Preservation, Road trips

Neon sign, lost

Two things have changed for me in the nine years I’ve been taking road trips. First, in the old days it was mostly about exploring, and now it’s mostly about enjoying a day’s journey. Second, I’ve seen all of the interesting roads reachable within a day of my home. So a day trip is almost always going to be over a road I know well, but that’s okay because I love spending a day on any old road.

That means I’m starting to see things change on my favorite routes. When Dawn and I visited Richmond on our 2009 tour of Indiana’s National Road, we came upon this great old neon sign.

Hood Music sign

Didn’t every city once have a local music store? A place where the kids in the high-school band could buy or rent their clarinets, and where the bar bands could buy new guitar strings? Was there one in your town? My hometown had two: Witmer-McNease Music and Hedman Music. Both have been gone for years now. And sadly, it appeared that Richmond’s Hood Music had also gone the way of the dodo.

So on our recent return trip, I looked for this sign to photograph it again. I couldn’t spot it. Did I just not remember where it was? Did I pass by it but just not notice it?

I was taken aback to walk into an antique store in nearby Centerville on our recent trip and find this.

Centerville, Indiana

On the one hand, I’m glad to see that this sign didn’t end up in a landfill. On the other, I’m sad to find it in such condition.


I love the National Road! Check out everything I’ve written about it here.

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20 thoughts on “Neon sign, lost

  1. If I had unlimited time and resources, I would adopt and save every old neon sign I could find. There is something about them that turns me into a kid and an art lover, all at the same time.

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  2. Wow, Jim, captivating. What a poignant, and personal, set of before and after shots. Did you feel any urge to liberate it and maybe turn it into some back yard kitsch to light up the summer nights?

    I sure know what you mean about exhausting the mine of exploration. Seven or eight years ago I didn’t know what to do with myself on the weekends, there were so many little dead ends, half roads, and lost bridges I wanted to see. You’ve kind of drawn a line under why that’s been so absent from my blog lately: been there, done that. Literally.

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    • I still have a desire to explore. Problem is, most new-to-me exploration involves driving somewhere and staying overnight to start the exploration the next morning. I seldom have that kind of time! I can give a day here and there during the nice-weather months and that’s it.

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  3. Interesting post Jim. Guess we never know what places will still be around 10 years from now. Most of the small business music stores I remember as a kid are gone now as well, sad but seems to happen frequently in this day and age. I too have national road (part of US 31) running through my town. I love that sign, would make a great “man cave” decoration with a cool story. Great post!

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    • US 31? The National is more or less US 40. But I’ve lived near US 31 most of my life, in Indiana, so I know that road well. Drove it all the way to its end in Alabama once. Have taken it most of the way to its end in Michigan.

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      • Joe says:

        us31 turns into national road while driving thru Columbus then back into us31 exiting Columbus. Two different national roads? I’m not very good with street names

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        • Aha I’m clear now! The National Road was the US’s first federally-funded road, stretching from Cumberland, MD, to Vandalia, IL along what is now mostly US 40. It was authorized in 1806 and built by about 1840.

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  4. ambaker49 says:

    Your blog was a two-fer today. There is a local guy that buys old signs and restores them for display. He recently refurbished a Dog n Suds to full operability, and like new appearance. The other is memories of Tower Records. I grew up listening to music in their original music section of Tower Drugs, in Sacramento. Saturday mornings it was a ritual to go down and get their top 40 list. The building is sill there, it is now Tower Cafe. Music is much more readily available now. But the old man in me still loves remembering the thrill when your favorite song came on the radio; and the times when you had some extra lawn mowing money to actually buy the 45. Which then made your parents regret ever having children, as you played the darned thing ten times in a row.

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    • I read something recently — or maybe I heard it on NPR? — about a documentary about Tower Records. It was by Tom Hanks’s son, or something like that. Out here in flyover country, we didn’t get cool stores like that.

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  5. That’s looks like a great place! I remember the local music stores around here that aren’t around any longer. Now you mostly find them in Manhattan.

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