While exhibiting in the area of St. Louis, I decided to see what they had in their area that was nostalgic. After some discussion with area locals, found that the oldest Steak and Shake still in existence, was just off of Hwy 55, in St. Louis. Of course I had to check it out, along with some other possible places.
The Steak and Shake picture drew attention wherever I went. I put the cars into the painting to add to the time period of the building. Many people bought prints, because of the building and others for the classic cars.
The year was 2003 and the Number One Art Festival in the Country was the Coconut Grove Arts Festival in Miami, Florida. I had exhibited there once before. When I was accepted for this show, I was asked if I wanted to demonstrate my work at one of the schools in the Miami area.
I thought that would be fun, so I accepted, but was given a time frame to complete a full painting in the classroom. I chose a middle school in southwest Miami and had several phone discussions with the art teacher at the school.
Since I had a number of paintings with a diner theme, I decided to paint a related subject, that took less time to demonstrate. The Mustard and Ketchup painting was the first in a series of diner table-settings paintings. I was impressed by the students interest and the questions they asked during the class.
This was an experience that I will cherish as part of my artistic career.
It was the 1950’s, when Neon, Milk Shakes and cool cars came on the scene. In the midst of it all, we had heard of a new restaurant that had burgers, fries and shakes. You couldn’t go inside to eat and they didn’t have car hops that brought it out to your car. The way it worked was, you walked up to the window on the outside of the building and ordered your food, they prepared it, put it in a bag and you either sat in your car or took it home to eat. They called it “Fast Food”. The even had a sign that told you how many hamburgers they had sold.
These places started in Chicago and were popping up in other states. In January of 1959, the first local McDonald’s opened just one block from the dividing line between South Bend and Mishawaka, Indiana, on Lincolnway West on the Mishawaka side.
As I was traveling and painting for Art Shows, the pubic was excited about my diner and restaurant pictures. Since I did several shows in this area, and was raised in South Bend, I decided to include McDonald, as it would have looked, when it first opened here.
While on the road in in Louisville Kentucky, at St. James Court, one of the top shows in the country, we were approached by a family, who’s father had just retired and sold his collection of a large number of McDonald’s restaurants he had built up, during his restaurant years. The children wanted to pool their money and buy him the painting as a retirement gift.
The McDonald’s painting was my first experience with Classic Cars and Neon, which became a popular theme in later paintings.
I was told by an Eastern Airlines Pilot, many years ago, that when flying into Atlanta, Georgia, when he saw the big chicken, he knew when to start his descent into Hartsfield Airport. The Big Chicken was 68 feet high. The eye rolled around and the tail feather on the back of its head went up and down. It was called “Johnny Rebels, Chick, Chuck and Shake.” You can just about guess what they served.
When I arrived in Marietta, in 1983, the building was occupied by Kentucky Fried Chicken. Many years later, when the mechanisms no longer worked, they decided to tear the building down, but the community response convinced to rebuild the chicken. The building now is just slightly shorter, but now everything has been rebuilt and updated into working order. They even have a spiked roof, so the birds wouldn’t perch on top of it. You can see the building at the corner of Hwy 41 and Roswell Road, in Marietta, Georgia.
When I painted the picture, I had already taken photos of the original Big Chicken, so I decided to use that version to paint