Neon echoesSpringfield and Lebanon, MO

Route 66 sketch by Chandler O'Leary

This post is part of an ongoing series called 66 Fridays, which explores the wonders of old Route 66. Click on the preceding “66 Fridays” link to view all posts in the series, or visit the initial overview post here.

Compared to some of the other outrageous neon specimens along Route 66, this one seems downright pedestrian. Still, there’s a kind of midcentury perfection to this one, from the gorgeous script lettering to the jaunty lightning bolt through “TV.” And there’s something familiar about the shape of the sign, as well, as if one had seen it before…

Route 66 sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Ah, right. One has. This brighter, showier version is just fifty miles away in Lebanon, MO—it was built (by the same neon company, no less) in tribute to the Rest Haven sign, which the owner of the Munger Moss had admired when it was erected just a year or so before, in 1953. And both signs are a clear homage to one of the most famous neon sign designs in America: the one known simply as the “Great Sign,” which began marking Holiday Inns around the U.S. in ’52.

I’m guessing there wasn’t a whole lot of respect for intellectual property among sign scribes of the time, because this sort of design pilfering was pretty common—but I find I just can’t get too riled up about this case. For one thing, that basic Great Sign look appeared in knock-offs all over the country—clearly people thought if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. For another, I confess I felt a little thrill when I got to see that little TV lightning bolt again: it was like a moment of Deja Googie.

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