76 Ball designer Ray Pedersen has been informed by ConocoPhillips that they wish to honor his contribution to the brand's history by presenting him with one of the classic orange and blue 76 Ball gas station signs for his personal collection. Ray is trying to find the best place to store this large and lovely artifact, and we hope to report back to you soon with additional details. Kudos to CP for recognizing Ray with this generous and gracious offer!
In recognition of this cool news, Ray Pedersen has kindly agreed to personaly autograph a very limited number of 76 Ball antenna toppers, which we are making available to his fans. If you would like one, just click.
Thanks to the discerning eye of J. Eric Freedner, we've been alerted to design changes at the modernist William Pereira-designed 76 station in Beverly Hills, CA. Of all the 76 stations which still proudly fly the orange ball, this is the most unique and architecturally significant, and we've let ConocoPhillips know that the Los Angeles conservation community will be scandalized if its classic beauty is marred by one of the new blisterpak-style red signs. Would you dress Audrey Hepburn in Juicy Couture?
J. Eric says: The actual name of the dealer is "Jack Colker's 76" and he has an address on North Crescent Drive. The station is on the corner of Crescent and Little Santa Monica Boulevard and is the only remaining gas station in downtown Beverly Hills. Perhaps that accounts for the high volume of business done there, especially at rush hour.
Below, a night shot of the station interior on 2/15, revealing newly installed red pump panels, replacing the previous stainless steel. Regular visitors to this site know, when the creeping red appears, it means the beloved orange ball is soon to fall. But we also know that ConocoPhillips has decided to manufacture a limited number of red 76 balls for installation at select stations. Could one of those red balls be destined for Beverly Hills?
Right now there are at least two notable stations in the L.A. area that have red signage on the pumps, but still retain their orange 76 balls: Beverly Hills, and the station at the high-traffic corner of Melrose and Highland. If these highly visible stations aren't on the short list to retain their balls, we'd like to know why not.
For more of J. Eric Freedner's and Earl Ma's photos of the Beverly Hills 76 station, just click.
Last week, Nathan Marsak and I got up uncommonly early to accompany intrepid LA Observed videoblogger Jacob Soboroff on a tour of the surviving 76 Balls of North-East LA. Later, Jacob followed sign-spotting legend J. Eric Freedner deep into Orange County for a sneak peak at the new, red 76 Balls being readied for, ahem, erection.
Do click over to LA Observed's Native Intelligence section to read Jacob's take on the Save the 76 Ball campaign and for a brief visit with a few of the folks behind this website.
[Americana] Saving Ray's Balls
We've all experienced it: a late night when you've run out of gas or are in desperate need of a bag of Funyons. Just when you've given up, out of the unforgiving void emerges a beacon of hope in the form of a floating orange and navy orb. Such is the magic of the 76 ball, the electric signage of what were once known as Union 76 gas stations, a glowing (literally) example of effective branding for nearly half a century. That is, until ConocoPhilips acquired California Unocal in 2002 and instituted a plan to replace the balls beginning in 2005, enacting a "destroy all balls" policy for the felled orange giants.
Enter Kim Cooper. The Los Angeles-based cultural historian's quest to save the eight-foot, 400-pound balls took shape when her local 76 station's ball disappeared, only to be replaced by a flattened disc with a red background instead of the familiar orange. "I didn't know at first exactly why I was so upset when they got rid of the ball in my neighborhood," Cooper says, but as the campaign grew, she found that the 76 ball held a special place in the collective memory of West Coast natives. "Several families have told me that it was their child's first word; that every time they drove past a 76 station their child would say 'ball' and it became this special family memory."
Cooper began the fight to save this icon of the American West from her living room with the site Savethe76ball.com, eventually bringing on her partner from the 1947 Project historical crime blog, Nathan Maransk. Together, the two amassed almost 3,000 signatures in an online petition that demanded ConocoPhillips save some of the balls to be put on display in museums. As a result of their efforts and the extensive media coverage thereof, the Texas-based oil conglomerate recently announced that it will donate several of the balls to museums across the country.
Although thrilled with their success, Cooper says the battle for the fate of the balls is not yet over. The Save the 76 Ball Project is also asking that a few select, historically significant balls be preserved at their original locations, that ConocoPhillips foot the bill for transporting the unwieldy orbs, and that a ball be given to the original designer, Ray Pederson, who built and hand-painted the first ball himself for the Seattle World's Fair of 1962.
-Ayse Arf, from LA CityBeat