It’s fun to find classic roadside signage when you’re on a road trip. A lot of it comes from the 1950s and 1960s, when the Great American Road Trip meant driving two-lane highways as the Interstate system either didn’t exist or was far from complete.
First up is Big Dan’s Hamburgers, 5925 Massachusetts Ave, Indianapolis. This is the last still-operating location of what was once a chain that had several locations, most of them in Indianapolis but in some other Indiana cities as well.
This is the chain’s third name. It was first named Gay Dan, as its buildings were modeled after Gay 90s circus wagons; its mascot was a top-hatted gentleman. By the 1970s the word “gay” had lost every meaning other than “homosexual.” It wasn’t wise or safe to be out then, or even to be associated with homosexuality, so the chain renamed itself Mr. Dan’s. I’m not sure what prompted the change to Big Dan’s, but it happened in the last 10 years or so.
During my years living in Indianapolis, a Mr. Dan’s was essentially around the corner from me on Michigan Road on the Northwestside. I’m sad to report I never visited. This Big Dan’s was closed when I stopped, despite its “Open 24 Hours” sign.
Farther along the road in Marion County stands the Motel 6t7, 11551 Pendleton Pike, Indianapolis. We will forgive the owners for using a US route shield shape for a motel named after a state highway. This sign replaced a neon sign that stood here as late as 2007. I drove by it any number of times before it was removed, and never thought to stop to photograph it. Fortunately, someone else did; see it here.
Just past Fortville in Hancock County, you’ll find the Colonial Motel. Sadly, its sign is stripped of its neon. On this page you’ll find a photo of this sign with its neon, lit.
If you want to see it, drive to 885 E. Broadway, Fortville.
Jimmie’s Dairy Bar is in Pendleton. The sign is unremarkable for the most part, but it does have the neon arrow and ice-cream cone up top.
The joint was jumping when I pulled in. They may say they have the best BBQ in Indiana, but they’re probably better known for their tangerine-flavored soft serve. 7065 S State Road 67, Pendleton.
The Lemon Drop Drive In is on the southeast side of Anderson at 1701 Mounds Road. It’s been doing its thing since 1952.
I reached here at lunchtime, but the word “onionburger” gave me pause. Onions tie my stomach up in absolute knots. So I drove on.
In Chesterfield, which is just beyond Anderson’s airport, is this sign for the defunct Graham Furniture. It’s at 10 W. Plum St.
As you enter Muncie you come upon this giant statue of Paul Bunyan. It was built in the 1960s to advertise a lumber company, but now is the enormous mascot of the Timbers Lounge, a bar and restaurant. He’s at 2770 W. Kilgore Ave. if you want to go visit him.
Finally, I was blown away to come upon this very old McDonald’s sign in Muncie as I left town on the 1937 alignment of SR 67. It faces Madison Street, but its address is 500 E Charles Street. It’s been here since 1958, and has been restored twice. I gather that this is one of only two signs of this style still in use anywhere. The McDonald’s it marks is, unfortunately, one of the modern boxy-looking buildings.
Finding old signage is one of the things that makes road trips fun!
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