Friday, January 9, 2015

Flashing Lights

Parents, I know you marvel at the things that will entertain a child and how simple and straightforward they are. A mere toilet paper tube will provide hours of enthrallment. But let us step things up a few levels: a car trip passing by several marquee signs, flashing arrows and chaser lights can hold a child's attention. At least it did mine.

The Royal Mother will easily recall all the trips we made by the "flashing lights." In my childhood home of Raytown, Missouri, we had several signs that fascinated your humble boyhood servant:

  • The Holiday Inn off 350 Highway
  • The giant arrow over the door of Clark's Appliances
  • The marquee lights on the side and above the box office of the Brywood Six Theaters
  • The sign outside Fun House Pizza (which remarkably, has changed little in 40+ years)
  • Both signs outside the Raytown Plaza shopping center (one of those signs still existed until a few years ago)
  • The marquee around the drive-in canopy of L&M Steakburgers

Broadening out to Greater Kansas City, I can also include:

  • The gigantic Coca-Cola neon-and-light-bulb sign with the time and temperature near downtown (which I recall was dimmed or scaled back during the late 1970's energy crisis)
  • Numerous Best Western signs
  • The "Owl Motel" (now defunct)
  • The Holiday Liquors sign and marquee (also long gone)
  • The Commerce Bank sign downtown
  • The Western Auto building

What was my fascination with dancing, flickering bulbs? Beats me. You might as well ask the child playing with the toilet paper tube. Perhaps it was colorful and stimulating in a covert psychological way. Perhaps they reminded me of the game shows I loved watching on TV at the time.

Some of you are asking, "Did you ever go to Las Vegas during this light fetish?" Yes, in 1977. This was old-school mob-skimmed Vegas, and the signs blinked fabulously. Back then, even the Sambo's Restaurant had a flashing sign. Some places still do, but we're now in the age of LCD displays. It's just not the same.

And as curiosity will do, I once went wandering far beyond my back yard trying to get a better look at a mysterious blinking sign on 350 Highway through the labyrinth of trees. What is that green light on top of the yellow light?

I realized after awhile it came from the "Triangle and the Star," my own name for the sign outside a dingy no-tell motel off of the highway.

"I hear they used to show X-rated movies there," the Queen Mother once said.

Fortunately for her, I never made it there.

Nowadays, we have a solution for any child with a light fascination. Just venture on to the Internet and pick up some lighted marquee letters. But I don't think they flash.

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