Americana: Neon Signs

Broken Spoke sign

Our eye is often caught by things that seem a little exotic. This week’s photo challenge (names) has reminded me to share images of neon branding signs you can hardly miss seeing. The last sign in particular is the kind we don’t often see in the UK.

The first decorates the entrance of Broken Spoke, on Lamar Boulevard in Austin, TX. Dating back to 1964, you’ll see this country music venue variously described as a honky-tonk, the earliest stomping grounds of Willie Nelson or the last of the true Texas Dancehalls.  Continue reading

Shack Up Inn

Red, White and Blues in The Delta

An old song drifted into my mind when I saw this week’s photo challenge prompt:

As I sit and bathe
In a wave of nostalgia
For an age yet to come.

Pete Shelley

That thought is perhaps best left dangling like a participle, though there is an oblique connection (trust me, there always is) to these oversized branding signs. They’re part of a past that I’ll never fully understand. I don’t know what DX stands for (I cropped the D out). I can’t even date them.

I used to see adverts and film segments on British TV showing American trucks pulling into American petrol stations, or teenagers hanging out in cars, getting soda from a drive-through that looked like a petrol station. In my naivety, I used to think this was nostalgia – that these scenes were retro-styled, hankering back to a loved, lost past. I didn’t realise it’s like that now. In places.

The present looks different, depending on where you are. American trucks really are L-shaped, with bonnets (hoods) like oversized cars. Sonics exist. No need for nostalgia – if a soda float floats your boat, it’s right here, right now.

But back to the signs and their context. Their bold colours and logos were once deployed to promote things, but today they’ve retired to the country. Together with a lot of old, corrugated tin and reclaimed wood, they now reside at one of the world’s most characterful B&Bs.  Continue reading