Mike Dolan founded the El Monte institution, Driftwood Dairy, in 1946 to continue his family’s long dairy legacy. It started as a single store and a home delivery route, and eventually expanded into a national corporation that keeps its roots in El Monte. One of the few surviving remnants of the company’s earlier years is the Driftwood Dairy drive-thru (originally known as the Driftyland Dairy-Port) on Lower Azuza Road. This is a truly spectacular example of Googie design, built by Theodore Masterson (who may have also designed it) in 1961.
The Los Angeles Times touted it as “one of the most modern dairy drive-ins in the world,” and indeed it was, with a massive parabolic arch canopy sheltering its small retail structures.
A huge pole sign stands outside the canopy, advertising its dairy products on hexagonal signs topped by a giant spike. The outer curbs of the business’ driveway are decorated with custom-made ceramic tiles featuring a milk bottle and the friendly face of “Drifty,” the company’s bovine mascot. The Driftwood Dairy, which survived a demolition threat, illustrates the surging influence of cars on designs during the postwar period, as well as mid-century Googie roadside architecture at its very best.