Why Save a Sign?

Why save a sign? Preservationists and historians will tell you how it ties back to the city’s history, sign lovers will tell you how it speaks to a style or an era.

And Morgan Newby will tell you it’s because it looks like his grandpa. Morgan runs Service Rent-A-Car that now occupies that lot. On the left is the Dealin’ Dollar Dan sign I sketched recently, and on the right, Morgan’s grandpa.

Morgan told me this:
“My grandpa came over from Tennessee in grade school. His first job was running a gas station, which included pumping people’s gas, cleaning their windows, and topping off any fluids their car needed. Talk about your customer service. And he did all this for about 25 cents/hour! From his savings, he started a used car business called Newby’s Auto Sales around the late 60’s or early 70’s. Starting out with nothing he built up his fleet of cars and in 1974 he started renting cars as well. So he changed the name of the company to Service Rent A Car. He built up a 400 car fleet by the 90s. That allowed him to fund his true passion, cattle ranching. He started Nor Cal Land and Cattle and now has just under 1000 head of cattle.

Since this company pre-dates my time I constantly have customers coming in telling me stories about my grandpa and how great a guy he is. On our car lot we have an old sign of a cowboy aka Dealin’ Dollar Dan and every customers who knows my grandpa tells me the sign reminds them of him. It’s a great feeling hearing how my grandpa is still remembered by so many people. Today grandpa is in his 80s and is still riding horses and riding on the hay truck doing what he loves most, being a cowboy.”

I’ve drawn Dan a few times over the years, and I love that character. Sadly, he’s falling apart very quickly.

Morgan is hoping the City of San Jose will help him fix the sign. I’m not sure that can happen fast enough. So we’re talking about a Go Fund Me campaign (or something similar) to raise the funds to fix and repaint the sign. If you have any experience to share on how to set one up or a good platform to use, I’d love to know.

That’s how it is with urban sketching, isn’t it? You see something, it piques your interest, you draw it, you find more like it, and you’re deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole… But it’s a good rabbit hole: I love to draw and paint, and if those pieces can help spread the word, get people interested and save signs, then I’m all for it.

Lots more sign sketches and my book of sketches of them here. Also, many of these original sketches, framed and unframed are for sale. Just ask.

And Dealin’ Dollar Dan? I suspect I’ll be sketching him more sometime soon and you will be hearing more about him.

About Suhita Shirodkar

obsessive-sketcher. graphic designer.
This entry was posted in Activism, california, Everyday Sketches, san jose, Silicon Valley, Vintage Signs, watercolor and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Why Save a Sign?

  1. Vivian says:

    What a rich and enjoyable story. Art links us to humanity.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dana Richards says:

    Suhita – How can I purchase a copy of your book? I’d certainly add a bit to help save Dealin’ Dollar Dan!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting Character/ Sign, hopefully the city can save it!!


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