|Penguins & Polar Bear Signs|
(hit "refresh" to get the most recent version of this page; click on photos for larger images)
|The photos on this page were moved here from various sections of my website to accompany an article I wrote for the Society for Commercial Archeology Journal's North Pole issue. While penguins only live at the South Pole and polar bears only live at the North Pole, for the purpose of this article, I have included the two animals together.|
Newport News, VA
|Holiday Liquor [gone]
|Morgan Air Conditioning
|East Wind Drive-in
Cascade Locks, OR
Monty's Penguin opened in 1946 as Monty's Sandwich Shop in downtown Newport News. In the 1950s, the restaurant was renamed Monty's Family Restaurant and Drive-in. The business moved further uptown in 1963 and became Montyís Penguin Drive-in. This neon sign was probably created at that time. Montyís moved to its present location in 1974 and most likely brought their sign along with them. Today, only the text portion of the sign is lit although the neon on the penguin appears to be intact. The owner is afraid to "mess with" the signís wiring for fear that the entire sign will go dark.
The Holiday Liquor sign featured an animated, neon penguin. The well-mannered bird tipped his hat with his wing in a four-part sequence. This sign was created around 1974 and was rebuilt after a hurricane in 1983. Sometime after 2006, the sign disappeared. While there is another company by the same name in Houston, they were never related.
The Morgan Air Conditioning & Heating sign features a plastic penguin with a spinning neon cane.
The East Wind Drive-in features another ice cream cone-carrying penguin. The restaurant and sign are believed to be from the 1950s. The drive-in's original name is unknown but by the early 1960s, it was known as Miller's Coffee Time. There was a neon sign attached beneath the present sign which read "It's Coffee Time". Although it is possible that the restaurant had that name originally, the penguin's presence seems out of place. The dead space between the text of "Open" and "Hamburgers" is still unexplained. That portion appeared blank even in vintage photos. In the 1960s and 1970s, this walk-up stand went by the name of Wanda's Drive-in and, after that, Marie's Drive-in. It has been the East Wind Drive-in since around 1982. Although the sign's neon has been maintained, the paint had been peeling badly in recent years. In 2009, the East Wind's new owner commissioned Brad Lorang to repaint the sign. The artist just so happens to be the town mayor. For more, see this website.
The Dary Delux sign features another cone-clutching penguin. The business is now known as the Dairy Delux. I don't know if the wire mesh draped over the sign is to protect it from rock-throwing vandals or pigeons or both. It has been like this since at least 2006.
Doozle's Frozen Custard opened in 1992. This sign is lit at night. For more, see this website.
|Penquin Drive-in [gone]
|The Penquin Drive-in's origins can be traced to a custard stand which opened in 1936. Ten years later, a drive-in was built in Manitowoc. No one knows where the spelling of "Penquin" came from. The current owner believed "they just wanted something different" and pronounces the name "penguin". The drive-in burned down in 1961 and was replaced with this building. Indoor seating was added in 1973. The drive-in closed in 2006 but reopened in 2007. The rooftop sign is believed to be from 1946 or shortly thereafter. The two back-to-back sign panels are approximately twenty-five feet long and fifteen feet tall. The sign was well-maintained with working neon and flashing bulbs. These photos are from 2011. In 2012, the drive-in closed and the building was demolished. A Hardee's will be built on the site. For more, see these websites: 1, 2, and 3.|
More Penguin Signs:
Penguin Coffee Shop (now Dr. Beauchamp Western Dental) 1, 2 (Santa Monica, CA)
Kroger (Peachtree City, GA)
Kroger (Tucker, GA)
Penguin Point (various locations, IN)
Holding's Little America: 1, 2 (Cheyenne, WY)
|DeLuxe Cleaners was founded in 1930. When DeLuxe moved here in the early 1940s, this group of neon signs was created for their new location. Their polar bear sign signifies that DeLuxe offers refrigerated vaults for furs, leather and suede garments. The bear is lit with blue neon during storage season. The pylon sign which acts as a canopy support (second row above) was restored in 2009 after being struck by a car and damaged in a storm. The signs are lit at night. For more, see these websites: 1 and 2.|
|Great Bear Center
The Scot Cleaners sign appears to be from the 1950s or 1960s.
Great Bear Center was built in 1966 and this sign appears to be from then. It is lit at night. For more, see this website.
The Commercial Casino features two giant polar bear statues, one over each entrance. The statues are at least 18 feet tall. Neon tubing behind the bears illuminates them at night. Old postcards reveal that at least one of these statues wore a cowboy hat and bandana. There appeared to be a pipe or a gun in one of his paws. The inspiration for these statues is the taxidermied polar bear which stands in the same pose inside the casino. At 10 feet 4 inches tall, "White King" was believed to be the world's largest polar bear. The Alaskan bear was shot, stuffed and displayed at Jonas Furs in Denver, CO before the casino purchased him in 1958. He was put in their coffee shop where he remains today. The casino promoted their acquisition with a giant billboard across the street depicting the bear. Around 1959, an additional polar bear sign was installed above the billboard. The bear part of the sign was about 30 feet tall and might have been accented with neon. That sign seems to have disappeared sometime in the 1960s. Today's statues were probably installed in the 1960s or 1970s. They are repainted every couple years because they are popular bird perches. For more, see these websites: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
La Crosse, WI
White Bear Lake, MN
The La Crosse Polar Bear is installed on the roof of Paul's Heating & Air Conditioning. The store also has a polar bear and seal in the window that were taxidermied after an Alaskan hunt in 1971.
The Elmira Polar Bear stands on the roof of the Maple Lawn Dairy Bar. They opened in 1962 with a giant metal ice cream cone sign on the roof. The bear is dressed in various outfits throughout the year. Their ice cream is homemade.
Polar Chevrolet features a 35 foot tall polar bear statue. The fiberglass and steel bear was installed in 1964. The artist that created him, Gordon Shumaker, is also responsible for other giant statues in Minnesota including the Smokey Bear in International Falls, the Big Ole Viking in Alexandria, the Gopher at the St. Paul Fairgrounds, and the Bluegill in Orr. This polar bear statue weighs several tons and was originally installed on a post in front of the dealership. It was then Thane-Hawkins Chevrolet. The statue was a frequent target of local kids who shot arrows at it. The dealership moved it to the roof in 1971 to discourage this practice. However, the statue moved a bit in high winds which caused concern. Therefore, the statue was moved to a new post in 1986. The bear wore painted-on swimming trunks of different designs from around 1986 until 2004. The statue also wore sunglasses for awhile. During a period of road construction, the statue wore a hard hat and tool belt. The smiling bear has remained white and unadorned in recent years. For more, see these websites: 1, 2, and 3.
More Polar Bear Signs:
Polar Bear Frozen Custard (Jacksonville, FL) [vintage; gone]
Arctic Bear: 1, 2 (Albany, GA)
Joe Blecha Refrigeration (Nampa, ID)
Polar Bear (Wilder, ID)
Polar Bear Drive-in (North Riverside, IL)
The North Pole (Kalamazoo, MI) [gone]
Polar King (Gresham, OR)
Gypsy's (Churchill, MB)
More Giant Bear Statues (various cities)
|Main SCA Page||Main Signs Page|