The signs of Butte, MT

I love Butte. It’s about 85 miles west of me, which in Montana terms is a hop skip and a jump.  Every time I go, I comb the streets and always find new and interesting things and always leave with the feeling that I’ve barely scratched the surface.  Butte is a city of hidden treasures, of tucked away secrets, of back rooms and second stories.

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RB Drive In – Helena, Montana

The RB Drive in opened around 1945 as the Root Beer stand. For some great historical photos of it, please see: http://www.helenahistory.org/rb_drive_in.htm. Originally the foam of the pouring root beer was trimmed in horizontal bands of neon and sat on much higher poles.  It appears the building is the same one, but has seen many minor changes over the years which have entirely changed the look.

Every drive in I’ve been to out here has had a different set up for ordering and getting your food delivered.  Mark’s in Livingston is a walk up to order, walk up pick up and then you eat in your car.  Ford’s in Great Falls had car hop ordering and delivery.  Scotty’s you order inside a building and eat outside.  You get the idea.  The RB still has those classic push to talk menu boards at each parking place.  A large picnic pavilion has been built at the far end of the parking lot, but we ate in the car.

RB Drive In
932 Helena Ave, Helena, MT 59601

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 photo DSCF5168.jpgChildren’s Cheesenurger. Also interesting that they offer a wide variety of Phosphates.  Not something you see much these days.

The Top Notch Lunch, Great Falls, Montana

With a fabulous 3D neon sign and a bank of stools, how could I stay away from this charming lunch counter?
Just around the corner from the Sip and Dip / O’Hare’s Motor Inn, I met Beth Lennon of Retro Roadmap and Cliff Hillis here for a chicken fried steak, to recover from the previous night’s fishbowl (more on that later) and to stoke up for what would prove to be a long day of thrifting.

Brian’s Top Notch Cafe
718 Central Ave, Great Falls, MT 59401
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White Tower Sign

I made the drive down from Maryland to Midlothian VA today to pick this up.

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This neon sign was previously mounted on Richmond White Tower No. 1, which was located at 223 East Grace Street. It was originally built in 1939, and remodeled in 1960, which is probably when this sign was installed. The building is still there. It’s been de-towered, and painted, but it’s still recognizable.

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Neon Sign

Here’s a recent addition to the collection- just arrived today.
This sign came off the Lincoln Diner in Chambersburg, PA. The diner itself is now long since gone.

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If any of you out there have a picture of the Lincoln Diner, I’d love to see it!

The Penn Diner – New York City

I just got this (probably) 1950s slide of New York City’s Penn Diner. It replaced an older barrel roof model, but the neon transferred. The caption on the slide is in Japanese.

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