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SEARS, HONOLULU, HAWAII, 1954

Sears in Hawaii

A rain-slicked street reflecting a beautiful blue sky is the perfect backdrop for this very stylish two-toned Sears. Notice the tiki-ish trim. The color combo is inspired, to say the least. An American flag is the crowning touch.

There is no question that Sears is an Americana Classic — more so than any other department store. The retail giant started as a jewelry and watch catalog business in Chicago in 1886. The first Sears Department store opened there in 1925

Some of my earliest childhood memories are of shopping at Sears. The first albino I ever saw was in the record department there. “Our” Sears was the one in Pomona. If I was “a good boy” while my mom was shopping I’d get some citrus slices from the candy counter on the way out. They were always my favorite. I enjoyed them so much that soon my school clothes were all from the Sears Husky Boy department

Fast-forward nearly three decades to the late 90s. A friend and I were driving by the Sears Service Center in San Gabriel and a sign company had just finished removing the big, beautiful 50s era neon Sears sign off the front of the building. It was one of the last remaining examples of the old Sears signs “handwritten” in that classic script. We stopped and asked the sign man if we could have it. He said that he couldn’t let us have the sign but we could have all of the neon. He hadn’t broken one tube while taking the sign down. So we carefully put all the neon in the car and kept begging for enormous porcelain letters. I thought no was his final answer — but there was hope! He said that he was going to take the sign to the dump in Santa Ana and we could be there when he unloaded it and we could then take it — deal

We arrive at the dump and sure enough there he is, unloading the sign. We pull up right next to him in our borrowed pick-up and start loading up the letters. The letters were huge. The “S” was a taller than me. Just as we got it loaded on the truck a dump worker yells “hey, you can’t take that. This place is only for dumping, not for taking and you can’t take that sign.” Well, I begged for at least forty-five minutes until I realized that my pleading just wasn’t going to get us that sign. So I had to do what I didn’t want to do, cry. The first tear did the trick and five minutes later we were leaving the Santa Ana Dump with the Sign

If you would like to see the rescued sign in all of its glory it’s permanently displayed at MONA, the Museum of Neon Art in wonderful downtown Los Angeles. And make sure to tell them I sent you!

Here’s to Sears, saving great neon signs, and YOU!!