Pfister’s in Treasure Trove

Pfisters - Gen Sign Co by Laverne H Hopkins croppedBuddy Terry Hopkins stopped by the house when we were both in Cape and dropped off a box of photos. His dad, Laverne H. Hopkins, worked for General Sign Company for years, Terry said. His specialty was drawing people and objects, as opposed to lettering and striping.

You have to remember that signs in those days were individually painted or lettered: they weren’t mass-produced like the ones you see today. A General Sign employee would take a picture of his work to prove to the customer that it was done.

The box contains hundreds of those iconic photos of signs, store fronts and logos we grew up seeing (and probably not really noticing). It’s going to take me a long time to scan and index the photos, but I thought Pfister’s Drive-In would be a good first candidate. Cape Electrical Supply and Cape Memorial Company are in the background, and I think the large brick building on the left might have been the Coke bottling plant.

Click on the photo to make it larger.  Here’s a shot of the drive-in and the area from the air, by the way.

9 Replies to “Pfister’s in Treasure Trove”

  1. This shot is probably from 1954 or 1955 judging from the cars in the lot. I can almost remember standing at this spot as kid and seeing this myself.
    My Dad, Laverne (Vern) Hopkins, worked for General Sign from 1943 to 2009 first as sign painter and later as its President and after it was sold as a salesman and billing checker for the new company. He started as a wall dog; he painted signs on walls all over Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois. He started for General Sign straight out of High School from Herrin, Illinois. He painted Champion Spark Plugs, Falstaff Beer, Old Forrester Whisky and Griesedieck Bros Beer wall signs all over the country side. In the 1950’s General Sign was one of the pioneers of internally illuminated Electric signs in the nation and my dad was big part of that. Little known to anyone in Cape, General Sign, Co. was one of the largest custom sign manufacturers in the USA. The Company made signs for Dairy Queen, Harley Davidson, Payless Shoes, Nationwide Insurance and many others thru out the years.
    Dad worked with General Sign Co. from 1943 until 2009 and was the only job he had other than the US Army during the war and for brief time while waiting for the draft to get him he did work in the BIG wartime bustling town of Cairo for a short stint. In the 1990’s Darth Orthwine, of the Bush family in St. Louis, bought the company and Darth asked my dad to help out a little until he got new people in the business, this working arrangement lasted until 2009 when my dad was 86 years old. My Dad finally quit his three day a week gig when, as he said “I just cannot hear the girls on the phone anymore.”
    When Dad moved to Florida recently I was cleaning out stuff and came across this box of old General Sign Co. photographs. I knew immediately who could look at these and enjoy them, know the best way to save them, and then share with others that might enjoy them too. These pictures are at least a business history of the times we lived in and maybe a good look into all the businesses we all saw, used and maybe worked in those times. I hope as Ken rolls the pictures out for all of us to see, all of you will add your local knowledge of what these signs mean and what connections you and all of us have to them.
    I am going to sit back and enjoy the pictures and comments. Thanks Ken, and thank all of you for adding to little piece of history!

  2. Terry,
    Thanks for your unique contribution to the growing treasure that is being grown by Ken. I look forward to seeing more.

  3. I worked as a car hop shortly after Pfister;s opened (1943/44? Popple ci rmember working with were Jerry Penrod, Bob Asher, Delano Hobbs and fountain girls Shirley “Tootie” King and Jackie burns.

  4. Terry, thanks for making a part of Cape Girardeau history available. Business signs tell a lot more than what business they represent; they also identify local color and set a building’s place in time.

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