Saturday, April 21, 2018

Clifton's Pacific Seas, Los Angeles

A few years ago I was very happy to find a neat 1949 slide taken in front of "Clifton's Pacific Seas" (hereafter referred to as "CPS" because I am lazy) - a famous landmark in Los Angeles for many years. Located on South Olive Street, the restaurant had opened in 1931, but in 1939, the owners gave it an exotic tropical theme, which included a fa├žade with rocks, neon, waterfalls, and tropical plants.

At one point there were eight Clifton's locations; among the interesting features is that they were open 24 hours a day, and (because of owner Clifford Clinton's Christian sensibilities) no person was ever turned away for lack of money. During the depression, thousands of people ate for free, or they were encouraged to "Pay What You Wish" - as little as 1 cent, in some cases.

I had to zoom in on the va-va-voom young lady in the fuscia dress! You have to love the sight of men in suits and fedoras, too. 

Here's a vintage postcard showing a more complete view of the front of the restaurant. What a place? I wonder if Walt Disney ever ate there. No wonder it became a draw for tourists from all over the world.

CPS closed in 1960, and the building was torn down. But don't be too sad... the parcel of land is now a parking lot! Happily, Clifton's 1935 "Brookdale" restaurant has been refurbished and is still at 648 South Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. It's quite a place! You should go if you ever have the chance. One of the displays is this beautiful little model of Clifford's Pacific Seas.


Melissa said...

Yay for Clifton's! I've been reading everything I can find about the company since I ran across this 2012 LA Times article about the Broadway location. The workmen found a neon light that had been burning for 70-odd years behind a partition, with nobody remembering it was there to turn off or unplug.

Melissa said...

The lady in pink, and the lady in dark blue ahead of her, do cut quite a dash, don't they? And they have great posture, to boot.

Nanook said...

As uniquely-inviting as Clifton's appears to be, I could easily see myself drawn over towards Health Spot Shoes - "The Way to Foot Comfort", after all-! Why, they even have their own coat of arms. (Not even Kinney Shoes can make that particular claim).

@ Melissa-
Don't be fooled: Great posture isn't all it's cracked-up to be-!

Thanks, Major.

Major Pepperidge said...

Melissa, I had heard about that neon light, but never knew what it looked like. Somehow I had hoped it said something like “We Never Close”. But it’s still a cool discovery. There was a small neon sign in the restaurant that looked very old - I’ve forgotten what it said, but I would not be surprised if it dated back to the 1950’s or 1940’s.

Melissa II, I only have eyes for pink girl!

Nanook, if it is a shoe store, shouldn’t it be called a “Foot of Arms”? Some things just stand to reason.

Patrick Devlin said...

Nice shots today, Major. I certainly never knew about Clifton's before your post, even though Daveland had an entry on his blog regarding a visit earlier in the year on 25 Jan:

And that woman in fuchsia is positively casting shadows with that posture!

Chuck said...

Daveland had a post in January that featured Clifton's historic neon, still going strong in 2018.

That South Seas location in your photos today looks like it was an amazing place to go, sort of a Rainforest Cafe v1.0, without the animatronics to freak out your almost three-year-old kid. Would love to have seen it.

Chuck said...

Ha! Patrick beat me to the punch. That's what I get for writing a comment, then walking away from the computer for a couple of hours without remembering to publish it, then publishing without refreshing. And I, too, didn't know anything about Clifton's history before your post, even though I remembered the historic neon.

Irene said...

I can remember eating at this particular Clifton's when I was a child. Our parents always took my brother and me into Downtown Los Angeles during the Holidays so we could see store windows and browse and give them some idea of what we wanted Santa to bring us. I know we ate here several times in the '50's on this special trip. Even though we lived down on 89th around Western, a trip into downtown Los Angeles was a big deal. Now I can go up there quick and easy on the Blue Line and I have done that recently just to eat at the newly remodeled and reopened Clifton's. It's a really special place. There was even a branch, though certainly not fancy, of Clifton's at the Lakewood Mall. There was also a Woolworth's, but now both are sadly long gone.

Melissa said...

Nanook, if it is a shoe store, shouldn’t it be called a “Foot of Arms”? Some things just stand to reason.

Or a "Coat of Legs?"

Patrick Devlin said...

Would that be A Shoe of Legs?

I just noticed on the picture of the model that Clifton's was located next to the Union Pacific ticket office. Now where do I go to get my City of Los Angeles train tickets??

Nanook said...

@ Melissa-
Perhaps a ‘coat of feet’-?

JC Shannon said...

Too bad it had to be torn down, it was a one of a kind masterpiece. As Joni Mitchell once opined "Pave paradise, put up a parking lot." I wonder how many big yellow taxis pulled up and away from this beautiful place. So sad. Thanks for the memories Major. Love the great shots.

Major Pepperidge said...

Patrick, yes, pink girl is definitely easy on the eyes! I remember Daveland’s post, and have some of my own photos from Clifton’s from about two years ago, but I didn’t think they were good enough to share on GDB.

Chuck, it makes me sad that I never was able to experience the South Seas version; my mom says that she and her parents used to go there to eat, and it was her favorite place. The decor has an old-fashioned quality that is super charming. I wonder if something like that would thrive today, with so many people crazy about tiki culture?

Chuck II, that happens to me all the time; I’m sitting here replying to comments, and while I’m doing that, somebody else says what I was going to say. Who can I sue??

Irene, of course I love photos of vintage Los Angeles, and can only imagine how cool it would have been to be there back in the 50’s. I don’t go there a lot these days, but the last time I went to Clifton’s, my friend and I walked around town afterward, and we were both surprised at how prosperous and energetic everything seemed. It wasn’t long ago that the area was kind of a ghost town. I was very surprised to see that there were once EIGHT Clifton’s locations.

Melissa, my gosh, I am so dumb; I meant to write “Coat of Feet”, but my brain is my worst enemy. I screwed up my own stupid joke!

Patrick Devlin, I was very happy to see that little model of Clifton’s Pacific Seas, right near the front door of the Brookdale restaurant. If only I had been there at night, I would not have had to deal with so many reflections.

Nanook, yes, that’s what I meant to type. Argh. I have a good excuse though. I was drunk at 7:30 in the morning! ;-)

Jonathan, somehow it really added insult to injury when I read that the location was torn down for a parking lot. What a waste! I really wish there was some way we could know whether Walt Disney ever ate there… it seems like it would have been just his thing.

Alonzo P Hawk said...


When it comes to shoes mom was partial to GallenKamp's Shoes (closer than Kinney's and she didn't drive).

These photo's are enticing but try as you might you're not going to suck me into this Clifton's web.

Melissa said...

I see what you did there.

Patrick Devlin said...

A little web search has a tiki bar upstairs at Clifton's; how about that, it's called, I think, Clifton's South Seas...

Melissa said...

If it's upstairs, they could call it Cliftops! (Boy, could I use a Mai Tai about now.)

Nanook said...

@ Alonzo P Hawk-
For some reason we never bought shoes at any chain shoe store. Personally, I was always jealous of those kids who bought Red Goose Shoes - with their wonderful 'golden eggs' - "Free with every purchase of a pair of RED GOOSE shoes for boys & girls".

Thankfully if memory serves, we never shopped at any shoe store who used those 'nasty' Shoe Fitting Fluoroscopes: The scientific way of approaching the problem of poorly-fitted shoes eliminates guesswork. Now you can see for yourself!" Why, it's the perfect 'scientific approach' to start youngsters out right with a healthy dose of X-ray abuse, causing cases of foot cancer decades down the road.

Nanook said...

I almost missed the Clifton Webb pun.

Melissa said...

I have a dim memory of going to a "proper" shoe store and having the salesman hurt my foot with the measuring device. And I'm pretty sure, as far as I could then tell in my innocence and as far as I can now tell in my imperfect, faraway memory that another salesman was getting fresh with my mother in a vulnerable situation. It was self service at the big family discount store for us after that.

Matching Keds for the sister and me every year(at least I never had to wear hand-me-down shoes, because my feet were as big as the big kids'), and solid, chunky, Mary Janes for church, in whatever color they had in stock, in our size, and at the lowest price.

There was that one semester they only bought one pair of sneakers. I don't know if it was due to price or availability or what; but I remember having to get permission to go to her classroom after PE and hang them on her hook on the classroom coat rack so she tells them for her afternoon class. Crazy the things that stick with you!

Patrick Devlin said...

I was talking with my brother-in-law at last night's family dinner and he knew all about Clifton's! It turns out he, when young, had eaten at the original with his Dad and sister numerous times. I suppose that was to balance out my complete ignorance prior to yesterday's post!

Anonymous said...

"...hurriedly scribbling "Cliftons" into the LA to-do list..."