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More Hawaiian 76 Balls in Motion

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Here are the last of the 76 Ball short films shot by Earl Ma in Hawaii. He notes these are the first Hawaiian balls that he's seen with the spinning motors turned off, which has become sadly standard in Southern California.

If you care about the 76 Balls, please call Sylvia Hansen in External Communications at ConocoPhillips, (281) 293-1000. Request that she call Nathan Marsak back and open a dialogue about how to work together to turn this bad publicity around and save some balls.

Sand Island Union 76 station, 165 Sand Island Access Road, Honolulu, HI, April 2006

Miyazaki Airport Union 76 service station, Honolulu International Airport, 351 Rodgers Boulevard, Honolulu, HI, April 2006

Hi-Way Union 76 service station, Pearl City Shopping Center, 850 Kamehameha Highway, Pearl City, HI, April 2006

Bobby's Union 76 station, 99-236 Moanalua Road, Aiea, HI, April 2006

Michael Linder Gives The Ball The Eye

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Acclaimed KNX reporter Michael Linder has a nice feature on the Save the 76 Ball campaign in his weekend blog. Click over to enjoy a very clever montage of images, or just read on. Thanks, Michael!

Pinhead to the rescue of giant 76 balls! You know — those orange and blue globes being uprooted from gas stations across the Southland while Los Angeles culture aficionados howl.

The branding switcheroo is fallout from ConocoPhillips purchase of Union 76. Flat signage in ConocoPhillips red is replacing the big orange balls which were designed by Ray Pederson for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. The spheres have taken on urban treasure status among cultural preservationists who regard them as historic Jet Age flashbacks — like the Jetsonesque theme restaurant at LAX which also made its debut in ‘62.

 This week, cartoonist Bill Griffith announced his “Zippy the Pinhead” comic strip is taking up the cause. Griffith’s passion for classic signs is legendary. We recently caught Zippy in print, chatting with the Felix Chevrolet sign at Jefferson and Figueroa. And, he’s got clout. Seen in over 200 newspapers, Zip’s strip is credited with saving the Bay Area’s Doggie Diner weiner dog signs from destruction.

Dogged determination by Kim Cooper and Nathan Marsak is fueling the campaign. The duo publish The 1947 Project, one of our all-time fave explorations into Los Angeles’ colorful past. (Our KNX news story streams here.) More than 2,300 signatures from motorists threatening to boycott have been gathered at their Save the 76 Ball site. “If that ball goes, so does this customer!”

ConocoPhillips hasn’t backed down despite a steady stream of media attention to the cause célèbre. Even the BBC is onto gas station castration. Actor Michael Madsen (“Reservoir Dogs,” “Kill Bill”) told the Beeb, “There seems to be this driving force to tear down everything that’s a little old. These are things that were landmarks, a symbol that I remember from childhood.” Madsen says he tried to buy a ball but was told they are destined to be crushed. “What’s the point of smashing them and putting up flat signs?”

Indeed! Not to mention the way some of the balls magically morph into Halloween jack-o-lanterns every October. Three dollar gas, now this.

L.A.'s 76 Balls in their natural habitat

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Here are five more 76 Ball short films from the camera of Earl Ma, these from his recent trip to Southern California. Compared to the Oahu spheres posted earlier, you'll note that the SoCal stations aren't using the rotating motors, thus weakening the power of this extraordinary sign. Is this a cost-saving move, or just another symbol of corporate neglect?

Studio City Union 76 service station, 12863 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City, CA, April 2006


Gregory Union 76 service station, 5436 W. 6th Street, Los Angeles, CA, April 2006


Tommy's Union 76 service station, 5890 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, April 2006


Jack Colkers Union 76 station, 427 N. Crescent Drive, Beverly Hills, CA, April 2006


Norm's Union 76 service station, 7979 W. Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, April 2006

Gallery of 76 Balls In Motion

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Since the launch of this campaign, Earl Ma has been one of the 76 Ball's most passionate supporters, but he has outdone himself with his latest effort: a series of short films celebrating spinning 76 Balls on display in their natural habitats. Part one: Hawai'i!

Earl's films were all shot in Spring 2006, and more will be posted soon.  Anyone with a favorite local 76 Ball and access to DV-quality equipment, please make your own film and we'll be happy to share it on this site.

I asked Earl about his intent with creating these shorts, and he replied, "This is the least we can do in terms of 'preserving' them, in full color/motion, for future generations, because there is no telling how long these specific examples will last." He is interested in "illustrating in an animated manner why these signs matter--because of how they fit into the cityscape at large. And they're not supposed to be static (of course it doesn't help when they're not turned on)." His main reason for getting out in the streets with his camera? "Nobody else has taken the initiative to do this!"

Hooray for Earl Ma and for the 76 Ball! 

Micro Fuel Union 76 station, 540 N. Nimitz Highway, Honolulu, HI, March 2006


George's Union 76 self-service station, 500 Kapahulu Avenue, Honolulu, HI, March 2006


Tenn's Enchanted Lake Union 76 service station, Enchanted Lake Shopping Center, 1010 Keolu Drive, Kailua, HI, March 2006


Hank's Union 76 service station, Kaneohe Bay Shopping Center, 46-047 Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe, HI, March 2006

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