POCATELLO — No neon sign relighting is too lofty of a goal for the Old Town Pocatello Relight the Night organization, a group that brought back to life Wednesday night a sign that traveled 800 miles to reach the Gate City.
The newest addition to Relight the Night’s growing list of neon signs to be restored and relit in Old Town Pocatello is a historic Rexall Drug sign that came from Ukiah, California, and now has a permanent home inside the Cottonwood Junction store at 141 N. Main St. in Pocatello.
“Relight the Night needed a home for this sign and the chairman, Randy Dixon, and I were talking about this Rexall Drug sign,” said Michael Snyder, owner of Cottonwood Junction. “Randy suggested I put the sign in the window of this store, and I thought it was a really terrific idea.”
Idaho State University alumnus William Eames, who graduated from the school’s pharmacy program in 1957, was the original owner of the Rexall Drug neon sign.
In addition to his $2.5 million donation to turn that helped facilitate the transition of ISU’s Rise Complex into the William M. and Karin A. Eames Advanced Technical Education and Innovations Complex, Eames donated the Rexall Drug sign to ISU.
“In 1990, I bought Ukiah Rexall Drug to combine into my other drug store in Ukiah, California,” Eames said. “It was such a great sign that we had it crated up and stored in a warehouse. Then in 2016, ISU accepted a collection of antique drugs from me to display in their museum in the College of Pharmacy. Among the drugs was this sign.”
Relight the Night is a local nonprofit organization that focuses on finding, resorting and relighting neon signs in Old Town Pocatello.
According to Relight the Night’s web page located on the Old Town Pocatello Inc. website, “Signs are essentially social — they identify, promote, inform and advertise. They direct and decorate. In short, they communicate with their viewers. Signs don’t merely advertise, they often possess value in and of themselves. Some become loved simply because of their visibility from a certain street corner or even from a vantage point across town. They create the ‘magic of the night’ and add a burst of color to even the grayest of days.”
Eames not only donated the sign to ISU, he also transported it from California to Pocatello all by himself.
“I drove a U-Haul rental truck from Laffayette, California, all the way to ISU to drop off these 20 crates of drugs as well as this sign,” Eames said. “At the time, they did not realize they were getting a sign with all these drugs.”
Initially, the idea was to find a home for the sign on ISU’s campus near the College of Pharmacy, according to a plaque positioned next to the Rexall Drug sign during the relighting ceremony. No home was secured for the sign, and in early 2018, the Idaho State University Foundation contacted Old Town Pocatello Foundation to see if Relight the Night had any interest in the sign.
After inspecting the sign, Relight the Night expressed a strong interest in assuming ownership of the sign and asked ISU to store it until the group could find the correct place to store the sign in order to preserve, the plaque read.
Fast forward to last October, and Eames was back in Pocatello to attend the ISU homecoming festivities. During his stay in Pocatello, Eames met with Relight the Night representatives. As a result of that meeting, Eames donated the Ukiah Rexall Drug neon sign to the committee to be cared for, renovated and eventually relit.
A few months ago, Relight the Night finally found a permanent home for the sign in the Cottonwood Junction store, which is located in the historic Woolworth’s Department Store Building on Main Street in Old Town Pocatello.
Both Eames and Snyder shared the cost to restore the sign, which has been preserved as an official historic artifact, the plaque said.
Like all the Relight the Night neon signs, the Ukiah Rexall Drug store sign is timer-operated, meaning it will turn on at dusk and shut off at midnight every day.
Installed on wheels, the sign is portable. Unlike the other 13 signs Relight the Night has brought back to life in Pocatello, the Ukiah Rexall Drug sign sits at eye-level, positioned in the window of the Cottonwood Junction storefront, something Snyder was thrilled about.
“I love the idea that this sign is portable and at a street level like none of the other signs,” Snyder said. “The fact that visitors can now enjoy a close up look at a working neon sign is really, really cool.”