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004. Introducing Matchbook Delight! Curly Jones Family Restaurant.

This post introduces an ongoing series of featured lomo matchbooks to be called, “Matchbook Delight!” Last year I bought a large collection of matchbooks at a yard sale, kept the ones I liked, and gave away the rest. Most of those I kept are from the 1960s and 1970s and are Lower Modernist in style; many of these advertise lomo businesses. I will photograph these and share them here regularly. (What an easy way to fill up space and hit my informal posting quota here on the blog!)

The idea for this series came from the “Philately Fridays” series on Mike Davis’s blog, “So Much Pileup: Graphic design artifacts and inspiration from the 1960s – 1980s.” Davis regularly posts images from his collection of Modernist stamps. His stamps are so cool that at first I had an urge to start a stamp collection. But then I realized I didn’t need to, because all the good stamps already belong to Davis and he is generous to share them with us; and then I remembered that I already have a collection, of awesome matchbooks.

Matchbooks present to the graphic designer a perfectly self-contained design problem. The small and standardized size quite literally constrains the designer’s scope, and presents a level playing field – when it comes to designing nice matchbooks, the biggest corporation with all its money has no intrinsic advantage over the mom-and-pop coffee shop. By studying these matchbooks closely, we can enjoy them as well as tease out what techniques the designers used to impart that characteristic lomo style.

Today’s matchbook is from a 24-hour family restaurant called “Curly Jones.” The front features the Curly Jones logo in orange with black outline. The shape of the logo seems at first to be a representation of a wooden sign shape with some traditional curlicues, but it is slightly asymmetrical, giving it an uncharacteristic jauntiness, and evoking the true inspiration for this shape – it’s a cowhide! The international orange is striking against a field of black and white stripes. The black stripes are about twice as wide as the white stripes in the field – I don’t know why it is better this way, but I have faith that the designer knew what he or she was doing.

On the reverse, we learn that steaks are the specialty at Curly Jones – hence the cowhide-inspired logo. Here the color scheme is inverted, with a black-and-white log on a field of orange. The designer appears to have been obliged to print in two colors only, black and orange on a white card stock, and worked within this constraint. The Starburst-Pincushion shape on the reverse recalls the cowhide-wood sign shape on the front, but conveys a completely different tone – the shape conveys a sense of bursting, of eye-catching and attention-grabbing. The all-caps, slanted “STEAKS OUR SPECIALTY” contrasts with the title-case “Family Dinners”. The effect on the message’s tone of this contrast is hard to describe, but the “STEAKS” conveys masculinity and expediency, while the “Family Dinners” is more accommodating and respectful.

I did some quick research to find out whether Curly Jones is still there. The Norwalk location appears to have been replaced with strip malls long ago, but the Bellflower location (as of current 6 February 2011 Google Maps imagery) has been bulldozed, but its site remains undeveloped, the asphalt parking lot surrounding the extant concrete floor slabs still visible in the satellite photo. The pole sign advertising Curly Jones remains, but its messages are whited out. You can clearly make out the now-familiar cowhide-wood sign shape, as well as the ellipse above it that surely once contained the legend “OPEN 24 HOURS.” Seeing this image and knowing what I now know about Curly Jones gives me a feeling of nostalgia and poignant loss. See for yourself here: http://goo.gl/qMU6B

11 responses to “004. Introducing Matchbook Delight! Curly Jones Family Restaurant.”

  1. Mike Proffitt

    Curly was a fry cook at Freddies at the Pioneer & Firestone location in the sixties. He bought that location, opened Bellflower & then opened another in Corona California. I think he was sick many years ago & most likely has passed away. I spent alot of time in both the Corona & Norwalk locations.

  2. James Black

    Mike, thanks for your comment – I’m glad that an original fan of Curly Jones somehow found his way to the blog! But I’m sorry to hear that we have lost Curly.

  3. Allison

    I grew up in Norwalk and Curly Jones was our favorite place to eat. My sister could have lived off their pancakes, and everyone else loved their biscuits and gravy. Our whole family, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Grandparents would always gather there when they came into town. When I started dating my now husband, I even took him their many times late at night after a movie. I am out of state now, but man do I miss Curly Jones. I have never met a biscuit and gravy that could compare.

  4. Bob

    I don’t know if you know it or not but the gravy was made with coffee added to it. I lived next door to Ross(the owner) in bellflower, CA.

  5. Siobhan

    Fantastic. I’ve been enjoying your blog today, James! So cool that there has been traffic from fans of Curly.

  6. Jimbone13

    Me and my pals would frequent this joint after punk shows in the late 90s. I recall the night my homie Jay-Are broke the record for most biscuits and gravy consumed in one sitting! He took down 17 of them bad boys! There was 6’5″ server/cook working that night, who commended my friend on his endeavor!
    The new location is cool and all, but nothing like the old school ghost town saloon look of the former.

    1. Joe brannon

      First met Curly while working at Clock drive-ins. I also worked for him in Norwalk & Bellflower. Great guy as was Dee Kicklighter which owned Dee’s coffee shops

  7. Foreigner

    Curly Jones was one of the two “go to” restaurants for my family in the sixties (remember Bojax?). As a kid I was very impressed by the ghost town saloon look, there was more of that look west on Firestone close to the Jack in Box. “Dodge City”? Good memories,good times,good food.

  8. Fran dias

    Worked for Curley in Corona in the 70’s nice family to work for !!!!!!

  9. Pamella

    My Uncle Dale Awalt was a good friend of Curly’s & was a head cook/manager for him in the 70’s. We always enjoyed going there.

  10. Steve Close

    I was the health inspector in Bellflower 1969-1975. We health inspectors from the Bellflower office would often go to Curley Jones about 9:30 AM after early AM office work. There was a slim blond waitress that worked there. She was pretty, like a moon beam. She roomed with another waitress that was dating one of CJ’s owners, an older guy, maybe 55-60. I met him at the girl’s apartment. As he was leaving with his date, he warned me not to do anything he wouldn’t do. Moonbeam, not forgotten.

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