County Fair sign returns

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I took a drive on Arrow Highway the other day to check out the new/old L.A. County Fair sign. It stands a few yards west of White Avenue in La Verne at Fairplex Gate 15.

The sign originally stood at Foothill and White near the Mount Baldy Drive-In sign, which featured three images of a skier on the slopes; when the neon blinked, the skier appeared to be in motion.

The drive-in was in existence from about 1960 to 1984, when it was replaced by a Target store, according to Charles Phoenix’s “Cruising the Pomona Valley” guidebook. The fair sign was there in approximately the same span and, after being taken down, was preserved in a Fairplex warehouse until its recent restoration.

“That was a little miracle they found it,” Phoenix told me. He was pleased to know it was restored, and by the same company that made it originally, Pomona-based Williams Sign Co.

It looks pretty sharp, and I’m looking forward to driving past there at night to see the neon.

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  • Great to see the Fair sign again. I think there was always hope to hang it after it came down when the Mt. Baldy Drive-in went away. It’s good to see the sign back in full glory with Thummer the pig perched on top. Seems images of the original Thummer are hard to find these days at the Fair, but he was the identity of the Fair in the ’60s into the ’80s, and again in the late ’80s into the ’90s.

    [I should have noted the presence of Thummer, the original Fair mascot. — DA]

  • Charles Bentley

    The folks at the Fair deserve top marks for returning this beautiful sign to service. Seeing this memorable image from the past restored and placed along Arrow Highway was the highlight of the summer. If only more such icons could find life again, it would help renew pride in local landmarks and promote a better appreciation for the area’s history.

  • Eric

    David: The sign was originally approved by the La Verne City Council on July 21, 1958. This time around, the Planning Commission needed to approve a variance for the sign, as La Verne does not permit “pole signs” any longer. There is an exception that states that signs that bear unique architectural or historical importance can be considered with a variance. Obviously this sign meets that requirement.

    While I was not around when the sign was originally located at the southwest corner of Lincoln (now White) and Foothill, I am very impressed with it today.

    [Thanks for the research, Eric. Congrats to La Verne for making an exception for such a nifty sign. — DA]

  • ren

    Yes the sign looks great, now if we can find the sign that used to hang over Holt between Indian Hill and Mills that would say Welcome to Pomona Home of the L.A. Fair now that would great. So does anyone out there know where it might be?

    [There was a small Fair neon directional sign at Garey and Foothill in the late ’50s — I saw it in a photo of Henry’s when it was under construction, on display at the Hammer Museum — and that’s another one on the MIA list. — DA]

  • ray

    If you’re looking for neon / sign info… I would start with Williams Sign Co./Fairplex/City of Pomona sign shop. Whatever happened to the THUMMER stickers we use to proudly display on our vehicles…advertising the Fair dates ???

    [Charles Phoenix was selling a stash of Thummer stickers at his NHRA event a few weeks ago, saved by someone since the ’60s (?). — DA]

  • Bob Sihler

    Well I certainly miss the Mt Baldy Drive In Movie Theater Sign. Chuck Sihler, my dad, got a job around 1956 in Pomona and we would pass the classic image of the snow and the movement of that wonderful skier going down, down, down the hill. As Foothill was only a strip of pavement with perhaps a single white line down the middle and an occasional stop sign, this image has always remained in my mind. I was and remain very upset that they did not save the sign. Perhaps they did. I would love to see it back in full glory.

    Within the last couple of years they have removed the last of what were the Fair’s classic neon signs on the Fair Grounds. The beautiful Pig Image for the food place right across from the track was just removed and sold within the last few years. No explanations, it was just taken down with the chant perhaps “they must come down.” What a shame for us that classic history and art are just tossed aside for “cost effective” signs that have little artistic value.

    Being well over 50 years old, I have many, many more years of memories and when things that have survived for 50 years are just taken down, something is wrong! Who are the administrators who allow such destruction of our landmarks to occur?

    In-N-Out Pasadena has one of the last neon signs, and it also has lost some of its magic. It used to blink … In N Out … with the sign’s lights directing folks off the road to the small box where the Snyder family would be cooking their creations. Sadly only the little lights still point and the knowledge of the old style electrical timer inside which made the sign seem to point seems lost on the iPod generation.

    Well to end on a high note, I am thrilled that the old Pomona Fair Grounds Sign with Thummer (yea!!!) is back in service and perhaps we can help to return many of the old signs back into public view and appreciation. Look at what Azusa Pacific University has done with the Old Drive in Movie Theater Sign where Foothill turns there on the north side. A perfect example of what can be done rather than just razing history in a rush to get ahead. Where are we going in such a rush? Let’s look at the past and appreciate where we are and be inclusive.

    Pasadena as a city is doing better and better at keeping history, while allowing for totally modern elements, such as the Apple Store in the middle of Old Town.

    [Bob, thanks for the impassioned words on behalf of neon and history. — DA]

  • Sharon Warren

    Is it my imagination, or wasn’t there a sign that could be seen from the eastbound 10 Freeway near Fairplex Drive with “Thummer” saying “Going to the Fair?” There is a big wall where I think I remember seeing it. Maybe I dreamed it in a dream.

    [It doesn’t sound like an impossible dream. Anyone know if Sharon really saw this? — DA]