|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.
|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 from the sign with an extra piece of neon. I don't know of any signs that have that. For more, see this website. [map]
|Geary Parkway Motel
San Francisco, CA
Medicine Lodge, KS
South Gate, CA
The Sunny Liquor & Market sign is probably from the late 1920s or 1930s. It has ripple tin panels and a neon arrow extension which was probably added later. [map]
Forsyth's Furniture was established in 1910. This sign is probably from the 1950s. [map]
|Last Chance Liquors
|Arlie Dale's Jug Liquors
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
|Seat Cover City [gone]
Las Vegas, NV
|Chinese Village Restaurant [gone]
Long Beach, CA
The Trail's End Motel was built in 1950 and this sign appears to be from then. This photo is from 2012. By 2019, the star and rays on top of the sign were gone. 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 Chinese Village Restaurant sign was installed in 1971. It featured 16 operational neon stars. This video shows what the animation looked like at night. The restaurant was demolished in 2018 and the sign was safely removed. It is currently in storage. For more, see this website.
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]
Las Vegas, NV
|The Walden Motel was built in 1962. The sign was painted red in 2022. For more, see these websites: 1 and 2. [map]
Las Vegas, NV
|The Star Motel sign was built in the 1950s. There were evidently more stars between those metal bars. They probably flashed. For more, see this website. [map]
|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. The sign was repainted just before this photo was taken in 2017. However, much of the paint is missing now. The neon extension tubing piece most likely came from a Village Inn Pancake House. See the Uranium Cafe description below. [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 once animated, neon details on top of the sign have been broken for many years. This piece and the one on top of the Pinon Motel sign shown above most likely came from a Village Inn Pancake House sign. There were at least two locations that had these: in Albuquerque, NM and Denver, CO. I suspect there were others. However, I don't know of any others that have survived. After being closed for many years, this 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, 2, and 3. [map]
|Lamar Restaurant [gone]
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.
American Falls, ID
|Sparks-Terrell Hardware [gone]
|Bow & Arrow Motel
Las Vegas, NV
The Silver Horseshoe Bar opened in 1927. The sign was built in the late 1940s as a projecting sign. The bar closed in 2009 and the building was demolished in 2014. The sign was saved by the City. In 2015, the sign was restored by Blaze Signs of Pocatello, ID and reinstalled at the former site. For more, see these websites: 1, 2, and 3. [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]
|Royal 7 Motel
|The Royal 7 Motel sign originally advertised for the Travelier Motel which opened in 1955. It became the Stardust Motel in 1972 and the sign was adapted. In the early 1980s, it became the Royal 6 Motel. However, that didn't last long since the Motel 6 chain felt it was too close to their name. It was quickly changed to the Royal 7. In 2021, the sign was adapted for the Sapphire Motel. The "7" panel was removed revealing the original star. The font is also closer the the original sign. The star's neon rays are supported by two metal rings. For more, see this website. [map]
|Santa Monica Liquor
Santa Monica, CA
|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]
Garden Grove, CA
|Badger Liquor Shop
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]
The Badger Liquor Shop opened in 1934. The store's 17-foot-tall neon sign was likely built in the early 1940s by General Neon Products of Beloit, WI. The photos above are from 2012. The sign was removed in 2022 for restoration by Dan Yoder of the Sign Art Studio in Mount Horeb. The original porcelain enamel sign panels had been painted over since at least the 1990s. They were too degraded to be restored to their original finish. After removing enough paint to reveal the original colors, lettering, and other details, the panels were sandblasted and repainted. New interior wiring was installed and some of the rusted metal was replaced. About 200 feet of neon was created by Thomas Zickuhr of the Neon Lab in Madison. In 2023, the sign was reinstalled, and a relighting ceremony was held. The beer bottle's drips are animated. The dripping motif was also commonly used for plumbing signs. Several of them feature neon extensions. For more, see this website. [map]
|Bon Ton Cafe
The Bon Ton Cafe sign is probably from the 1950s. It closed in 2008. I believe it has been open for private events since 2011. For more, see this website. [map]
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]
C&S Liquors features a backlit plastic sign with a bottle pouring into a glass of ice cubes. The neon stars around the outside edge of the sign must have been sequentially lit. The other side of this sign has been covered over with a rectangular panel for the current business, Discount Tobacco & Beauty. [map]
|B&B Discount Liquor [gone]
|This B&B Discount Liquor store had been closed since at least 2008. The pole sign was about eight feet wide and was most likely built in the 1960s. The bottle's plastic panels were knocked out around 2018. The neon rings around the top of the bottle must have been sequentially lit. On the grid, the face of the pointing man was gone now but his bowtie remained. His lower animated arm was missing. I believe his arm was originally lit in three-phase animation. Around 2021, the building began housing Smackers Restaurant and the sign was removed.
|Four Aces Bar & Lounge
|Blue Ribbon Shoe Service [gone]
Grants Pass, OR
|Bates Florist [gone]
The Four Aces Bar & Lounge was previously known as Dan's Bar which was there by 1940. It became the Four Aces by 1962. This sign is probably from then. The neon bubbles were probably animated. [map]
The Blue Ribbon Shoe Service sign was built around 1949 for Hill's Shoe Service in Roseburg, OR. The sign was made by Dean Jewel at Roseburg Neon. In the mid-1980s, the sign was purchased and moved to V&P Shoe Repair in Roseburg. In 1995, the sign was purchased and moved to its most recent location at Blue Ribbon Shoe Service. Before it was installed, the sign was restored and painted blue. The shoe had originally been painted brown. The neon's flashing mechanism had broken many times in recent years but the owner lept up the repairs. The sign was about four feet wide. There are a few hardware stores with extended neon hammers but I believe this was the only shoe store with one. The sign was still there in 2017 but, by 2018, the store had closed and the sign was gone.
Bates Florist opened around 1947 and closed around 2018. 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. By 2022, all of the neon was gone and there was not much left of the sign.
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. The sign is now in a private collection.
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