Editor’s note: Once a week for the next bit here at Transforming Edmonton we’re sharing some of our favourite places in the city. The pandemic has shortened the travel horizon for many. And that’s okay, because there are plenty of gems in different parts of our city that are worth a visit. Each week a different City of Edmonton team member gives you a story about a fave spot closer to home. This is Glenn Kubish’s view.
For those, like me, of a certain vintage, the Petula Clark song Downtown makes the case for neon signs forever.
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares…
Earlier this week, I parked some of those troubles and cares and strolled along Edmonton’s Neon Sign Museum. It’s an outdoor stretch of 104 Street near 104 Avenue where some of the city’s storied neon signs are preserved—and lit.
One of my faves is the old Bee-Bell Bakery sign.
I like it for a few reasons. I dig the font. Neon blue against the dark sky is cool. I really like the yellow bees and the yellow bell dinger. I imagine the bell is the nectar and pollen in a Bluebell flower. And I remember how I used to go to that bakery under that sign when it still existed on 80 Avenue near 104 Street. When I was younger.
That feeling of wistful-wow will greet you as you look up at signs you might remember.
Like the Mike’s Newsstand sign.
The Georgia Baths sign peeking out from behind the Blanchett Neon sign.
Or the W.C. Kay Importers & Distributors sign.
If you don’t remember the signs, the museum features plaques with the stories of the businesses and the lights that once illuminated Edmonton.
Mysteriously: The Kay sign “was originally acquired in 1960 by negotiations with a gentleman shopping for an engagement ring,” I learned.
Wonderfully: “Though several attempts were made over the years, the sign was never actually hooked up to electricity.” Until now.
Like most good things, Edmonton’s outdoor Neon Sign Museum is a partnership. The City of Edmonton and the Alberta Sign Association collect, restore and display the iconic neon signage. Those of a certain vintage will know that the initial collection is displayed on the former EdTel building, made available by TELUS.
On the way
If you’re wondering, yes, the plan is for one of Edmonton’s most iconic signs—the Bike Guy atop the old Western Cycle store on 124 Street—to find a new home at the Edmonton Sign Museum. Sign lovers chipped in $7,700 in an online fundraiser to save the sign.
“As I’m sure people can appreciate, the Neon Sign Museum, the reception has been so phenomenal, and, so, we’re actually running out of space there,” Taylor Blanchett of Blanchett Neon told me.
“It’s going to take some creative maneuvering to actually get it there, but that’s going to be its end place. We don’t know the exact placement yet, but it will eventually make its way over to be enjoyed by the public at the Edmonton Neon Sign Museum in its general vicinity.”
The night I went to the Neon Sign Museum, I was not alone. The signs hooked the attention of the younger set floating by on their e-scooters, too, their glowing phones out to record the fireworks.
Editor’s note: Just a friendly reminder. The days are getting shorter. The sun sets just after 8:30 pm these days. Yikes. Also, a good time to visit the museum!