The restoration of the historic Vic Suhling / Gas For Less neon sign was unveiled Saturday evening next to the Litchfield Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center in Litchfield, Ill.
According to a news release, up to 200 people attended the event, including two of Suhling’s daughters Bonnie and Bernice, one who traveled from Portland, Ore. All five children of Harry Wagner — who was operator and manager of Suhling’s gas station from 1957 to 1968 — attended as well.
Gene Wagner, plus Bonnie and Bernice, were given the honor to flip the switch on the neon sign at 6:18 p.m.
The sign provides an eye-catching beacon for the museum, which was built last year on land near the gas station. The museum and sign also are across the road from the historic Ariston Cafe.
The sign’s neon had been dark for more than 40 years, until an $11,725 cost-share grant from the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program provided aid for its restoration.
The sign was erected in 1957, when the gas station operated 24 hours a day. Suhling’s station has been gone for more than two decades, although the sign remained. The station closed in 1973, shortly after Interstate 55 opened. The sign was taken down last month by a St. Louis sign company for its restoration.
The event included music, refreshments, a commemorative T-shirt, and classic cars. Speakers included the presidents of both the Illinois and Missouri Route 66 associations, Litchfield Mayor Steve Dougherty, and Martha Jackson, president of the Litchfield Museum & Route 66 Welcome Center Association.
Here are a couple of images of the sign earlier that day:
The Neon Heritage Preservation Committee of the Route 66 Association of Missouri led the restoration project, again collaborating with the Illinois Route 66 Association. The associations also worked on restoring the Luna Cafe neon sign in Mitchell, Ill.
UPDATE: The Journal-News posted a story about the event.
(Photos courtesy of Jim Thole)