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Sun, Fun, Stay, Play


What words come to mind when you think of Bakersfield? In the 1970s, they were “sun, fun, stay, and play.” These words marked the edges of town at the north and south ends on Highway 99. These bright, old signs harken back to an era when families still took road trips in the car (without a TV and Blu-ray player). Erected to promote passers-through to stop and support local businesses, the mammoth signs were 49 feet tall and 60 feet wide so drivers on the 99 couldn’t help but notice.

The signs went up in 1966 and after just 17 years, the city had them taken down as it was thought they’d become tacky and too expensive to keep up. People grew weary of the unsavory messages that teenagers would rearrange the marquee letters to form and upkeep was constant. But for many, the signs were a comforting reminder that they were almost home from a long drive.

According to a 2009 article in the Bakersfield Californian, Buck Owens, our local savior of signage, had his people look into what had become of the signs in hopes of procuring them. What they found was that the previous owner of Airport Bus of Bakersfield, Ken Jones, had purchased both signs in 1983 for $1,500.

Jones stored one of the signs in one of his company’s yards. The other was stored in the yard of the Fresno-based crane operator that Jones hired to move the signs—it was given as a trade for actually moving the signs. The sign on Jones’ property was unfortunately destroyed in a windstorm. The second sign’s whereabouts are unknown. However, when people’s interest in locating the sign picked up years ago, it was assumed that the sign had been scrapped by that crane operator. Still, it could be out there.

Times have changed and different signs welcome visitors and residents to Bakersfield. One can still find images of the old signs online and in archived news stories.

Although these retro monuments are long gone, their colorful imprint is still in the minds of many longtime locals. And for the people who live here, Bakersfield will always be a place to enjoy the sun and the fun. It’s why we stay and play.

Article appeared in our 28-4 Issue - October 2011