It stood next door to the Fullerton train station, about a block from downtown and on a little rise overlooking Harbor Boulevard. It was almost an eyesore — a bit tatty and dirty — and, truth be told, most of the patrons were also a bit on the eyesore side.
But my, how the Melody Inn would rock.
On weekends the Jazz would go on all night, bouncing off walls and swirling around chairs, dancing on table tops, grabbing the audience by the scruff of the neck and shaking the blues right out onto the floor.
When it burned down they built a Spaghetti Factory.
Belisles was very much like the old Melody Inn, but instead of Jazz musicians it had history on its side. Stuck on a bad corner between Garden Grove and Anaheim, this was the place where past met present over a heaping helping of the best food in Orange County.
On Katella Avenue, the only Googie left is the Anaheim Convention Center’s spaceship top.
Forty-four years of memories were preserved in that place, four decades of history chronicled on menus, walls and bookshelves. Belisles was the best museum in Orange County because it combined the two things most responsible for the development of the county: farming and tourism. At Belisles, you ate a farmer’s dinner next to a family of Mickey Mouse heads from Australia.
When they knocked it down they left the old sign — 5 out of 4 eat here — up for a day or so. It was an appropriate grave marker for yet another piece of OC history trampled underfoot.
Elsewhere, the old character survives, at least for now: Angleos still has the big, bright red sign.
Back in the day, that old Belisles sign was a giant freestanding beacon to hungry people driving down Harbor Boulevard. Big and bold, with the letters stretching 30 feet or so across the top, it was like so many that injected personality into the community. Space ships, planets and rocket launchers adorned the establishments dotting Harbor and Katella, from the Inn of Tomorrow to the Astro. Colorful? Yes. Ugly? Perhaps. Unique? Definitely. Each multi-colored extravaganza served a greater purpose than that of standard signs: “Googie” architecture was a thematic, creative way to offer travelers a unique experience.
Anaheim Plaza does a passable job of recreating the Googie look of old times.
Today, the Inn of Tomorrow is called Best Western Stovall’s Inn.
I can imagine a conversation between a couple who vacationed at Disneyland: “Honey, do you remember that motel we stayed at? Wasn’t it owned by that stuffing company, Stouffers, or something?
Something tells me that guests had no trouble recalling the Inn of Tomorrow. Not that a dirty little motel with funky signs and landscaping would ever matter in the big picture of redevelopment.
It’s just the same as orange groves and hills: eventually, they all have to come down.