The Great Sign


I remember many road trips from Montreal to Florida with my parents and sister. No cares, just pillows and comic books riding in the backseat of a gigantic Oldsmobile.

The highway landscape was pretty kitchy back in the 60s and 70s.

Quality Inns and their blazing sun logo, Travel Lodge with the sleepy bear, and Best Western with the crown. Even though Howard Johnson’s didn’t have a stand-out sign, their iconic orange A-Frame offices deserve a shout-out.

But there was one that topped them all. The Holiday Inn “Great Sign”.

It was a 50 foot tall mid-century masterpiece. With it’s neon and blinking lights, it was like having the Vegas strip on the interstate. I’m sure my folks were only happy to see it as it meant the end of a long days drive. But as a kid, it was pretty cool. Plus, they usually had a pool, and hey, free stationary.

As a cost-cutting move, the signs were replaced with less expensive, back-lit ones in the 1980s.

Nowadays, the signage along the highways is largely homogenized. In many cases even Holiday Inn’s Great Sign has been boiled down to a limpy “H”.

There are only a handful of intact Great Signs today.

Too bad.