J Scott Shannon (ashetlandpony) wrote,
J Scott Shannon

A stop sign to die for

This porcelain steel stop sign was made between 1932-1942, making it about 70 years old, give or take. Check out the round glass marble reflectors!

The marbles are secured within this boxlike housing on the back:

I have lusted after these stop signs with the glass marbles ever since I was a teenager. And in July, 1972, when I was 17, I almost wrecked my dad's car and probably almost got myself killed, too, trying to steal one of these babies in Ontario, CA.

As soon as I got my drivers license, me and my friend Gary started driving all around lower San Bernardino county looking for road signs to steal, especially ones that had old reflectors on them. The old auto club stop signs were the veritable Holy Grail to us.

Thing is, stealing a stop sign is not a cool thing to do – not at all. If one's removed from an intersection, people could be seriously injured or killed. Cruising around by Ontario Airport one night by myself, though, I found one of these ancient stop signs (they were very old even back then) on a extremely short cul-de-sac. The road was less than a block long, and anyone coming toward the boulevard intersection from the dead end would obviously know to stop where the road met Holt Ave. A missing stop sign here would probably not be likely to hurt anyone. So I staked out the stop sign that night figuring out what sorts of tools I'd need to do the job, then the next night, I returned.

On my way to the scene of the crime, I stopped by The Wherehouse in Montclair, and bought Frank Zappa's brand new album, Waka-Jawaka. Then it was out to Ontario Airport. If you have Google Earth, you can see the precise spot where the stop sign was that I wanted to steal.

34 03'47.95"N, 117 37'10.81"W

This was the intersection of Holt Ave and the cul-de-sac, Walker St. As you can see, it's not even really a street anymore. But the old limit line and the tracings of the painted "STOP" on the pavement are still visible.

Anyway, the night of my attempted heist, I pulled my dad's 1971 Ford Maverick over by the right shoulder of the cul-de-sac, grabbed my tools, then, with the motor still running (I didn't think it would take very long), I crossed the street and began committing my crime.

Just a few seconds later, I suddenly heard a mechanical "clank" come from my dad's car, and to my horror, the driver-less car started going backwards toward Holt Ave! Holy freaking shit!!! The car then started driving around in circles in reverse on this main thoroughfare! Thinking fast, I grabbed onto the driver's side door which was still open and gradually put enough drag on the car's momentum that I could slow it down enough to throw myself into the driver's seat. Just as I got control of the car back, two other cars showed up coming eastbound on Holt. Thank god they weren't there when Dad's car first backed out into the road!

Well, after that debacle, I pretty much gave up on the idea of stealing that stop sign. It wasn't worth the risk – any kind of risk. I'd learnt my lesson for sure, and that just happened to be the very last time ever that I committed or attempted to commit a crime against property.

So now, almost 35 years later, I finally got my glass marble stop sign (legally, on eBay)! Yay!


Tags: collecting, nostalgia, scott

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