‘New’ Coke sign to be celebrated

This recently refurbished Coca-Cola sign originally was painted on a downtown Mount Airy building about 100 years ago.

A longtime dream will culminate later this week when the revitalization of a historic Coca-Cola sign in downtown Mount Airy is celebrated.

The event is set for Friday at 11 a.m. at the site of the large refurbished sign at 185 N. Main St. The public is invited.

After a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the ”new” sign, complimentary hot dogs from Leon’s Burger Express will be served along with Coca-Cola products, according to an announcement for the event.

The sign, which occupies the south wall of the Mayberry Country Flowers & Gifts/Hair World building along an alleyway, includes the familiar Coca-Cola logo and the message that the soft drink relieves fatigue and costs only 5 cents. It is believed to have first been painted on the wall around 1916.

It was obscured for many years by a business known as the Canteen which once occupied the alley space where the sign is located. When the Canteen was torn down in the 1980s, the faded “ghost sign” was revealed, a term that refers to old images on exterior building walls which have become weathered.

The late local historian Susan Ashby lobbied for years to have the historic sign refurbished, until her death in 1998.

That desire finally reached fruition last year when the revitalization began as part of a new campaign by Coca-Cola officials to bring such images back to life. This included hiring a team of mural artists to restore old Coke signs, thousands of which were painted in various communities around the early 1900s.

These signs were the major advertising medium for Coke at the time, long before television or electronic billboards evolved.

The revitalization project has been warmly embraced by members of the downtown community, who saw it as a way to preserve a colorful part of Mount Airy’s past.

It had the blessing of Barbara McMillian, the owner of the Mayberry Country Flowers & Gifts/Hair World building.

McMillian was unavailable for comment Tuesday, but another person associated with Mayberry Country Flowers & Gifts said she is happy with the look of the revamped sign.

“She was pretty pleased with it,” Don Marsh said.

“They did a good job,” Marsh added of Coke representatives.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

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