By Dennis Sullivan
In December 2005 a much debated Redondo Beach controversy came to an end when the city removed the historic Millie Riera restaurant sign from the corner of PCH and Avenue I. Its gone and so is the fight to save it. The city has stored it for over a year and is ready to let it go to wherever old signs go. The Redondo Beach Historical Society has been given a chance to determine just where that will be. We have only a few weeks left to find it a home, trash it or sell it. After that the city will dispose of it as they see fit. So, we are looking for some good ideas from our membership and the community for the last or next life for this classic sign.
Time and neglect have taken their toll on the sign. It is in rough shape at the moment according to those who’ve last seen it. The neon is either broken or missing and rust has ravaged it from within. The sign is large which limits where it can be displayed. The RB Historical Museum has been mentioned often as a good place to move it but that just isn’t practible considering its size.
Why is this sign so important to so many people? If you look at the city’s preservation news website there are over one hundred-twenty suggestions for what to do with the 1948 sign. At a glance the majority of the pre-removal comments favor leaving the sign where it is. Most of the few post-removal suggestions want it restored and put back. Andy Hori’s comment is typical of many of the suggestions, “I have grown up driving past this sign for the past 28 years of my life. Tearing down this sign is tearing down the “Soul” of Redondo. The sign to me is a landmark for Redondo. What ever happened to roots and history of a location? Please keep the sign in the original location where it was meant to be…”
Memories and emotions aside the sign is important for other reasons. First, it is piece of California’s coastal history when motorist were lured to restaurants, bars and recreational venues by these dramatic, hard-to-ignore road signs. There are few of these signs left in place. In Redondo Beach we counted just four business signs that seem to be from that era and they are not the caliber of the Millie sign. Graphically the sign displays some important elements of historic road signs with neon, bold typography, a multi-level design and the attention getting fish at the top.
The historians and preservationist want to rehab the sign and put it back where it was while the most practical folks are ready to send it to the scrap heap. Hopefully it can find a place where all those who find comfort in its message of seaside dining in a time and place missed or never known can endure.
Please call 310-372-0197, email to Email@redondobeachhistorical.org
or write to Redondo Beach Historical Society, P.O. Box 978, Redondo Beach, CA 90277 with any reasonable suggestions for the Millie Riera sign. By the way, having it restored to the original location is most likely not going to happen.