You have seen the tower at the CVS pharmacy on Stattuck and Rose – formerly Long’s Drugs, and before that Bill’s Drugs, and before that Lucky’s.
The supermarket was built in 1947 and opened in April, 1948. And not that it matters – between 1964 and 1967 Lucky’s operated the store under the name Bonanza.
Industrial Designer Raymond Loewy created the prototype of the tower for Lucky’s. Time magazine told us in 1947 that Lucky’s “burly, pink-faced” president Charles Crouch had hired Loewy to see if “barnlike, depressing super markets could be imbued with some beauty.”
East Bay architect Paul Hammarberg adapted the Shattuck-Rose site to the Loewy archetype, reducing the number of squares from three to two. According to Charles Hathaway, the two-square tower at the Berkeley Lucky was “strictly the result of sign ordinances.”
In the early 1980s, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission was asked to declare the building a landmark. The application was rejected, and as a result several major changes were made; the yellow and green porcelain tiles on the exterior were painted over and the large windows facing Shattuck were built over.
In 1998, Longs applied for permit to demolish the tower. Permission was denied and the tower stands.
This Lucky ephemera bears images of the signature tower – usually three squares representing three square meals a day.
And photos of other Lucky’s with a tower:
You can see that Palo Alto also had a two-square tower. Had,
It was demolished in 2010.
This summer I met a University of Puget Sound student from Palo Alto. She referred to her hometown as “Shallow Alto.” I had not heard that before.
And San Francisco, with an illuminated pylon tower 63 feet high:
So there you have it.
A very simple idea. A rich history. Quirky? To me, yes, obviously yes. Two squares not three. A Lucky signature design long after Lucky is gone from the site. A tie to a Very Cool designer Raymond Loewy.
I took this post in draft form for my friend to see. I have mentioned before that he is in the process of converting the decor of his living quarters to Danish modern. I knew that he would be interested in this post because of his love for the furniture designed by Loewy. I knew even more that he would be interested because a couple weeks ago he stumbled on this Loewy Nordmende Radio Spectra Futura at a garage sale in Vallejo, a city that he has loved since discovering the joys of the Horse and Cow bar with its submariner memorabilia in the 1970s when Mare Island was going strong.
I told him it was a cool radio and asked for his opinion on this post.
With his fingers he drew a square a la Uma Thurman as Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction. “I dig the squares to the sky. Check them out every time I go by. Different every time.”
Good! how about the post, the ebb and flow, the story arc, the language?
I moved into the area, on Oxford St., from a home on Oxford up in the hills, at age 8 in 1947. I remember when the Lucky Store opened. They had a donut machine that cooked the donuts in oil, and flipped them over halfway around. They were so good coming out of the machine that they didn’t need any kind of frosting. I probably don’t want to know what kind of oil they used for the cooking . . . they were just good.
I always wondered about that bar, Horse Cow- and Hotsy Totsy-and Quick’s Little Alaska. Great signs. Quirky names.