I See Flashing Lights

In the brief history of the Farine Five Roses sign I wrote some years ago, I finished up by stating the following:

These words flash on and off in a slow rotation, such that one full cycle – lasting about 22 seconds – is as follows: top row on, bottom row on, both off; top row on, bottom row on, both off; top and bottom on, top and bottom off.

Yesterday I received an intriguing email from a gentleman called Giles Nicholson. Having grown up in Montreal back in the days when it still had the word ‘flour’ on the bottom (ie pre-1977), M. Nicholson was trying to remember what the flashing sequence of lights was before it went from three rows of neon to just two.

So: does anyone out there know the answer – and ideally have a film or video clip to prove it? Giles and I have had a look around the NFB’s very useful online collection of archival images, but without luck. Perhaps you’ve got some ideas of your own. Do leave us a comment!

How NOT to save a monster neon sign

Sam the Record Man

We interrupt this leisurely art project for an important new break.

Much ballyhoo this past week with the news that Ryerson University is trying to back out of its promise to save and reinstall the famous Sam the Record Man neon sign in Toronto. CBC Radio’s Jian Gomeshi, no stranger to vinyl records, has stepped in with this audio essay. More coverage in The Star, and this f-bomb-laden (and hilarious) article on The Grid.

Ryerson and its architects (still) seem to be missing the point: Clearly, lots of people remember the neon sign fondly, in all its hulking, garish, kitschy beauty, and they want to see it again. In all its hulking, garish, kitschy beauty. Sidewalk mementos and brass plaques won’t do.