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Ovaltine Cafe : Exterior

Outside, the large, swooping, 1948-installed neon arrow holds an overlapping tumble of block letters spilling like dice from a cup...swinging outward OVALTINE in red, with CAFE on the inward swinging tip, flashing in green neon. The arrow is encased in a double runner of blazing white and blue neon lines. The vigour and pulse of the red neon target circle that sits atop makes this sign an inhaling'exhaling beacon up and down Hastings Street. Provocateur, penetrating the fog and jigging on the rain since its unveiling. Wallace Neon Company's genius idea man, art director Reeve Lehman receives an award of recognition for its innovative and effective styling. When fixed into position, it is raised with long, straight poles and pulleys attached to a flatbed two-ton truck by a team of men with ladders. It isn't uncommon for the workers to dangle over rooftops with ropes tied to a foot or two to perform a connection. Natural hands and an inherent sense of balance with fire and the elements are a must to be a neon bender. Laboratory artisans. 'Blowing and twirling'cutting and fusing with fire.' The long glass tubes are rotated and rocked in burner flames. Crossfire and fishtail burners for angle bends and splices. Ribbon burner for curves and sweeps. Hand burners for tapering and ripping off electrodes. It takes two years of apprenticeship and another four to eight years to master. 'They lay it hot on the layout. These neon blowers'blow air'breathe, heat and bend.'