Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Signs of the Times

Ever wonder what happened to Winkelman's? Jacobson's? Uniroyal?

What about Farmer Jack? Great Scott? A&P?

Stroh's? Twin Pines? Pants Galore?

Fretter Appliance? Belvedere and Bond-Bilt? New York Carpet World?

Highland Appliance? Sanders? Kresge?

Cunningham's? Red Barn? Burger Chef?

To name a few.

And that's just a percentage of the businesses, mostly local, that no longer exist but which I remember in my days growing up in Livonia in the 1970s.

I remember the commercials for many of the aforementioned as well.

Ollie Fretter promised us a five pound bag of coffee if he couldn't beat our best deal. Mr. Belvedere's phone number was TYler 8-7100.

TV newscaster Marilyn Turner did commercials for Carpet Center, flashing her gams. The Highland Appliance spots were legendary, often featuring local (and sometimes national) celebrities.

Irving Nussbaum proudly said that New York Carpet World was "the better carpet people."

Mel Farr flew through the sky with a cape, promising a "Farr better deal."

Remember listening to the radio and suddenly it was "Farmer Jack savings time"?

The Twin Pines man, I have written about before. I can still see the bright green trucks.

There was a Kresge in Universal Mall in Warren, back when it wasn't unusual to find drugstores and "five and dimes" in malls.

I also fondly recall the outdoor signs of the retailers and restaurants back in the day.

One word comes to mind---two, actually: BIG and garish. And they often rotated on an axis.

Think about the Arby's signs of the day: the HUGE 10 gallon hat with ARBY'S ROAST BEEF SANDWICH IS DELICIOUS spelled on it.



Now THAT'S a sign!


Little Caesars had its namesake rotating above the pizzeria, a pie impaled on his spear.

Kentucky Fried Chicken joints had the big, rotating buckets. Union 76 gas stations had that round, orange ball with 76 on it, twice. It rotated, too.

If they weren't rotating or spinning, the signs were lit like the Vegas Strip.

The '60s and '70s signs were big on lightning bolt-like arrows and anything that flashed or changed colors intermittently.

I swear the signs of those times must have weighed several tons.

Look at a Holiday Inn sign now and then compare it to those of 35-40 years ago. The older versions were, again, big and garish with the script "Holiday Inn" brightly lit with sparkling lights.

There was nothing compact about those days.

Today, as those companies have long ago withered away, we're mostly stuck with "big box retailers" and franchises that I don't really trust.

And their commercials stink. And their signs are too small. And they don't light up right.

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