Allee Willis’ Kitsch ‘O The Day – Staggering Signs Along Route 1, Saugus, MA.

Submitted by Allee Willis October 4th, 2011
Certifikitsch Winner

Although when I was in Boston the week before last for the fluffilectable Fluff Festival, all I did was participate in all things Fluff, I did manage to get in an hour of sightseeing, at least the only kind of sightseeing I’m interested in, which is looking for the best and most kitschtastic signs and edifices a city has to offer. I nearly lost my choppers when I came across the Hilltop Steakhouse on Route 1 outside of Boston. This place was so astounding –  from this greatest sign I’ve ever seen, at least 40 feet high and I can’t even imagine what it looks like it night, to the herd of plastic cows grazing outside – that I’m going to give it its own post. I’m shooting for tomorrow but with all the work I still have to get done for my grand performance on the 18th, only time will tell  when I’ll actually get that done. But trust me, it’s coming.

Of course, whenever a name has “hilltop” in it and it’s not on a hill, not to mention that it’s sitting on the side of a flat freeway, it’s astounding kitsch time.

I don’t care where it’s located, any pizza place with a leaning tower is where I’m going to munch Italian. That it’s next door to Giggles makes it even better.

I love when plaster flags that are constructed in “blow” motion.

I also love vintage stacked signs like this:

“Cocktail Lounge” and a working clock make it even better. That John Sebastion is performing at a Chinese restaurant, even better. But best of all is the massive hunk of the Kowloon itself:

Giant tiki = giant kitsch. If I ever Fluff it up again, I’m going to see if the portions inside loom as large.

You can’t really appreciate this next sign, especially blocked by that pole. But 15 feet of sake can’t be bad.

I love, love, love the Dairy Castle, miniature golf and baseball compound sign, all structures and features of which it beckons you to seemingly untouched since the 1960’s:

This angle is great:

You can spot a rocket ship, dinosaur and this happy Humpty facing the highway from the golf course:

Other than vegetarians, who doesn’t like hot dog signs, especially when an attempt is made at mustard and toppings, and it’s been boiling since 1958?

The Karl’s building is pretty great too, almost as if they couldn’t decide on the exact style of architecture they were going for so they went for everything.  Though 1950’s and 60’s are most predominant in the house.

And last but not least, Ferns, where you’re lucky if you can get the “new room” – only one? – and a Whir Poo. Though I don’t think I want to participate in anything Poo happening in a motel.

13 Responses to “Allee Willis’ Kitsch ‘O The Day – Staggering Signs Along Route 1, Saugus, MA.”

  1. denny

    That’s Massachusetts for ya! I live here and haven’t seen this stuff! The KOWLOON COCKTAIL lounge is killer. Glad you got some snaps! This is unchartered territory for me.

  2. Lisa Rios

    Fabulous post! I bet even vegetarians like hot dog signs. In fact that’s probably their favorite kind of hot dog. So wonderful to see how much has stayed the same there in Boston. Full of kitsch!

    • Allee Willis

      I would fly back just to see it! And eat there again, of course. We were there for a very late lunch so it was empty. It’s so massive inside. I would kill to see it full of people stuffed like their baked potatoes.

  3. Brother Cleve

    Route 1 is still spectacular, isn’t it? It was even better a couple of decades ago, but what wasn’t?! We used to have the Diamond Head Polynesian restaurant, DiPietros, which had a giant chef statue outside whose head moved back and forth and with his fingers in the “OK” sign (the arm went up and down). There was The Ship, a restaurant built to look like a luxury ocean line; in the 70’s it was rebuilt to resemble an 1800’s styled sailing ship. And there were a lot more no-tell motel with fab neon signs, many of which are now owned by my friend, neon collector Dave Waller (check and

    The Kowloon opened in 1950. They are proud of their tiki heritage and you can check their website for vintage photos [ and click on “nostalgia”] The giant tiki outside was carved by Leroy Schmaltz of the famed Ocean Arts of Whittier, CA. About a dozen years ago I took Otto Von Stroheim, creator of “Tiki News” and Tiki Oasis, to the Kowloon; owner Stanley Wong was thrilled to know that there was a genuine interest out there in tiki and gave us the full tour of the building; he shared the restaurants scrapbooks with us, regaling us with old photos, postcards, matchbooks etc. It’s been modernized to a degree but still retains its charm.

    I’ve been going to The Hilltop since the mid-60’s. That is the largest “continuous neon” sign in the US. The quality of the food went down after owner Frank Guiffrida sold out, but I hear it’s better these days.

    The quality of the products at Karl’s Sausage Kitchen, btw, is amazing. But for the full real deal, you need to go to Boston Speed’s Hot Dog wagon, a truck in a parking lot in the meat packing district, for one of the top 5 hot dogs in America [] The motto painted on the truck says “Boston’s Most Exciting Hot Dog…since 1976”. Speed himself is retired now but the truck lives on with a new owner and its still great.

  4. Brother Cleve

    I forgot to mention – the Japanese restaurant “Sake” that is pictured used to be a cocktail lounge known as the WigWam……and that sign was actually a neon wigwam (go look at it again and envision it!). I wish there was a pic online but i don’t see one. I recall that the lettering of Wigwam was at the bottom and was sort of a Frontierland-styled font.

    They featured live lounge music at the Wigwam, and I actually played there in the early ’70’s (yes, I played in lounge bands back in the day, before i was in punk bands). I remember playing there with a saxophonist named Larry Boozer — i was always so envious of his name! Any, the clientele of the Wigwam was the 60+ crowd, who were all out looking for “action”. I remember it being the weirdest thing, at the time : imagine a heavy drinking cocktail crowd of aging swingers, dressed in the best late 60’s/early 70’s fashions like plaid jackets, leisure suits……well, I know you get the picture!…hitting on each other while I played “A Man & A Woman”, “The Windmills Of Your Mind”, “MacArthur Park” and “The Girl From Ipanema” on a Fender Rhodes. I was 21 years old or so. Wow, I’m having acid flashbacks right now that may turn to seizures if I don’t stop thinking. Sherman, set the wayback machine for waaaaaaaayback!!!!

    The Wigwam closed in the late 70’s ( it’s been Sake ever since) and the crowd moved on to the nearby Vogue Lounge in Saugus (well….with a name like that, who wouldn’t??) I visited the Vogue a few times in the 80’s to have a well made Manhattan or 2 and to revel in the sureality of it all. They had a cool sign, too. Haven’t been by there in years (it was on Rt 99, which is off of Rt 1) so I must investigate. Wonder if its the same type of crowd — I mean, I’m no spring chicken these days, maybe I can hook up?? If it’s still there, that is.

  5. larry boozer

    Hi Brother Cleve,

    Its LARRY BOOZER, thanks for remembering me. I still play sax and sing. I live in Annapolis MD. After graduating Berklee I went back in the NAVY BAND and retired after 20 years. I still play in DC area and Baltimore. Were you the piano player that loved the tune Star Eyes ,which I did not know. Hope to hear from you ,LARRY

    I think those people were in their 40s or late 30s ,but we were young and they seemed old to us.