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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Jack Pirtle's Fantastic Neon Sign

Posted By on Thu, Jul 1, 2010 at 3:09 PM

Jack Pirtle in 1965
  • Jack Pirtle in 1965
While thumbing through an old Central High School yearbook from 1965, I noticed this interesting ad for Jack Pirtle Fried Chicken, with a tiny photo of the establishment at 1370 Poplar, just east of Cleveland. I'm sorry it's not a better image, but don't blame me; blame the yearbook people.

Nevertheless, if you squint and scrutinize the ad carefully, you'll see something that surprised me. Namely, was Jack Pirtle allowed to call itself "KENTUCKY FRIED CHICKEN"? Apparently so, because even though it's hard to tell, there's Colonel Harlan Sanders' big head on the left-hand edge of the sign, and the sign itself and the yearbook ad say it.

But what's a real shame about this ad is that it doesn't show the sign more clearly, because let me tell you, folks, this was one of the Grade A, First-Class, and Most Fantastic neon signs in the history of Memphis. And, yes, that's really saying something, but let me describe the action, which used to mesmerize me as a child:

Neon chickens, their wings flapping wildly, scamper along the top of the billboard. As they reach the left side, they spring onto a diving board, and then leap happily into a BOILING BUCKET OF GREASE. In a matter of seconds, drumsticks — NEON drumsticks — poke their legs out of the bucket. Yum!

The sign, of course, doesn't bother to explain what happens to all the guts and brains and beaks and claws, but gosh it sure made chicken-cooking look fun! And the chickens didn't seem to mind one bit!

There's still a Jack Pirtle at this location, but the great sign was pulled down in the 1980s (maybe sooner — I can't exactly recall). What a shame.

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