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'Iconic' neon Charlie Graham auto sign on the move, again

'Iconic' neon Charlie Graham auto sign on the move, again

The familiar neon Charlie Graham auto sign that weathered many years and neighborhood changes around 42nd and Leavenworth Streets now will leave its longtime intersection.

It's being donated to the Durham Museum, along with decades of related news articles and historic materials.

The sign a previous owner called too iconic to retire moved recently from the northwest corner of 42nd and Leavenworth when the Charlie Graham Body & Service was demolished to make way for a grand southern entrance to the expanding University of Nebraska Medical Center. It was remounted soon after on a new body shop that rose on the southeast corner of the intersection.

The new shop was that of Great Plains Auto Body, which bought the old Charlie Graham business and agreed to keep the sign and much of the leadership team.

But a Great Plains spokeswoman said last week that repairs on the old neon sign are a challenge, and owners thought it could be better preserved at the museum.

"They don't make them like that anymore," said Larkin Gassman.

Durham folks welcomed the sign, which is to come down from its building Tuesday. It will join the museum's permanent collection and be incorporated into a future exhibit, said communications director Jessica Brummer.

"The sign is the perfect blend of the story of a local, long-standing business and the historical marker that neon signs were in our society," she said. 

The museum collection already includes the neon sign from Harry Watt's Pet O'Mine shop that closed on Leavenworth.

Of the Charlie Graham addition, Brummer said: "It is a wonderful object to tell greater stories regarding neighborhood businesses, advertising and Omaha history."

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Cindy covers housing, commercial real estate development and more for The World-Herald. Follow her on Twitter @cgonzalez_owh. Phone: 402-444-1224.

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