Idaho Skunks Are Not To Be Sniffed At: The Roadside Signs of Fearless Farris’ Stinker Stations

Cardboard America

“Fearless” Farris Lind had an eye for adventure. Born in 1915 outside of Twin Falls, Idaho, he graduated from Twin Falls High School in 1934. Shortly thereafter he worked as an attendant at a local gas station and then became manage of a small theater. Not too long after, Lind received a “Spanish Prisoner Letter” from a jailed businessman in Mexico. The letter was smuggled from the prison and mailed to Lind – the businessman and Lind had a mutual acquaintance.

The letter asked Lind to come to Mexico. Once there, he was to bribe a guard at the jail with $500, the guard would give him claim checks to the businessman’s trunks which contained $250,000 in a false bottom. The businessman also stated that he would be forever grateful if Lind would escort the businessman’s daughter to the United States.

Lind quit his theater job immediately, borrowed on his insurance and readied himself for a Mexican adventure. When Lind arrived in Mexico City,  a U.S. Consul officer told him that it was an old trick. There was no “businessman.” There were no riches and Lind’s $500 was gone forever. Lind was one of many who had fallen for the ruse.

Despondent, after a month long trip to Mexico, Lind returned to the U.S. dirty, with no money and on a third-class mail coach.

In 1938, Lind headed to Toronto on a six-week visa. There he took a job for an advertising firm. His job, in conjunction with a Richfield Hi-Octane gasoline promotion,was to respond to the the thousands of letters as Jimmie Allen, hero of popular 15-minute radio serial “The Air Adventures of Jimmie Allen.”

The Times, 23 Jan 1938, Sun, Page 36

An advertisement for “The Air Adventures of Jimmie Allen”  from The Times – January 23, 1938

Canadian officials soon learned that the American on a short-term visa had a full-time job and he was quickly deported. Broke yet again, Lind moved to Denver. There he found a job as a road salesman for a refinery. The job was miserable, but his time in Denver wasn’t all bad. He met an art student named Virginia Johns and the two were married on November 5, 1939.

The young couple moved to Butte, Montana where Lind opened a petroleum brokerage firm. It was a flop. Lind was broke yet again. The two headed to back to Lind’s home state of Idaho. In 1941, Idaho governor Chase A. Clark was embroiled in a dispute with oil retailers. Clark insisted the prices being charged were way too high and threatened to open state-owned retailers. Lind, sensing an opportunity, spoke with Clark and told him that if he wanted to keep costs down he should make it easier for independent gas and oil companies to compete with the big boys. Lind insisted that making cheap land available to the small companies on a state lease would solve the problem. The governor agreed.

Lind got a lease on an old truck weigh station near Twin Falls. After borrowing $5 from his sister, Lind was able to haul old storage tanks to the weigh station and began dispensing gas. He called the new station Fearless Farris and he kept prices low.

Then came World War II. Lind served as a Naval flight instructor and tested new planes. After three years, Lind was discharged. He and some former Navy buddies utilized their flying skills and started a spraying service with 12 planes. The company was called Fearless Farris Pest Control Service.

 

The Post-Register, 20 Jun 1948, Sun, Page 13

The Post-Register – June 20, 1948

Business was tough. In the three year the spraying service was operating, seven of the company’s 12 planes crashed and two pilots died. Lind himself suffered two accidents. He sold his shares of the company in 1949 and devoted all of his time to his plucky little service station.

The gas station’s low prices began to take hold and Lind was able to open several new stations in the area. This didn’t come without ruffling a few feathers. Local oil retailers began to despise Lind and called him “The Stinker.” Lind loved it and almost immediately began calling his stations Fearless Farris’ Stinker Stations with a skunk wearing boxing gloves as a mascot. The skunk mascot adorned eye-catching neon signs that demanded motorists’ attention.

The Pittsburgh Press, 20 May 1956, Sun, Page 118

The Pittsburgh Press – May 20, 1956

Dozens of new locations popped up every year in Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Nevada.

The Eugene Guard, 03 Jan 1952, Thu, Page 6

The Eugene Guard – January 3, 1952

Ever the salesmen, Lind offered everything from candy and toys to lure families to trips to Hawaii and diamond rings. He was always looking for a way to draw attention to Stinker. In the late 40s/early 50s Lind would come up with an idea, almost by accident, that would make him and his business known state and nation-wide.

The Salt Lake Tribune, 10 Jun 1959, Wed, Page 26

The Salt-Lake Tribune – June 10, 1959

In 1969, Lind would tell the tell story of his great idea. He bought plywood, the only wood he could afford, to build signs for the first station. He continued,

“The plywood had to be painted on both sides to seal the sign against moisture. As long as the back of the sign was painted, I got the idea of putting humor or curiosity-catching remarks on the back side.”

The signs were a perfect idea. On old Highway 30, the precursor to Interstate 80 (now Interstate 84), there was nothing but desert sagebrush and hills for hundreds upon hundreds of miles. Lind placed roadside signs to spice up the landscape and get the word out about Stinker.

Just as the barren wasteland begins to feel as if it will stretch on into eternity, a simple yellow sign with black letter emerges on the roadside, as if reading the driver’s thoughts. The sign simply says, “Ain’t This Monotonous?”

The Philadelphia Inquirer, 20 May 1956, Sun, Page 202

The Philadelphia Inquirer – May 20, 1956

There is no other message on the sign. The driver begins to wonder what they just saw. A few minutes later another sign emerges. “This is Not Sagebrush, You’re In Idaho Clover.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer - May 20, 1956

The Philadelphia Inquirer – May 20, 1956

Then nothing. No signs again for several miles. The driver doesn’t know what the signs are about. The desert begins to feel endless. Suddenly, a bigger sign emerges: Warning: Idaho is Full of Beautiful Lonely Women.” This is the one that catches everyone’s attention.

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There is still no indication about the meaning of the signs, but the driver begins to look for more.  Suddenly, every 15 minutes a new sign emerges, then another and then another. As the driver makes their way to Boise, the message become closer together.  One hundred signs line the drive in to town.

The messages are all different:

“Nudist Area, Keep Your Eyes on the Road – Cowboys Please Remove Spurs”
(with a nude mannequin covered in a leaf and cowboy clothing, boots and a whiskey bottle on an old plank)

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“Sheepherders Headed for Town Have Right Of Way”

Stinker2

“Petrified Watermelons – Take One Home to Your Mother-In-Law ”
(complete with heavy, round lava rocks)

Stinker4

“Warning To Tourists –  Do Not Laugh at the Natives”
(Image courtesy of Roadside Nut)

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“Have Tea With Me – Bring Your Own Bag”

The Pittsburgh Press, 20 May 1956, Sun, Page 119

The Pittsburgh Press – May 20, 1956

“Rain Checks Cashed – Suckers Welcome – The Bank of Snake River”

The Pittsburgh Press, 20 May 1956, Sun, Page 119 2

The Pittsburgh Press – May 20, 1956

A few more of the known signs:

“This Road For Men Only – Curves and Soft Shoulders – Women Take the Detour”
“Cattle Country – Watch Out For Bum Steers”
“Idaho Skunks Are Not To Be Sniffed At”
“Fishermen: Do You Have Worms?”
“Lava is Free. Make Your Own Soap”
“Methodists – Watch Out For Mormon Crickets”
“Boise is Full of Taxpayers”
“This Area is For the Birds – It’s Fowl Territory”
“State Highway Obstacle Course”
“Sagebrush is Free, Take Some Home to Your Mother-In-Law”
“Quiet Please, Entering Ghost Town”
“For a Fast Pickup, Pass a State Patrolman”
“Don’t Just Sit There, Nag Your Husband”
“No Trespassing, This Area is For the Birds”
“No Fishing Within 100 Yards of the Road””Don’t Just Sit There, Nag Your Husband”
“If Your Wife Wants to Drive, Don’t Stand In Her Way”
“Hysterical Marker – Chief Saccatabacca Starved to Death Here”
“Do You Have a Reservation or Aren’t You an Indian?”
“If You Lived Here You’d Be Home Now”
“Sitting Bull Stood Up Here”
“Why Be a Wage Slave? Find Your Wife a Job”

“Warning: The Wind Will Blow Up This Road”

The Pittsburgh Press - May 20, 1956

The Pittsburgh Press – May 20, 1956

As the signs increase you begin to see the Stinker skunk on the edge of the sign. Then the messages become a billboard advertising Stinker Cut-Rate Gas Station in Boise. The tourist then feels compelled to come to the station for gasoline or, at the very least, an explanation.

The signs became a sensation. Stinker Stations became the go-to fuel place in Boise. Word about the signs began to spread as tourists brought their stories and pictures back with them. National newspapers (many used here) gave even more attention to the signs. Lind was a hit. He expanded his empire to over 50 stores.  Business was stronger than ever but Fearless Farris was not.

Lind was diagnosed with polio in the 1950s and was bed-ridden most of the remainder of his life. He finally succumbed in 1983. The Lind family sold the business in 2002.

The roadside signs are a different story. While a few remain, many were removed when in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the highway beautification act that banned most commercial signs from rural highways. The signs were quietly removed, but their legacy lives on. Stinker Stations are still a staple of the region and they employ more than 700 people.  The skunk is still part of the advertising, a fitting tribute to the original stinker, Fearless Farris Lind.

Greetings From….

Cardboard America

Today’s offering is a baker’s dozen of Curt Teich large-letter Greetings From….postcards. Curteich was the largest producer of color and quality linen postcards for more than 5 decades.

Teich postcards are easy to date, as there is a code on all codes that tells you when it was published. There is a handy dating guide available on pdf.

The Curt Teich archives are located at the Newberry in Chicago, Illinois and contains hundreds of thousands of the company postcards, letters and ephemera.

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Greetings from Portland, Oregon

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Greetings from South Bend, Indiana

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Greetings from Lake Tahoe

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Greetings from Santa Claus, Indiana

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Greetings from Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

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Greetings from St. Petersburg, Florida

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Greetings from Chicago, Illinois

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Greetings from Santa Cruz, California

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Greetings from Nevada

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Greetings from Lincoln, Nebraska

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Greetings from Hannibal, Missouri

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Greetings from Egypt, Illinois

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Greetings from Cincinnati, Ohio

The Art of Alley Cat

CB Radio

I have been bad. When I started this blog back in October (10-4 to be exact) I intended to share equal amounts ephemera and CB radio history. However, over the past few months I got distracted by the other stuff in my collection and ignored a big part of my obsession.

Starting today I will hopefully have a regularly occurring featuring showcases some of the hired artists of CB radio QSL cards.

QSL cards were used by CBers to confirm their two-way radio contacts with each other. Each amateur has their own card which is exchanged with the other amateur or ‘station’ in that two-way contact.

CB radio cards have been a part of my life ever since the summer of 2011 when I discovered them by accident on eBay and now I have over 30,000 cards, have had several art shows covering the era, been showcased in magazines and on CBC radio about my research.  I have even written a booklet available here and am currently working on a major project regarding QSL.

QSL cards were a big part of 1970s CB radio culture and they have been essentially lost to time. It’s my goal to share some of the forgotten artists of the era.

The first artists is Bob Barnes, aka Alley Cat. Barnes was located in Tulatin, Oregon – about 25 minutes south of Portland. Barnes was never a major name in the field and probably produced fewer than 100 cards in the mid 1970s – the actual number is unknown.

There are no articles about Bob Barnes and information is non-existant. If you know anything about Alley Cat please drop me a line at cardboardamerica at gmail.com or leave a message.

Coon Chicken Inn

Cardboard America, Uncategorized

I want to start by saying that there is no way I could ever possibly do a good enough job covering the racial significance of this chain of restaurant to warrant a full post. That is definitely best left to sites such as the Jim Crow Museum, the Seattle Civil Rights & Labor Project, and everyone else far more qualified than me.

However, I will touch on a bit of the history of these locations and share some advertising and other pieces of history that might not be shared elsewhere.

According to blackpast.org:

Maxon Lester Graham and his wife Adelaide founded the Coon Chicken Inn in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1925. The early success of this location prompted the opening of two additional chains in Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington in the early 1930s. The patrons and employees of the Coon Chicken Inn chains were predominantly white, though African-Americans were hired to work in the kitchen of the Salt Lake City branch.

The first Coon Chicken Inn:

Cardcow.com

The second location in  Seattle location opened in 1929 at 8500 Bothell Way.

coonchickeninnpc3

Courtesy of the fabulous Restaurant-ing Through History

The Portland restaurant was the third and final location and it opened in 1931 and closed in 1949.

Coon Chicken Inn - Portland, Oregon

From my collection

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The 1942 postcard order form for the Portland location from Curt Teich & Co. and the Illinois Digital Archives.

Patrons would enter the restaurant through the mouth of the caricatures

The huge, 12-foot black face was added to attract more children and families to the restaurant, the history states.

Election Night, November 8, 1932 advertising from The Salt Lake Tribune

Here’s a little history from the Coon Chicken Inn website:

All three sites were booming and a cabaret and orchestra were added in Seattle and Salt Lake with a larger dining room and the addition of delivery trucks for outside catering. 

Maxon decided that if a gimmick were added for the children, it would help bring in the parents. He added the famous head logo to the entrances of the Inns it was a huge winking, grinning face of a black man wearing a porters cap. The words “Coon Chicken Inn” were spelled out on teeth framed by monstrous red lips. The doorway was through the middle of the mouth. At the time it proved quite popular. The logo of the Inn was on every dish, silverware item, menu and paper product.

The Salt Lake Tribune – May 3, 1934

There was a variety of food served but the specialty of the house was, of course, fried chicken. Flickr user Krystal South has uploaded the menu. The cover, the left inside, the right inside and the back cover.

The caricature was controversial from the beginning. At the 1930 Seattle location, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in conjunction with The Northwest Enterprise, an African-American newspaper protested the opening of the restaurant. A lawsuit was filed claiming defamation of race. The restaurant agreed to remove the “Coon” name from all delivery cars and to pain the entrance face blue instead of black.

But according to the site, he eventually violated his agreement with the NAACP. The restaurants in Oregon and Washington closed in 1949, but Salt Lake City’s remained open until 1957.

In the late 1950s the Grahams got out of the restaurant business, keeping the properties and leasing them out to other restaurant operators. 

The final Coon Chicken in Salt Lake City closed in 1957.

The Salt Lake City and Seattle sites have been razed. Only the Portland site remains

The Portland site became the Prime Rib years ago and it is still going.

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You can see the shell of its former occupants.

Only that building and the lasting memories of the past are left of a business that thrived for more than two decades.

Pantley’s Pagan Hut – Depoe Bay, Oregon

Cardboard America, Cardboard Motels, Uncategorized

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From the verso:

Luxuriously furnished apartments offer fireplaces and kitchens where a touch of the bell brings service from the cocktail bar or dining room. From large windows you will view the magnificence and splendor of the Pacific and its rugged Oregon coastline. Beautiful PAGAN HUT open daily year around. Heated, glass-enclosed swimming pool.

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Courtesy of Swell Map

The Eugene Guard – May 19, 1956

Pantley’s opened sometime in the 1950s. It  was originally known as King Surf Resort and the Tiki Room was known as the Pupule Lanai.

Robert Pantley purchased the property sometime before or around 1956. I am not totally sure it wasn’t called King Surf Resort for a while and the tiki restaurant was Pantley’s Pagan Hut before it was all changed.

Pantley’s Pagan Hut was known for its tiki decor and its nightly entertainment. Opcelita & Garcia, the “Latin American Hot Peppers” and Roberto & his native drums were but two of the acts that performed at Pantley’s.

There was another Pantley’s Pagan Hut in downtown Portland, Oregon at SW 10th and Stark.

 

Corvallis Gazette-Times – April 12, 1962

Robert Pantley was no longer president in 1962 when he plead guilty to a charge of failing to file excise taxes in 1956. Pantley, then 54 years old, was sentenced to one year in prison and fined $5,000.

The Pagan Hut lasted in to the early-mid 1960s. It then became known as known as the Surfpoint Inn. The Surfpoint seemed to run in to some trouble. In December, 1968, the tide came so far inland that it smashed the property windows and flooded the dining room.  In October, 1977, the property was seriously damaged by a series of storms that hit the Oregon Coast.

The article I found in the November 6, 1977 Salem, Oregon says that the damage was well over $30,000 and that it was the second time in a week that water had come in to the lounge. I can’t find any information after that.

 

BONUS: Pagan Hut drink menu courtesy of Critiki.

DOUBLE BONUS: Brochure courtesy of a Tiki Room forum post from 2009: