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Up ahead, towering over you and lighting up the sky is a big cowboy hat that would make “Vegas Vic” envious. Is it on Las Vegas’ famous strip? No, it might be from YOUR own hometown! I’m speaking, of course, of an American icon, the old-timey “Big Neon Cowboy Hat” Arby’s sign.  Beginning in 1975, many of the franchises switched to a much simpler and in my opinion, (Sorry, Arby’s!) forgettable style. Here’s a good example of the sign, then and now:

The Big Neon Cowboy Hat harkens back to the days of Big Bold Signs. According to www.arbys.com the first restaurant was opened in 1964 by Leroy and Forrest Raffel. The RB stands for… Raffel Brothers.

(That’s Forrest on the right, Leroy on the left, and the Big Neon Cowboy Hat in the back.)  Courtesy of http://www.arbysrestaurant.com/inpage/about-history.cfm

Some of you may recall the “America’s Roast Beef Yes Sir” jingle back in the 80’s and 90’s. (The 1990’s, not the 1890’s, Smarty Pants!)  While that is no more, remarkably the B.N.C.H. survives! I have captured 2 beautiful specimens in Palm Harbor, Florida, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Is there one in YOUR neck of the woods? Let me know, and I just might add a snapshot of it here!  Keep your eyes peeled, and, of course, don’t forget your coupons…

I know, this isn’t exactly vintage, but I did save it for a few years, didn’t I? Why, you ask? Why not. This reminds me of the coupons that used to come out when I was little; Dad would get our orders and we’d end up with a BIG BAG of sandwiches. Good times. Nowadays, of course, your coupons might look a little different:

Clickable coupons?! Why, back in MY day, we didn’t have such things.  Speaking of back in the day, one time while the family was enjoying our roast beef sandwiches, my brother had a “brainstorm.” Why couldn’t the wax paper on the sandwich wrapper be peeled away so that the aluminum layer could be recycled? Nobody could talk him out of it, so Dad put him to work “un-layering” the wrapper bit by bit. Half an hour later, he had made little progress. He had a small pile of waxy shreds, and a large load of frustration. As I recall, Dad finally let him off the hook; otherwise, he might still be peeling the Arby’s wrapper today.

Some years ago, this photo of my secretary, Anita Fajita, and myself was taken at the Palm Harbor Arby’s…

You can see just how old this picture is by the sepia effect that was later added. D’oh! Here is a more recent shot of the same location, where the B.N.C.H. still proudly stands..

And again…

Be sure to notice the bird on top of the sign. I think he’s keeping an eye out for any errant sesame seeds that might be dropping below. Speaking of droppings, he’d better not be doing any other business up there! Please, bird, not on the sign!

Next, we head to Winston-Salem, to see if the Arby’s sign there is lit up…

It’s MOSTLY lit up. Let’s go closer, shall we?

I know what you’re thinking… “The Wise Roast Beef Sandwich IS DELICIOU!” As a matter of fact, it IS, Y’s Guy. Let’s stand BENEATH the neon sign, OK? Yes, let’s!

Ain’t it beautiful? It’s kinda making me hungry… Lemme see if I can go in for some food…

Mmmm, tasty. And blurry. Sorry ’bout that. Well, I feel better now. Time to head home.

No way! Not a shot from the rear-view mirror! Yes! Yes, indeed.

I was glad to see a new promotion keeping the old-school sign concept alive…

Hooray for Arby Junior! Let’s hope he makes it big!

Well, it’s a start.

Finally (for now), I found where some of the old discarded Arby’s signs ended up. At the sign museum in Cincinnati, Ohio! (Which is a neat visit if you get the chance.) Here’s a couple shots of the poor, forgotten, left-outside and graffiti-ed B.N.C.H….

Kinda sad. (No, I’m NOT talking about the shirt.) Let’s hope more Big Neon Cowboy Hats don’t wind up dismembered and “custom painted” here. I’m willing to put one up in my backyard if it saves it from a similar fate. I’m sure changing the light bulbs is quite a chore; no doubt my overjoyed neighbors would contribute to the cause.

Like I said, I’m always looking for more vintage Arby’s signs to photograph. If you see one, let me know. Now, get on your Horsey, and giddyup out thar, pardners! Those neon lights won’t steer you wrong! So long.

Gary Arbygary

FEEDBACK:

Dear Gary,

Thank you for your email.  I enjoyed reading your blog and seeing the pictures that you’ve taken over the years at various Arby’s locations.  Unfortunately, we do not have a list of the Arby’s restaurants that still have our 10-gallon Cowboy Hat sign.

Thank you again for your feedback!

J.M.   Coordinator, Customer Relations

Arby’s Restaurant Group, Inc.

1155 Perimeter Center West

Atlanta, GA 30338

678-514-4224

POSTED ON October 25, 2010 BY Gary Applegary

8 Comments

  1. Stray on October 27, 2010 at 12:21 am

    Well, if you really want to get more shots of the signs, I know that there are a couple in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And some in Oklahoma City. One I know for sure is at NW 39th and Ann Arbor.

    • Gary Applegary on October 27, 2010 at 2:40 pm

      Nice, thanks! I was in OK a few years back, but haven’t got off the East Coast since. I miss the western states. Really liked the HUGE Shepler’s store we stopped at.

  2. triple I on October 30, 2010 at 1:53 am

    LOL, i love that little arbys boy online. Sooooo cute and so polite too (he wont swear…lol). I typed in some foreign words to say but his accent was way off! LOL.

    oh no, so sad to see a beautiful arbys vintage sign discarded like that. 🙁 that should be placed in a museum or something….
    fortunately my town still sports that vintage sign…what’s even nicer that it isnt very tall so it would make for a nice pic with me on it….unfortunately it’s on a busy road and i would look a fool posing with it. LOL. 😉

    amazing how precious childhood memories can be esp. with good food like arby’s back in the day. Glad u and i share the same feeling! 🙂 i do remember the ‘BIG BAG of sandwiches’. 🙂 🙂 i could even remember the smell before opening up that bag to grab my sandwich and how my heart would skip beats seeing that big bag. lol.
    i just want to add something about the arbys now and arbys back then. i still do love arbys alot….but for some reason, the roast beef isnt the same as before. I’m not just talking about the amt of beef put into a sandwich but am talking about the taste too. ARbys was really really tasty and juicy (just a very very little bit); it isnt so much now. I dont know if it’s cause i’m older and have lost some taste buds along the way….but yea, just my feeling. Otherwise, ahhh arby’s has a place in my heart.

    lol, ok enough for the pitiful preaching on my thoughts on arbys. 😉 great post and great pics!!! love the pic of you eating at nite then leaving with the sign behind u, and with the broken sign too.

    • Gary Applegary on October 31, 2010 at 4:45 pm

      Glad you liked this post! Now what’s this about looking silly posing by the signs? What’s wrong with looking silly? It’s what I do! I actually take a while to work up my nerve sometimes to take a shot; I overthink what other people must be saying… “WHY is he taking a picture of THAT?!” But then I just decide, Hey, I want the shot, and who cares. The End.

  3. triple I on November 20, 2010 at 1:34 am

    oh no, Gary….sorry for the misunderstanding!! lol…..u look HOT posing by the signs. Really!! Those are lovely pics! i was tallking about me. 🙂 I wish i was brave enough to pose by a local arbys sign near the busy street. I myself cant do it alone and ask my family (who will think i’ve gone bonkers) to take my arbys sign pic. LOL Maybe someday, i will do it….cause who knows if arbys might get rid of those beautiful vintage cowboy signs someday. T_T

    • Gary Applegary on November 20, 2010 at 4:31 pm

      Thanks! As I recall, it was rather warm that day. I am slowly learning to care less about passersby, but I still get nervous when I get out to take a dorky shot. But I just go ahead and do it. It helps to have an accomplice, then you can figure you’re both in the same boat. Family is great for that! They will usually humor you, even if they roll their eyes a bit. Now get out there and DO IT! I want to see your Arby’s pics real soon! (It gets easier the more you do it, hey, pose with a mask on if you need to.) G. Applegary

  4. Katie on January 10, 2013 at 9:56 am

    My family owns the Arby’s in Warsaw IN and one of our stores still has a BNCH you are welcome to come take a picture with it!

    • Gary Applegary on January 10, 2013 at 7:05 pm

      That is awesome! Snap a shot of yourself in front of it if you want and I will add it to my blog! You made my day, thanks!

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