Punch & Judy Ice Cream Parlors, Los Angeles, 1949
Punch & Judy ice cream parlours and their “sensational ice cream productions” were the brainchild of entrepreneur Arthur Whizin, one of Los Angeles’s most influential restaurateurs.
Whizin opened his first restaurant- a café called T&T – on Pico Boulevard in 1927.
Three years later, folklore has it that he was sitting at the counter of a burger bar, trying to figure out what kind of restaurant he wanted to open next, when a friend slid over his chili bowl and said ‘do something with that.’
At the time, coinciding with the rise of automobile use, eateries were built in the shape of kettles, hats and tamales to catch the eye of passing motorists.
Whizin recalled that he sketched out the design of a chili bowl-shaped building on the corduroy pants he was wearing, and his concept was born.
He opened his first Chili Bowl restaurant on Crenshaw Boulevard, with $1200 funding raised by selling items such as his wife Shirley’s wedding ring and his roadster. Because Whizin had no car, the couple moved into a home nearby.
Within a decade, Whizin had nearly two dozen circular, bowl-shaped eateries, which became iconic examples of California’s offbeat roadside architecture.
A man with a sense of humor, one of Whizin’s marketing slogans for Chili Bowls was “we cook our beans – you only get the hiccups.”
After WWII, Whizin changed tack and many of the restaurants were converted into Punch N Judy ice cream parlours.
Whizin’s astute marketing prowess can be seen in this colorful menu from 1949 featuring the Punch and Judy puppets. The interior menu is also a great example of vintage menu art with clever illustrations and captioning.
One of the featured ice creams was a “Moron’s Ecstasy” with 8 flavors of ice cream and 8 toppings – all for the princely sum of $1. The joke was that you were a moron if you were able to finish it.
Whizin went on to open a shopping mall in Agoura Hills which still bears his name. He died in 1994. A few examples of Chili Bowl architecture remain in LA.
Courtesy Private Collection.
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