Carmel Magazine

Summer 2017

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or my whole life, the beaches of Carmel were calling my name. We seemed like old friends. Carmel-by-the-Sea was my escape from the desert I called home. Four years ago, I packed up my dogs, camera and household to settle in a beach cottage a couple of hous- es away from the surf. Charming in its isolation, this little stretch of adobe havens and dark forests can help you disappear. There are no street addresses and no neon signs in this sleepy seaside retreat. And while coastal towns have their own special rhythm, I am a Vegas girl at heart. So, like a creature in its proper habitat, I returned to my "beyond bling" roots in the desert, complete with its glaring neon, danc- ing waters and pirate ships. The contrast between the two is stark. Carmel's only night illumination is light filtering from cottage windows and the glow of warm fireplaces flick- ering in the inns. In Vegas, the entire town lights up every night like fire- works in July. I love them both. Flashing neon is a reminder of old Vegas when the Rat Pack ruled and cards and cocktails went together like gin and tonic. While the town does- n't have much history, its mark on history is through its signs. The torn down marquees began collecting in the gravel lot next to the sign company behind the Strip, called the Boneyard. Dozens of old signs were stacked on top of one another with missing letters tossed amid a sea of broken glass. Rusted signs and lone letters had found their way to this graveyard for years, discarded when casinos were demolished to make way for towering new mega-resorts. They have now found a home, resting elegantly, at the Neon Museum, a two-acre park which preserves some 150-200 signs in Sin City, and is touted as the world's largest museum of neon signage. They also maintain 12 restored signs throughout downtown Las Vegas and in the median in front of the museum, plugged in for all to enjoy. Tourists can see the 1966 genie lamp from the old Aladdin Hotel and the 40-foot-tall horse and rider from the Hacienda which was imploded in 1996 so Mandalay Bay could go up in its place. The iconic cowboy now sits on a 24-foot pole at the Fremont Street Experience. The word neon comes from the Greek "neos," meaning "the new gas." The concept behind neon signs was first conceived in 1675, when the French astronomer Jean Picard observed a faint glow in a mercury barometer tube. When the tube was shaken, a glow called barometric light occurred, but the cause of the light (static electricity) was not then understood. The first neon lamp was displayed to the public by Georges Claude in Paris on December 11, 1910. Claude was a French engineer, chemist, inven- tor and a pioneer in the development of neon lighting and signs. His discov- eries and inventions revolutionized neon technology. In 1923, Georges Claude and his French company, Claude Neon, intro- duced neon gas signs to the United States by selling to a Packard car deal- ership in Los Angeles. Earle C. Anthony purchased the two signs reading "Packard" for $24,000. Neon lighting quickly became a popular fixture in outdoor advertising. Visible even in daylight, people would stop and stare at the first neon signs dubbed "liquid fire." The tubes are scored with a file while cold, then snapped apart while hot. The artisan creates the angle and curve combinations. When the tub- ing is finished, the tube must be processed and is partially evacuated of air. Next, it is short circuited with high voltage current until the tube reaches a temperature of 550 F. The tube is evacuated again, then argon or neon is back-filled to a specific pressure depending on the diameter of the tube and sealed off. Red is the color neon gas produces. There are now more than 150 col- 86 C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 0 1 7 COLLECTING T E X T A N D P H OTO G R A P H Y B Y M A R J O R I E S N O W The Nostalgic Medium of Neon Lights F Neon signs started brightening up cities across the US in the 1920s, starting with a Packard car dealership in Los Angeles.

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