These were the signs of our times

Baltimore Glimpses

October 29, 1991|By GILBERT SANDLER

SIGNS of our (old) times:

The famous purple rabbit that identified the Harvey House on Charles Street for so many years is gone, the victim of a windstorm, and, says owner Louis Baumel, it's too costly to replace at today's sign prices.

A block up on the same street, though you can still see the outlines of the sign that once marked the China Clipper, one of Baltimore's most popular Chinese restaurants, for all practical purposes the sign is gone. Its neon-outlined China Clipper airplane is gone, too, donated to the Smithsonian Institution.

Passed into history also is the lascivious, high-stockinged chorus girl who for so many years did her act (in bright red flashing neon) 24 hours a day above the marquee of the Gayety burlesque on The Block. So, for that matter, is the clock across Baltimore Street, stopped forever at 2 o'clock on the sign beckoning passersby into Blaze Starr's 2 O'Clock Club.

Probably the most bizarre sign of yesteryear was the one welcoming patrons through the entrance gate to Carlin's Amusement Park at Park Heights Avenue and Reisterstown Road. The sign ("Carlin") was perched, incongruously, on the very top of a story-and-a-half Chinese pagoda.

Many Baltimoreans will remember the Century-Valencia sign that hung vertically and perilously out over the narrow Lexington Street sidewalk into the 1950s. The sign invited patrons downstairs into the Century or upstairs to the Valencia.

The relatively new Chesapeake Restaurant sign is still up there on the wall at Charles and Lanvale streets, although it should be long gone, too; the restaurant itself closed (twice!) years ago. Another sign still with us, miraculously, is the Domino Sugar sign that has been overlooking Baltimore Harbor for at least 40 years.)

Gone, too, is the Arrow Beer sign that was located for many years at Charles and Lanvale streets on what was then the Martin J. Barry building. Across its huge expanse flashing neon arrows created the illusion of arrows flying swiftly toward the bulls-eye of a target.

One of the best-remembered neighborhood signs was the Scotsman doing a neon-blinking jig atop the Highland Tavern in Highlandtown.

Although several of the smaller signs identifying Miller Brothers Restaurant at Fayette and Hanover streets did in fact read "Miller Brothers," the largest and most visible of the establishment's signs read, "The Place to Eat."

There were a lot of these signs around the town that help make up the memory of past years. We asked a number of people of the right age to recall some of them for us. Only a few could remember.

What's that a sign of?

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