by Greg Larson
|Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee|
Preface: There’s something magical about neon signs. They pulse life into an otherwise drab and quiet storefront. It’s as if they invite you in with a shot of adrenaline, with cheery graphics and lighted tubing. They say, “I’m a special place where you'll find action.”
Here’s a quick collection of photos I’ve taken across the U.S. and I’ve included one from Italy. Some are unique, some mundane, others retro.
|St. Clair Broiler, St. Paul, Minnesota|
At the corner of St. Clair and Snelling in St. Paul, Minnesota is clever neon retro sign that wraps the corner of the building in flames. The food is pretty good, and so are their shakes. The place is frequented by students from Macalester College, which is located just north of the intersection.
|Western Auto sign, Kansas City, Missouri|
|Clegg Co. sign, San Antonio, Texas|
Located on an obscure rooftop above a section of river walk in San Antonio, Texas, this Clegg Company Desk sign looks like an endangered species, ready to rust into oblivion. The patina and the shadows caught my attention in the late afternoon sunshine.
|Restaurant, downtown, Memphis, Tennessee|
This looks like a fun eatery, inviting patrons to “get your tails in here.” Just don’t crash and burn.
|Van's Pig Stand, Norman, Oklahoma|
|Boomer Theater sign, Norman, Oklahoma|
|Sooner Theater sign, Norman, Oklahoma|
|Aztec Theater sign, San Antonio, Texas|
I discovered this sign on the periphery of the river walk in San Antonio, Texas.
|Downtown Loop, Chicago, Illinois|
I felt like Guy Noir wandering the wasteland of the empty streets of the Chicago Loop on a Sunday morning in April. I desperately wanted a cup of coffee, but decided to take advantage of the early light for photographs. A large, muscular man appeared and asked me to keep away from the cars which were parked at the curb. I assumed he was someone working for the condo owners whose cars were on the street. I moved out into the middle of the street and snapped the photo of the second floor jewelry store signs.
|Downtown Loop, Chicago, Illinois|
The elevated train tracks and the historic buildings reflected in the large storefront window make this gold leaf sign as unique as any neon sign.
|Former train station, Wausau, Wisconsin|
This sign, atop the former train station in Wausau, Wisconsin is a true American icon. It was the symbol for Wausau Insurance and was seen by millions in advertisements in the Saturday Evening Post, and on the 60 Minutes television show. The building is now a community center.
|Campbell Hotel, Tulsa, Oklahoma|
The Campbell Hotel in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was built in the 1920s for drivers approaching town on Route 66. The building has an appearance that was supposed to copy the style used on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City. The interior has been remodeled, and the building will soon re-open as a Bed and Breakfast Hotel.
|Atlas Life building, Boston Ave., Tulsa, Oklahoma|
|Atlas Life sign, Tulsa, Oklahoma|
|Martini sign, Florence, Italy - daytime|
|Martini sign, Florence, Italy - nightime|
I’d love to know the story on how this sign was allowed – the only neon billboard in Florence, Italy, and with a prominent position over the Piazza del Duomo. Were there clandestine city council meetings? anonymous payments made in the night? It seems strange that only one neon sign exists in Florence. I enjoyed seeing it out the window of our Bed and Breakfast hotel.
|Pioneer Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada|
|Horseshoe Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada|
Some of the signs are very flashy and kinetic, like the corner entrance to the Horseshoe Casino. Sparkling horseshoes and cascading red strips of neon make this a quintessential Las Vegas retro sign.