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Weird California
Weird California - By Joe Parzanese

Giant Orange Stands of California

Map George's Orange
2635 West A Street, Dixon, California 95620
(Dixon Avenue Exit off of Highway 80)

Map Bono's Orange Stand
15395 Foothill Boulevard, Fontana, California 92335

Map Mark's Hot Dogs
48 South Capitol Ave, San Jose, California 95127

Map Joe's Giant Orange Cafe
3104 Cascade Blvd, Shasta Lake, California 96019

The Dixon Orange - Photo by Tim Brown
The Dixon Orange - Photo by Tim Brown

At one point there were giant oranges lurking along many of the highways throughout California. These giant oranges operated as juice stands, eagerly awaiting thirsty travelers to pull over and partake of their fresh cold orange juice. At a time when most cars didn't have air conditioning and the highways were not the super fast freeways with on and off ramps of today, the orange stands did a busy and successful business.

In 1926 Frank E. Pohl started his chain of "Giant Orange" stands opening up their frist orange shaped stand at 11th Street near E Street in Tracy. Before trying out orange juice stands, Pohl had a giant lemon from which he served lemonade in Menlo Park called Jumbo Lemon Stand. But his first "Giant Orange" was in Tracy, California and spawned a franchise and imitations throughout California. The franchise peaked in the 1950's with approximately 16 different stands built throughout Northern California from Bakersfield to Sacramento to Merced and Redding. It's rumored that a stand could easily go through six thousand oranges during a week as it quenched the thirst of weary travelers who pulled over for a quick drink.

There were giant oranges in at least Tracy, Dixon, Bakersfield, Tulare, Madera, Chowhcilla, Merced, Turlock, Redding, Galt, Roseville, Sacramento, El Dorado, Banta, Vacaville, Modesto, Lodi, Williams, Patterson, and Placerville. And some of those cities such as Tracy and Dixon had two giant oranges!

Giant Orange Stands were so popular that in the 1930s there was even a small war in Tracy between Frank Pohl's giant orange (on the north side of 11th Street near E Street) and a copy cat establishment called The Orange Basket (located on E 11th Street). The Orange Basket opened in 1934 right next to Tracy High School. In 1935 Pohl filed a lawsuit claiming that the Orange Basket was stealing his Giant Orange trade name and confusing customers. Of course the lawsuit was thrown out, the judge stating that you can't claim sole use of the word "orange". The Appeals Court upheld the decision. The Orange Basket was open until 1966, when it burn down, catching fire from a lit cigarette. It was called "Jack's" in the end. The property it sat upon was incorporated into Tracy High School, somewhat fitting since much of its clientele were high school students.

After the 1950's the stands began to decline as roads were converted to higher speed freeways which made it more difficult to pull over and stop for a glass of orange juice. This combined with the emergence of air conditioning in cars, began the decline of the giant orange juice stands.

Mark's Hot Dogs is housed in a Giant Orange
Mark's Hot Dogs is housed in a Giant Orange - photo by Ben Lopez

There are still at least two of the Frank E. Pohl's sixteen original orange stands remaining. The first stands in Dixon, California and is operating as a Mexican restaurant. Called George's Orange, it is now part of Mr. Taco. Thanks to Tim Brown we have several pictures of this historic orange. Sadly we have received reports that the stand is also for sale. So the fate of the giant orange is currently unclear. However, it was operated as an orange juice stand all the way until July 15th, 1973 and was the last of the giant orange stands to remain in business.

The Giant Orange in San Jose
The Giant Orange in San Jose - photo by Ben Lopez

The other Frank E. Pohl orange remaining is in San Jose. Originally located at 1920 Alum Rock Ave, this orange was relocated in order to make room for a housing development. After being declared a historical city landmark the historic building was moved to 48 South Capitol Ave. Today and since 1947, the orange has been utilized by Mark's Hot Dogs. Mark's Hot Dogs originally opened in 1936 and relocated to the orange in 1947. The business was started by Mark Yuram. As far as I can tell the orange was also constructed in 1936, was placed on the original Alum Rock Avenue site in 1947 when Mark's Hot Dogs moved into it, and became a city landmark in 1992. The current owner is Demos Pantelides.

Bono's Historic Orange
Bono's Historic Orange

Besides Frank E. Pohl's orange chain, several other giant oranges sprung up along Route 66. At one point, much like Pohl's chain which spread throughout Northern California, the orange producers of Southern California in order to gain supplemental income, opened their own orange stands along this historic route. One remains standing. This one is Bono's Historic Orange Stand.

It belongs to Bono's, the Italian restaurant to the left of the orange stand. Bono's originally opened in 1936 in order to add supplemental income to the family's orange grove business, but is now currently closed after the original Bono family passed away. The current generation has so far not done anything with the restaurant nor with the old orange stand. In fact from the windows it still looks like it did the day it was closed, complete with table settings laid out. Other than that, a Historic Route 66 interstate sign is spray painted on the pavement just to the left of the stand. Hopefully one day this large orange will once again be a popular destination for food and drink.

Joe's Giant Orange Cafe in Shasta Lake inhabits another one of these old historical giant oranges. This orange was originally built in 1946 and use to be situated on Highway 99. Now, Joe's is a mix of American and Mexican food and if reviews are true one of the best places to eat in all of Shasta Lake. They apparently also serve excellent orange drinks like an orange shake.

Additionally there have been sightings of other giant oranges throughout California at:

Dixon
Dixon
Fontana
Fontana
San Jose
San Jose
Shasta Lake
Shasta Lake

Shasta Lake Picture by Cody Hudson, San Jose pictures by Ben Lopez, and Dixon pictures by Tim Brown.

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Last Edited: 2012-07-03


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