In the 1950s, neon was today’s LED. Glowing signs lit up Edmonton’s commercial streets, advertising shops, delis and pubs in pink, blue, crimson and violet script.
Today, most of these luminous landmarks have disappeared. But a smattering still stand along Whyte Avenue, west of 105 Street in Old Strathcona — remnants of a post-war building boom in the area. The neighbourhood is best known for its turn-of-the-century architecture, but these mid-century pieces of history endure, too, thanks to the preservation efforts of local business and citizens, the Old Strathcona Foundation and the Old Strathcona Business Association.
Among the surviving is a 10-metre-tall Jetsons-style oval on stilts at 104 Street, inherited by Shoppers Drug Mart when it took over the property from IGA in 2005. The six-storey Southpark Motors sign at 106 Street (pictured here) once marked the area’s Cadillac dealership. Until this June, the space was a used-car lot owned by the Don Wheaton group, whose Chevy operation up the street also showcases vintage neon signs, such as a blue-and-white “Oldsmobile” spire on its roof. But now that Don Wheaton has vacated the 106 Street lot, the fate of the Southpark sign is, at least for the time being, up in the air.