Storage rooms are for things we can’t quite throw away. Harold and Paula Guerin turned theirs into a space for an era they can’t forget.
In their Plaquemine home, the Guerins have made an old storage room into a tribute to a ’50s diner, complete with a dining booth, vintage Coca-Cola machine and jukebox that plays 78 rpm records of artists from that era. A poodle skirt and a black leather jacket are displayed on walls that also include photos and posters of ’50s entertainers.
A nearly life-size cutout of actor James Dean stands next to the jukebox, looking like he’s ready for a turn at the red pool table nearby. The Guerins’ five grandchildren, ranging in age from 22 to 3, love it.
The room was inspired by their own memories of the era, said Harold Guerin, 68, and of visits to diners that are devoted to the same theme.
“We’ve always wanted this room,” Paula Guerin said. “We enjoy the ’50s so much and have been on vacation and visited the diners and just fell in love with it. It just grew from there.”
The project started about 10 years ago, after their two children were grown. Harold bought the Coke machine eight years ago and had it restored by Ed Johnson, of Antique Amusements in Rosedale, where they also bought the jukebox and a working nickel slot machine. The drink machine holds 39 of the small glass Coke bottles, which it dispenses for a nickel. It’s a popular price among the Guerin grandkids.
“That’s my pride and joy, the Coke machine,” Paula Guerin said. “I lose money every time they buy a Coke. It costs me 80 cents.”
They have furnished and decorated the room with items found during travels through Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee. The booth benches were on the side of La. 1 outside a restaurant, so they picked them up and had them re-upholstered. The finishing touch was installing new 12-inch floor tiles in a black and white checkerboard pattern.
The jukebox, which has 100 songs, includes records Harold owned in his youth that he found stored in his parents’ house. His children and older grandchildren enjoy the pool table, but the jukebox reaches all ages. That includes a granddaughter who, when she was 2, got her grandfather’s attention and pointed toward the jukebox. When he asked what she wanted, she started dancing.
“I think we had the only 14-year-old (grandchild) who knew all the words to the 1950s songs,” Paula Guerin said.
Although the Guerins have more ’50s memorabilia than they display in the room, collecting items wasn’t their goal. Now that the flooring is down, the project is finished.
“We love it, absolutely love it,” Paula Guerin said. “It came out just the way I wanted. I couldn’t have expected any more. I was so glad to get it finished after 10 years.”