Saturday, August 03, 2013

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BarbersPhoto-webNow that the Penny dog food sign has found a new home at Regions Field, I'm hoping that we'll one day see the return of other iconic Birmingham advertising signs.

The Barber's clock really needs to come back from the warehouse where it currently sits in storage. For about 50 years, it lit up the night sky over Five Points South in a dazzling display of neon."Barber's" would flash in a dot pattern made of light bulbs while a neon "best!" alternated with "MILK" and "ICE CREAM." You could see it all the way down 20th Street. The sign was taken down in 2004 for roof repairs, and a group of people made some moves to restore it, but it has stayed in storage since then. (See a better photo here.)

SparklingRefreshment-FlickrThe Barber's clock actually reused the metal framework of an earlier sign that may have been even more eye-grabbing. Buffalo Rock's sign featured electric lights that gave the illusion of a bottle pouring ginger ale into a glass. I based my block print on an archival photo of the sign. According to Bhamwiki, the Buffalo Rock sign at Five Points replaced a four-story-high version that had stood at the drink-maker's headquarters in downtown Birmingham. Four stories high! Can you imagine what that looked like at night?

Sputnik-webI know of one other landmark Birmingham sign sitting in a warehouse. The colorful neon sputnik that flashed above the 48-lane bowling alley at Eastwood Mall likely appeared around 1960, when the shopping complex--the first of its kind in the South--was built. The alley and mall had closed by the early 2000s, but a fan of the sputnik saved it before all the buildings were torn down a few years later to make way for the Walmart shopping center that now stands on the site.

I'm not sure what Alabama Power plans to do with the old steam plant and other properties between Railroad Park and 20th Street that it now owns, but any one of these advertising signs--restored and relit--would be a great addition. Imagine one--or more--of them atop the steam plant, adding a zip of energy to the area at night and reconnecting us to one more unique, beloved piece of Birmingham's history.

PennyOriginal-webSpeaking of Penny, check out the sign's original incarnation circa 2004--and compare it to the restored version happily trying to catch homers at Regions Field.

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