|In the late 40s, the booming post-war tourist trade
gave Phoenix the title, “Motel Capital of the World.” A
lot of the signs in this exhibition date to the era, though some
are newer 60s vintage signs. Artisans and manufacturers like Young
Electric Sign Co., Bud Johnson and Guerrero-Lindsey in Mesa crafted
many of these beautiful neon art pieces seen throughout our area.
Although most of the vintage neon in the immediate
area is located on Van Buren or Grand Avenue in Phoenix and on
Main Street in Mesa, many signs are scattered throughout
the city. Courtesy Chevrolet on Camelback is perhaps one
of the biggest and best, as in The Shamrock Foods sign
just off I-17, and The My Florist sign where
The Willo Restaurant and Bakery now resides. Some of my personal
favorites are The Desert Inn (not their Van Buren sign,
but their Polk sign), Aero Tire (formerly Aero BOWL -
note the original shape of the sign beneath letters T-I-R-E) and Palomine
Inn on West Van Buren Avenue. I like them best just before
they fall apart, as the urban decay adds to their legacy.
The saddest part is when owners replace the old structures
with some new, uninspired generic sign. In the time I’ve
been shooting these photographs (which is less than 6 months),
I’ve seen at least three come down. Every time one of these
old masterworks is needlessly destroyed – be it The Phoenix
Motel or The Coconut Grove Motel – our community
is somewhat diminished.
|Whenever I travel outside of Phoenix, I always try
to take my camera in hope to grab a few shots along the way.
Tucson has an abundance on Miracle Mile, North Oracle and Speedway.
Kingman has plenty along 'ol Route 66. Every city in Arizona with
a population of more than 5,000 is bound to have a couple, usually
somewhere along the old main highway.
This gallery is not meant to just chronicle,
but to pay homage to these wonderful signs and the creative
people who built them. Although there are only a couple dozen shown
here, I’ve shot hundreds. If any members know of an old classic
sign in some obscure place, please drop
me an email noting its location. Thank you.