Neon Extension Signs (page 1)

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The photos in this section were moved here from my Signs section to accompany an article which I wrote for the Society for Commercial Archeology's Journal magazine.

This special sign type has no official name. Similar to "skeleton signs" which are installed inside store windows, these signs are composed entirely of neon "bones" supported by a metal grid. For lack of any better term, I have taken to calling these sign accents as "neon extensions" since the tubing projects off of the sign panels. These nearly freestanding neon pieces are more than just border details surrounding the sign. Pointing arrows are the most common subset of this sign type. Nearly as common are the ubiquitous neon cocktail glasses which are commonly perched on top of sign panels.

Other surviving neon extensions include stars, hearts, flowers, horseshoes, flames, musical notes, doughnuts, and dollar signs which follow the contours of the sign panels. Frequently, these shapes were sequentially lit with flashers. A handful of jewelry stores have shimmering diamonds with neon tubing rays. A number of drug stores have mortars with moving pestles composed entirely of neon tubing. What makes these sign additions significant is their miraculous survival considering the vulnerability of the exposed tubing to weather and vandalism. They are two-dimensional neon sculptures reflecting the skill of the tube bending artists who created them.

Klub Klondike
Lakehead, CA
Geary Parkway Motel
San Francisco, CA
The Klub Klondike opened in 1948 as a bar and restaurant. These signs are probably from then. The arrow on this sign begins on the panel and then extends outward. I don't know of any other examples of this sign type that do that. For more, see this website. [map]

The Geary Parkway Motel sign is probably from the 1950s. It features 17 neon arrows alongside the panels. For more, see this website. [map]

Last Chance Liquors
Nashville, TN
Arlie Dale's Jug Liquors
Salida, CO
The Last Chance Liquors sign was built for the store when it opened in the early 1950s. The arrows originally flashed on and off sequentially. The red bulb arrow was probably added in the early 1960s. The neon has not been lit since the 1990s. The name "Last Chance" refers to the fact that, at the time when the business opened, it was the last liquor store heading out of town towards Louisville. The counties between the two cities were "dry" at the time, prohibiting the sale of alcohol within their borders. While some sources claim that Johnny Cash bought his liquor here, the current owner believes that that is a myth. [map]

The Arlie Dale's Jug Liquors opened in 2004. At that point, the Arlie Dale's Jug lettering was added to the sign. It originally advertised for Dikkins Liquors. It later became Jug Liquors until it closed in 2001. The sign appears to be 1940s or earlier. I don't know if these four neon arrows were original or added later. [map]

Trail's End Motel
Dubois, WY
Seat Cover City [gone]
Bakersfield, CA
U.S. Motel
Las Vegas, NV
Chinese Village
Portland, OR
Loma Liquor
Long Beach, CA
The Trail's End Motel sign appears to be from the 1950s. A star with rays is perched on top of the sign. For more, see this website. [map]

Seat Cover City opened in 1953 and this sign appeared to be from then. I assume the eight stars flashed in sequence. There may have been more stars originally. This photo is from 2012. The sign was gone by 2015.

The U.S. Motel was built by the mid-1950s and this sign is from then. Only one of the 17 stars is missing at this point. They were probably lit sequentially. This photo must have been taken while the sign was being built. For more, see this website. [map]

The Chinese Village Restaurant sign is probably from the 1950s. It features 16 operational neon stars. This video shows the animation at night. For more, see these websites: 1 and 2. [map]

The Loma Liquor sign is probably from the 1950s. It also has 16 neon stars. They are not animated but may have been originally. Many cities have sign ordinances which prohibit moving neon. [map]

Pinon Motel
Albuquerque, NM
Uranium Cafe
Grants, NM
The Pinon Motel opened as the Pinon Lodge in 1946. This sign is probably from the 1950s or 1960s. The neon tubing on top of the sign most likely flashed sequentially. Two of the pieces of tubing are missing now. [map]

The Uranium Cafe opened in 1956. The restaurant's name was a reference to Grants' uranium mining boom which began in 1950. The sign has been painted various colors over the years. The neon details on top of the sign have been broken for many years. The identical design to the Pinon Motel sign makes me suspect there were other signs that had these. However, I don't know of any others that have survived. After being closed for many years, the restaurant reopened in 2010 as Nana's Cafe. In 2012, Badlands Burgers moved into the space. The neon on the building is probably modern. For more, see these websites: 1 and 2. [map]

Wally's Jewelry
Blackfoot, ID
Marcotte Jewelry
Marshall, MN
Lamar Restaurant [gone]
Jackson, MS
Wally's Jewelry opened in 1950 and this sign is probably from then. The store was vacant but this sign remained when this photo was taken in 2014. For more, see this website. [map]

Marcotte Jewelry opened in 1945 and is still operating. This sign may be from then. The word "Jewelry" and the diamond flash on and off. The glittering diamond is a frequent motif for vintage neon jewelry store signs. However, I believe these are the only two signs with the neon diamond extending off of the panels. [map]

The Lamar Restaurant opened in 1953. This sign was probably from then. In 2015, the place closed and the sign was gone.

Royal 7 Motel
Bozeman, MT
Sparks-Terrell Hardware [gone]
Lexington, KY
Bow & Arrow Motel
Las Vegas, NV
The Royal 7 Motel supposedly opened in 1970 and the sign was reworked for a name change. The sign originally advertised for the "Stardust Motel". The abstract neon shapes on the blue paint were originally stars. Some of the neon rays, supported by the two metal rings, are broken now. For more, see these websites: 1 and 2. [map]

The Sparks-Terrell Hardware sign featured multiple neon tools extending from the panels. The sign was probably built in the 1950s or 1960s. These photos are from 2010. The shop had been closed for many years before that. In 2013, the sign was still there. However, by 2015, it was gone. This sign was unique and was one of the nicest examples of these signs considering the variety of freestanding neon tools.

The Bow & Arrow Motel was thought to have been designed by Betty Willis who was responsible for many famous signs in Las Vegas. However, that attribution has been disproved recently. The downtown motel was built in the late 1950s. The sign is either from then or the early 1960s. It's not known when the motel closed but the sign was donated to the Neon Museum in 2000 by the Allied Arts Council. In 2003, the sign was restored for $8,400 and installed at the Fremont Street Experience. It remained there until 2005. The sign was restored again in 2009 and installed in the median of Las Vegas Boulevard just south of the Neon Museum.

The sign's half circle cut-out contains a seemingly free-floating neon bow and arrow. This part of the sign is about five feet tall. The red arrow and red and white bow are lit in a five-part sequence. When the sign was at the Fremont Street Experience, the bow had some yellow tubing as well. There are only a few other extension signs which have the neon tubing within the interior of the panels. For more, see this video. [map]

Santa Monica Liquor
Santa Monica, CA
2013: 2014:
The Santa Monica Liquor sign is most likely from the 1950s. The zigzag pattern near the "L" probably continued down the side of the sign. The neon bottles were probably sequentially animated. The sign was repainted in 2014. For more, see this website. [map]

Star Liquor
Garden Grove, CA
Badger Liquor
Madison, WI
Jackson's Liquors
Oakland, CA
The Star Liquor sign was restored in 2015. The sequential animation of the tipping bottle is working again. This sign and the Santa Monica Liquor sign described above are the only two that I know of featuring multiple neon bottles. [map]

Badger Liquor sign features an animated, dripping bottle. It is probably from the 1950s. The dripping motif was also commonly used for plumbing signs. Several of them feature neon extensions. For more, see this website. [map]

The Jackson's Liquors sign was built in the 1950s. The only other surviving example of pouring, freestanding neon tubing is at Stephan Plumbing. For more, see this website. [map]

Liquor Store
Memphis, TN
B&B Discount Liquor
Memphis, TN
The Budget Liquor Store features a neon bottle sign. The business was located next door at one time and the sign was moved slightly. The neon circles were probably lit sequentially. [map]

The B&B Discount Liquor sign has been abandoned since at least 2008. The sign is about eight feet wide and was most likely built in the 1960s. The bottle's plastic panels may be more recent than that. The neon rings around the top of the bottle must have been sequentially lit. The face of the pointing man is gone now but his bowtie remains. One of his hands also appears to be missing. His arm apparently moved in three-part animation. [map]

Four Aces
Bar & Lounge
Hardin, MT
Blue Ribbon Shoe Service
Grants Pass, OR
Paint Company
Evansville, IN
Bates Florist
Nashville, TN
Acme Drive-in
Cleaners [gone]
Alamogordo, NM
The Four Aces Bar & Lounge sign is probably from the 1950s. The neon bubbles were probably animated. [map]

The Blue Ribbon Shoe Service sign is probably from the 1950s. There are a few hardware stores with extended neon hammers but I believe this is the only shoe store with one. [map]

The Gehlhausen Paint Company sign features pouring paint drops. The drops were probably animated. For more, see this website. [map]

Bates Florist opened around 1947. This sign is probably from the 1950s or 1960s. The "Bates" panel might have been neon originally. This photo is from 2007. One of the neon flowers has been missing for years. One of the plastic "Bates" panels has been missing since 2014. I don't know of any other neon extension signs featuring flowers. However, I suspect there were others and this is the only one left. [map]

This Acme Drive-in Cleaners sign was probably from the 1950s. The photo above is from 2008. By 2012, the neon sign had been replaced with a plastic box sign.

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