The Case of the Missing Signs

Probably the heat this week in the Northeast is to be the blame for the following post. In it, Mr. Sanders appears to be under the impression that he is a private detective of some sort. It was believed to have been written during the throes of a fever dream.

The heat was hot. It was a hot heat, warmer than most. Outside, it was hotter than inside, but not by much. That’s the kind of heat it was. I hopped into my late-model foreign job and went for a spin to cool my heels.

The name is Stone. Rocky Stone, just like it says on my gun license. I was on the lookout for a sign, one that I had been after for a good long time. One that avoided the sun like the plague. One that I hoped to catch unawares at magic hour. The Nor-Pole Drive-In in Orangeville, Pennsylvania a rusty ice-cream cone dream that sat in a valley like a bump on a frog.

The shots I had taken of it were either cloudy or far away. But I was determined to bring this one in:

Nor-Pole Drive-In Orangeville, PA

The town of Orangeville slept peacefully even though it was only seven o’clock at night. The sun was disappearing behind the surrounding hills and it wasn’t looking good until I made the final turn at the far side of town. The bloom of the sun was clear, and it was looking like this case was in the bag. And then, whammo, it hit me like the edge of a hot plate: the sign wasn’t there. Not only that, the building wasn’t there. Flattened. To the ground.

I hoisted my heap off the road and turned, blinked. The Nor-Pole was there, in that spot, six months ago. It served as the site of one of my more harrowing incidents while taking pictures of signs. They had a few people in for breakfast, a state police car in the parking lot. I took a few shots from a few angles, including the one you see above. When I had gotten back to my car, a sour-faced guy comes out of the back door and wanders past me, looks at my license plate, takes a mental note, and growls, “What are you doing here?”

I told him I was taking a picture of the sign.

He looked like he might spit. “You mean, the ice cream sign?”

I said, yes, and thought about adding “Why, do you have another one?” but felt it best to be nice. He grumbled off and I got in my car, as it turns out, never to return.

Back to the present: I stumbled back into Orangeville and headed east on old PA 93 in the hopes of finding something new. Hard luck. Nothing and sight, the sun was going down, and I craved some neon, but no dice. The trail took me to Berwick, and Berwick was mostly a dead-end. But US 11 crossed my path, and I knew that would take me to Bloomsburg. There was another old friend waiting for me there, name of the Tennytown Motel. A neon sign with a big plastic candle. That spelled OK in my book. And I had never gotten that one with its neon lit. I hit the open road.


The signs along 11 were shining bright in the waning sun and my hopes were up. And then, just as quick they were dashed. Seems the Tennytown had been bought out in the last few months since I had been by. RELAX INN says the new sign. Out goes the neon, in goes a nasty new plastic lightbox.

Easy, Stone, I told myself. How were they to know? They wouldn’t, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to punch a couple of guys right in the throat. They at least had the good graces to leave the candlestick. I didn’t even take the camera out of the bag. Not even worth it.

My shutter finger was getting itchy. The road led me to Bill Hess’s Tavern, a watering hole serving this burg since 1889. Seemed appropriate. I drowned my sorrows in a handful of shots and called it a night.


In the morning, I would continue the search. Rest in peace, boys. You sleep with the other angels in Vanishing America.

Editor’s Note: So while I was in Berwick, I did get this:


Gotta love the little black cat on the side of the wall…

And just for the record, here’s the Tennytown in color:


1 thought on “The Case of the Missing Signs”

  1. Love that “E” in the old Motel sign – so stylish! So sad that it’s no longer there. I’d love to get my hands on that entire sign, the Color TV one is awesome and the “Sorry No Vacancy” would go perfect with our Hacienda.

    Did you go into Bill Hess’s at all? Is it a place where Mod Betty and Retro Roadhusband might be welcome, or is it a strictly Locals-Only hang?

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