The Wash Lady sign in Tucumcari, New Mexico is a great example of that. This wonderful old neon, from the 1920s, advertised the Lu Brothers Laundry and when the family sold the business in 1999, The Wash Lady was part of their contract. The building had a new name, “Boulevard Cleaners and Laundromat.” The new owners have lived up to their agreement to faithfully maintain THE WASH LADY and they have.
Often one thinks, what if more vintage signs had been saved? What a different landscape America would have had today. Definitely, a very special personality would still be alive and attached to that there would be an awareness that progress does not need to be decided by a wrecking ball, but by creative designers who could see how they might incorporate the old with the new.
Europe is a testimony to the past, there stand buildings from the 1200, charming thatched roofed farm houses, megalithic castles and elegant cities, all with their individual look. No one there would ever think of tearing down an older structure, because it might be grumbling, they would find a way to repair it, or combine it within the new design. One can only hope that America has learned its lesson on homogenization. That stupidly, little by little, we have torn down some amazing structures and put in their places, boxes of various sizes.
Lady Bird Johnson wanted to do something while, for a brief moment, she was First Lady and she came up with her special campaign of, “Beautifying America.” Yes, much of the Roadside clutter left, but along with it, some of the most entertaining signs, that, one could read and laugh at, along the journey to the next small town. At least, when you arrived, that ‘Big Teeth Alligator Farm” was definitely on your list and along with it, the museum of ‘One Eyed Wonders.
Route 66 offers the best history of Roadside Americana signs that have been saved through the years. Especially, the efforts to refurbish and rebuild the iconic neons throughout the western states. When you are able to visit, especially, Albuquerque, New Mexico, your eyes will be blessed, when that city comes alive in the night with their vintage neons.
Thanks to many people who realized the value of these great signs, there were many committees formed through the seven states that Route 66 winds its way through. For some reason New Mexico and Arizona won the lead in preserving their old signs, even though the building was gone, the sign still stands. Others signs have fared far better, when the business changed hands, the antique sign was written into the contract insuring its upkeep, otherwise it would revert to the city in which it stood.