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..
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.
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