by Michael R. Allen
This quintessential A-frame work of Googie-tecture stands at the northwest corner of Vandalia (State Highway 159) and Clay streets in downtown Collinsville, Illinois. According to the Conestoga sign on the pole in front, this is Bert’s Chuck Wagon with “Open Pit Bar-B-Q.” The high pitched roof overhangs the building to almost conceal the sides completely. Splayed columns add a whimsical touch, and the gabled entry overhang creates enough head space for a person to walk into the building through the door.
What is most striking is the large gable end facing the corner. The open glass wall provided exposure and a contrast to the heavy, almost foreboding side elevations. Now, that gable end provides a backdrop for religious expression.
The windows of the gable end display a rather expressionistic scene of Jesus Christ on the cross, done in bold colors with dark shadow lines. Disconcerting, though, are the white open eyes reminiscent of the “Little Orphan Annie” comic strip.