opened in San Francisco and Los Angeles in 1908, but the most famous Pig‘n Whistle was the one that opened next to Grauman’s Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard in 1927. That’s the one the movie stars went to in the 1940s. Pig’n Whistle had 20 restaurants on the West Coast by 1929, but the chain contracted after World War II to only five in Southern California by 1952 and then three when it was sold off in 1968.

Lemon Grove’s Giant Lemon

In the roadside world of Big Food, California has giant citrus lying around all over the place including Lemon Grove’s Giant Lemon.

Once surrounded by lemon groves, this San Diego suburb first rolled out its giant lemon for a 4th of July parade in 1928. It was weather-proofed and set up at the intersection of Broadway & Main depicted on this 1950s postcard where it still sits today emblazoned with the town’s slogan, “Best Climate on Earth.”

Vulcan in Birmingham

World’s Fair Refugee: Vulcan in Birmingham, Alabama.

Although World’s Fairs are designed as temporary expositions to be demolished at their conclusions, landmark pieces nearly always survive as cherished civic mementos of the fair: New York’s Unisphere, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and forge high atop Birmingham’s Red Mountain. Surrounded by iron ore, coal and limestone, Birmingham developed as the steel-making “Pittsburgh of the South.” Fittingly, the city’s mills fabricated a giant, cast-iron Vulcan examining a newly forged spear tip for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Vulcan was brough back to Birmingham and in 1939 was set on his towering stone pedestal as part of the W.P.A. Vulcan Park project. On this moonlit postcard, Vulcan holds a road safety beacon that replaced his spear tip in 1946, which turned from green to red any time there was a Birmingham traffic fatality. The spear tip was returned to Vulcan’s hand in 2004.