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LA's timeless carwash culture

Los Angeles has always been the heart of American's love affair with cars. And the city's car washes are monuments to our pampered automobiles.

Many Los Angeles car washes trace their history to a time when a wash cost $1 and a jet wax was 50 cents.

Photographer George Tate Jr. (1920-1992) moved to Los Angeles during a population boom that coincided with car buying. In 1951, he came to Southern California from Texas to attend Art Center in Pasadena.

Tate became a freelance photographer, covering Venice beauty pageants and the fitness lifestyle at Muscle Beach.

As Los Angeles quickly expanded, Tate documented increasingly bustling streets, cafes and storefronts.

But to get from the growing suburbs to workplaces and city centers, you needed a car.

Block after block, drive-in diners and movie theaters, gas stations and car washes were opening to cater to the main mode of mobility in LA.

The bright signs and colorful pillars were designed to catch the attention of drivers.

A half-century later, some of these car washes look exactly like they used to, except for a few paint jobs and trees.

Here's what Carson Car Wash looks like today and then back in 1965:

And here's what Los Feliz Car Wash looks like today and 50 years ago.

Check out the photographs in-person at the Craig Krull Gallery at Bergamot Station, until August 31.

The entire collection of Tate's photographs are at the Santa Monica Historical Museum.

 

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