Historic business names will go up in lights at the Golden 1 Center food court with the installation of six original neon signs for Shakey’s Pizza Parlor, Tower Records, Coronet Portraits, Franke’s Drugs, Newbert Hardware and Sleeper Stamps & Stationery.
The signs had previously been donated to the Center for Sacramento History. The center is a joint agency of the City of Sacramento and County of Sacramento, and serves as the official public repository for city and county document archives and three-dimensional artifacts.
“One of the reasons we can lend these signs to the Kings organization is because the arena is a city property,” says Veronica Kandl, curator of collections at the Center for Sacramento History. “Normally, you do not lend out to private entities because the collections are owned by the City [of Sacramento], and there are certain standards that must be met.”
Initially, two of the center’s board members — Maurice Read and Michael Dunleavy — contacted the Kings about the possibility of including some Sacramento history in the new arena. “It took awhile for things to get moving, but (arena designer) David Lee called and came over to our collections facility,” Kandl says. “When he saw the signs, he thought they would work well in the facility.”
The Kings organization agreed to take responsibility for updating, installing and maintaining these historical artifacts. Representatives of the Kings and the Center for Sacramento History worked together to select signs that would fit the space, harmonize with the arena’s design and tell a story about Sacramento business history.
In May, the six selected signs started their journey from the center’s warehouse at McClellan Park to Pacific Neon Co. in Sacramento, which began updating the electrical and neon portions of the signs.
“I’m thrilled, actually,” says Tower Records founder Russ Solomon, who added that Pacific Neon made the original sign that hung at the Watt Avenue location. “The Center for Sacramento History has done a great job of collecting these artifacts, and to see the old signs working again — well, I’m delighted.”
Although the lights will be in working order, there will be no repainting or other cosmetic work. “These signs are going out as they are because they are artifacts,” Kandl says.
For example, the paint on the Shakey’s sign is — well, shaky, and faded with time. The national pizza chain began in 1954, when founder Sherwood ‘Shakey’ Johnson opened his first location on 57th and J streets. Johnson sold his interest in the business in 1966, but the original location continued to operate until the late 1990s.
In fact, five of the six signs originally hung on J Street (the Tower Records one was on Watt Avenue). Coronet Portraits was a leading provider of school portraits in the 1950s, when it was located at 904 J St. Newbert Hardware operated at the southeast corner of 17th and J streets from 1937 to 1993. And Sleeper Stamp & Stationery Co., founded in 1959, operated for 56 years at 2700 J St. Beginning in 1944, Franke’s Drugs operated at 3839 J St.
“Mr. Franke actually bought an old Walgreen’s location,” Kandl says. “There was a Walgreen’s sign on the building, and he had it painted over. The word ‘Drugs’ at the bottom of the sign was from the original Walgreen’s sign. And if you stand at an angle and the light catches it right, you can see the outline of the embossed script for Walgreen’s.”
The Center for Sacramento History has about 15 other historic signs, including those for McBride Realty, Rosemount Grill and Yorozu gift shop.
“The space we’re in now is our storage space and we’ve run out of room. We’re stuffed to the gills,” Kandl says. “We’ve been looking for a space that would give us more room and allow us to have the signs updated and hanging in the new building. Our dream is to get those signs up and share them with the public.”
But in the meantime, this public-private partnership with the Kings is a welcome way to display a few signs and free up a little room in the McClellan warehouse. “History is a very important part of the arts,” Kandl says.